Behind the Scenes 3

My first two “behind the scenes” posts were for my first serial on this site, in 2014. I’ve decided to do another now, since:

a) I want to talk about my frustration last week, for possible solidarity with other writers, if nothing else.

b) There will be stats, for people who like that sort of thing.


LynPlot3Note: There is a good chance I am not quite right in the head. In April 2015, I transitioned this serial site from “Epsilon Project” to “Time & Tied”, in large part because the latter is me editing a work from 15 years ago, versus writing 2,000 words weekly. I’m not saying editing is easier (particularly when deciding to add illustrations), but with edits, a backlog/buffer is at least possible. That’s handy in April. Since April is one of the worst months of the year, in terms of writing.

See, I’m a math teacher. And April is a report card month. So along with November (not too bad, but NaNoWriMo’s out), June (exams on top of the reports) and January (the worst, exams plus organizing second semester in 24 hours or less), April ranks up there as “a month where only schoolwork is occurring”. Add to it my tendency to help with the school play, meaning I don’t necessarily take weekends off that month, and in 2015 I figured I’d lose my mind maintaining “Epsilon”.

So what did I do in 2016? I shifted back to “Epsilon” at the end of February. At the same time as I was writing, illustrating and publishing a weekly math webcomic too. I did this KNOWING April was coming. As I said, not quite right in the head.

Yet you might have noticed that I didn’t miss an update.


Let me set the scene for Story 3: Week 9. Sunday, April 17th, and I had just published “Half the Battle“, where the cast breaks out of the DEO. That was my 20th straight day at work (since Easter). In fact, it was tech weekend. I ran rehearsal of the play to start the morning (9am) because the director was also organizing a student trip to Spain. (She’s even more ambitious than me.)

I don’t remember exactly when I left the school on Sunday. Definitely after 4pm. Then I still had to finalize report cards and generate comments. I didn’t get to bed until after 2am. On the bright side, my math webcomic was self-updating on Monday, because I’d queued up four comics at the end of March.

Monday, April 18th was my 21st straight day at work, on less than five hours sleep. That night was dress rehearsal, so I left school after 9pm. Tuesday I did NOT work 12 hours. It was a unique day. Wednesday was opening night, Thursday was Cappies night (I’m the school’s advisor, I left work after 11pm), and Friday was a matinee show in the afternoon followed by closing night.

It was before the matinee on Friday afternoon, my 25th straight day at work, after working for over 60 hours since my prior serial update (at least 30 of them paid), that I closed the poll. It had 5 votes. I’d need another update in less than 48 hours.

I started writing “PROM, Committee” about 4pm Friday. The new characters were names from the play, with personalities as amalgamated with an anime about magic that I remembered from years ago. About 25% of the dialogue was repurposed (humorously) from the play. I made it through less than 500 words at the time. The rest of Part 9 was written on Saturday.

Oh, not Saturday morning. I went to a mathematics professional development session (voluntarily) that morning! Good speaker. No, I wrote the rest Saturday afternoon, then published on Sunday as per usual. I’m betting you didn’t know that, because I don’t think anyone who did know actually reads my fiction.


Now, writing-wise, what did I have to show for Week 9? Well, “PROM, Committee” actually had 30 views by my birthday three days later (oh, I turned 40, woot), largely because I posted it to the FB group for the play, and the director said she loved it. It also got a comment from kaleidofish. Meaning the self torture felt kind of worth it. Contrast Week 11.

CScalingThe first week of May, I was going to a math conference (Thursday to Saturday), a 5 hour drive away. Tuesday I was still pulling together lessons for the substitute teacher, packing, etc, so I kept the “Epsilon” poll open. Wednesday was the day Cappies nominations were announced… er, long story short, I made it to the conference at 11pm. Found wifi, and closed the poll.

Similar to Week 9, I didn’t get a chance to start writing until late on Friday – actually not so unusual – except now I knew I had limited time on Saturday. Could I do it? Well, a 70 hour work week on the tail end of 25 days’ work didn’t break my streak. I was damned if this would do it.

I wrote Friday night. I wrote for an hour Saturday afternoon, after the conference. I wrote in a diner and edited at a rest stop during my 5 hour drive home. And I published on time the next Sunday morning. Not quite the effort of Week 9, but more so than Week 10.

What did I have to show for it this time? In 48 hours, I got five views. Two votes, the lowest yet. And it was a damned tie. And all I could think is Why am I killing myself here? Would anyone have noticed a missed update? I tweeted out twice that I had a tie, looking for people – and I got a response from Curtis, saying he was already one of the two existing votes. That’s it.

Except that message is very possibly what kept me sane. Because I hadn’t actually known Curtis was reading, let alone voting.

Before going to bed, I posted an addendum to the poll saying I’d keep it open until the damn tie was broken, and when I woke up, it had been, so poll closed. Except the silence had done what 25 straight days of work could not – I no longer felt like writing to the deadline.

And YET – it hadn’t been silence. Curtis had called it a “great story”. And one of my FB friends tossed a “Like” onto the WP post after me mumbling there, which was the first time that’s happened all year. And Scott was still sharing my entries too, and he’d commented previously. So… fine.

The serial got my half-hearted attempt last Sunday, on Week 12, less than the usual 2,000 words (though not by a lot). This week? I’m feeling more grounded. So onwards we go.

Now, why does ANY of that matter?

Because sometimes it’s nice to have one’s efforts appreciated – but readers aren’t psychic. They don’t know when you need it. And there’s probably other writers out there who have felt depressed in the way I did, at times. Who knows? (Comment below?) There’s so much we struggle with that other people don’t even know about, and yet despite those problems, those blocks, as a writer we make the effort and put it out there – and get nothing?

But not nothing. A lot of that is mindset. Things are rarely as bad as you think. Which brings us to…


I seriously wonder if I post up my statistics merely so that other writers can look at them and go, “Well, at least I’m not THAT guy”. (It certainly feels like it’s my primary function at “Web Fiction Guide“.) As long as this data is serving a purpose, I guess? My plan here though isn’t to be “THAT guy” but more to compare against myself, to see that things aren’t so bad. Let’s rewind over a year and a half.


Site Stats Sept 2014

Those are my statistics from “Behind the Scenes 1”, showing the first five weeks of serial episodes on this site. The anomaly on October 5th was due to a couple extra Facebook shares. Now, compare that to my statistics below, as grabbed in Week 11, when I had that two-votes-tied thing happening on Monday night.


Site Stats Apr 2016

That’s a difference of 18 months. And… the only reason my maximum view count jumped from 30 to 40 is because of Week 9’s recent Facebook share (on the 24th). But let’s look deeper. That means Week 9’s effort was worth it. Moreover, Week 11 didn’t start too bad, compared to Week 10. And hey, I’ve gone from 10 zero view days to only 1 zero view day. These are little things that have meaning.

Now here’s a breakdown of how the individual parts themselves have fared. The “within 3 days” mean Sun, Mon, Tues — how long the polls are open.

Ep 1: 21 views within 3 days; 5 votes. (Views to date: 233)
Ep 12: 5 views within 3 days. Poll kept open, 4 votes of 13 views to date.

Ep 1: 9 views within 3 days; 3 votes. (Views to date: 80)
Ep 12: 7 views within 3 days; 4 votes (Views to date: 31)

Ep 1: 12 views within 3 days; 4 votes. (Views to date: 30)
Ep 12: 14 views within 3 days. Poll still open, 6 votes of 17 views.

So… that’s a progression? Certainly Story 3’s episode 12 has more votes this week than any prior #12. And, as much as it pains me to admit it, I’m MILES ahead of my time travel story…

Ep 1: 26 views all April 2014 (Views to date: 282)
Ep 12: 4 views all June 2014 (Views to date: 10)

Yeeeeah. You may see why I felt I had to switch my serial up, despite April being one of the worst months. T&T was depressing me. I simply cannot find an audience for the majority of my writing. In part because I have little time to market. Which, honestly, makes it all the MORE impressive that some people have latched onto the current story. So – look for more this Sunday.

If you’re one of my current readers – thanks! If you’re not – maybe give it a try? I also webcomic personified math, which is heading into an election. Or here’s some other places you might look into: Curtis makes a bunch of videos over at Basement Electronics. Scott blogs about his writing at The Chaos Beast. And kaleidofish has an interactive serial at Redwood Crossing.

I appreciate you reading to the end. Here’s hoping that June, with more report cards, is better for my writing than April. (Prediction: Hell no, it won’t be.)

3.12: Thimbolism

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When you’re under three feet tall, objects sized for a more typical person will appear to be much larger. Thus any object which is truly out of scale, such as the house-sized thimble Alijda saw hovering in the air, seemed gigantic – more like a spaceship.

It was hard for Alijda to judge how the others around her were reacting to the object’s arrival. Largely because she couldn’t hear anything over Queeny, the city’s head of government, shouting “Go away! Go away!” into the megaphone she was holding. Yet the thimble maintained it’s existence.

Alijda’s companions, Kat and Para, drew closer to her. It seemed like Kat was doing so protectively, Para more seeking reassurance, but Alijda figured it was equally possible that she was merely seeing what she expected of them.

Honestly, the most pressing concern seemed to be one of gravity.

“We can’t hold it!” Tom yelled. He had joined hands with Michaela and Andi, the three of them standing in a line, both women with their arms in the air.

“Wait, I’ve got this!” Chris hollered back, trying to drown out Queeny. The hand she didn’t have interlinked with Kendall was tracing shapes or symbols into the air. “The rift, I can–”

The thimble smashed down, covering them, the lawn and wiping out the edge of the motel building too. Bricks and mortar rained down. Thankfully, the thimble’s opening was at the bottom, meaning everyone was simply engulfed by it, rather than flattened outright, and no one was seriously injured by debris.

There was a brief silence. The blue glow from the magic five pointed star on the ground made for an eerie light, coupled with the sun being filtered in from above, through the thimble holes. Then the magic went out.


3.11: Fit for a Queeny

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“Go on without me.”

“Not happening,” Kat answered.

“My shrinking legs are too goddamn short to keep up!” Alijda said. “I’m going full tilt, and you’re practically walking!”

Part of Kat’s brain suggested he say ‘Would you like me to carry you?’. But the rest of him knew that was less than funny, so instead he countered with, “Being a couple minutes later than Chris and Para won’t make any difference.”

“You don’t know that. At this point, I’m a liability. I can’t even teleport without potentially making it worse!”

“Well, I’m keeping my eye out for a skateboard.” Kat wondered belatedly if he should have filtered that thought too.

“Fine,” Alijda said, stopping to put her hands on her knees. She took in a deep breath. “Forcing your hand. Gotta catch my breath. You keep going.”

Kat stopped too. “Sorry, not letting you out of my sight. We need you on this mission. No matter how much you might wish we didn’t.”

Her hands curled into fists. “Right, because I’m doing a HELL of a job with non-interference. What with allowing Para to tell the Magic User’s Club about the third big breach, leading us to this!”

“I see our actions with the magic club as levelling the playing field against the DEO. Besides, it was me and Para who convinced Chris to do the spell to reach Alice. You kept quiet about it.”

“I could have overruled you. SHOULD have overruled you. My shrinking doesn’t really matter.”

“Alijda, stop.”

The brunette shot him a look. “Stop WHAT? Being a depressive bitch?”


3.10: Station Airy

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“What does it feel like… when a person is losing their mind?”

The response came instantaneously. “Ms. Vunderlande, your inflection would imply that you are not asking seriously, but rather quoting Lieutenant Commander Data from the ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ episode ‘Masks’. Is that the case?”

Alice smiled. “Mostly. But maybe not? I don’t know.”

“I have registered no signs of delirium since you woke up,” the female voice continued, echoing around the fitness room. “You do seem a bit distracted, but that is understandable given the peculiarities inherent to Epsilon’s current mission. Shall I give you a test of mental acuity today?”

Alice stood back up and wiped at the sweat on her forehead, before walking over and tossing her towel into the room’s laundry chute. She idly wondered when she’d taken to running on a treadmill early in the morning. It had to be after her recruitment to the Project. Meaning less than a year ago. Whatever a ‘year’ really meant now. She needed the exercise though, as she didn’t see a lot of activity up here.

Up here. On the Epsilon Station. Well, it beat living in a Hell dimension.

“No, it’s fine,” Alice answered. “But I wish I had someone else around, you know? I wait so long for my love vibration, and I’m dancing with myself…”

“Billy Idol, a song with an initial release of 1980 on most Earths where it exists.” The tune began to play through the overhead speakers.

Alice sighed. The station’s computer had a near 100 percent track record on her references, yet still failed to understand her at times. “Ziggy, that wasn’t a cue. I’m done working out.” She began to strip off her workout clothes.


Paths Not Taken 3

I started this style of post with the second Epsilon story, and have decided to continue it here. It’s a look at the choices NOT taken by you, the audience. Because every time I offer a choice, I do have an arc in my head – and if that choice isn’t taken, it’s either temporarily set aside, or disposed of. What were these aborted arcs? SPOILERS follow, in case you haven’t been reading up to Part 9, and want to be surprised.


LynPlot30. STORY CHOICE itself. The high school story was probably the most set up in my mind – I would have used some old teacher characters of mine (and likely Expona instead of Para), with Alison working in the office. Granted, the supernatural element I was less sure of. The story on the station, with Alice, was the least set in my mind; that’s about all I had.

We got: “Scale factors”, which I had intended to base on the “April Fool” written for me back in 2015. It won by a comfortable margin. I had no characters (aside from probably someone wearing a crown called “Queeny”), or plot (aside from some “invasion”), but I had a basic setting and starting point.

1. KAT. Marginal influence. This vote set the tone for Kat’s future interactions. Would he be more pleased, indifferent, or displeased to be included? We got: Displeased. Ever since then, I’ve tried to portray him as more keen to get the mission over with. His interest in Alijda had always been planned.

2. SCALE CIRCUITS. Major influence. With no problem, Alijda would have attracted someone’s attention upon arrival; with circuit problems, she would have been too large or too small. We got: Effectively, a delay. Without this vote, Alijda wouldn’t have ended up shrinking. We might have still had the DEO, but I’m not sure. We got stealth, but at a price.

3. THE WAY. Major influence. If they hadn’t gone with Larry, they’d have ended up with the government. If they’d gone willingly, they would have met Bonnie early and discussed the situation. We got: The hard way. And I didn’t know what that would be – how do you knock out a teleporter? Without this vote, no fairy dust, possibly no magical items on the world.

4. GET OUT. Negligible influence. We got Larry listening in, which did set the tone of mistrust between Alijda’s group and the DEO (versus a more amicable working relationship). But there would be later opportunities to change that, for better or worse… not that a better relationship ever materialized.


5. OFF TO… Major influence. Had they gone back to the Epsilon Station, they would have found themselves unable to return by any conventional means. Possibly they’d have had to arrive again before their first arrival, or simultaneous to the “third incursion”. Had Alijda gone to City Hall, I would have had to think about the government’s part in this.

We got: The Department of Extradimensional Objects. I didn’t have a set plan. I vaguely based it on what I’d seen in “Supergirl” and “Agents of SHIELD”.

6a. FOOLED. Negligible influence. First tied vote. Thus two of the results for this latest “April Fool” were seen in Part 6b. Had “someone’s dream” won, Bonnie’s arrival in 6b would have been punctuated with comments about a nightmare.


New Drawing!

6b. REACTION. Major influence. First unanimous vote too. Had Bonnie locked them up, they would have attempted a jailbreak (not unlike what ended up happening later). Conversely, had Bonnie confessed, we would have had a revelation – that may still happen, so I cannot tell you what it would have been.

We got: Distraction, in the form of Bonnie2. I hadn’t thought about it beyond the doppelgänger concept. Honestly, the vote blindsided me a bit. I decided I didn’t want to drag the concept out, thus Para’s revelation.

7. POLITICS. Major influence. Had they not interfered, the incursion would have happened, likely preventing Bonnie from returning to HQ, prompting Larry to ask them for advice. Had they tried to warn Queeny, I’d have thought about the government, something I have yet to really do. Instead, we got trouble.

You chose the danger! Again, I had not expected the vote to be so high for that, given Alison’s remarks. I suppose it’s good that things wouldn’t be boring?


8. NEXT STEP. Marginal influence. Talking to the government and lying low would have routed back to the prior poll, merely with Alijda much shorter and on worse terms with the DEO. I wonder if it’s the same person who wanted to wait it out both times? Instead, we got more with Bonnie2.

I initially envisioned Bonnie2’s acquaintances as being actors, but once the choice was selected, I thought maybe they should have magic to offset the DEOs tech. And then I was working 12 hour days on the school play, with not really any time to write (I even kept the poll open, not that it did anything). So the new characters became amalgams of those in the play and in an anime I used to know.

9. ABOUT CHRIS. Major influence. I didn’t really expect anyone to pick Andi and the government, but hey, maybe third time was the charm? It would have revealed Bonnie’s confession (see #6b above), while simultaneously putting Alijda in a position of needing to find Chris again before time ran out. Having Chris do the setup was the safe bet – with the downside of possibly getting her arrested after the readings were taken, leaving Alijda in peril again.

Instead, here we are, able to contact Alice, to deal with the shrinking thing – but does Michaela REALLY know where that oboe goes? Oh dear.

I’m curious now whether you saw my hints for any of those alternate paths as you were reading. (For instance, Alijda noticing how she could have arrived out in the open, back in Part 3.) Either way, as always, thanks for voting/reading, and feel free to comment below about that which was unexpected, or anything else that jumps out at you!

3.09: PROM, Committee

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Para hesitated to speak as she walked up, wondering if it was proper to interrupt the silence between Alijda and Kat. Fortunately, Alijda spoke first. “So, Para, who’s your new friend in red?”

The blonde cleared her throat to answer. “Well, while me and Andi – er, she’s the one you’ve been calling Bonnie2 – while the two of us were out learning where the DEO’s secret exit had left us, we encountered someone she knows.”

“My name’s Michaela,” the redheaded woman announced. “I’m part of the Magic User’s Club.”

Kat blinked. “This city has a magic users club?”

“Ooh, visitors from another dimension not knowing about our magical abilities. Shocker,” Andi observed. “Of course, I’m of the opinion that such fantasy stuff’s overrated. I think we should have PROM!”

Alijda rubbed her forehead. “I’ll probably regret asking this, but… PROM?”

Programmable Read Only Memory,” Bonnie’s double clarified. “I was starting to figure it out, when the government took it away from me. Proving once and for all that dimensional technology like PROM is more useful than dimensional magic. Otherwise, why would they regulate it so strictly?”

“Hey, magic is regulated too,” Michaela protested.

“Except the Department of Extradimensional Objects doesn’t have the authority to permanently confiscate your magical items, like they did with my PROM!” Andi countered.