Friday, July 4, 2014

Playing Massive Catch-up

Soooooooo, this week has been so crazy I legit lost track of what day of the week it was. Wednesday came and went without my notice....

I feel like I've been non-stop for over two weeks now. The days have flown by so quickly I didn't even really have time to write. Thankfully, I changed that yesterday, but I'll get to that later.

Obviously, I didn't manage to write a blog post to replace that placeholder. Which means I'll have more to talk about today, right?

Let's start with why I even had a placeholder last week: the concert and my work presentation.

Let's start with Hubby's early 30th birthday gift for me. We went to the Monumentour with Paramore and Fall Out Boy. It was fantastic. I had such a blast, but I also worked the morning of the concert so I was on the go from about 6am until 1:30 am the next day. CRAZINESS! I was so tired I was NOT in the mindset to write a post in time for my normal noon update. I debated writing later in the day - after I woke up - in order to get SOMETHING posted. However, I had work that evening and I was still zoned out, so the placeholder was written.

The other reason I had no time was that work presentation. Not entirely sure how well we did. The way these presentations work is that each year a group of employees spend an extra hour a week trying to find ways to improve their individual store, or come up with an idea that could help better the chain as a whole. The first year I was a part of this project, we created a safety video to show during job orientation. Last year I BSed my way through raising employee morale. This year we threw together a last-minute presentation about what I have done throughout the year to improve wellness in the store's employees. Things such as moving the employee smoking section further from the store to keep non-smoking employees/customers from second-hand smoke, providing sunscreen for the employees that spend the majority of their shifts outside, providing things such as puzzle/activity books in the break room to help destress employees, and talking to the new-hires about the wellness program so that they know it's available.

So what I was doing since that last actual update was figuring out how to present these changes: taking photos, making a power point, writing out a script for MadDog24 to read off at the presentation, making hand-outs, etc. All while working long days at the store. By the time last Wednesday hit I was - as mentioned - exhausted and still needed to put on the finishing touches on everything to make sure we were ready.

Thursday was the presentation. We had to get up fairly early so that we could make the hour-plus trek to the building where the presentation was being held. We then watched other presentations - which were unbelievably boring compared to the previous two years; it was insanity - before giving our own. Once all the stores gave their presentations the managers in the sectioned off zone - so this would be about 15 stores - would then vote on who they think did the best job both on the presentation itself and with the improvements they did for their store. The winner is announced and said winning store moves on to present to the region and then possibly move on further to present to corporate.

The safety video went on to present to corporate, but we didn't win over-all. It was nice to win our zone though. Last year's pulling-this-out-of-my-butt presentation ended up getting us second place in our zone. This year we weren't informed where we were in the standings; we just know we didn't win. Oh well, at least it's over, our manager is happy with what we did, and we can move on.

Hubby already has a fantastic idea for this upcoming year, and we're going full-steam right out of the gate. Considering the previous three years more-or-less consisted of "[Lyco] throws something together in about three days before the presentation while [Hubby] plays tech-support so she doesn't throw the computer out the window," we're already off to a great start.

Now, once we were done with the presentation and we knew we weren't moving on to the "next round" - as it were - I had every intention of writing my actual blog update for the week. However, it was also the first day I could just sit and mellow out. So I did. Total zone out.

Then came Friday, and the start of Hell Week as the store dealt with the chaos that is "Preparing for the Fourth of July" shopping craze. We were non-stop! My manager's favorite word was "brutal". Every time I turned around he'd be muttering that word. Heck, this past Wednesday I went in to work and literally the first thing he said to me was "Brutal" as he shook his head.

Work. Has not. Been fun.

Everyone's hot and cranky and overworked and the customers are rushed.... it's just bad all around.

So whenever I wasn't at work I was pretty much asleep, or staring blankly at whatever was in front of me. Even now, after having a two-day "vacation" from work, I still have to focus on keeping my eyes focused. It's pathetic.

Want to know what helps with the focusing?


My father-in-law is awesome. He totally Frankensteined the thing back to life. Actually, he had it set for me a few months ago, but he needed money from us in order to buy a few more components. Eventually he gave up. He knew how much I needed this thing back and how hard-up we've been, so he used some of his own scratch and we'll pay him back. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough extra to buy a new battery for the darn thing, so I have to keep it plugged in at all times. I can't let it off charge for even a second without it instantly shutting down. It's like a teeny desktop that way.

Still, I have it back and that means I'm writing this while lounging on the couch! Whoot! Perhaps this means I can actually get my butt in gear and get back to things like Writers’ Huddle or beta reading.

OOOO speaking of which. I'm redoing the writing group thing. Originally I was trying to keep it local in order to keep it off-computer; save my eyes and all that. Plus, I already have an online writing community with the Writers' Huddle. However, the local group didn't last long for a handful of reasons. True, I still have the Writers' Huddle, and so having another online community seems a bit silly, but this is with all of my online besties; none of which really have the spare change to join in Writers' Huddle.

So we're off to start up our own mini-group. Obviously the local peeps are free to join in, but this go around it will be me right along side ChibiSunnie, DarkAngel1326, AngelBlood666, Chopfe, Delaroux, Phfylburt, and introducing my one buddy from high school. I haven't found an online-presence for her yet, so I'm gonna use her Girl Scouts nickname for the time being. Everyone wave to Stargazer!

She's so excited. As far as I know she never really thought about writing too much before, but she recently took a writing course and loved it. She enthusiastically sent me a message about how she's now thinking about attempting to write a novel. I instantly threw out that I was trying to start up this online group and asked if she wanted to join. She happily accepted.

Now, to get my butt in gear and start up the group.

The only other writing update I have is that after over a week of the board being stalled out, I finally got around to getting Willow to do something. It's not much, but at least it's SOMETHING, right? I also went a bit hard-core on world building the X-Future reboot. Still haven't locked on to a definite environment idea, but I'm still coming up with possibilities; seeing which one works best.

Forgive me if I've mentioned this before, but I don't recall touching upon my latest roadblock. Although the actual world that surrounds X-Future isn't all that important - as long as the teens can somehow have these powers in some shape or form it doesn't matter if it's fantasy, sci-fi, horror, historical, futuristic, etc - but what IS important is the Xavier Institute. The fact that these kids with powers are all together in one closed environment away from normal humans. The fact that there's a rival "gang" as the main antagonists, and the fact that each group wants to get to potential "new recruits" first.

However, I fear that even if we do call them "glitches" instead of mutants, having a boarding school for these glitches to voluntarily be at just screams "this is blatantly the Xavier Institute and these guys are clearly X-men-like mutants." Even with terms changed and not really using any of the Marvel-owned characters, there's that real fear that Marvel could pick up on the "rip-off" and try to shut the story down. Either that, or any readers will be turned off by the fact that this is "fake X-Men".

Will the fact that the most basic environment structure is more-or-less straight out of X-Men turn away readers, or bring more in due to the familiarity of it all? Will it be obvious that it started off as an X-Men fanstory/role play? Will that matter?

I mean, I got drawn in to Order of the Stick because it was obviously a D&D campaign. Rich Burlew still makes TONS of D&D references throughout the strip. Do I feel cheated that he didn't completely create his own world? No. However, he also isn't pretending that he did, where as us changing everything except for the basic concept of "a school for mutants and the rival group they battle" feels like we are trying to pass our story as entirely original when it isn't.

So I'm stumped, do I just go for it and re-name the institute and be done with it? Or do I try something different?

I thought that maybe humanity forced these kids in to mutant-only schools; getting back to the X-Men social commentary roots about segregation. Phfyl threw out the idea that they're all together because of refugee/internment camps or reservations; again creating a social commentary on the American treatment of Japanese Americans in WWII or Native Americans throughout our country's history. The only real problem with these segregation/racism concepts is the idea of recruitments. There wouldn't be any X-Men vs Brotherhood recruitments. Everyone would be forced to go to these places, so a nice chunk of story would be lost, while a whole new one would emerge. Said new story would mostly have people rooting for the Brotherhood over the X-Men. The Brotherhood would be the group fighting back against this oppression while the X-Men would patiently bide their time while trying to show normal humans that not all of them are dangerous; that they can be just as productive parts of society as anyone else. I would think more people would cheer on the Brotherhood for trying to stand up for their kins' rights, and get irritated with the X-Men for not doing anything; content with their lot in life.

No go.

I then thought back to recruitment. If I wasn't going to use a school because it would be too obvious, what other options would I have for children to have a choice in whether or not they wanted to join one group or another; or any at all? Where else do children come together in groups?

That's when I looked to Rick Riordan and the Percy Jackson universe. He used "summer camps." Most of the demi-gods in his stories would still live at home and go to school like a normal teen; spending their school year trying to stay under the radar, but also knowing enough to fend off monsters if need be. Then they would all come back to Camp Halfblood for more survival training over the summers. There were even some demi-gods who either had no place else to go or were so powerful they couldn't go a day without a monster harassing them. These teens just stayed at camp year-round.

It was a fantastic idea and a great twist on the Xavier Institute problem. However, it would still be a blatant rip-off if we turned the institute in to a summer camp. Sure, it may not be AS noticeable with the rest of the world having a vague X-Men feel, but you still have teens with specific powers and facing daily dangers all gathered at a camp. Anyone NOT thinking X-Men going in to the story will most likely think Demi-gods. We now have the same issue as we did with the school idea.

But how else do teens gather in one place and live together? I was thinking "mutant slums; they all just live near each other" but this then goes back to the segregation issue.

I bounced back to the fantasy idea that Phfyl had a little while back. As much as I love the cyberpunk world we were creating - and I loved the idea of mutants being called glitches, and they were each categorized in a pseudo-cyberpunk category - the fantasy world just seemed like a better fit.

We could go back to the idea of the schools, but have it be mage guilds instead. It was enough of a trope inside magical stories for it to just feel natural instead of stolen. Teens going to a guild/school to learn how to master their birth-given powers? That could be any number of things. That could be D&D. It could be the animes Fairy Tail or The Familiar of Zero. It could be Harry Potter. It could be the video game Fable. The list goes on, but those are the things that first pop in to my head when I think "school for mages".

Sure, since it's a trope it's a bit played out and "safe"/"expected", but at least it won't jar our readers by having them go "wait a minute... isn't this like...?"

I could just save the "glitches" and categories idea for the world Hubby thought up a little while ago.

Yesterday I pitched the following idea to Hubby and Phfyl as a way to have a fantasy/steam/cyberpunk world where the "mutants" are now all mages.
The mages started off as a small few for whatever reason (TBD) and were praised as heroes and saviors against the dangerous creatures (insert generic fantasy creature here; ie - dragon, goblin, ogre, etc). Citadels were built as homes for these mages and the cities sprung up around them so that the mages were at the center of the communities and capable of saving the city at a moment's notice.

As the threat of creatures waned and the reliance of the mages simply became a generational norm, the mages became power hungry. They became tyrannical rulers over the non-magic citizens and warred among themselves.

An industrial revolution became necessary for the non-magics to be able to compete at all with the mages. In the end, they were able to dethrone their magical dictators.

Mages were cast out of society and they created communal homes for themselves by way of guilds hidden in wooded areas surrounded by the few remaining creatures that they once saved the non-magics from.

Humanity still feared mages, but more and more were being born among them. Some were slaughtered instantly when their powers were discovered. Some were cast away, letting fate decide if they could survive the creatures of the woods in order to get to the mage guilds. Some were found out by wandering mages; undercover and unknown to be magical among their neighbors. These sleeper mages were tasked to whisk the newly discovered mages safely away to the guilds.

Some mage guilds were embittered by how their ancestors were cast out, and how their kind is currently treated. Their goal is to make mages the supreme rulers once more. (Brotherhood)

Other guilds wish to just be left alone; to live in peace away from the humans. (Morlocks)

Then there is at least one guild who wishes to show non-magics that mages are the same as them. Just as some humans are just "evil" and do things like kill and fall to corruption, so do mages. However, just as most humans are NOT inherently cruel and evil, neither are mages. Therefore, mages should be treated just as non-magics (I really need to think of a muggle-like term). Most are decent human beings, but discipline and punish those who deserve it. (Obviously this is the X-Men)

Finally, you have the guild that just wants to see the world burn. (Challengers of Heaven)

The actual world will be based as a fantasy world. However, instead of the typical medieval England atmosphere that most fantasy takes place in, the world will have a cyberpunk look. Now, I'd like to still restrict human technological advancement a touch, so this fantasy cyberpunk world has one more twist: Steampunk technology.

So, this is a fantasy world with Steampunk technology but a Cyberpunk look.

These tightly packed cities around abandoned mage citadels are dark, gritty, and filled with corruption in order to fill the power vacuum.

However, this overpopulated environment just screams out to the youth to not just become another number. They struggle to show that they're still an individual, not just a member of the human herd. So they wear bright, vibrant colors to stand out against the dark, gritty environment. They stylize their hair and dye it bright, unnatural colors. The advertisements are the same. Businesses struggle just as much to stand out against their competition, and so the billboards and other advertisements are just as bright, and vibrant.
Hubby's a bit hesitant on the cyberpunk still sneaking in. He thinks just the fantasy/steampunk will be enough. Phfyl hasn't commented yet.

If we do decide to go this route, it changes the way Devon does a crucial bit of research before setting off on his own. Plus I still need to figure out the rough mechanics of the magic. So I'm still trying to figure out the whole "teens grouped together" thing in order to keep them mutants instead of mages.

If you have any advice on the subject, feel free to drop it in the comments below.

And now to conclude I'd like to throw out that Chibi has started up her own blog a few weeks ago! She's still nervous about her writing, so I'm sure I'm going to get a response along the lines of "How sweet of you to promote my blog, but now I'm super nervous about what I post..."

Fret not, dear Chibi. My readers are kind, and I'm sure they'll enjoy your work as much as I do.

So, go ahead and check out her work. Don't forget to let her know what you think of it. Even if it's constructive criticism, us writers love the feedback so we know how to improve.

You can find her here on blogger at Philothea Ponderings.

Now, if I can get some of my OTHER writing buddies to update their blogs. Yes, there are four of you I'm staring down right now.

Here's to a calmer week and some actual writing! Catch ya next week.

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