Archive for category Rants: Stories

2011 in Review: Novels and Webcomics

2011 was a good year. I thought I’d share some of the amazing stories I came across, in no particular order:


For seven months, I challenged myself to read only books by female authors. I’ve tended towards reading mostly white male (hetero?) authors, and I figured if I could pick up some new insta-read authors, I could help change the disparity in publishing (if not literary criticism) with my money. As expected, I found a lot of great fiction by incredibly talented women:

  • Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon: Has a different flavor than the movie, but both are equally entertaining. The abridged audio is read by David Tennant, who does all the voices (squee).
  • Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett’s Shadow Magic: By far my favorite book from Jones and Bennett. I don’t care for Rook, a protagonist of Havemercy and Dragon Soul, and his absence in this book allowed me to enjoy the worldbuilding and the authors’ trademark ability to play characters off of each other.
  • Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness: Classic sci-fi about an ambassador trying to obtain the trust and understanding of a foreign world with a unisex race. The worldbuilding is excellent.
  • Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: Positively beautiful, elegant prose. Reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s books, where the magic often occurs in the shadows, just out of the corner of your eye.
  • Robin Hobb’s The Farseer: The Assassin’s Apprentice: I bought the trilogy for $3, but these books are definitely worth a lot more. In this, the first book, the bastard son of a prince is given a place to stay and a vocation by his grandfather, the king. The characters give this book heart (and kept me from putting it down).
  • Cherie Priest’s Dreadnought: Civil War-era steampunk and zombies. A quick-and-dirty read, with possibly some of the best action scenes I’ve read.
  • Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games: I’ve been recommending this to people right and left. It’s like Battle Royale, but not nearly so dark and definitely not as sexual. And even if you’re not normally into darker books with good people dying at the hands of other (good?) people, it’s short, often cheap, and you won’t lose much by picking it up. But really, I don’t expect you’ll be able to put it down until it’s over.
  • Melanie Rawn’s The Exiles: The Ruins of Ambrai: Liz recommended this to me years ago, and I finally picked it up when the C-U Borders closed. (I am now kicking myself for not grabbing book 2 in the series as well.) The book follows three sisters, separated from each other early in life, as they take very different political paths. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the primary culture in the book is matriarchical, and that Rawn is very careful to make the matriarchy feel realistic (think power struggles, institutionalized misandry, ‘protecting’ men from the female gaze by having them cover their hair).
  • Toni Morrison’s Beloved:
    “Paul D did not answer because she didn’t expect or want him to, but he did know what she meant. Listening to the doves in Alfred, Georgia, and having neither the right nor the permission to enjoy it because in that place mist, doves, sunlight, copper dirt, moon – everything belonged to the men who had the guns. Little men, some of them, big men too, each one of whom he could snap like a twig if he wanted to. Men who knew their manhood lay in their guns and were not even embarrassed by the knowledge that without gunshot fox would laugh at them. And these “men” who made even vixen laugh could, if you let them, stop you from hearing doves or loving moonlight. So you protected yourself and loved small. Picked the tiniest stars out of the sky to own; lay down with head twisted in order to see the loved one over the rim of the trench before you slept. Stole shy glances at her between the trees at chain-up. Grass blades, salamanders, spiders, woodpeckers, beetles, a kingdom of ants. Anything bigger wouldn’t do. A woman, a child, a brother – a big love like that would split you wide open in Alfred, Georgia. He knew exactly what she meant: to get to a place where you could love anything you chose – not to need permission for desire – well now, that was freedom.”


I mostly read newly-begun/short-archived webcomics in 2011, because I hadn’t the energy to go through massive archives (with one notable exception). Linkage goes to the first pages of each one.

  • Homestuck: What can I say about Homestuck? It’s epic in scope, with amazing worldbuilding. And the characters – Hussie keeps introducing new ones, yet each one is distinct and interesting. And there is so much wordplay, my god, it’s beautiful. (Last link put in ironically.) Check it out, if you haven’t already.
  • Power Nap: Go read the first three pages. (Giggle furiously.)
  • Monster Pulse: It’s like Pokemon, except that your monster was once a part of your body! Cute art and characters, plus ongoing intrigue as to the origins of the monsters. The formatting and art style made me rethink my plans for Multivers’d.
  • Ever Night: Kind of slow going, but definitely worth a look for the worldbuilding, action sequences and beautiful art. I recently reread the beginning narration (as research for a bit of fanart I’m planning), and it wowed me all over again.
  • Widdershins: By the author of the recently-completed Darken. This comic pairs a hapless wizard (okay, so he dropped out) with a bounty hunter, and shenanigans ensue. Hilarity!
  • Shadoweyes: In a dark and grimy future, a young woman decides to be a superhero and turns into a mutant (in that order). Like most of the webcomics on this list, the art makes me drool in envy. (Bonus: curvy ladies!)
  • Leftover Soup: As anyone who has read 1/0 knows, Tailsteak is at his best playing philosophies and worldviews off of one another, while keeping characterization high and strawmen out. This webcomic gives him plenty of opportunity to do so.
  • Dumbing of Age: This comic is set in a different universe than Shortpacked!, though the enterprising David Willis fan will enjoy seeing familiar characters in new roles. For everybody else, enjoy four-panel humor strips that might just make you think.
  • Adventures of Superhero Girl: A funny take on the superhero genre.  Faith Erin Hicks also does Friends With Boys, which is more story-oriented and character-driven.
  • Sinfest: I’m linking to the front page, because I’ve been reading this for a few years. Within the last year, however, Sinfest has picked up some enthralling plot – Fuschia’s romance with Seymour, for instance. My favorite development was the introduction (?) of the Patriarchy storyline, which is so dead-on in its Matrix comparison that I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.
  • The Secret Knots, “Music for Stray Days: made me smile. Listen to the song and reread the comic after.

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Project descriptions and teasers!

It feels like I’ve a ton of projects open at the moment, and it’s been long enough since I’ve blogged regularly that I might as well explain them. Not shown: looking for a graduate assistantship, my Project Management final paper, and all the conceptual ideas that haven’t made it to paper yet.

A nerdy recipe

It involves meatloaf. And that’s all I will say for now. 😛

Green Lantern masquerade dress

early progress photo

The only way I’ll ever be able to cosplay Green Lantern Kyle Rayner is if I do it rule 63 style! I decided on a masquerade costume, so this isn’t quite cosplay, but rather me in a dress that will be reminiscent of Kyle’s old costume. I’m really excited for this. The pic above is an old progress shot – I have since acquired white cloth and a black choker, and soon I’ll make the mask and ring too.


Ian McLoring

Yes, work on Multivers’d continues, mostly in character sheets, height comparisons and chapter descriptions. Expect some pin-ups and one-shots while I get used to the characters interacting with each other on the page. Progress will be slow for a bit, though, because I’ll primarily be working on…

“Day In, Day Out of Character,” an AT4W fancomic

panel from thumbnailed script

During Spring finals, I managed to get addicted to Linkara’s Atop the Fourth Wall comic reviews (found here and here). After finals were over, I was free to binge and plow through the entire archive. I may just be a bigger fangirl for Linkara than Doug Walker now, and – ahem. Right. I decided to make a fancomic.

Yeah, a fancomic. A long time ago I swore I’d never go down the dark, addictive path of writing fanfiction. Ah well. The odds were against me keeping that promise anyway. I can justify creating this fancomic because it’s a longer comic than I’ve worked on thus far (current estimate is 15 pages), but not nearly so long as Multivers’d will be. In other words – this is great practice for the comic-creation process. I already feel a lot more confident about being able to pull a script together for Multivers’d (although I may have to script an entire chapter before starting on art duty, so keeping a buffer will be key).

This is also the likeliest project to see fruition before the others, so keep an eye out! More pictures and comics will be up here soon.

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Twelve characters, three stories, one kick-ass month

NaNoWriMo goes well so far.  I had a very stressful time last week, and I’m still recovering from that.  So I’m behind in my word count, but the last two days I’ve managed to pull off 2,000+ words.

This NaNo seems to be oddly easier, even with the setbacks.  It helps having established stories to work off of, I suppose, and the fact that I can switch between stories once my steam runs out.  I’ve written 5,744 words so far, about half in Spyder, Spyder, and half in Areopagus.

I found this awesome 12 Characters meme on the NaNo forums, but they’re down at the moment, so I thought I’d post mine here.  It’s crossover-tastic, as one might expect.  Later in the month I’ll probably be writing crossover-fic due to NaNo desperation, but for now, this scratches the itch pretty well.

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Spyder – okay, you know what, I got nothin’

Couldn’t think up an appropriate play on the title of the third NaNo project, Spyder, Spyder. ^^;;

The premise… is best explained by the project page linked up there. I really don’t know how to explain it in fewer words. It’s a story about gendered professions, a world just starting to come out of the shadows of patriarchy and superstition, but mostly it’s about three kids who are trying to live with one another while finding their places in the world. It’s kind of a love story, but mostly not. It’s kind of a YA novel, but kind of not.

Spyder is hard to describe because the worldbuilding is folded into the story in a way that SotF and Areopagus aren’t. It’s about the charmcrafting, it’s about the techno-mages called ‘spyders’, and while the characters are prominent, the magic – whether ‘female’ and symbolic, or ‘male’ and scientific – might as well be a character in itself. It’s hard to describe.

To be honest, when I was writing it the first time, I was constantly upset that all I seemed to be writing was drama, the mushy stuff. Rereading the script, I saw that wasn’t quite true. The worldbuilding is more present than I thought. As a result, there aren’t any large sections to cut. The whole damn thing is plot, or worldbuilding, or both. It’s like that the whole. way. through. 70 pages of pure (if editable) plot. I have no idea how that happened.

Nice thing about that, is I have no canon-rewriting changes to make. I don’t have to choose what foreshadowing to follow, because it’s all important and there’s only one way the plot can go from page 70. The only question is how far to take the conclusion.

Okay. National Novel Writing Month starts in 20 minutes. Wish me luck!

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Multiversing Strength of the Fallen

NaNo’s coming up quick, and to celebrate I thought I’d do a post a day on the projects I’ve got to look forward to. First up, Strength of the Fallen.

The plot: the S’riellan (translated as “the Fallen”) are the super-powered soldiers of the elves. But one morning, a S’riellan war hero named Minrei wakes up to find her strength, speed, and senses are those of a regular elf.

SotF is probably my favorite of the three NaNo projects.  It’s got a lot more going on than the stories I usually write, in that Minrei is not a predestined hero, nor a powerful rookie. Rather, Minrei is a physically-strong woman turned weak, an experienced fighter now reliant on smarts and creativity, and a fugitive from a government founded on conspiracies.

I reread the initial draft as prep for NaNo. Predictably, the writing became less well-thought-out as I went through it. I could tell when I started getting desperate for higher word counts, since I stopped using contractions and started adding notes about which swear words to use. (SotF was apparently written after watching Firefly, because I had decided to swear in Fijian. I now regret that decision. It’s too obvious.)

Basically, in the 88 page document, anything after page 40 might get cut. I’ve made a few plot-altering decisions for the coming NaNo already. A big one is that I’m cutting the romance bit that occurs in the last half. It doesn’t fit, and makes Minrei seem emotionally-weaker than I want her to be.

The other big change is that I’m making SotF part of 3PF canon – and by extension, Multiversed. When I first thought up Minrei, I used a similar worldbuilding premise to the one I used in 3PF. If you’re interested in an explanation, you can find it below the cut.

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Tossing and turning the page

I’ve been having trouble sleeping recently. I go to bed and I toss and I turn, and I think about Multiversed. As a result, I’ve made a lot of progress in figuring out the chapter storylines. The prologue and chapter 1 still need some work, but chapters 2, 3, n-1, and n are more-or-less planned out in my head (where n is the magical chapter when shit goes down, yo). I even have chapter titles for some of them. It’s an exhilarating feeling, having solid plot to work with.

And, if you check my Multiversed references page, you’ll see that I’ve posted an update with Damien’s character sheet. I’d hoped to have Valerie’s revised character sheet done by today as well, but… see for yourself :

Heh heh. To misquote “Bend It Like Beckham,” when drawing, I tend to make even mosquito bites look like juicy juicy mangoes. ^^;;

Sleeplessness led to another awesome turn of events besides Multiversed progress. One night I stumbled back out of bed, and went back to my computer. I was looking for a couple of documents in which I keep spare ideas (for incorporating into a Multiversed storyline, say). But instead I ended up reading the beginning of Strength of the Fallen. Then, amazed, I read bits of Areopagus. Then Spyder, Spyder.

They were actually good.

It’s been long enough since I wrote these projects that I don’t remember anything but the barest details of them. It was as though someone else had written them, some writer who knew what she was doing.

For the first time in my life, I agree with my mother that I should try to get these things published. …Which means I should probably finish writing them. 😛

Therefore I’m proud to announce that I will be doing National Novel Writing Month again this year. This time, I will be writing the ends to the drafts from my previous three NaNo’s. This month, my prep reading will be the drafts; my homework to brainstorm endings. I’m incredibly excited for this. NaNo is the most hectic but brilliant time. I feel so alive (if tired) during it, and I’m sure this time won’t be an exception.

(And look at those pep talk guests! Holly Black, Dave Eggers and Lemony Snicket. SQUEE. :3 )

Last but not least, I’m including an excerpt of Strength of the Fallen. There are a few things I’ll change in a later draft, of course, but it reminded me of all the intrigue that’s at the heart of this story. Click to read the excerpt.

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My heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest at any moment; there’s just so much to do and so much to remember to do right now. I’m excited and anxious and thoughtful all at the same time. My first class of the semester is in three hours or so, and the beginning of a new semester is just as bad as New Year’s for regrets and hopeful glances at the future. It’s a good time for backing up documents, for cleaning my room, for hurriedly completing unfinished work. It’s also a good time to take stock of current projects.

That the school year is a poor time for creative projects has been proven to me over and over again. I can promise that I will dutifully work on a project, but between homework and last-minute get-togethers, my own work tends to suffer. This semester is going to be especially tough, as I’ll be working on my CS capstone on top of the usual craziness.

It’s a safe bet that I will not be trying NaNoWriMo this year.

Here’s where I’m at with my open projects:

Areopagus, Strength of the Fallen, & Spyder, SpyderAll are awaiting revision of first drafts. These are on hold.

Cathy, Queen of Evil Never made it out of embryonic stage. This project is effectively dead. World-building and character development from this project will be incorporated into Multiversed.

Past, Present and Probable FutureAlso awaiting revision of (second?) draft. It is on hold. The main characters are being used in Multiversed. Multiversed occurs after the events of this novel, and thus will have spoilers, so I might discontinue work on this project.

MultiversedNow has its own project page! Work continues on concept art.

Mark Two – My CS capstone project? TBA.


This semester I will be working on Multiversed concept art; Mark Two planning and execution; and The Mad Scientist Wars. Unfortunately, work on Multiversed may lag, since keeping up on the other two is especially important. Finishing homework, getting a job, and retaining sanity is also important. I make no promises in regard to the last item, though. 😉

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