Imperial Wayfarer-class TUFT Light Freighter

The Wayfarer-class light freighter was built as a multi-mission freighter hull for the Imperial Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Designed in the Second Imperium period, built at the start of the Time of the Five Emperors, the Wayfarer was built to be a part of the Imperial Taken Up From Trade (TUFT) program. Lightly armed for self-defense, the Wayfarer class would remain in operation during both the Imperium and Hegemony eras, steadily upgraded as technology improved.

Design History

The Wayfarer-class was built when the Second Imperium discovered that the consolidation of cargo hulls meant that massive, 10,000+ TEU starships were pushing out anything smaller on major transport routes. In addition, when the Imperial Navy had to take up hulls for additional logistics support, the relative slow accelerations and low slipspace speeds meant that supplies were often sent in massive “chunks” that were vulnerable to Alpha raiders and similar threats.

An additional concern of the Imperial Moot was that such massive hulls were highly efficient in large-scale civilian logistics, but smaller colony worlds would have one of these large ships in orbit twice a year-at best-and this was incredibly risky. While smaller freighters did exist and the Imperial Courier Service maintained fast mail packets to ensure a minimum of twice-a-month contact between Tier I to III colony worlds, the expense of any large-scale shipping increased the difficulty of colonies to establish themselves.

The Wayfarer-class would be built to handle these issues, based around several engineering factors such as an easily adaptable hull, minimum 160G acceleration and 3LY/day slipspace speeds, point-defense and light missiles for defense against raiders and pirates, and the ability to rapidly unload 2,000 TEU cargo loads on rough landing areas. The hull would be licensed to a number of shipyards and the Imperial Navy and Courier Service would establish a Taken Up From Trade program where easy-to-acquire loans and grants would be provided to small shipowners that were willing to work semi-regular routes and demonstrate that they could ensure that the ships were kept up to minimum standards.

At 30,000 tons, the Wayfarer-class would be built to carry 2,000 TEUs in two large primary cargo bays, wrapped around the core hull of the ship. The class has 180Gs of acceleration fully loaded, with a 3LY/day slipspace speed. Defensive weapons consisted of six 350mm missile tubes, basic electronic warfare systems and detection systems, and point-defense rated for handling Alpha Rani-class raider destroyers with eight 20mm xaser mounts and six 40mm xaser mounts. The ship’s armor is mostly against debris, consisting of mil-spec titanium with fibersteel overlays for “high value” components (Hegemony-era hulls would be built entirely of fibersteel), with shields to match. Later versions of the hull-starting with retrofits of the class in the Flight V and beyond-would be capable of 200Gs of acceleration and 4LY/day in slipspace.

The design was built so that in less than eight hours (barring orbital mechanics), the ship could unload the full supply of containers with the six attached heavy cargo shuttles and leave for reloading at a full-fledged port. Field reloading of the ship would take longer (within 24 hours in theory, usually 48-72 hours), with the ship having internal tractor-presser arrays in the cargo bays for loading and unloading. To provide support in unloading and loading, two Workbees are also provided and carried semi-externally on the ventral and dorsal sections of the ship’s hull.

Service History

The Wayfarer-class would see service for over five hundred years, being built in nine separate flights. The simplicity of the design meant that a large number of modifications in the base hull configuration were made. This included-

  • Large-scale liquid transport
  • Colonization logistics
  • Imperial Scout Service tender
  • Q-ship configurations
  • Fast fleet tender
  • Bulk cargo transport
  • Bombardment ship (for Mk 25 and Mk 30 missiles)
  • Orbital mining processing and transport hub
  • Personnel transport

-and a number of additional configurations based upon customer and mission needs.

It is estimated that there are over 100,000 Wayfarer-class hulls currently in service and the hulls are still being built to this day. However, the Imperial Navy and Imperial Courier Service have begun to phase out the TUFT contracts for older Wayfarers, replacing them with the newer Wanderer-class TUFT Light Freighter.

General Characteristics

Dimensions: 215 m x 20 m x 20 m

Mass: 30,000 tons (fully loaded, Flight I-IV un-retrofitted), 31,100 tons (Flight V-IX, Flight I-IV retrofitted)

Power Systems:

2x Yoyodine Type 33 Gravity Fusion Reactors (Mid Imperial Era)

2x Yoyodine Type 33-A Gravity Fusion Reactors (Late Imperial Era)

2x Yoyodine Type 34-A Gravity Fusion Reactors (Hegemony Era)

Propulsion Systems:

8x Q-Coils (180 G acceleration Mid/Late Imperial Era, 200 G acceleration Hegemony era, all flights)

6x Slipspace rings (3 LY/day Mid/Late Imperial Era, 4LY/day Hegemony era, all flights)

Endurance:

180 days on stored supplies, hydrogen scoops (All Eras)

Crew:

One Class III AI, 10 Officers, 64 Able Spacers, backup bioshells and cybershells (Mid/Late Imperial Era)
One Class III AI, three Class II AIs, mixture of uploads and biological crew equaling 70 crew members, backup bioshells and cybershells (Hegemony Era)

Armament:

6x350mm missile tubes with gravity launchers, two arrays of three port and starboard.

Defenses:

ECM: AN/SL(Q)-52 Electronic Warfare Array, with “spike” and “strobe” jammer options (Mid/Late Imperial Era)

AL/SN(Q)-58 Electronic Warfare Array, with “spike” and “strobe” jammer options (Hegemony Era)

8x Rodeo-class missile decoys (dispensers ventral and dorsal).

Point Defense: 6 40mm xaser cannons with double-bounce gravity mirrors in independent casemate mounts.

8 20mm xaser cannons with double-bounce gravity mirrors in independent casemate mounts.

Shields: Standard Mid/Late Imperial/Hegemony Navigational Shields

Combat Shield Generators-50% capacity bow, port and starboard, 25% capacity ventral, dorsal and stern (Mid/Late Imperial Era).

50% capacity bow, port, starboard, ventral and dorsal, 25% capacity stern (Hegemony Era)

Armor: Milspec Titanium with Fibersteel Inserts, 2cm maximum (Mid/Late Imperial Era)

Fibersteel, 2 cm maximum (Hegemony Era)

Secondary Craft:

2xWorkbee, 2xCutter, 6xHeavy Lift Shuttles (Mid/Late Imperial Era)

2xWorkbee, 2xCutter, 6xHeavy Lift Shuttles, 4xHarvesting Drones (Hegemony Era)

Well, That Is Many Things

So, for anyone that has been paying attention, I’ve been having a rather terrible month. It hasn’t been bad, in the sense that I’m wondering if I need a lawyer or a priest. But between a whole lot of things…it has been frustrating, and I would prefer that this wasn’t the start to 2023. Yes, “nowhere to go but up!” and all that, but I also know how easy it is to slide downwards.

What’s been going on with my family?

  • Mom finally got to Stanford and they did another round of X-Rays and similar examinations. After those, the doctors decided that Mom doesn’t have a floating bone fragment rubbing against her spinal cord.
    Other than a cracked tailbone and how painful it was…she’s in reasonable shape. When they realized this, Stanford set up a physical therapy plan and delivered oxygen for her when she is resting in the hospital bed in her own room.
    So, Mom is home, resting, recovering and finally at home after nearly three weeks banging around hospitals.
    This has not how we wanted to start this year.
  • After the last few weeks and how both Kaiser and Stanford had been treating Mom, I can imagine the conversation between her doctor and my Dad like this-
    DOCTOR: “Good news, sir! Your wife has a cracked tailbone, but no fragments or loose chips and we don’t have to operate! We can release her as soon as we get everything settled for her home care.”
    DAD: “What about all the report that she had one?”
    DOCTOR: “We’re pretty sure that there isn’t an issue.”
    DAD: “Get me a second opinion, from a doctor with an actual work ethic.”
    DOCTOR WITH AN ACTUAL WORK ETHIC (DWAWE): “Good news, sir! Your wife has a cracked tailbone, but no fragments or loose chips and we don’t have to operate! We can release her as soon as we get everything settled for her home care.”
    DAD: “What about the reports and X-Ray that says she had one?”
    DWAWE: “We’re pretty sure it was just bad imaging when she was at Kaiser.”
    DAD: “How soon can we get home before we all go crazy?”
    There will be physical therapy and recovery, but she looks a lot better, she’s actually able to think about things (right dose of pain meds), and it’s better than it was about twenty days ago.
  • Our German Shepard, Mia is VERY happy that Dad is home. We’re all trying to get back into a routine that works and after a good night’s sleep…progress.

And, what’s been going on myself and my writing?

  • More job rejections. More jobs that are putting me in a holding pattern for one reason or another. And trying to follow up so I ‘m in their mental queue, but not so much that they’re thinking that I’m some kind of creep or whatever.
    I’m going to be glad when this is over, I hate being cut loose like this. And money is nice. It can’t buy you happiness, but at the very least you can buy your own choices of misery.
  • At least I’m getting mileage in with Mia the last few days. Two miles every day, minimum.
    And Mia likes me…when Dad isn’t around. When Dad is around, she demands all of his attention and if I even get in the same time zone as Mia and could possibly distract Dad’s attention…she get extremely protective.
    (Feel free to insert jokes about how I’m the secondary person in everybody’s relationships…)
  • Back to the gym once things calm down a bit. Dad will go even if I have to push, but there will be one family member at home for Mom.
  • The Winter Solist is taking more time than I want. Mostly that one last big dance number before we reach the ending and winding up to get us ready for A Solist In Rome.
  • The outlines for An Ethical Succubus and some of the other writing ideas are coming along.
    Doing that kind of writing-story outlines and doing research-has been one of the things that has kept me sane and reasonably thoughtful during the last few weeks.

    Maybe that is my big career, if I can figure out how to get the job. Create the background and paperwork for big projects of all sorts. Ideas where I can do this and how? Preferably not Hollywood, because the place has gotten worse over the last few years. Too many horror stories, far too overpriced for someone that wants some minimum level of comforts.

Fingers crossed that this weekend will be marking a time when things are getting better and there’s nowhere to go but up.

Imperial Lachesis-class Light Cruiser

A replacement for the Lysandra-class light cruiser at the start of the Hegemony era of the Third Imperium, the Lachesis-class light cruiser was built specifically for the light cruiser mission in the Imperial Navy. This mission includes convoy and task-group escort, exploration, survey, and anti-piracy missions, with the Lachesis-class making the most of the experience of the Lysandra-class.

Debates about the class-namely the relatively light beam cannon load-would result in the replacement of the class with the Lindworm-class in the Middle Hegemony period.

Design History

Like the Lysandra-class light cruiser, the Lachesis-class was built for interior missions, including exploration and line-of-communications operations between Imperial worlds. With the class being built after the end of the Alpha Wars, combat with Alpha warships wasn’t a major consideration. However, the Imperial Navy did maintain combat capability against Alpha or other “near peer” warships as a major portion of the ship concept.

The Lachesis-class can be seen as a revision of the Lysandra-class, and it is only in defensive systems and support systems that the class can be considered improved. The ship is built around a spinal Metaspace Cannon with a 120m accelerator tunnel and a 30cm discharge aperture. Secondary direct-fire weapons are built around twelve 5cm positron beam cannons in dual turret mounts, considered to be a far too light weapons load for the class (the later Lindworm-class would mount 6.5cm beam cannons in dual turret mounts).

Long-ranged engagements are based around ten 350mm missile launcher tubes with gravity drivers on the ship’s port and starboard. While the class could use all Imperial-standard missiles, the Lachesis-class would have its fire control optimized for the Mk-21-B missile and the later Mk-23 and Mk-27 missiles. Point defense would not only consist of standard 20mm and 40mm x-ray lasers, but four 150mm counter-missile launchers. Debates about the effectiveness of mounting counter-missiles on a light cruiser hull is continually discussed, but against most light combatants it gives a ranged engagement option against missiles.

Passive defenses would be built around shields rated to withstand 1.5 strikes of a Lachesis-class equivalent main beam cannon strike on the bow, dorsal and ventral aspects, with a single-strike resistance to the port and starboard, and 75% resistance aft. Like Hegemony-era warships, the Lachesis-class uses battle steel armor. The ship mounts six Q-space coils and three slipspace drive rings, giving the ship a 360 G acceleration and 6 LY/day travel time. 

Sensor capability would include a 320 m/640 m VLBI array system (with two backup deployable arrays), an extensive passive and active EM sensor system, and standard navigation and operational sensor packages. The ship also carries a planetary survey package as standard, twelve sensor decoys (split between Rodeo-type anti-missile decoys and Mirrorball-type anti-sensor decoys), stealth systems backed up by a mil-spec hypersink, and the AN/SL(G)-82 electronic warfare package. The Lachesis-class would also mount the AN/SG(N)-33 electronic warfare package, which included two high-powered “spike” jammers for anti-missile duties.

Retrofits of the Lachesis-class would continue through the early Hegemony period, but no major revisions beyond reactor improvements of the hull would result.

Service History

The Lachesis-class would be built in five major “flights,” and at a replacement rate of 1.5 times the number of Lysandra-class ships currently in deployment. The only major variation between flights is the replacement of the Type 34 rectors with the improved Type 35-A1 antimatter reactors starting in Flight IV and later hull retrofits. The class would remain in Imperial service until the Lindworm-class was deployed, later to be assigned to secondary service then materials reclamation.

A proposed version would have replaced all of the missile launchers and the Metaspace cannon with bow launch arrays for Mk 25 missiles, but the Imperial Navy saw no need for a small bombardment hull and the class couldn’t carry enough missiles to be worthwhile. An additional proposal for specific revision of the hull for Survey missions was considered, but this mission would be filled by a version of the Hotspur-class heavy cruiser, the Serendipity-class.

A number of hulls would be modified for the Ghost Fleet mission, namely the removal of the antimatter reactors and replacement with fusion reactors, and secondary modifications to improve long-duration mission operations with the class.

General Characteristics

Dimensions: 180 m x 22 m x 18 m

Mass: 15,000 tons (consistent across all flights)

Power Systems:

2x Yoyodine Type 34 Antimatter Reactors (Hegemony Era, Flight I-III)

2x Yoyodine Type 35-A1 Antimatter Reactors (Hegemony Era, Flight IV-V)

Propulsion Systems:

6x Q-Coils (360 G acceleration, all flights)

3x Slipspace rings (6 LY/day, all flights)

Endurance:

180 days of antihydrogen at 90% power, theoretically unlimited material endurance (Hegemony Era)

Crew:

One Class VI AI, three Class V AIs, mixture of uploads and biological crew equaling 400 crew members, 100 Marines, backup bioshells and cybershells (Hegemony Era)

Armament:

1xMetaspace Cannon, 120m spinal mount with a 30 cm bow discharge aperture.

12×5 cm positron beam cannons in six dual turrets, two ventral, two dorsal, one port, one starboard.

10x350mm missile tubes with gravity launchers, two arrays of five port and starboard.

Defenses:

Stealth Systems: Radar sheath, IR dampener w/military specification hypersink, hull form.

ECM: AN/SL(G)-82 Electronic Warfare Array, with “spike” and “strobe” jammer options.
AN/SG(N)-33 Electronic Warfare Array with one port and one starboard “spike” arrays.

6x Rodeo-class missile decoys, 6xMirrorball-class sensor decoys (dispensers ventral and dorsal).

Point Defense: 10 40mm xaser cannons with double-bounce gravity mirrors in independent casemate mounts.

16 20mm xaser cannons with double-bounce gravity mirrors in independent casemate mounts.

4x150mm counter-missile launchers, mounted in pairs port and starboard.

Shields: Standard Hegemony Navigational Shields

Combat Shield Generators-150% capacity bow, dorsal, and ventral, 100% capacity port and starboard, 75% capacity stern.

Armor: Battle steel, 5.5 cm maximum (Hegemony Era)

Secondary Craft:

2xPinnance, 2xCutter, 6xHarvesting Drones, 14xType 2 Recon Drones, 6xType 3 Recon Drones (Hegemony Era)

Music That Inspires Me

My writing habits require me to either have music or have silence when I’m working. And, I don’t know which I will need when I’m starting to work. 

There’s a reason why I tend to work late at night-it’s quiet and I get to choose if I want music or not, and what kind of music I want. The trick is…what music do I want to listen to when I’m working, when I need music?

The biggest thing is that it has to be connected to how I’m writing. Not always perfectly, but I have collected long lists of songs that fit what I need in terms of mood, pacing, and what makes me smile when I’m trying to handle scenes and big dance numbers (i.e. fights).

There’s no particular organization to this list, beyond “top ten” and the reasons why I enjoy them in terms of how I write. And, of course, links so you can listen to it yourself and enjoy it in full.

In The Air Tonight

Let’s be clear, I’m a fan of both the original Phil Collins version and the Protoman cover of this song. Just the pacing and the lyrics are perfect for anything from traveling through Miami, preparing for the good old fashioned mega-violence, or even old enemies getting together to face the true threat. And that’s what works for me when I listen to songs and music, it’s the images that come into my head when I’m listening to the music.

In fact, if I ever become a Real Author™ and somehow get to write a Monster Hunter novel in Larry Correa’s universe, there is this one scene that I have paced out in my head, right down to the arrival using this song.

Nightstalker

There were so many songs from the Ghost In The Shell movie soundtrack that just fit the movie perfectly, and you have the dilemma of picking just oneNightstalker is that song. The sound of the low-speed chase, the melancholy of Major Kusanagi that she’s been dealing with in the entire movie about her own identity as she goes to rescue the Puppetmaster that has been stalking her as much as she’s been stalking them…and the music being done on both artificial and traditional Japanese instruments gives the whole thing an otherworldly air. An air that makes you wonder how it’s going to end, and if the ending is going to even be remotely happy.

The whole album is worth listening to, especially Ghost City, Making of Cyborg, and Floating Museum. It’s not what you expect from a cyberpunk classic…and that’s what makes it awesome.

Burn

If there was one movie that I could just say “this is how the Old World of Darkness should have been,” The Crow was that movie. The stylized design of the city it was set in, how it was paced, how the cast acted…it made me extremely sad and upset that it cost Brandon Lee his life to make this movie. 

One of the things that made this move work so well was the soundtrack. In many ways, the soundtrack was an introduction for many people to Seattle’s grunge movement, punk, goth, and many other artists. And, one of these artists was The Cure. And the song that they had on the album, Burn, was the very platonic ideal of the “superhero preparing for the fight” song. The scene that the song was used for was superbly done in the implications of every act that the newly resurrected Eric Draven did worked out perfectly with the music.

For some reason, I keep remembering that the band hated the song and never really liked playing it or having fans refer to it. I can’t find any evidence for this rumor, but not for a lack of looking.

It does make for a great entry song for people to discover The Cure, so that’s something.

Dead Souls

Nine Inch Nails is one of those bands that I have a love/hate relationship with. When they work, they work. When they don’t, they really don’t. And, Trent Razor is the reason for this-when he’s good, he’s great. When he’s bad, he’s terrible

Another song from The Crow soundtrack, Dead Souls is from the scene of Eric chasing down his first target, Tin Tin. And, the pacing just works out so perfectly that every single time I think of an urban chase scene over rooftops, this song pops up.

It rumbles like an elevated Chicago train. It rolls down the streets like Detroit iron, the power of classic American muscle cars back in the day when they were powerful and terrifying lumps of animated metal. You can imagine the stalk from above and it doesn’t matter who is doing it. It could be the reincarnation of vengeance. It could be the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. It could be the Detective. But, you can see them in your mind’s eye…just out of sight. Just out of reach. 

Until the laughter starts

Nara

I first started hearing this instrumental on Cold Case, which was a very interesting concept for a show. Nara has this very interesting pace to it, what I call “revelational music.” It builds up, you hear more and more until you hit the point of revelation. This is the “ah ha!” moment, the build up to the climax of the scene and the episode, and then…you have the full revelations and the release that the revelations give you.

It’s beautiful in that regard. It makes you enjoy the discovery and the revelations.

Rise

I have a love/hate relationship with Yoko Kanno. 

I hate that there isn’t more of her music for me to love.

Yes, listening to her is like getting hit over the head with a sock full of Johnny Quest. But, she’s made the songs that I consider to be the soundtrack of my life.

From National Anthem of Macross (which makes you feel patriotic for a country that doesn’t exist at all) to Tank! (which still makes me want to see cowboys), her music runs a gamut that if there is something you want to hear, it’s there. It’s out there. You just have to find it.

But, one song that I keep coming back to, that I keep thinking about for an anime opening theme is from Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex, and it is the starting theme for the 2nd GIG series, Rise

Why? A lot of reasons-

Mixture of Russian and English? Check.

Vaguely military/action tone? Check

Ties into a cyberpunk anime that I still love, even if it’s nearly twenty years old at this point? Oh, yes, a definite check.

It’s the mash-up, the sheer glee of mixed connections that was an important part of the ethos of Stand Alone Complex that makes it wonderful to listen to, and to pace out ideas for my stories.

Them And Us

Another song from Trent Razor, with his collaboration with Atticus Ross, for the movie Patriots Day, Them and Us is the sort of song that you listen to because it’s the soundtrack of a thousand grubby little criminal acts and drug deals. The ones that have gone wrong, the covers blown off agents deep in the cold. And, trying to escape consequences.

The off-tone sounds of “normality,” building up a little faster and a little louder. We know something is about to go wrong, something is about to break bad, but we don’t know what.

We get another track in, jacketing up the tension. Things get tighter and tighter…then, something just pops…and now there are the consequences. And then, everybody spirals off into the dark and the cold, a little more broken than they were at the start.

Local Hero

Let me be clear, if there is a better man on the electric guitar than Mark Knophler, you’re going to have to do a lot to prove it to me. From his solo work to his time as the front of Dire Straits, his music is a part of the soundtrack of my life and I could pretty much make a list of the ten songs of his that I like the most. And there will be a lot of songs.

Anyways, there are two songs that I want to share on this list, and Local Hero might not be the one that you expect. Written for the movie of the same name, the song is just Mark Knophler letting go with his full range of guitar skills. It is a bit melancholy, then a bit happy, then just…triumphant. It’s wonderful to listen to, and it’s just great.

It’s just so British, and it is so much the story of that little village on the coast and all of the quirky characters there.

On Every Street

This one is a sadder song, because it could pretty much be the last Dire Straits song ever. And it makes me sad because I could have gotten concert tickets to their last show as a band, but it was either that or buy dinner for the girl I was going out with at the time (and she dumped me two weeks later). So, there’s additional melancholy to this song.

But, for how the band ended, it’s just perfect. On Every Street has great lyrics, the perfect pacing and that last guitar solo…you listen to it, and you realize that it’s just exactly what you wanted.

One of my biggest mental quirks is “music to scene” translation, and every time I listen to On Every Street, I can tell you the script and the blocking for how I would end the very last episode of CSI (the original one in Vegas). It has a “where are they now” montage, the last scene where Grissom actually does spit it out with Sara, and just the guitar solo where they drive through Vegas and leave together, happy.

Seriously, listen to it and just think about how you would want a happy ending. Bit of melancholy, but that makes the happy even better.

The Garden of Allah

I’ve got a thing for “last songs from an artist,” it seems. It might not have been Don Henley’s last single, but it’s the last one that I can really recall from him, from the Actual Miles album. It’s a song that, according to Henley, is “is presented as a modern-day fable in which the Devil discovers he has become obsolete.” And, The Garden of Allah is the song that I think of when I think of 1990’s Hollywood and 1990’s LA.

It’s the time when the ‘50s and ‘60s facade of a city that had so many possibilities fell apart. When so much of the military infrastructure-from bases to military contractors to support industries-closed or left and the only thing that was left was the entertainment industry. And, the entertainment industry always had issues with understanding what reality actually is. It doesn’t help that politicians also have an issue with the concept of reality. And sometimes the only difference between politicians and entertainers is the audience.

The music video was one of those longer-form videos that had everything you could ask for from the era. Including great visuals, Kirk Douglas playing the Devil, and superb pacing.

So, there it is. Ten songs that serve as inspirations for when I’m writing.
I’ll probably do more in a few weeks, depending on a combination of mood and need to create postings. And, if you have a theme that I should emphasize, such as classical music or anime songs, let me know in the comments.

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

So, what have I been up to? And what have I been doing?

  • Job Hunting-Well, I had two second interviews this week. Fingers crossed that they lead to a job and a regular salary.
  • Family-Mom is…hopefully going to escape from her particular confinement and finally have that bone chip in her spine removed soon. Yes, I recognize that there’s a lot of issues with the health care system and I wish I could just buy an off-the-shelf OEM part and give her a new spine. But, that technology isn’t here yet, which makes me very sad.
  • Personal Stuff-Not going to the gym as much as I’d like, but I am getting as much walking in as I can. Despite the fact that the next-door neighbor is building an ark. Because Dad is cooking and because Dad is trying to avoid showing how much he loves us by stuffing us full of love via food…we’re losing weight. A little bit. Somewhat.

    It just can’t be the stress, after all…
  • Writing-The thing you’re here for!
    The Winter Solist is hitting an air-pocket, but it’s a small one. Writing has progressed and I’m hoping for a Valentine’s Day release date, with some luck and some definite finger crossing.
    A Solist In Rome‘s outline is mostly finished, and needs to be fleshed out.
    An Ethical Succubus has been progressing slowly. Mostly due to the outline needs, but I’m getting there.
    Other writing projects have been slowly making forward progress…but not as fast as I would like.

Fingers crossed for some good news coming up soon, especially if I get a new job. That’s the big thing right now, I need a steady income and health insurance. From there…who knows?

I can promise you this much-if I win the MegaMillions this time around, it’ll be a lot of vague for a while, then perhaps a very sudden rush of writing work…

I Don’t Need 2023 To Be On Hard Mode

Because we’re only five days in and I don’t want to find out how it can be worse.

Mom is in the hospital, as she slipped and fell literally on New Year’s Day. Everybody thought she was bruised; it turns out that she cracked a vertebra and now her doctor and everybody is trying to figure out in exactly what order to treat her. But she is going to have to have surgery, and that’s a couple of days of recovery. So that threw us all for a loop.

I’m not going to say that we suddenly got a whole lot of rain starting…the first of the year. I won’t. But we’ve got a guy next door that’s building an ark and he’s blocking the driveway…

Job hunting has been terrible, as I’m trying to find a job as a writer when everybody seems to be letting go of anybody that in theory could write. The nearest thing that I’ve had to viable interviews is for being a waiter and managing a storage complex. Neither has gotten back to me yet, and I don’t want to be a waiter. Too much time on my feet and I need health care. Looking for jobs with the local city and state, but that takes time and I’m far too much of a worrier to really have that kind of endurance in my job hunting. Especially with all of the other things going on.

And because of all this, my writing has suffered. How couldn’t it have suffered?

I’ve been getting offers of help, and mostly what I need is this-

  • Buy a copy of my novel, Solist At Large and leave a review. The review is very important, as the more reviews that the book gets, the more it shows up on Amazon. The more it shows up on Amazon, the more chances it’ll show up on “if you like” and similar listings.
  • If you feel an urge to contribute directly, please let me know.
  • Thoughts and prayers are welcome. Please add a fundamental prayer to the Chief Engineer that there are far too many failure modes in human beings. Failure modes that can’t be fixed.

    And you can’t get OEM or performance parts if something breaks. Only salvage parts, maybe.

So, all I can do is all I can do. Hopefully get some more time at the gym and getting back to the gym. Walking around the house with ankle weights so that I’m getting some exercise. Maybe even doing some writing.

And keeping calm and carrying on.

Ideas That I’ve Been Working On

Every author that is worth something-at some point-has a scratch file of ideas. The stories that we want to do, and all of the ideas and notes that we’ve accumulated for them. Sometimes we can’t tell the story for one reason or another-we can’t find a good narrative “hook” to get into it. Or we don’t know how to write the story so that it’s convincing. 

But authors are like pack rats, we won’t throw away a story idea just because we can’t exactly use it right now. We might learn something, or develop a technique, or something that lets us write the story. Hell, we might just have an apple hit us in the head and that inspiration lets us finally sit down at the computer and type until we fall asleep or something.

(I actually did that once or twice…look it was college. You had last-minute papers to do, the deadline was 9 AM and you start thinking that you can get away with going to bed at 3 AM if you only get the writing done… I’m just glad it came out coherent.)

So, I’m deciding to share a bit of my scratch files, because The Winter Solist final dance number isn’t coming together the way I want and I keep going back to fix things. To get my head out of that mess, I look at my scratch files for inspiration, and maybe work on those stories for a little bit.

And if I share some of these ideas, an apple will land on me.

An Ethical Succubus

The concept behind An Ethical Succubus series is built around the ideas of addiction, survival, and having your world upended. The genre could be called “urban fantasy,” but there are no supernatural elements to it. Barring “sufficiently advanced technology,” mind you.

The main character discovers that he’s become…well, something very closely defined as a “succubus”-he can change his shape, he’s incredibly strong, he’s incredibly tough, he knows what men desire, and he has a very uncomfortable need to sexually ride men to death as a woman. Bad enough that if he doesn’t pay attention to it, he just might do it without him having any real control over it, the same way a serious alcoholic or other kind of addict always has to avoid temptation or fall dangerously off the wagon.

The first book covers the main character learning about his new…condition and coming to some kind of terms with it. There’s a hilarious suicide attempt montage that takes about two chapters (and, I mean, he tries everything-hanging himself, bullet under the chin, three kinds of poison, throwing himself off a cliff, electrocution, homemade napalm…). Then, he has to figure out how he can live with himself. Thus the “ethical succubus” of the series title.

And, the more that I’m writing it, the more I’m realizing that it’s also an epitaph to San Francisco. 

What?

Because in the boom/bust cycles that San Francisco has always had, this one looks like it’s going to actually turn the city into a version of Detroit. Office rentals are massively down, costs of living are high, the problems of addicts and the homeless and crime in general, the decay of any kind of middle, and so many things about the city that I loved are dead or dying.

I go there once a month, and the city is just…sad. Like watching an old ship rot in the dock, something that was once beautiful just falling apart from apathy. And, that’s going to be a theme in the story, where the main character realizes just how the city is dying and he has to wonder at some point…

Is he a noble predator?

Or is he a carrion-eater?

It’s not quite a personal story, but San Francisco does feel bad at this point. Far too many stories of the city breaking bad. And, that’s something I would emphasize as I was writing this tale.

STATUS: I’ve written the notes for the first few books and the outlines for the first two books. There’s been some writing (the chapters are short in comparison to others, because the main character is terse at the beginning), and some progress is being made.

Armor Girls

Hey, who doesn’t want to write their own manga? (Not a comic book, at least not in the usual Marvel/DC sense.)

Armor Girls is that manga. I wanted to do something that was a hybrid fantasy-one part Tenchi Muyo, one part Guyver, and one part Dresden Files. And, it all started out as a random idea for “pitching a harem series” on a forum somewhere…

Anyways, we start out with Reiji Fujiko, who is a good kid. He’s good, and he’s nice but he isn’t soft. Working three jobs so that he can go to college, as his parents died when he was young and his Grandfather died when he was 14. He bounced around the Japanese foster-care system until he hit 18 years old, and now he’s trying to finish his degree, stay sane, and remain employed.

This is when the Tenshi, appeared, in the form of the first four Armor Girls-

  • Chikyū-A pillar of strength and power, who wants to be more than just that. And, somehow, every time she tries to relax, something happens.
  • Fuzei-Take a femme fatale and add Yamato Nadeshiko and you have Fuzei in a nutshell. She’s beautiful but underneath her flirtation and charm, she’s scared that she’s just a facade
  • Ōumi-She’s patient. Calm. And dedicated. And a big believer in the past and how beautiful it is (we’re talking formal kimonos and Victorian-era clothing here). But, the future scares her, and to embrace Reiji is to embrace the future.
  • Kogasu-What happens when you put Pinky Pie, Death of the Endless, and Merdita in someone that is an even split between Scottish ginger and Japanese country girl? You get Kogasu-who is…enthusiastic. And has a whole lot of other issues. Including a fear of pants (trust me, it makes sense in context).

-and, we of course have the girl that would be Reiji’s girlfriend if they had three seconds to spare between work and school, Mari. Who has her own set of issues (her parents moved overseas when she was young, left her with an aunt, and she hasn’t ever seen them when they spent any time in Japan-and her aunt treated her like an accessory).

Then, we discover that the Tenshi are actually sophisticated sets of ambulatory nanomachines that can link up with Reiji to become suits of armor. The first plot arc (which would cover the first season of the anime) deals with this, and the mysterious Apple Man that is sharing what he calls “seeds.” These seeds turn people into monsters…but, according to him, all it does is “show the real person inside.”

It all winds up into a massive conspiracy, a secret war, and Reiji figuring out how to navigate the rocks and shoals of his relationships. And explosions. Big ones.

STATUS: I’ve got some commissioned art coming from Kittyhawk on the Tenshi, I’ve got the story bible and the script for the first two issues written, and I’ve got an outline for the first four tankobons (think “trade paperbacks” in US terms).

The problem is that I can’t draw worth a damn and I can’t afford an artist right now. Especially not playing cash-float games to make sure they got paid and I could eat on a regular basis.

Untitled Spaceship Isekei Novel Idea

If you’ve been reading my ideas about the Ghost Fleets, this is where it’s leading to.

We have one human (or a small team of humans) from present-day Earth that have been uploaded into Imperial warships. And then…

…that’s where the issue begins. 

My two choices of direction from this is in or out

Out is a “explore the universe, seek out strange new worlds” story, with lots of exploration and my little fleet of ships being able to fight and win localized battles, but could be overwhelmed by numbers. Numbers that the major factions have. And, these ships showing up causes a lot of the area politics to catalyze and now they have to fight a war between shifting powers that want the technology they have…and might not be too friendly to our humans and their efforts to establish a new human world.

In is simple. We have people that are now in command of ships that are hidden inside of Ceres come back from the dead…and head back to Earth. Which leads to a lot of issues, because now all of this advanced technology is in the hands of people that aren’t exactly under the control of people on Earth. Meanwhile, governments and power brokers realize that there is now a fleet in orbit that isn’t under their control and wants to establish an Empire that never ruled the Earth before and is rather…strict in ways that a lot of these power brokers would feel uncomfortable with. And a lot of them would have to either stop being who they were or face Imperial justice.

And, the big question of why were there hidden ships in the Sol System, and there’s no signs that the Empire ever existed in that universe…

Hilarity ensues either way.

(And, there’s one scene that I want to do, mostly because I want to have a young girl that never knew her father have him come back from being in a coma for nearly fourteen years.)

STATUS: I’ve got a lot of notes, but the outlines aren’t working the way I want them to. There’s a lot of starships, the historical structure of the Imperium (which gets interesting, especially things like the Archons, the Time of the Five Emperors, the Empire/Alpha War, and a lot of other little details), and a lot of tech information.

…I think I’d be happy writing up universes for other people to write in. How does someone do that?

Untitled Giant Robot/Fantasy Isekei Novel Idea

Why? Because chicks dig giant robots.

I’m wanting to do more giant robot/mecha stories, and setting it in a medieval/Victorian-era universe with swords, sorcery, fantasy creatures, and giant stompy robots has a lot of appeal to me. The big inspirations are The Visions of Escaflowne and Knight&Magic, with a few other accessories added to the mix.

The setting is very European, and it is roughly about the time when Germany actually started to be a country (mostly Prussia and its allies, but they’re expanding…), and our main character is a part of the minor British-analogue nobility. Unlike most isekei stories, he doesn’t have many memories of his past life, but he does have a lot of sheer information in his head. Information that he uses to build better giant robots for himself and others.

The main character is going to start out fairly young, and because of a cosmic angel goof, he’s way overpowered magically by the local standards. So overpowered that people think that he doesn’t have any magic, because he’s far above the usual scales. This is one of the big plot arcs-the main character having to learn magic differently because he’s far too overpowered in that respect.

The second is that we get to see the classic Lensman Arms Race from the inside, as the technology changes from late Georgian to Victorian/early Edwardian era. Muscle power begins to be replaced by steam and early electricity, guns start to appear and improve, the giant robots get more powerful, magic gets more controlled and higher in power (mostly because of the main character showing that higher power levels are possible), and the world starts to change.

The big question becomes-what is the tone of this story? Do I go for the Harry Potter/Schooled In Magic-type story where we get to see the main character do his time at a boarding school a’la Eton? Or something a bit more free form?

STATUS: I’m collecting notes, I’ve got a rough map of the world, I’ve got a historical chart of the giant robots on the major faction’s sides, and how the magic system works. I’ve also got a short glossary on the terms being used in the story, so that’s something. Also, a rough outline of where I want the story to go.

And, I get a chance to build big (okay, not that big, they’re in the Labor/VOTOM/Gear scale, about 8-10 meters/28-32 feet tall) stompy robots and work out all the neat details. Like control mechanisms, how they’re powered, weapons, and all of the fun little greebles that let me give the Knights such character of their own.

Conclusion

If there is anything you can take away from this little run-through, it’s this.

Collect your ideas. Even what you might think as a silly or weak idea might find use somewhere. I’ve got whole scratch files of stories that might never see the light of day, but learning about new things is never wasted.

And, it helps you to create characters and worlds, figure out how to hook new readers, and you get to relieve your curiosity. All of which is vital for a writer.

So, get out there and add a few more pages of notes today! And always remember to hug people you like as well.

Happy 2023!

2022 wasn’t that bad a year, when you think about it.

I graduated college, finally.

I got a job after being stuck without one for nearly two years due to COVID.

I was…successful for a time.

Hell, I was even able to go to the gym on a regular basis and the exercise has been helpful. At the very least, I might be able to fit into 42 pants if I can get my waistline under some more control.

Then, just after Thanksgiving, I got a kick in the teeth-I was laid off.

And another kick in the teeth-confronting that I’m not happy, not satisfied with myself, and that all the things I thought I was doing right…I’m not quite doing them right.

But 2023 is coming up. And, if I could survive the last three years…I’ll make it through next year. I’m applying for jobs in writing and anything else that would get me a foot in the door and health care.

I’m writing as fast as I can.

And I’m getting into shape, one way or another.

So, just remember all of the good things that happened this year, and remember that you survived the bad.

Happy New Years to you all.

The Writer and The Iron Heart

In Which The Writer Makes Back To Hollywood Alive

Back to LA, back through LAX, and back through everything that makes me unhappy. But it’s Tom, he’s willing to pay a ten-day contract rate up front, and that’s always a good thing. He also warned me that I might “have to entertain,” so my hotel of choice isn’t going to be a Holiday Inn Express. Instead, I got an Executive Suite at the Omni Los Angeles near Little Tokyo and made sure that everything that wasn’t absolutely required was in the bedroom.

Probably the only good thing is that there’s a few good places to eat and to the best of my knowledge the people I don’t want to deal with aren’t in town right now. And, because I flew in on a Sunday evening, I was able to get a night’s sleep before driving the car-a nice rental Porsche 911-to the studios. Tom’s down on the first floor before I can even put my phone away, and he’s smiling. “Hey, how are you doing?”

“Pretty good,” I replied, shaking his hand. “You’re wanting a miracle on a shoestring budget, aren’t you?”

“More like a good second opinion,” Tom agreed as I got my temporary badge, and we headed up to his office. “Ready?”

“Always,” I smiled, and he led me into his office. In the office was a man that I knew, and he stood up and shook my hand.

“I think,” he said with a chuckle, “we should stay with first names for now. We’re not meeting behind anyone’s back…but let’s keep this an informal consultation for now.”

“Sure, Jack,” I shrugged, and we all sat down, with Tom sitting behind his desk. “So, what’s the consultation?”

“Have you seen any of the Phase Four MCU shows on Disney Plus?” Jack asked, pulling out his notepad.

“Yes…and I assume you want me to be as honest as hell about my opinion on them,” I replied after the tingling sensation in my stomach and fingers calmed down a bit.

“Very,” Tom sighed, and waited.

“Okay, the best of them was Loki, Moon Knight, and Werewolf by Night. And the only one I’d give an unreserved recommendation is Werewolf by Night. Both Loki and Moon Knight had issues-you don’t make Tom Hiddelson a secondary character in his own show and you should have played up the madness and supernatural in Moon Knight more. The Warren Ellis run was probably the best modern version of the comic book, and that should have been the biggest inspiration,” I paused for a moment in thought, and didn’t try to pop my neck in frustration. “And, hell, if you busted everyone that partied like a rockstar like Warren Ellis did, half of Hollywood would be unemployed.”

“And the rest?” Jack raised an eyebrow in curiosity.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a thematic mess. It was a horrible ‘passing of the torch’ series and it made the people of Wakanda look like complete assholes. Best way to do things would have been for them to beat Bucky honestly-a tight win, but a win. They didn’t need to cheat, because they were that good. And the whole ‘white America is full of assholes’ thing has never been a good thing, especially when most comic book fans are white or not that kind of political.

“Next, Hawkeye. I mean, you have another ‘passing of the torch’ series, and it was just messy as hell. Sloppy writing and concept, and you needed to bring the Kingpin in earlier. Ms. Marvel, the comic book series was weak and having the current iteration of Carol Danvers as her hero? Ugh…,” I sighed in frustration. “And the less said about She Hulk, the better. They ruined the Netflix Daredevil-probably the best adaptation of any street-level Marvel comic book character on the small screen ever-to make a fifth rate Deadpool clone. Worse, they did it badly. Yes, I know that the comic book in the ‘80s and early ‘90s was that meta, but meta humor is hard to do well. And the series was not done well. WandaVision wasn’t as bad, but you had so many chances to play with the meta ideas there and nobody did. It was just sad, and you made Wanda into a villain…just for fun?” 

Jack tapped his fingers on the armrest of his chair, and then he smiled. “Okay, what I’m hearing is that we’ve had some weak stories in the last few years. We have to have a definite ‘rebuilding’ phase coming up, and we need to do good stories to pull that off. Sounds about right?”

“Yes…,” I replied carefully.

“Good!” Jack laughed and nodded. “We’re in the middle of filming a sequel to Black Panther and we’ll be introducing a new character for a Disney Plus show in the movie.”

“Oh?” I had this sudden sinking feeling in my gut that I wasn’t going to like this.

“Yep,” Jack smiled. “Ever hear of Riri Williams?”

In Which The Writer Discovers That Things Have Gotten Worse

“I’ve heard of the character,” I replied, speaking slowly. “But…she’s not very popular. All of her comic book runs have been below-average at best, and very forgettable. And the few times I’ve seen anyone talk about her online, it’s not positive.”

“That’s something that has to go,” Jack nodded and started to play with his worry toy, a pen that he flipped between his fingers. “We think she has a lot of potential, a smart black girl that hit the ground running with StarkTech and built her own suit. Lots of potential marketing possibilities, we get to boost our DEI scores, lots of things we can do with that.”

I knew a lot more about Riri and Ironheart than I was going to admit, and I was able to keep my poker face going. She was not going to be a popular choice for anyone, and I hated to use the word “problematic” to describe anything or anyone, but… “So, what do you need me to do?” I asked, curious.

“We just keep getting retreads of the Iron Man script in an eight-episode format,” Jack switched the pen from his right hand to his left hand. “We want to bring you in, do a series bible, and see if an outside perspective can help us to get the script off the ground.”

“I can do that,” and that sinking feeling in my belly was getting worse. This was just spelling out “disaster” in some format… “I’ll need to have an idea of how to tie the story continuity into Phase Five of the MCU, but that’s just looking at notes right now.”

“Don’t worry too much about that,” Tom interrupted, “We’ll do the fine-tuning needed to tie her story in when we get that far, just stay as close to the continuity as you can.”

I considered that for a moment. “I can do that. And, you want a full pitch, right?”

“Absolutely,” Jack smiled, this time with some teeth. He stood up and offered me his hand, “The results will be awesome. I’ve heard great things about your work.”

“Thank you,” I replied as sincerely as I could, shaking his hand. “I’ll get to work as quickly as I can and have a story bible and a pitch ready for you ASAP.”

“Excellent!” Tom nodded, shook Jack’s hand and Jack left the room, waving as he headed out the door. Tom and I sat down, and I was lost in thought for a moment when Tom coughed softly. “Yes, it’s that bad.”

“It can’t be that bad,” I tried not to whine, but Tom handed me a bound story bible and I flipped through it. “It is that bad. Worse, even.”

“There’s a bit of room for you to work in,” Tom admitted. “Not as much as I’d like, but the #MeToo and DEI cultists are in full force around here. You’re going to have to make Riri as girlboss as you can.”

“Nobody likes girlboss characters. Not even the people that say they like girlboss characters like girlboss characters,” I groaned in frustration. “I could do a subversion of the girlboss.”

“Only if you can slip it past Jack,” Tom nodded. “I’ve gotten the entire run of Ironheart comic trade paperbacks for you, so you’ve got research materials.”

“Fun,” I muttered. “Well, it could be worse. I could still be in downtown Manhattan trying to convince the head of Studio 54 that trying to do a Carrie revival is going to crash and burn faster than David Caruso’s TV career after CSI Miami.”

“How did that go?” Tom asked curiously.

“Tax write-off, I hope,” I grunted as I took the bag of books from Tom.

In Which The Writer Reads Far Too Many Comic Books

I got back to the hotel and laid out the trade paperbacks. A little bit of research into Riri’s continuity, a few additional trade paperbacks ordered through Comixology to fill in team runs, and I sat down with my notepad and started to take notes.

The first and terrifying things about Riri Williams? If every third page wasn’t making it clear that she was a hero, you had a wonderful supervillain origin story here. Stole (or “salvaged”) and reverse-engineered an Iron Man suit. Had this feeling of entitlement and that she felt like the world owed her. Kept getting herself into big messes, and having authorial fiat bail her out. And, maybe even autistic, the bad kind of autistic. The kind that is going to leave her vulnerable because she is just so enthusiastic and doesn’t see the hook that far too many people would put in when they would pay attention to her.

There are too many people like that in the world. I worked for too many people like that. Seeing a girl that just wanted someone to pay attention to her exploited like that rubbed me extremely raw.

I kept writing notes, and sat there, thinking. Somehow, my biggest note came back to Riri mostly salvaged and reverse-engineered, she didn’t invent anything at all. Right next to that was we need a gear porn scene, organic to the story. Several, if we can get away with it. This wasn’t going to be good, not at all.

I’d typed up a timeline of the MCU and printed it out at the downstairs office center, laying it down on the floor to get a good idea of when things were in terms of time. Something about time just kept on hitting me, but I couldn’t figure out what or how.

I glared at my timeline, I glared at my notes, and I made a few attempts to type something on my laptop, but nothing really came out. Nothing that really appealed to me. 

So, rather than stare at my laptop and complain at it, I packed things up and went out driving. Random driving is better than random public transit riding, especially in LA. Somehow, I pulled into Little Tokyo, parked the car, and walked around to get my head going. It was walking through the mall and past the Entertainment Hobby Shop Jungle that I saw something that caught my eye.

They had a window display of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers toys, or more specifically the original tokusatsu series it was based on, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger. I stopped to look at it, remembering when I was a kid and our TV could barely get the local FOX station on our rabbit ears (it wasn’t until high school that we moved somewhere that we actually could get cable), and watching the show through static and barely making out one word in three. And, as I was looking at the toys and the action figures and the toyetic line potentials of everything…inspiration hit.

I pulled a notebook out of my satchel and started to scribble down notes. Then, I pulled out my phone and put in an order to a Mexican place that did awesome burritos.

I was probably going to be stuck in the hotel room for a few days to get this all down.

In Which The Writer Has A Full Toy Line Ready To Go

The writing took me most of the week, and I had to run to a FedEx/Kinkos to print out the completed story bible. A few phone calls to check with friends that were agents for the actors and actresses that I thought would be right for the roles (and getting in touch with friends-always a good thing), and that Monday I was ready to go, story bible copies in my satchel, and an appointment set with Jack and Tom.

“Good morning!” I smiled as I came in the door of Tom’s office, carrying coffee for everyone there. “I bring gifts.”

Tom and Jack took their coffee and Tom started to sip on his while Jack considered the cup in his hand. “You’ve got a bible and a pitch ready?” Jack asked.

“I’ve even got a PowerPoint presentation, if needed,” I smiled, and that took most of the weekend.

“Give me the pitch, and a verbal description,” Jack continued, then he sipped his coffee.

I waited for him to lower the coffee cup before I said, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Marvel Cinematic Universe version.”

That got his attention. “Go on, go on…,” he replied, waving his coffee cup around.

“Riri Williams is a sophomore high school student in a Midtown Baltimore high school, charter school set up by Pepper Potts as a memorial to Tony Stark,” I started, laying out a copy of the series bible on Tom’s desk for each of them. “She’s young, she’s smart, and she’s still learning. We have a teaching montage for the first episode, and she has an unofficial ‘uncle’-Bob Gonzalez-who is teaching her electronics and how to be aware of her surroundings.”

“Good start, but where does she get her suit and how does Power Rangers show up?” Jack asked, tapping a fingertip on his copy of the series bible.

“The big conflict of the first season is that there’s a company-Midnight’s Fire-that is involved in buying up properties and getting involved in local gentrification. And they’re a little..pushy. Riri thinks that she can do something about it. But she’s also trying to figure out why there’s a dead zone of cell signals near her house. Shouldn’t be one as far as she can tell, so she builds a detector to map out the dead zone,” I continued, and tried not to pace. Fiona tells me that I’m a pacer when I’m trying to be convincing, and I kept hearing that Jack hated people that paced around. “And that’s when she finds it, she finds one of Tony Stark’s labs, and she finds an Ultron. Namely, she finds Ultron version 1776, which was one of the later versions of Ultron, waiting there. And this is a ‘good,’” and I held up my fingers for air quotes, “version of Ultron.”

“There is one?” Jack asked me sarcastically.

“He claims so, at the very least. And that’s where we start. He can’t build robots, but he can build suits of armor, and with Riri’s help he can help her figure out what’s going on with Midnight’s Fire and save her neighborhood,” I scribbled on my notepad, to deal with my tension. “And it goes bad because they’ve got some supervillains working for them. That’s when one of Riri’s friends finds out what she’s been up to, and ‘76 realizes that they need a team, and that’s when we have our second big training montage.

“Now, we have a team of five teens with attitude, calling themselves Team Ironheart. They take down Midnight’s Fire and the supervillains get arrested, and the neighborhood is saved. Which leads to the two stingers. The first is that Midnight’s Fire is a front for the Ten Rings…and the branch here is run by Demetrius Williams. And, yes, Demetrius is Riri’s father, who she thought died in a drive-by shooting. The second stinger is that Bob and ‘76 know each other, because Bob is Robert Gonzalez from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he’s a Variant. They’re working together because ‘something is coming’ and they’re getting ready for ‘the dialogs to come.’”

Jack considered the tip of his pen, then looked at me. “Good pitch,” he noted. “How does the team work for the story?”

“You have a whole range of characters to sell toys for, it’s a very toyetic series concept,” I replied, handing him a smaller report that I had put together. “The story works on two levels-one for kids that will want the toys, because there’s a lot of accessories and things they can play with. And, for the adults and parents, you have the classic James Spader snark and collectables for them to pick up and enjoy.”

“And this?” Jack asked, looking at the smaller report.

“Possible toy line ideas, marketing plans, and future concepts,” I smiled. “If you can get the kids and the collectors buying, you’ve got a source of income independent of Disney Plus subscription rates.”

Jack looked at the story bible and he flipped through it a bit. “Got some interesting details here,” he noted after some glancing. “Why the ensemble cast?”

“If any of the characters don’t work well in the first season, we can sort around a bit. We’ve got a good set of representative racial characteristics, three female and two male cast members as a part of the core team, and there’s a lot of space here for customization,” I said.

Jack looked at the bible and report and collected them. “Very good,” he stood up and shook my hand. “There’s a lot of great ideas here, and if we use them, there might be something here for you.”

“Thanks for giving me the chance to make the pitch,” I replied and shook his hand. “I’ll be in town for a few more days if you have any questions and want me to do any revisions.”

Jack made a little small talk and left, and I let out the breath that I didn’t know I was holding. “So,” I asked, turning to look at Tom, “how do you think it went?”

“I think you hit all of the big points, and I really like the team idea,” Tom nodded. “Jack’s going to take the bible to the team, and hopefully it’ll work out.”

“Hopefully,” I echoed. “We’ll be able to see some good results and maybe even get a good show. Should I start working on the first episode script?”

“Not a bad idea,” Tom agreed. “Worse case, you’re ahead of the curve and you’ve got the rest of the week paid, so that’s something.”

“Awesome. Grab lunch today and share some Fiona and the kids’ stories?” I asked, handing Tom his copy of the toy marketing report.

“Sounds like a plan,” Tom chuckled. “And is there really something called ‘toyetic’?”

“Hey, it’s how Star Wars kept making its nut over the last thirty-something years.”

In Which The Writer Finds The Shaft

Tom and I had lunch at this little hole-in-the-wall place that made some of the best pork jambalaya I’d had outside of New Orleans. We were considering a second round when Tom’s phone went off. He glanced at it and muttered a lot of profanity in Yiddish. “Just got a message from Jack, he wants to meet with us again,” he muttered as he put his phone away.

“Far too soon,” I agreed, and we made it back to the office. 

Jack was there, waiting. “Didn’t like it, they wanted Riri to be the star of the show, completely,” Jack said without preamble. “Also, she’s not girlboss enough-she needs to kick more ass on her own and kick it as hard as she can.”

“Damn,” I muttered, then said more loudly. “I could revise the concept…,” but Jack waved at me.

“They’re trying to revise the current story bible they have, and they think that there’s nothing they can do with this one,” he shrugged. “So, yea, we’re good at concepts but not what we wanted.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied. “I’ll be in town a few more days if something changes.”

“Just wanted to let you know in person,” Jack shrugged, and as he left, I was just trying not to seethe internally.

“Well, that didn’t work,” I said to Tom as the door closed.

“They’re trying to get somewhere, and they hate it when they can’t use their own map,” Tom agreed. “Few more days on our dime, so that’s something.”

“That it is,” I agreed.

As I left the office, I looked back at the building and just wanted to be angry and make a grand gesture. But I stomped on that feeling hard. Grand gestures are not as much fun when you’re a husband with three kids-and the industry doesn’t like you.

At least the weather is nice, and I was already thinking about a drive along the coast. Maybe some sea air would help.

And, as I walked to my car, the clouds were moving quickly, and I could imagine five sets of contrails, as Team Ironheart flew to help save people.

One day, I thought, they’ll spread their wings and soar.

Merry Christmas to You All

I must remind myself, stay optimistic. Wallowing with my black dogs is never a good thing.

And I can right now.

I have a family that loves me.
I have a roof over my head.
I have food on my table.
I have money in my account.
I am… reasonably content.

Still would like a new job. Still would like to have writing success, in small victories to become larger ones.

But I have my family. I have friends. I am in as good a condition as I can hope for.

And I wish the same for you all.

May you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.