On my desktop, I have two folders for writing. The first is the stuff I'm actively working on at the moment, while the second is for ideas I've had, but don't have time to get to. One of these has more in it than the other, and if you guessed the second was the one overflowing, then congratulations, you've been paying attention.
In the first folder is everything related to War Witch and Bunnypocalypse. While War Witch: Rise isn't out yet, I have rough drafts of everything through the fourth book, and notes on the fifth. The thing with this story is that it started out small, and kept growing. It isn't so much a series as it is one long, continuous story. During my initial draft for it, I ended up breaking it into two books, then three, and with the most recent draft, it's to at least five. Mostly because I keep seeing ways to improve it while expanding the world setting.
Bunnypocalypse, on the other hand, has stayed right on course. Bunny is pretty direct, so I'm on track to the ten book series I always envisioned it being, with a few side projects thrown in for fun, like Book of the Hungry Dead, and another stand alone novel about Marco after the events of Dead To Rights. So, actually twelve, but who said I could do math?
So, in addition to War Witch: Rise and its follow up, Blight, I'm working on Dead In The Water for Bunny, and another project I am determined will be a stand alone novel titled Violet's War. It's a weird story I can't explain fully yet, but it revolves around a single mother, Violet, and her teenage daughter, set in a kind of alternate history quasi Victorian world with a tiny dash of almost steampunk and qualifies as a fantasy/horror story. I will say I love the story, the characters, and where its going so far. By which I mean, straight into that stand alone category I valiantly try to and routinely miss hitting.
Those are the three things I am most heavily focused on at the moment, and the main reason I keep forgetting to update my blog regularly. When I wander off into my own worlds, I sometimes don't remember to come back until Storm forces food in front of me. Even then, it's kind of a struggle.
The thing is, though, that my imagination is not something I've ever learned how to focus. It's more like a little fey sprite, doing its own thing, and I end up just sitting and watching it flit about, forgetting I'm suppose to be harnessing the power it wields. Which is how I end up with hundreds of folders holding just ideas I've had. Most of them don't even have titles, which is not a very efficient system. Lots and lots of folders just marked Folder, with a single .rtf document inside, sometimes holding just two or three sentences.
Welcome to my filing system. It's a bit more like my brain took a giant shit in its pants than anything.
Now, from time to time, I'll find I can't seem to get anywhere with what I'm working on at the moment. Not so much writers block as just constipation of the brain. I know what is going to happen, how it happens, all of that, I just can't get it to come out. This usually lasts a day or two, but from time to time, a week or more. Somewhere in there, I always end up going and digging around in my Ideas folder looking for something to kick start my imagination so we can get back to work on the important stuff.
The basic idea here is that if I get my wheels spinning in the right direction, I'll be able to jump back on the bicycle and take off working on the things I want to be doing. Most of the time, it works, too. Sometimes, I even find something else I really want to write on and pull it up into the current projects folder just to keep it fresh and with me. This, by the way, is how I occasionally end up writing on half a dozen or more things at the same time.
Because I can't leave a good idea alone. Except I have more than I know what to do with. Too many to really focus on at once. I admit, sometimes I just want to go play Knights of the Old Republic, too, but mostly, I just don't have time for all the things I'd like to develop beyond the idea stage. There's a lot of them, and even if I was still young and fit, I'd never get to all of them.
Sometimes, though, I find one that's just too good to leave alone. Something with so much potential, I've just got to try and find some way to make the time for it. A real gem, you might say.
So, the other day, I'm digging around in the old ideas folder, and I come across this untitled project that I ended up moving to the current projects folder, just because I can't not. I don't recall when I had the idea, but the creation info on the document is from 2009. Until I read over it, though, I'd totally forgotten about it. Which I'm a little ashamed of, because this is a really nifty idea.
Okay, so first off, it's set on a world where magic is real, and there are several intelligent races. Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Orcs, Trolls and Goblins. This is actually important to the story. Each of these races is equally developed in terms of civilization, technological development, military might, and magical power. They are also completely distrustful of one another, putting them into a Cold War type situation. Nobody wants to make the first move, but everybody thinks the others are ready to.
More than that, within each society is numerous factions that don't get along, either. There are multiple nations of each race, all with varying degrees of power and influence. Inside even these, there are further divisions, different political views and so on. The whole world is basically a giant powder keg waiting for a spark to set it all off into civil wars and multinational conflicts, all of which, everyone knows, will lead to global war.
The thing with this situation is that nobody actually wants that. They are all aware of just how devastating that would be. Everybody knows that there would be no real winner, so they are constantly making and breaking alliances, forming pacts they promptly ignore when something better comes along, and doing everything they can to avoid the fate they all fear, but can't put aside their differences and old hatreds long enough to actually avoid.
Which is when the aliens invade the planet.
Yup. You read that right. Alien invasion. Told you it was a neat idea.
Okay, so aliens invade and take over the world. The whole battle lasts like a month. Magic is great and all, but the aliens have spaceships, energy weapons, and exosuit armor. Pretty much a sure thing they are going to win.
Now, during the first stages of the invasion, some nations figure out they are going to lose, so they surrendered right away and negotiated a good position for themselves, ensuring that their old rivals in the other nations get the shit end of the stick. Everyone gets enslaved, but the ones who bent their knee the fastest get positions as servants, while everyone else either gets wiped out, or put to work in the mines the aliens are quick to build.
Twenty years pass. The aliens are basically strip mining the planet for crystal the native people find useless. Those who turned quick are given good jobs overseeing the mines and tending to the aliens needs, while everyone else just suffers. There is a resistance group, but those old prejudices still linger, making them largely ineffective, since they can't trust each other enough, even now, to work together.
Into one of these cells wanders a battle scared Elven swordswoman, dragging a young Elven man behind her. The resistance members she meets soon learn he is the last heir to the largest and most powerful Elven nation, and she is his bodyguard, charged by his father with keeping him safe until they can return to their homeland, reach a mcguffin, and according to the kids dad, banish the invaders in a single instant.
Naturally, they like this idea, at least, at first. Then they start wondering if this whatever is some kind of weapon of mass destruction, and if so, what's to stop the kid from turning it on them after he gets rid of the invaders. Those old feuds pop back up, and the bodyguard has to find some way to navigate these folks at least long enough to fulfill her mission, and save their world.
So, despite the aliens, this is still a fairly straight forward fantasy adventure. World needs saving, there's a hero who can do it, a quest, and all that jazz. Which is when we flip perspectives and bring in the alien point of view.
Again, told ya this was a nifty idea.
So, with the aliens, as it turns out, things aren't as straight forward as they seem. About ten years before they invaded this world, they had finally signed a cease fire with an enemy of their own, another alien race they had been at war with off and on for generations. This time around, things got really nasty, with billions losing their lives and whole planets getting rendered uninhabitable. Both sides were, at least on the surface, happy to end the war, and a new Grand Chancellor was elected from the anti war party, with the general populace believing that this time, they could go about their lives for a while without worry or fear.
Except, the basis of their technology is in those crystals they are mining. Their power reactors use them, then transmit the energy wirelessly to whole planets. Their ships run off them, as does everything. Without those crystals, the aliens go back to the stone age overnight. Yes, you guessed right, they are running out. Mines on every world have begun to show less and less for the effort, and what they do get is not pure enough or big enough. Within fifty years, it is predicted, they will lose everything.
Their old enemies, the other aliens, use a totally different kind of power generation, one that will keep them going for a long time. So, right after the new Grand Chancellor gets elected, he learns of this. Being anti war is great and all, but suddenly he realizes that in fifty years time, their old enemies are going to fly in and take over without any kind of a fight at all. If they are lucky, all they will get is enslaved. Worst case scenario, they are wiped out completely. All that they are, their entire history, their culture, their achievements, everything, will be gone.
There's a chance they can find a new way to create energy to power everything, but it's going to take time, which they don't have. However, a scout ship recently detected massive deposits of the crystal on a previously unknown world, one that is seriously undeveloped technologically. The fantasy type world we started with.
After a brief exploration of the planet, they find the whole ready to explode political situation and realize they will never get mining rights from enough nations to make a difference. So, the Grand Chancellor and the heads of the military make a decision without the knowledge of the rest of the government, or the general populace. They decide to simply go in and take what they need.
Here's the thing about this idea I love so much. The aliens aren't evil. If the general public knew what was happening, they would be outraged, even knowing the stakes. These are civilized people. They would not condone the invasion, conquest, or enslavement of another world, even to save their own civilization, because any civilization that would do that doesn't deserve to survive, in their mind. All of this is kept hidden from the public, because even the handful of people who agreed to it know it's wrong. They are allowing their fear to drive them, not just of the worst case scenario, but of the public outrage they know they would face.
The Grand Chancellor was elected on his anti war platform, but he controls a minority in the parliament. There are several political parties, and of them all, he knows he can get the support of maybe one, so long as he doesn't do anything too radical, like invading a planet without provocation. Never mind that he sees no other option to save his own people, it's political suicide, and he's already wildly unpopular with the other parties, even while being wildly popular with the public.
So, the invasion is kept secret. They spin it as a sort of good will mission. You can't hide large scale military operations, after all, so they just tell everyone that the world they have invaded was war torn, and on the brink of annihilation. As far as anyone knows, they are heroes, coming in and saving this backwards world and its people from destroying themselves. Patriotism rises, everyone feels good about themselves, charities to help those poor pathetic people are held, you all know how this goes. We've seen it enough times to know just how this kind of thing works.
The General who oversees all operations on the fantasy planet has been keeping up a steady supply of crystals for the last twenty years, and according to estimates, if they mine the world dry, they won't have to worry about power generation for several hundred years, which gives them more than enough time to figure out something else. The resistance has managed to get their heads out of their asses long enough to actually take out one of his subordinates, so the General has to bring in a new guy to oversee mining operations and what not on half a hemisphere.
The officer he brings in served under him in the war, they are old friends, and the General has to explain whats really going on. The officer is, naturally, horrified, disgusted, and refuses to have anything to do with it, until he is told the whys of it all. Faced with looking the other way or letting his people die, he looks the other way. Dude's got a wife and three kids, which the General uses to convince him.
In my notes, it's plain that the General is disgusted by his own behavior. He hates himself for co-opting a good mans principles the way he did, and the whole operation on the planet appalls him. While there was a time he was a war hero, he's now a drunk and so overwhelmed by his own self loathing, he is constantly asking to be transferred away from the planet so he can retire and drink himself to death somewhere obscure.
Meanwhile, the officer he brings in finds it harder and harder to look the other way. Everything he fought for in that war, this goes against. His morals, his principles, his belief in his government and the uniform he wears, all of it, everything about him, rejects what he sees happening. For his family, though, for the future of his children, he tries to bear it.
This is where we bring in the closest thing this story has to an antagonist. When they invaded, the aliens did notice that the native people were able to throw fireballs and lightning and the like. They noticed that magic is real on this world, but they can't figure out how it works. In the aftermath of the invasion, they tried their best to round up and do away with the magic users, but a lot of them are still out there, hiding their abilities. All the libraries were looted, as the aliens tried to understand this magic.
Our antagonist, such as he is, is a military scientist charged with understanding magic. He's read all the books, he's learned the forms and the words from prisoners, but he still doesn't get it. None of the aliens are able to use magic, even though they know it's real, and have learned all the native people know about it. Something is still missing, and this scientist has grown obsessed with learning what it is, and for good reason.
Those crystals that all of this is about? Yeah, they only last so long before shattering into dust. When that happens, the aliens put new crystals in, since all their attempts to create artificial ones have failed. The native peoples magic, however, can turn a shattered crystal back into a whole one. They can recharge them when they are weak, and even create them as the need arises. There's a reason the native people found them useless. This scientist has wandered into the greatest discovery possible, the means to have unlimited energy, forever.
He just can't figure out how it works. Which has driven him to do some pretty unethical things, like experimenting on the native people, in ways that are gruesome. Yet, despite the fact he does this, he reassures himself, and anyone who questions him, that his reasons are for the greater good. If he can unlock the secrets, his people will never find themselves in a situation where they have to do something so horrible as invade another world. They won't have to enslave people. They won't have to do any of the terrible things they have done, ever again. He even believes, or rather, has convinced himself, that the lives he is taking are in the best interest of the planet itself, for if he can discover how this works, the aliens can leave, giving the native people back their world.
This is something he clings to, out of desperation, to justify his actions. The same as everyone else involved in this. Each of them, in their own way, has found the means to justify doing things they know are wrong. Things that destroy them. Things they can't forgive themselves for. Yet, they do them, because they feel they have no other choice.
It's for the greater good. We'll make it right later.
So, all the pieces are in place. The hero on her quest. The young man who can save them all. The resistance that could, possibly, build a better world. The officer who cannot avert his eyes forever. The scientist driven by need. I can see how all of their stories intersect, the emotion of the story each of them has to tell, as all of them choose between their morality, and their need. I can see how the choices they make affect the others, and how the whole thing brings them all together into a clash that will determine the fate of many worlds, from the actions of a few people.
Like I keep saying, it's a nifty idea. I'm a little embarrassed I forgot I had it. Hopefully, I'll find time to develop it out, make it the story it deserves to be, and do it justice in my telling it.
Now, I'm sure any number of people reading this see the many, many, so very many parallels in this story to things that have and are happening in own world. Those may even be intentional. However, I don't want anyone thinking I'm some great author who weaves these kinds of stories on a regular basis. I only do that when I get lucky. The rest of the time, it's just weirdness.
Like this other project I came across in my ideas folder, titled only Them. In it, a mob hitwoman, a real estate tycoon, a middle aged waitress, a PTSD suffering former soldier, a homeless street musician, and a hippy wiccan martial artist team up to fight invisible vampire zombies because a voice in the florescent lights told them to.
That, right there, is what I usually do. I'll let you be the judge on which is the better story idea, more worth my time to write. I moved both of them to the current folder, though.
I'm like that.