31 Dec 2013

Farewell 2013...

It's the end of the year, and I feel fine.

It's been a year.  Employment-wise, I was employed.  Contract work is variable.  Getting a contract longer than six months at the outset is unusual.  Extensions can and do lengthen the term, but contracts still end.  With companies outsourcing employees more and more, it's going to be a problem as Baby Boomers retire en masse*.  Many companies are going to find themselves missing corporate memory and will either flounder while internal positions get refilled or contract out those jobs to retirees.  Meanwhile, a workforce comprised of contractors doesn't have long-term stability.  The economy is going to stagnate; contractors preparing for the end of a contract and time before a new job aren't going to make major purchases.

Elsewhere, I'm writing.  Between Lost in Translation and this very blog, I've committed many atrocities to the written word.  Regular writing means writing becomes easier to do and lets me experiment a bit.  Of course, some of the writing is done to deadline.  The weekly /Lost in Translation/ review and the Thursday commentaries are often last minute.  But spontaneity can be creative, too.  Just look at the Doughnut Defender.

Overall, for me, 2013 was decent.  Really decent.  No major issues, except near the end when my glasses finally gave up and the arms wanted to cosplay as
Post-spaghettification.  Note the lack of the hook that goes over and behind the ear.
spaghetti while my netbook decided that the touchpad mouse was anathema.  These things happen.  I was expecting my glasses to fall apart eventually and I was overdue.  The netbook was more surprising; I have a seven year old HP Pavilion laptop with a broken keyboard and an undead battery* that I expected to die first.  Go fig.

So, Happy New Year, all, and enjoy the night!

* The leading edge of the baby boom reached retirement age in 2011.  Some have to wait two more years after the Harper Government raised retirement age to 67, delaying the inevitable.
** The battery doesn't charge anymore and may have, at best, enough juice to force the OS to start hibernation before dying.

27 Dec 2013

Lethal Ladies #21 - Arsenal Street, Westbound

St. Louis, Missouri
Arsenal Street, Westbound
29-JUN-2007  1613

    Amber kept the red Dodge Charger on the sidewalk despite the obstacles in the way.  The agent's Grand Am kept pace, having less to avoid on the street.  Allison called out street names as they passed them.  Amber fought the steering wheel, trying to keep her car from hitting the passing walls and posts.

26 Dec 2013

Lethal Ladies #20 - Commentary

As usual, please read the chapter before continuing.

Over the past few weeks, I've mentioned that I was writing the climax of Lethal Ladies long before I had hit the 50 000 word mark in NaNoWriMo 2006.  While the past couple of chapters were me trying to figure out how to keep the story going, last week's is where I figured out the change in direction to keep the novel from a premature ending.

I've probably mentioned this before, but it's a point that bears repeating: there is a difference between writing a short story, writing a serial, and writing a novel.  It sounds obvious, but, having written all three, I can tell the difference.  Most of my short stories were fanfiction, with a short enough plot to be told under, typically, five thousand words.  There's a beginning, a middle, and an end, none of which takes up much narrative time.  Characters must be fully fleshed out before starting, and the cast is kept small.  Few short stories cover more than a week*, so all the action gets concentrated.  Serials, such as Subject 13 have beginnings, but no real end.  They can have arcs that have their own beginning and end, and arcs can overlap.  Character development is rapid at first, to give readers a good idea of the character, then can build over time; the cast can expand as needed.  Novels, though, have the length needed to let the main character develop, and have a definite end.  The plot also has time to develop, and can ebb and peak as needed.  Lethal Ladies, with 51 019 words, is a long novella, but still counts for example purposes.  Stretching from short stories and a serial comprised of short chapters to a novel exercised my creativity and my writing skill.  Comparing this year's NaNovel to Lethal Ladies, The Devil You Know was easier to write not because I wasn't challenging myself, but because I gained eight years of writing experience since starting Lethal Ladies in 2006.

Back to the chapter, my saving throw versus end of story was to have Sexton exact revenge on Rose.  Probably cliché, but he was still on the loose and I had given Rose a family.  Problem solved!  I put the focus on the Ladies during this while I worked out the details of where Maria was being kept in my head.  However, I still had two other Ladies to deal with.

Amber and Allison are still working on the diversion.  Stopping beside Sexton's man is Amber being Amber again.  The scene gave me a chance to show off Amber's niche instead of leaving her as a lodestone for the team.  The calling of turns three blocks away comes from rallye racing, where the navigator is at least one turn ahead on the course.  The other elements of the chase, including driving on the sidewalk, was inspired by the far too many action movies I've watched.  Allison is reacting as any rational woman would, by being afraid of the madwoman driving.

The scene with Sexton raised the stakes of the story.  He has no intention of letting anyone live.  Having Maria cry over the phone was meant to show Rose how serious he was.  At this point, Sexton's goal is to escape, one way or another, with no concern over the collateral damage incurred.  The last scene hints at Elena's plan and shows Rose's reaction.  The battle between Sexton and the Ladies will boil down to experience and sheer bloody-mindedness on the parts of both sides.

Tomorrow, the situation escalates further.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, a last look at 2013.
Coming soon, Shadowrun, Traveller, BitCoins, and prep work for a new serial.

* There are exceptions, and I've read a few.  The focus of those short stories is on the passage of time.

20 Dec 2013

Lethal Ladies #20 - Interstate 70, Northbound

St. Louis, Missouri
Interstate 70, Northbound
29-JUN-2007  1553

    Rose maneuvered the gold Camero past slower traffic.  "I think I see why Dan wants one of these.  Makes the mini-van feel stodgy."

    Elena laughed.  "Going to get him one?"

    "Hell, no.  If I get one, it'll be for me.  Dan can get his own.  After the kids are older and in college."

    "Pity.  I can see you driving Pascal to school in this."

    "He prefers to bike to school, even in winter.  Maybe when he's older he'll get car crazy like Amber.  Well, maybe not like Amber."

    "No one can be like Amber."

    "Thank God."  Sexton's digital assistant trilled.  "See who that is, Elena."

    Elena picked up the Blackberry.  "Caller ID says it's Sexton.  Want to talk to him?"

    "I've got my hands full with this beast.  Go ahead and answer."

    "Hello, Mr. Sexton," Elena greeted.  "Rose is a little busy right now.  I'm her partner.  I see."  Elena's voice turned icy cold.  "I will pass along the message."  She disconnected the call.  "Rose, find a place to pull over."

    "What did he say?"

    "Get off the highway and pull over first, Rose."

    Rose took the next exit from Highway 70, arriving on Natural Bridge Avenue.  "Elena, what is going on?"

    "Stop the car, Rose."

    The Camero came to a stop in front of a convenience store.  Rose shut off the engine.  "What did Sexton say?" she asked with an even tone.

    Elena took a deep breath.  "He has Maria."

    "What?" Rose roared.  "That god damned son of a bitch!  Where is he?  Did he say?"

    "Calm down, Rose.  He's doing this to provoke you."

    "He damned well succeeded."

    "Rose, get a grip!"  Elena closed her eyes.  "He's going to call back in fifteen minutes with instructions and he won't talk to me.  We've been through a similar hostage situation before.  Rio de Janeiro, 1988, the Polish ambassador's wife."

    "That was different."

    "How was it different?"

    "She wasn't my daughter!"

    Elena checked the clock on Sexton's Blackberry.  "We have fourteen minutes, Rose.  You can be upset later.  Right now, we need to get moving."

    "We would be if you hadn't told me to stop the damned car."

    "I'm telling you now to get it going again."

    Rose turned the key in the ignition.  The engine roared to life.  With a high-pitched protest from the tires, the Camero jumped back into traffic.  "Where are we going?"


    "Now is not the time to joke, Elena."

    "No joke.  I've arranged to get some supplies we can use.  It'll take us twenty minutes to get there, so you need to stay together to delay Sexton."

    Rose inhaled deeply.  "You're right, damnit.  But it's Maria.  She's innocent."

    Elena gave Rose a stern look.  "Just get to the Wal-Mart."

St. Louis, Missouri
Columbia Avenue, Westbound
29-JUN-2007  1600

    Allison spotted the Grand Am sitting in the parking lot of a Target first.  She pointed out the maroon Pontiac to Amber.  "There!"

    "I see him."  Amber careened the Charger around, across several lanes of traffic, driving into the parking lot.  She pulled up beside the Grand Am and waved to the driver.  Rolling down her window, she called out, "Looking for us?"  She revved the engine.

    The eyes of the agent in the car bugged out.  He sputtered on his coffee.  Amber revved her engine again, breaking the agent's shock.  He tossed his coffee cup out the window, the creamy brown liquid splashing on the asphalt and on the Grand Am's fender.  The agent reached inside his suit jacket.

    Amber gunned the engine and threw the Charger into gear.  Smoke rose from the rear tires as they spun in place briefly before gaining traction.  The Dodge surged ahead as the agent cleared his pistol from his holster.  Amber checked her rear view mirror to keep an eye on what the agent was doing.  The Grand Am came to life.

    "Allie, get out the map.  I need to know where I'm supposed to go."  She checked her mirrors again.  "Now comes the fun."

    Allison unfolded the map.  "Rose mapped out a circuit of downtown.  Closest intersection is Grand where it crosses Interstate 44."

    "Behind us, then, right?"

    "Um, yeah, right," Allison confirmed after glancing at the map."

    "Hold on!"  Amber twisted the steering wheel, fishtailing the Charger around one hundred and eighty degrees.  Now facing the agent's Grand Am head-on, Amber floored the accelerator.

    "Are you insane?" Allison cried.

    "Possibly."  Amber kept the Charger going straight.  The Grand Am swerved out of the way.  "Chicken!" the green-haired woman called.

    Allison resumed breathing.  "Don't do anything like that again!"

    "Allie, I need you to call out the turns.  Give them to me at least three blocks ahead."

    Allison glanced at Amber.  "Okay?"  The brunette's face showed her confusion.

    "I'm going to be busy keeping us on the road and away from Mr. Agent there to pay attention to street names.  It's not difficult."

    Allison nodded.  "Okay.  Just . . . just keep going straight for six, no, seven blocks."

    The Charger cut through oncoming traffic as it left the parking lot.  Amber steadied the car as its rear end threatened to fishtail.  Behind her, the agent in his Grand Am maneuvered through parked vehicles and past cross-traffic to keep up.  Horns blared as drivers braked or swerved to avoid colliding with the Pontiac.

    Allison held on to the door handle with a tight grip.  "I hope you know what you're doing."

    "Of course."  Amber's smile grew maniacal.  She changed gears, throwing the motor into a deeper hum.  "Think we have him?"

    A gunshot rang out from behind.  Allison craned her neck to find the shooter.  "Oh, yeah, we have him.  He's pissed."

    Amber steered the car to the far right lane.  Two more shots followed, one destroying the Charger's driver side mirror in an explosion of glass and plastic.  Amber felt the car bounce away from the sidewalk curb.  She glanced down the road.  "Come and get me!"

    The Charger climbed on to the sidewalk, maneuvering between two lamp posts, jouncing Amber and Allison.  "Amber!" Allison yelled.  "Street!  Now!"

    "Where he can shoot at us?  No way!"  Amber did a quick shoulder check.  The agent's Grand Am followed behind, remaining on the road.  "Ha!  Knew he wouldn't have the balls to try to follow."

    "You're insane!"

    "Quiet please, I'm driving."  The Charger knocked a garbage can off the sidewalk, sending it clattering into the street.  The agent's Pontiac nailed it, throwing it further down the street.  The car smacked it a second time, careening it across oncoming lanes.

    On the sidewalk, Amber blasted the Charger's horn, warning pedestrians of her approach.  Those still staring at the red vehicle rushing at them broke out of their shock and dove off the sidewalk, either on the street or back into a building.  The people who escaped to the roadside leapt back on to the sidewalk as the Grand Am bore down on them.

East St. Louis, Illinois
157 Elm Street
29-JUN-2007  1610

    Sexton finished closing the last drape in the house.  He glanced over to Thompson.  "How's our visitor?"

    "She's in the bedroom, still cuffed," the agent answered.  "Sexton, are you sure this will work?"

    "Velasco won't risk her daughter's life," Sexton explained.

    "The kid can identify us."

    "And?  It's not like any of those bitches are going to live."  Sexton checked his watch.  "Get the brat.  Time for a call to Mommy."

    Thompson nodded and disappeared up the stairs.  Sexton picked up the phone and dialled his Blackberry's number.  On the second ring, someone picked up.  "Velasco?" he asked.  "Good.  Listen carefully.  I want my laptop and every copy you've made of my hard drive back.  This is not negotiable."  Sexton looked over as Thompson returned, dragging Maria downstairs.  "Maybe you'll see reason after you talk to my guest."  He covered the mouthpiece of the handset.  "Bring her over here," he whispered harshly.  Once Thompson had Maria standing in front of him, Sexton thrust the phone at the girl.  "Talk to your mother."

    "Mom?" Maria stuttered.  "Mom, is that you?"  Tears formed in the girl's eyes.  "Mom, you have to help me!  You have—"

    Sexton tossed the girl aside.  "Now do you believe me?  Or do I have to send a part of her?"  He nodded.  "Good.  You have one hour.  I don't care how long it took you.  One hour.  Do you take me for stupid, Velasco?  No, I'll tell you where when you call.  No sooner.  Do anything other than getting the laptop and the CDs and the kid is dead."  Sexton hung up.  Turning to Maria, he said, "Your mother had better make the smart choice."

St. Louis, Missouri
Travers Street
29-JUN-2007  1615

    Rose threw the Blackberry violently on to the Camero's backseat.  She stomped on the gas pedal, speeding up the car and forcing it to race past traffic.  Elena looked over.  "Rose, take it easy."

    "Not until I have Maria back," Rose snapped.

    "You can't help her if you get into an accident.  Slow down.  What did he want?"

    "His laptop and all the CDs."

    "Figures.  You know that even if he gets that, he's not going to let either you or Maria go."

    "Not helping me at all, Elena."

    "How long?"

    "One hour, then I call him to make the exchange."

    Elena nodded.  "Good thing we're going to Wal-Mart.  Turn here."

    Rose glanced at her passenger.  "You have a plan in mind."

    "Standard operating procedure during a hostage situation," Elena explained.  "Never give in to their demands except when it gets you closer to your goal.  Even then, make it only appear that you're giving in."

    Rose pondered over her partner's words.  "Devious."

    "Stock in trade, remember?  Especially when in came down to inter- and intra-departmental rivalries."

    "Happy to be retired?"

19 Dec 2013

Lethal Ladies #19 - Commentary

First, I have to write it.  Then, I have to read it.
As usual, please read the chapter before continuing.

The first scene let me show what Rose's actions were doing to Sexton.  Rose is essentially Columbo right now, keeping Sexton off-balance.  For writing both this scene and this story, I pictured it as a movie, with the camera focused on the key character for the most part.  There were and will be chapters where the camera floats a bit, but I tried to stay with one character as the main focus.  I tend to do this with most of my works; it's a visual metaphor for writing.  If I can picture the scene, I can write it.

A quick note about the "inner editor", as NaNoWriMo puts it.  The Office of Letters and Light want us NaNo writers to turn off our inner editors and just write.  What I've found is that I need my inner editor.  I work out the first draft in my head, letting the editor fix problems before I even type a letter.  I may have mentioned this before, but when I wrote longhand, my hand would cramp due to an old injury.  I wanted the words correct before I wrote them, saving the time and pain of further drafts.  It didn't help my English marks; I only had the one draft when I bothered to do assignments and the teachers wanted first, second, and sometimes third drafts.  Wasn't happening.  My inner editor, though, has been refined in the over twenty-five years since then and can get the words in a decent order so that when I type, I'm just making minor corrections.

The next scene reunites the Ladies.  Yes, it does happen in the same park that Sexton was in during the first scene.  I had looked via Google Maps for a park in St. Louis and realized that De Soto Park was big enough to allow both groups to be in it without seeing each other.  The scene gave Amber a bit of spotlight time where she could shine without being the lodestone for the others, particularly Allison.  The cars, the '74 Camero and the '07 Charger, were chosen solely because of their looks.  Dodge had reintroduced the Charger for the 2006 model year, about the time I was writing.  Amber makes a good point; there are cars that are as much works of art as they are vehicles, and not just the high end sports cars.

The missing Rogue, if you remember from last week, is the office manager, Tyler.  Sexton and his men were chasing four cars, but Rose wasn't in any.  She had recruited her employee to drive the fourth car.  The Ladies split back up and Amber's geekiness returns.  I wanted Rose in the classic muscle car; I couldn't see her in the newer Charger.

The Amber spotlight continued into the next scene.  Allison, for a lack of a better word, is "proper".  While she is in a technical field, she doesn't believe she needs to sacrifice her femininity to be taken seriously.  She also has expensive tastes.  If Allison were a pony, she'd be Rarity.  Amber, though, embraces her tomboy side.  She's young, and was precocious as a child.  Amber would be Apple Bloom if she were a pony.  There's also a hint of hero worship on Amber's side towards Allison and, though not shown this chapter, to Rose and Elena, too.

Tomorrow, Sexton isn't down and out yet.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, "So You Want to Adapt a Story".
Coming soon, Shadowrun, Traveller, and BitCoins, oh my!

, my hand would cramp due to an old injury.  I wanted the words correct before I wrote them, saving the time and pain of further drafts.  It didn't help my English marks; I only had the one draft when I bothered to do assignments and the teachers wanted first, second, and sometimes third drafts.  Wasn't happening.  My inner editor, though, has been refined in the over twenty-five years since then and can get the words in a decent order so that when I type, I'm just making minor corrections.

14 Dec 2013

NaNo 2013 - Sampler

Chapter 10

Karen was already awake and downstairs when Ione brought her luggage, a sports bag and a computer bag, to the front door.  "You're not leaving without saying goodbye, Ione."  She held her arms wide.

Ione set down her luggage.  She dashed into Karen's arms.  "This time, I'm doing sightseeing.  I'll bring something back for you."  She returned her tiny housemate's hug.

"You better."

"I'll keep in touch.  If I'm not back by Monday, call Olivier and give him some excuse."

13 Dec 2013

Lethal Ladies #19 - De Soto Park

St. Louis, Missouri
De Soto Park
29-JUN-2007  1530

    Sexton sat down on a park bench, can of Coke in his hand.  He popped the tab and took a long swig of the bubbly brown liquid.  The coolness of the soda flowed down his throat.  He closed his eyes to let the tension in his shoulders flow away.  His cell phone trilled.  Annoyed, he slammed the cola beside him on the bench.  He fished the phone from his jacket.  "Sexton.  Ah, Rose.  Nice trick at the parking garage.  Where are you now?"

12 Dec 2013

Lethal Ladies #18 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter first.

This time around, we start on the highway.  Elena is now discovering why Sergei needed a few days notice.  The cars could run; they weren't in any condition to be abused.  Amber would have choice words over them, if she had to repair them.  The numbering system wound up getting awkward.  The original idea was to use non-sequential numbers, to aid in confusing Sexton and his people.  With four cars, people would expect the numbering to be One, Two, Three, Four.  However, so far, we've seen Three, Five, and Seven and four cars, with Rose not even in the chase.  This was planned.  While writing the scene, I had a .txt file open so I could refer to it and see who was in which car.  Rogue Five was always Amber; her geekiness would not allow her to use anything else.  Elena is Rogue Three, Allison is Seven.

While the confusion is happening, Rose is marching into Sexton's office.  I also just noticed that Sexton's secretary, Lund, went to get one person, Mr. Jacoby, but came back with another, Mark Darren.  I have no idea what I was thinking then.  Chalk it up to a continuity error brought about by a word sprint.  However, Darren is correct; the NSA's official realm is cryptography.  However, as recent* news shows, the NSA isn't limiting itself to just decrypting.  My choice to have Sexton be a rogue agent of the NSA came from the rivalry between the American intelligence agencies.  The CIA, FBI, NSA, and all the others are supposed to work together, but tend to trip over each other instead.

Rose has cut Sexton off from official help.  If Darren was involved in some way, he now has an out to throw Sexton under a bus.  If Darren wasn't, he can start an investigation to see what Sexton has done.  Detective Lepinski is also aware of what's going on.  While he's "only" municipal law enforcement, he can claim jurisdiction for the mayhem occurring.

Tomorrow, Sexton tries to regain the upper hand.
Saturday, at MuseHack, a look into the legal aspects of remakes and reboots.
Coming soon, a sample chapter of my NaNoWriMo story, year-end things, plus Traveller work.

* Agents got paid to play World of Warcraft among other games in the guise of spying on other players.

8 Dec 2013

NaNo 2013 - The Post Mortem

Another year's NaNoWriMo has come and gone.  I succeeded in reaching the 50 000 word goal, although the story isn't complete.  I count it as a win, but that's me being a bit of a NaNo rebel.

6 Dec 2013

Lethal Ladies #18 - Interstate 44 Westbound, Hampton Avenue interchange

St. Louis, Missouri
Interstate 44 Westbound, Hampton Avenue interchange
29-JUN-2007  1440

Elena kept the Accord at the speed limit, coaxing it to stay together.  Grateful that Rose had lured Sexton away, Elena could try getting the wheezing Honda to the second meeting site.  She kept her radio tuned to the chases happening elsewhere, tracking the progress of her fellow Rogues.  One pursuit sounded close.  Elena double-checked her location, then switched frequencies on her radio.

5 Dec 2013

Lethal Ladies #17 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter first  Spoilers, darlings.

In Lethal Ladies #16, we saw Sexton's view of Rose's game of Three Card Monte.  This time around, the view is from Rose's side of the board.  With Elena having problems eluding her pursuer, Rose stepped in and revealed her cards.  Rose even gave her reasons - keep Sexton off balance.  Again, this was the original climax for the story.  Again, this is nowhere near the 50 000 word goal for NaNoWriMo.  Here is where I started reworking the idea to lengthen it.  The true act of desperation is coming, though.

Rose has a good idea of her opponent's mindset.  She's now working several moves ahead of Sexton, thus the chess reference.  "Bishop to King Five" has no real relevance outside the reference; the notation is to show the bishop on the opposite colour of the player's pieces moving to the fifth row in front of the king's starting spot just past the halfway point.  The smoke bomb is to push Sexton further.  Rose wants Sexton to keep after her without giving him time to stop and plan.  If Sexton can only react, Rose can lead him around in circles until she gets him where she wants.  Sexton isn't a rookie, though.  He will get a chance to try to take the advantage away.

Tomorrow, Rose digs deeper into Sexton's plot.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Lost in Translation takes another look at the Muppets.
Coming soon, the NaNo 2013 post mortem.

1 Dec 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Time's Up!

November's over!  Pencil's up!  Go validate!

Congrats to all the WriMos, those who finished and those who didn't.  NaNoWriMo is a tough challenge.  Even if you didn't reach 50 000 words, either because life interfered or because the words just wouldn't flow, take a look at what you did accomplish.  Writing is tough.  Creativity is harder than it looks.  The idea is easy; bringing the idea to life can be hard.

So, to all WriMos, go take a well deserved day off.  You've earned it.

29 Nov 2013

Lethal Ladies #17 - Terrance's Parking

St. Louis, Missouri
Terrance's Parking
29-JUN-2007  1433

Rose watched as her employees spread out.  The NSA agents quickly jumped into their cars and took off in pursuit.  Allowing a smile, Rose slunk away from her vantage point.  She walked through the third level of the parking structure to the inner stairwell.  "Well, Detective?"

Lepinski stepped out of the stairwell.  His dark hair rustled in the wind caused by the pressure difference.  "New hairstyle?"

"No grey."  Rose adjusted her wig a little.

"I wish you hadn't brought me into this, Rose."

"I needed someone I could trust, Carl.  We may not get along, but I know where you're coming from."

Carl sighed.  "Rose, I can't get involved in this, officially or unofficially.  This is a mess."

"What about the burst from the M-16?"

"I'm just a police detective," Lepinski explained.  "These are Federal agents.  I need more than a random shooting.  It's not helping that you're acting guilty."

Rose put on an innocent expression.  "Guilty, me?"  She leaned against the wall.  "Okay, no involvement.  I just need you as an unimpeachable witness to what I'm about to do, to make sure that the evidence is kosher."

"I thought you had a lawyer for that."

"Henry charges for leaving his office."

"I'm a cheap date, huh?"

Rose clapped Lepinski's shoulder.  "That's the spirit."

"What's the plan?"

"Go out, find what I need to shut Sexton down, go home, and cook dinner for my family."

"Rogue Three to all Rogues," Elena said over the radio.  "I can't shake him."

"Where is she?" Lepinski asked.

Rose held a finger up to shush him.  "Rogue Three, this is Rogue Four, wait for it."  She changed her radio's frequency.  "Sexton, are you there?  It's Velasco."

"No use pleading now, Rose.  You had your chance."

Rose raised an eyebrow.  "Now, Ray, I could say the same thing.  Instead, I'll ask you, is the person your chasing, hell, any of your people are chasing, talking on a radio?"

"Smith, Thompson, report."

"No radio," Smith replied.

"None here, either," Thompson added.

"Shit!  Backup units following Alpha, return to the parking garage.  Repeat, all backup units following Alpha, return to the parking garage, now!"

Rose turned the radio off.  "That should get him riled."

"Why did you do that?  He'll come straight here."

"That's right, leaving Elena alone.  We should leave, though.  There's more I need to do.  Where did you park?"

"Ground level."  The tall detective opened the door to the stairs for Rose.

Rose dashed down the stairs.  "Good.  Carl, you have to trust my methods here.  I need to keep Sexton off balance until I have what I need."

"They taught you that in private eye school?"

"Nope.  Columbo reruns."  Rose laughed.  "Seems to be paying off."

Lepinski joined in the laughter.  "You're a piece of work, Velasco."

St. Louis, Missouri
Terrance's Parking, street entrance
29-JUN-2007  1440

Sexton's silver Sebring screeched to a stop in the ground floor of the parking building.  Two beige Chevrolet Impalas made their entrance in a less dramatic matter.  Sexton got out of his car.  "Spread out!  Velasco could still be in here somewhere.  If you see her, shoot."

The black-suited men nodded and went in different directions along the floor's perimeter.  Sexton crept through aisle after aisle of parked vehicles, looking inside each to be sure no one was hiding from him.  He approached the stairwell in the middle of the structure.  Looking in the window first to make sure the way was clear, Sexton opened the door slowly.  The arm of the hydraulic to close the door creaked slightly.  Sexton stepped into the stairwell and climbed upwards, his GLOCK 22 out.

A piece of paper taped on the second floor door caught Sexton's eye.  Expecting a trap, he maintained his cautious pace.  He approached the door and ripped the paper away.  The slip was folded over and had Sexton's name handwritten on it.  Sexton unfolded it.


"You should have done your homework better before hiring my Ladies and me.  You're playing at a game that I've worked at since you were in diapers.  Bow out now before people get hurt.

"I'll assume you won't take my advice, though.  That means I'll have to find out why the Ourobouros and why you wanted my Ladies and me eliminated.  Let this be a lesson, Ray.  Never, ever, set us up.  Ever.  You won't come out ahead.

"However, a Canadian ship depends on my next move.  Bishop to King Five.  Good luck, Ray.

"By the way, you should get out of the stairwell.  It's going to get hot soon.

"Call me,


Sexton crumpled the paper.  He heard a small hiss followed by a muffled woof.  Smoke filled the stairwell.  Sexton burst through the door on to the second level, coughing.  He staggered a few steps, trying to get fresh air into his lungs.  The door closed behind him, a few wisps of smoke escaping.  Sexton slammed his fist into the metal door.  He thumbed his radio.  "Sexton to all.  She's not here.  Regroup outside.  All units in pursuit, remain in pursuit."

28 Nov 2013

Lethal Ladies #16 - Commentary

Please read the chapter first.  The commentary will make more sense that way.

Two scenes this time around.  The first is set at the ballpark, Rose demonstrates her experience.  She counted on the double-cross and Sexton didn't disappoint her.

If this feels like a set up for a climax, you're right.  The idea, as you're read over the next few weeks, was to have a car chase followed by a shoot out and then wrap up.  There's one tiny problem.  I hadn't reached 50 000 words yet.  I think at this point, I was about 20 000 words short of the goal.  Oops.  However, this was my first NaNoWriMo.  I was going from writing short fanfiction, no more than 5000 words, to a full-on novella ten times longer.  There were growing pains.

The use of the "Rogue" designation was, naturally, Amber's idea.  The number 7, though, was Rose's.  A full explanation will come out once the other Rogues appear.  I chose the Accord for the Ladies because it is, or, in 2006, was a common vehicle to see on the road.  The Taurus was popular with law enforcement as an alternative to the Crown Victoria, not to mention being featured in Robocop.  The different cars were meant to help in what's coming up, making it easy for readers to at least follow who was who by the pursuers.

Rose is using a twist on the classic con game, Three Card Monte.  The idea is that the mark will never pick the card he saw because it was already removed through misdirection.  Sexton saw the correct number of cars.  He didn't see the drivers.

Oh, three guesses who "Rogue Five" is.

Tomorrow, behind the scenes of Rose's Three Card Monte.
Saturday, at MuseHack I return to Lost in Translation.
Coming soon, the NaNoWriMo post-game analysis.

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Week 4 Update

The fourth week of NaNoWriMo is almost over.  Yay!

I crossed the 50k mark on Monday.  This wasn't my earliest day hitting the mark.  That honour goes to 2009's Soul Blade, mainly through the power of being newly unemployed*.  Still, I got through the challenge that is NaNoWriMo and validated, confirming the word count.  Tuesday, I didn't get as much written.  The push wasn't there and I wound up researching a scene that I knew was coming but I didn't have all the information for.  Research led down some really neat rabbit holes, but that same research might have been noticed by the real-life version of Ione's employers.  Drugs and weapons, just for the sake of one scene.

With the push to 50k gone, I'm going to take it easy with the story for now.  I can work out how the novel will end, what happens to everyone involved, and take it easy for a bit.  With the end of NaNo, I can turn my focus to a Lost in Translation book and aim to have that published, either self-published as an e-book or as hardcopy through a publisher.  The Devil You Know gets placed on a back burner for now, though I will be asking friends to beta read it.  I may even pad the book out by adding other people's points of view, such as Karen and Gemma's.  I doubt there will be room for a direct sequel, but a book focused on Jack could be fun to figure out.

NaNoWriMo is getting easier each year I participate, thanks to experience.  I don't feel mentally exhausted like I did at the end of 2006 and Lethal Ladies.  I do try to keep November fresh by trying something different.  This year, it could very well be the difference is getting the story published once it's done and cleaned up.

For those who kept up with me through November, thank you for your patience.

The story so far:
Chapter 18: Completed.  Gemma confronted Ione.  Jack to the rescue.  Jack gets shot.

Chapter 19: Completed.  Finally, the Reveal!  And somehow I worked out that the succubus has a crush on the angel.  Go figure.

Chapter 20: Completed.  Set up the location of the climax.  Mara reveals a new depth.

Chapter 21: Started.  I need to wrap up the Gemma dangling plot thread still.  I have an idea, and everything I need has been set up already.

* The Harper Government's Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, doesn't know how to math properly and overspent on security for the Vancouver '010 Winter Olympics.  As a result, all contractors that weren't budgeted were let go, followed by the cancellation of all short-term contracts.

25 Nov 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Week 3 Update

The third week of NaNoWriMo is over.  Yay!

The end is in sight.  As of the end of writing Saturday, I reached just over 46 000 words.  This week, I managed to average over 2000 words per day.  The push to 50 000 words, the goal of NaNo, is almost at an end.  Usually in the third week, I start wanting to switch to a different project.  Last year, Beaver Flight also had the problem of being in the wrong format.  This year, although I am looking at other stories to work on, I'm still interested in The Devil You Know.

Jack's reveal still hasn't happened.  I'm not sure how that will work out, but this is the first draft.  Beta readers, or possibly alpha readers at this point, might be able to point out if the delay works or not.  The story itself has moved from Paris to Monte Carlo.  Why?  Why not?  Quick research let me find ideal places for all the characters, with Google's Image Search showing far more than I expected.  Jack is in his element.

I added a small part that will likely get removed in the next revision.  I needed an interregnum to figure out where Gemma got to and how.  The piece is under 500 words, so it shouldn't make a difference when validation starts on the 25th.  To be safe, I'll make up for the possible deletion before validating.

The story so far:
Chapter 14: Completed.  I wound up backfilling the chapter a bit when I realized that I had Ione reading the wrong book.  The explanation wound up adding more words to the word count.  Includes a massage session and was the last hope for a romance between the leads.  Meet with criminals.

Chapter 15: Completed.  Decision to go to Monte Carlo.  Mara takes Ione shopping.  My French gets a workout.

Chapter 16: Completed.  Explanation of crypto-currency.  I may have to rework the chapter later; Ione's stash of BitCoins may make her richer than I realized.  Fortunately, the crypto-currency has been in the news a lot lately, making research easy.

Chapter 17: Completed.  More exercising of my French skills.  Maybe I am bilingual.  Bechdel test passed.  Some fan service, but only because of Mara, whose own reveal still hasn't occurred.  I'm hoping things makes sense afterward.

Chapter 18: Started.  This should lead to the reveal by Chapter 20, but no guarentees.  The climax is also being set up, but Jack's mastermind quality will get a workout.  Fortunately, he's not a master of the Xanatos Gambit.  He's just good at reading the opposition.

22 Nov 2013

Lethal Lades #16 - Busch Memorial Stadium

St. Louis, Missouri
Busch Memorial Stadium
29-JUN-2007  1400

From her vantage point in the shade of the entryway, Rose watched as a car pulled into the almost empty parking lot surrounding Busch Memorial Stadium.  The vehicle stopped in the middle of the lot.  Sexton stepped out and looked around.  Rose walked out, laptop in her left hand, waving with her right.

21 Nov 2013

Lethal Ladies #15 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter first.

For a change of pace, the first scene is all done from Sexton's point of view.  I wanted to show his reaction instead of Rose's, even though Rose has gone on the offensive.  I probably wouldn't go this route now and leave the focus on Rose.  However, at the time, I was picturing this as being filmed.  The other bit of challenge here is to just have Sexton's side of the conversation without him repeating what Rose is saying.  Ideally, readers can figure out what Rose said just from reading Sexton's half.  The ballpark is Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.

Meanwhile, Elena returned to the Wal-Mart.  Again, it amused me to have a former Russian agent using the store as a front.  The core of Sexton's plot gets pointed out - an attack on an American ally would provoke the ally and others in NATO to react.  Elena's request for guns comes from not having access to the firearms owned by her and Rose's agency.  She's assuming that the office and her home are under surveillance, and she needs weapons before the cool down period ends.  The MAC-11 is an American machine pistol and can be, with the right skills and tools, be converted to full automatic fire.  Elena prefers it to regular pistols when she has a choice.

Most of the chapter is setting up what was planned to be the climax of the story.  There's a catch, which will be touched upon in the coming weeks.  Just keep in mind what the goal of NaNoWriMo is - 50 000 words in 30 days.  You don't need to count; the story is nowhere near at the end of Chapter 15.

Tomorrow, Rose's plan shifts into gear.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, the adaptational news round up continues.
Coming soon, a NaNoWriMo update.

18 Nov 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Week 2 Update

The second full week of NaNoWriMo has come to an end.  Time to check in on how I'm doing.

With workarounds in place to handle my technical issues, I managed to get over 3800 more words written than I had in the first week.  Helping was having November 11, Remembrance Day, off.  Also a help, only having one day below par, 1667 words, with writing each day of the week.

The plot is coming along at a good pace.  Little by little, Jack's scheme is coming together while Ione is dealing with one shock after another.  Research found a nice but expensive five star hotel in Paris that suited Jack's tastes.  A new character became needed when Jack's personal jet needed a co-pilot.  From that need came Mara, who brought along a background and motivation fully formed.  It's great when a character can do that.  Makes me wish the other characters in the story had done the same thing.

Ione is now back in Paris, continuing the investigation she tried to walk away from.  I've been tracking the days and she will have to send an email to work to either call in sick or say that she's working from home.  She has legitimate issues; face time at work would go a long way to rebuild trust with her superiors, even if her immediate supervisor has no problem with the extended rest.  Calling in would create problems; call display would show the long distance number.  Roaming charges on Canadian cell phone plans are outrageous.  Ione will have a lot of questions to answer if she ever returns to her job.

Here's where I am now:
Chapter 9: Completed.  Ione has made her decision.  Karen gets filled in, letting her be the reader avatar.  The planned ending got shunted to another chapter.

Chapter 10: Completed.  I managed to work in a car chase that involved Ione getting on a city bus.  Fortunately, she has (and I have) Area Knowledge: OC Transpo.  Arrival at the Carp Airport, which research shows can support light jets.  Jack makes Ione carry her own luggage.  Mara is introduced as Jack's co-pilot and is wearing very little.  The jet takes off.  Again, some hints about Jack, but nothing concrete.  And I managed to work in a quote from the MST3K version of Danger!! Death Ray.

Chapter 11: Completed.  Another place holder, meaning I need to research video games on Android tablets.  Jack and Mara do something in the cockpit.  Jack sets up Ione for the reveal.  I give my high school French a workout, thanks to Customs/Douane.

Chapter 12: Completed.  Jack keeps working on a few other projects that Ione isn't allowed to see.  Ione also finally corrects Jack about her name.  Arrival at the hotel, where Jack just assumes he has the suite he wants.  Ione has contact with the late Babbage's people.  I will need to research flowers at some point.  Mara becomes useful to have, giving Ione someone to talk to about Jack.  Mara also becomes Ms Fanservice.

Chapter 13: Completed.  Karen disappears after a cryptic message.  Ione plays tourist at Jack's insistance.  Meet with Pascal, one Babbage's people.  Jack makes dramatic entrance.

Chapter 14: Started.  Dinner in the hotel room with Jack.  If there was going to be any romance, this chapter would have been the ideal start.  Alas, not to be.  I don't think Ione trusts Jack enough.  Maybe I'll get Ione/Jack shippers.  Probably will get Ben/Jack shippers instead.

15 Nov 2013

Lethal Ladies #15 - 41 2nd Avenue

St. Louis, Missouri
41 2nd Avenue
29-JUN-2007  1130

Sexton's phone rang twice before his secretary picked it up.  He ignored it; there were far more important problems happening around him than a mere telephone call.  His plans had run into an unexpected snarl; his deniable assets weren't going along with the script.  Worse, because of the break-in, internal security started their own investigations.

His administrative assistant knocked on the door.  "Sir, phone call for you."

"Not now, Donna."  Sexton tried to shoo her out of the office by waving her away.

"She says it's urgent.  Her name's Rose Velasco."

Sexton's eyes widened.  He nodded.  "Put her through."  His assistant left, closing the door behind.  The phone rang again; Sexton picked it up before the ring ended.  "Sexton here.  Ah, Rose, so good to hear from you again.  How is your part--  I'm sorry?"  Sexton shot forward in his chair.  He fought to keep his voice level.  "My PDA?  There must be--  I see."  Anger seeped through Sexton's control.  "Look, theft of government property and misuse of government computers is a Federal felony.  What do you want?  That's out of the question.  I can get the Feds off your back, though.  Meet me with the laptop and the Blackberry.  Yes, two o'clock is good.  Forest Park.  Where, then?"  Sexton sighed with impatience.  "Fine, the ballpark.  At two.  If I have to be alone, so do you.  See you then."  Sexton hung up.  He reached under his desk and pulled out a small notebook.  He flipped through it.  Finding what he wanted, he picked up the phone again and dialled.

St. Louis, Missouri
Wal-Mart Store #6032
29-JUN-2007  1200

Sergei raised an eyebrow.  "That's a tall order, Elena," he said.  He looked back down at the list.  "I don't have the resources you think I do."

Elena switched to Russian.  "Cut the crap, Sergei.  The FSB isn't as inept as we all pretend it is.  I know you still have ties with them.  Spin some sort of cock and bull story that it's in the best interests of the Russian Federation.  I need the cars, Sergei."

"Keep it down," Sergei responded, also in Russian.  "It'll take a week to get the cars."

"I don't have a week."

"Poor planning on your part doesn't mean an emergency for me."

Elena poked Sergei's shoulder hard.  "Don't you lecture me about planning.  How many times have I hauled your ass out of the fire when you didn't have any contingencies ready?"

The Russian man rubbed his shoulder.  "You're asking for the impossible."

"If I wanted the impossible, I'd give you the week to get it done."

"Four cars, Elena.  That's tough."

"A Canadian ship is depending on you, Sergei."

Sergei laughed.  "Who would go after the Canadians?  They're inoffensive.  Pull the other one, Elena."

"I'm not joking.  Someone has designs on a Canadian frigate.  Sergei, if something happens to it, fallout is going to be nasty.  Internationally, tempers would flare.  It'd be like someone hitting your kid sister."

"I see."

Elena switched back to English.  "The cars don't need to be fancy.  They just have to run."

Sergei nodded.  "All identical?"

"Colour, make, model.  I don't care about the insides."

"Come back in an hour.  I'll have something set up by then."

"Thanks, Sergei.  I knew you were the person to see for something like this.  Now, I have one more request."

Sergei sighed with resignation.  "If it's in my power."


"Sporting goods is in Aisle 17."

Elena shook her head.  "Five day wait, remember?  And I don't want to risk my background data on a search right now."

"What type of guns were you looking for?"

"Here."  Elena pulled a scrap of paper out of her pocket.  She handed it to Sergei.

The Wal-Mart manager glanced at the sheet.  "The revolver shouldn't be a problem.  Didn't think you went for those."

"It's for a friend.  She's from Texas."

Sergei grinned.  "Now, this other one."

"If a street punk can get one, you can."

"Any preference?"

Elena nodded.  "The MAC-11.  I'll need extra clips for it and extra speed-loaders for the revolver."

"I can get it.  See me in an hour.  Bring cash."

14 Nov 2013

Lethal Ladies #14 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter first.

The first scene refers back to the bit of fanservice in Chapter 12.  Amber isn't taking what happened well. Allison probably should have asked first. Amber's freak out allowed me to add many a word. Padding is perfectly acceptable during NaNoWriMo.  There's also another bit of time passing, the PDA, or Personal Data Assistant. They were all the rage up until RIM merged a PDA with a cell phone to create the Blackberry.

Amber's descent into Hell continues the next day. The amount of coffee that she has enjoyed has let her discover many a flavour. Instant coffee is not one of those flavours. As for what was on Allison's laptop, that would be her Thursday nights. I left it to the reader to fill in the blanks there. Rose's agency does, indeed, have a substance abuse policy, as many businesses do. No one ever thinks about the one person who is addicted to caffeine like Amber.

Sexton isn't up on his computer use. Most people by now do know about their browser's history cache and how to clean it. Word processors, spreadsheets, the entire office suite plus a few programs no one expects also have a history of sorts, remembering the last few previously opened files. Handy for many. Secure, not so much. Especially if default file names are used; Word uses the first sentence as a file name, unless changed.

Allison did find the info about the Halifax-class ships online. At the time, a few of the vessels of the fleet had homepages accessable through the Canadian Forces home page. The HMCS Ottawa has since moved to a Facebook page. Another element of the Shadowrun origins of the story came out; the tail-chaser job is common enough in game play. The idea is that the unnamed employer sends a team out for find evidence that was previously planted in the hope that the discovery will make the planted evidence believed as true. Usually at that point in a shadowrun, the unnamed employer decides that the PCs know too much and need to be killed. Guns and magic blaze and the players escape yet again. Not so much for the Ladies, but Rose is now taking steps to turn the tide.

The Sarajevo mission would have made a decent flashback, showing the mess Rose and Elena found themselves in. It didn't occur to me at the time. The end, though, is Rose coming up with a plan on the fly. She's thought enough about it, but, in a story, if you detail the plan ahead of time, it never works.

Next time, Rose calls out Sexton and Elena goes shopping.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, the November round up of adaptational news.
Coming soon, more NaNo updates as I keep on keeping on.

11 Nov 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Week 1 Update

The first full week of NaNoWriMo has come to an end.  Time to check in on how I'm doing.

As I mentioned last time, I ran into multiple problems that were frustrating but, as it turned out, not NaNo ending.  The glasses have been temporarily fixed through the sacrifice of a pair of reading glasses from a pharmacy.  The netbook's problem has been discovered - a malfunctioning touchpad - and was avoided for the past week.  No new problems have come up since then.

I had three days where the writing output was below par.  One day, the words just weren't coming.  After fighting to get not even 500 words down, I took a break and went to get a tea at Tim Horton's.  That was the best idea I had that Monday.  When I returned, I got another 800 words in before calling it for the night.  Wednesday, I knew I wasn't going to get much done.  That evening was last session of the current season of D&D Encounters, and I wanted to be there to run the wrap up for Team Yakuza.  The players had a blast and used clever tactics to defeat Bhaal's Chosen One.  They even wanted to continue the campaign, with two PCs taking over the Thieves' Guild and all four being given patents of nobility.  Nobles get very thankful when their lives are saved from murder gods.  What I didn't expect, though, was to get almost 500 words written afterwards.  I consider those bonus words.  Then there was Friday.  I had the netbook open at work to clean out the fan, thinking the problem was heat.  Well, at the time, I had it down to either overheating or the touchpad.  Cleaning out the dust and gunk on the fan helped; the heat flow is better.  So, I thought about it while waiting for the others during the pre-game food court gathering and wrote sacrificial dialogue.  I was expecting a failure.  I got it.  Three lines of dialogue lost, easily recreated later.  But, nothing written.  I was too tired, thanks to a cold, when I got home Friday night.

With three days of low output, that meant the other four days needed to be busy to even have a hope of keeping close to where I needed to be.  Fortunately, I wrote over 2000 words each of those four days.  I used an older laptop to keep up the pace, one where it had lost functionality in the lower two rows of its keyboards - the space bar and zxcvbm./ - during NaNoWriMo 2007.  I also scored some surplus USB keyboards to use instead, so writing 2000 words?  Not a problem.  This left me about three hundred words short of being on track.  All things considered, not bad.  I've overcome worse deficits.

Here's where I am now:
Chapter 1: Complete.  I introduced Ione, the core mystery, and the main villain (not that he's identified as such yet).  Featured some action and an explosion.

Chapter 2: Complete, but needing work.  Supporting characters introduced, Ione's real work introduced, Karen introduced, Diesel introduced.  Some background info.  During the break I took Monday, I realized that some cats have mystic abilities.  Right now, it's subtle; I'll have to get Jack to make reference to it somehow.

Chapter 3: Complete.  Introduced Ben.  Let Ione finally have her breakdown.  Introduced Amy and the rest of Ione's family.  Another action secquence.  Introduced a complication.  Trying to show that Ione has an adventurous streak without coming out and saying so.  Mysterious stalker makes an appearance.

Chapter 4: Complete.  More setting up of the plot, with a bit of misdirection.  An example of a mystic cat.  Finally getting Ione closer to meeting Jack.

Chapter 5: Complete.  Introduced Jack, finally.  Let's call this the Jack chapter.  First use of a place holder.  I really don't know much about men's high fashion.  A suit is a suit to me.  Probably should separate Amy's part into a new chapter, but the juxtaposition seems right at the moment.  Could also be cut if needed, but that will affect later dialogue.

Chapter 6: Complete.  Gave Ione a chance to be normal before throwing a new shock at her.  Discovered that the University of Waterloo's math department's colour is pink; the pink tie important to the department, too, thanks to a prof and his preference for odd ties.  (Thanks to mathtans for the info!)  More Ben.

Chapter 7: Complete.  More Jack.  In fact, Jack's personality is developing well.  A lot of little details coming out, but without context.  Jack asks for Ione's help, then gives her a choice that should be easy for her to answer.

Chapter 8: Complete.  Girls' night out.  Ben returns.  Ione gets suspicious.  Gangnam Style appears, with appropriate commentary.  Established Ione's lack of church-going.  Need to find a name for the band, but a placeholder (Sex Bob-omb) will do for now.  Small info dump.  The return of of the stalker, and mysterious help.

Chapter 9: Started.  Ione has made her decision.  Karen gets filled in, letting her be the reader avatar.  Planned ending is to have Ione arrive at the airport with the stalker right behind her.

8 Nov 2013

Lethal Ladies #14 - 532 Elm Avenue

St. Louis, Missouri
532 Elm Avenue
29-JUN-2007  0019

Rose handed the PDA to Allison as she got out of the car.  "Check this first.  Get as much info out of it as possible but keep it usable.  I have plans for it.  You can investigate the laptop in the morning."  Rose glanced over at Amber.  "What's with her?  She didn't say a word on the ride here."

Allison shrugged.  "Long day for her, I guess."

Elena unlocked the apartment door.  "Let's go, ladies."  She held the door open for Allison.

Rose walked around to the driver's door.  "Amber, time to go in."

Amber stepped out of the vehicle, still looking dazed.  She let Rose lead her inside.  "Rose, Velasco Investigations has a sexual harassment policy, right?"

"Yeah, last time I checked.  I don't think it's ever been used."

Elena looked out from the kitchenette.  "What happened, Amber?"

"I think Allie harassed me, sexually, in the car."

"I didn't see anything on the ride here," Rose said.  "Are you sure?"

"No, not then.  When we were being the distraction.  I'm sure that counts a sexual harassment."

"Oh, come on, Amber," Allison protested.  "It was just a distraction."

"You kissed me!"  Shock and horror came through in Amber's tone.  "You didn't even ask."

"What?"  Elena returned from the kitchen.  "I must have misheard.  Allison, you kissed Amber?"

"Did you see any security guards while you were inside?"


"The distraction worked."

Rose massaged her forehead.  "That's not the point right now.  What happened?"

"Allie kissed me!" Amber repeated.

"Rose, you wanted a distraction.  I provided it.  If there was anyone watching with a camera, he got to watch two girls making out."

Rose shook her head to clear it.  "I never thought of that.  Okay, Amber, are you mentally scarred from what happened?"

"I don't know.  I've never been kissed by a girl before."

"Obviously," Allison said.  "You need to work on your technique."

"Allie!" Amber exclaimed.  "It's bad enough that you . . . you assaulted me, but now you're criticizing me!"

"I didn't assault you, Amber.  It was a kiss."

"We made out.  We made out for almost two hours."

"I didn't fondle you."

Rose looked over at Elena.  "Ever have this problem?"

"Never," Elena replied.  "Amber, Allison, now isn't a good time for a discussion like this.  It's late and it's been a long day.  Allison, check that PDA, then go to bed.  Amber, go freshen up and get some sleep."

"I am not sleeping in the same room as her."  Amber pointed at Allison.

"You're with me, then," Rose offered.  "Just go do what you need to do."  Amber flounced angrily into the apartment's tiny bathroom and slammed the door behind her.  Allison rolled her eyes, then started working on the PDA.  Rose joined Elena in the kitchen.  "Tempted to tell Sexton where they can be found?"

"We do that, and the agency's computers will all crash without Allison there to threaten them."

St. Louis, Missouri
532 Elm Avenue
29-JUN-2007  0925

Amber shuffled out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, her green hair disshevelled and her suit's skirt wrinkled.  She made a beeline to the coffee maker on the counter.  A few moments later, the fact there was no water in it sunk through her half-asleep state.  Amber blinked.  She searched through the cupboards, looking for the coffee grounds she was sure was in the apartment.

"There's only instant," Allison called from the living room.

"You're joking.  Allie, don't kid about this."

"No joke.  It's above the fridge."

Amber looked into the pantry above the fridge.  As Allison had said, the jar of instant coffee was here, taunting the green-haired woman.  She sighed.  "I'm drinking this under duress."

"Whatever, Amber."

With a sigh, Amber retrieved the instant from its shelf and put a kettle on to boil.  She walked out to the living room and flopped on to the couch.  She looked over at Allison.  "What do you got?"

"The laptop Elena brought back last night."

Amber peered to look at the the screen.  "'Silk and Chocolate'?"

Allison lowered the monitor.  "Excuse me.  Private."

"What?  It's Sexton's laptop."

"And there's someone around with a wide-open wireless network.  I'm taking advantage of it."

"So you're ordering chocolate online?"

Allison inhaled sharply.  "It's private, Amber.  As in none of your business."

"Fine."  Amber got up and returned to the kitchenette.  She stared at the kettle.

Rose walked into the kitchen.  "A watched pot never boils, Amber."

"I don't need existentialism before my first coffee, Rose."  Amber scowled at the stove.  "Hurry, damn you!"

"I'm going to check out the firm's substance abuse resources when all this is done."

Amber turned her attention from the kettle to Rose.  "The what?"

"Have you thought of changing to decaf?"

"Why?"  Amber blinked in confusion.

"Never mind."  Rose left Amber to her own devices and joined Allison.  "Find anything interesting?"

"Oh, lots," Allison said.  "He's visits some unusual websites and I'm sure his Information Technology people are going to have a fit if they ever get this laptop back.  Let me just close this."  She clicked the close button on the browser.

"Were you online?"

"We'll be hard to find.  My IP has to be traced through whatever ISP the kind people with the open network use, and it'll take time to find an address.  We're safe."

"Good."  Rose sat down beside Allison.  "What do you have?"

"Here."  Allison pulled up the photos Rose had taken at the warehouse.  "Looks familiar, right?"

Rose nodded.  "Those are mine."

"And now, look at this."  Allison brought up a second set of pictures.  "Familiar?"

"I didn't take those."

"No, you didn't.  In fact, these aren't photos.  These are the original files.  No watermark.  In fact, I don't think he realized what would happen if he aged the paper."

"How do you know he did that?"

"Wild guess right now, really," Allison replied.  "I'd need to see the plans we found again.  I doubt they exist anymore, though."

"We need something harder than that."

"I checked his history in Word and in Internet Explorer – nothing odd there.  I managed to dig through to find the drivers installed, though.  There was a microphone installed.  No sign of any new file, but his burning program did save the settings.  Given time and the right programs, I could dig out details."

"Are you still online?"  Seeing Allison nod, Rose continued, "Get what you need, then.  Give me a shopping list of anything you can't download, and analyze the hell out of that laptop.  And try to track where all the Canadian ships are."

St. Louis, Missouri
532 Elm Avenue
29-JUN-2007  1057

The women gathered in the apartment's small living room.  Allison balanced the laptop on her knee as she sat in the corner, still working on recovering data.  Amber sat on one of the chairs, a mug of coffee in hand and a satisfied look on her face.  Elena sprawled out on the couch, still wearing a nightgown she found in the bedroom dresser.  Rose stood in the centre of the room, looking at each of her co-workers in turn.  "Okay, we've had time to sleep, freshen up, have something to eat, and get real coffee."  Amber held her mug up in a toast.  Rose smiled and continued, "We are not wanted by the police, or, at least, weren't wanted yesterday.  Sexton is with national security, though he knows squat about computers, right Allie?"

Allison grunted affirmative.  "Almost done here.  This makes for interesting reading, really."

"Don't spoil us.  Did you find the information on the Halifax-class ships?"

"Frigates," Amber corrected.

"Frig you," Allison sniped.  "Yes, I got it.  Easier than I expected."

Rose raised an eyebrow.  "The Canadian Forces computers are that leaky?"

"I didn't have to hack in.  Some of their websites show where they are.  Here."  Allison passed a sheet of paper to Rose.  "I wrote it down."

"I see."  Rose shook her head to clear it.  "Okay, the job Sexton hired us for turned out to be a set up.  He created the plans we found."

"An Ouroboros," Amber said.

"A what?" Elena asked.

"The snake that swallowed its own tail.  It's Greek.  We were hired for a tail-chaser job."

Allison huffed.  "Thank you, Miss Trivia."

Rose held her hands up to quell the spat.  "Not now, ladies."  She took a breath.  "Okay, right now, Sexton should be aware that he's missing a few things, and should be in a right state.  I want to keep him off-balance.  No more reacting.  Allie, what did you find on his PDA?"

"Several interesting messages, including some from Agent Thompson.  He's starting to freak out because Sexton isn't returning any calls."

"Good.  It's a start for all of what we've been through.  Next, get Sexton to make a mistake."

Amber raised her hand.  "What sort of mistake?"

"A critical one, one that will let us find out what he really is up to."

"Sounds good, Rose," Elena started, "but what if he doesn't make that mistake?"

"Remember Sarajevo, 1982?"

"That was a total disaster on both our sides."

"We're going to be playing the part of British intelligence this time."

Elena appeared unconvinced.  "We don't have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines this time."

"I know, Elena.  That's why I want to poke Sexton.  Yesterday, he held all the cards.  He didn't have to rush.  He knew that we couldn't move around freely, that any contact we made could be monitored.  Now, we've taken away some of his edge.  We're not free yet, but we can now make him sweat for a change."  Rose sat on the arm of the couch.  "And I have a way to keep him off-balance.  First, though, a shopping list.  Amber, find two cars, doesn't matter the make or model.  As long as you'd be happy driving them.  Elena, I want you to find four identical vehicles, same model, same year.  I don't care what they look like."

"Rose," Amber started, "do you want my two cars to look the same?"

Rose thought for a moment.  "No.  In fact, make them two completely different cars."

Amber nodded.  "Cars I like, right?"

"Right.  Allison, get a message to Tyler, then track down a wig for me.  After that, help Elena and Amber with what they need.  Me, I have a phone call to make."

7 Nov 2013

Lethal Ladies #13 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter first.

Chapter 12 ended in front of 41 2nd Avenue with Amber and Allison creating a distraction.  Chapter 13 opens with Elena and Rose making use of the distraction.  The top-down approach allows the older Ladies to search the building while still having an escape route.  It also allows Rose a chance to work out the pain in her knee.  Arthritis is a bitch at times, destroying joints and making it hard to move.  Rose's is mild enough to not stop her normally, but when it flares, she needs to take it easy.  The door smashing into the same leg isn't helping matters.  The trapped door is a backup to the electric eye.  If the eye isn't broken, whether through blind luck or actively avoiding it, the door still slams shut.  In a quiet building, the slam would be enough to alert a guard.  The door doesn't even need to be deliberately trapped; my own apartment door closes faster than it should because the hydraulic mechanism closing it is mis-set.

Rose's thinking works for most non-governmental and non-military offices.  Corner offices with views are perks to be earned.  In areas that are more sensitive, the more important you are, the further away from windows you get.  Lasers can read sound vibrations off glass.  People with binoculars can lip read.  Most of the time, it'll be office banter and gossip.  Rose's psychology studies pegs Sexton as someone who has bought into the "corner office as perk" idea.  She has a better read on him then he does on her.

I got to play with the running gag of Rose and Elena referring to past adventures by city and year.  Rose can't hear the the humming because of hearing damage at a Stones concert.  Once again, this is out of personal experience, except instead of the Rolling Stones, it was Pink Floyd during their A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour in 1987.  The music was ten times louder than inside a hangar with a jet engine going.  So, a low hum gets lost in the tinnitus.  Rose thought the concert was worth it.

The chapter ends with Rose moving from defense to offense.  She's tired of running and wants to turn everything around.  The plan will be revealed over the next few chapters.

Tomorrow, Rose needs to check her company's policy on sexual harassment.
Over at MuseHack, I'm on hiatus this week.
Coming up, NaNoWriMo updates as I keep writing and writing and writing.

5 Nov 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Cast Pictures

A while back, mathtans suggested creating pictures of characters as references while writing.  This year, I meant to have pictures ready in time, either drawn by myself or commissioned.  Neither happened.  My art skills are rudimentary, with straight lines a challenge.  I did go to the Geek Market, but there were few artists there.

My solution, The Sims 2.

I used the game once before for the Threefold, getting usable portraits for them and some oddly candid shots that fit the personalities.  Why not do it again for Ione and company?

With Ione, I found two hairstyles that could work for her.  Both are short, shorter than originally conceived, but work for my purposes.  The first is closer to the original idea.
Short hair suits her.

The second, though, gave me an idea for later in the story, when Ione needs to change her appearance a little.
Might be difficult to change the part, though.
 With the head done, I started to work out her wardrobe.  Two outfits stood out; one that she would wear to work,
She'll need a jacket.
the other for weekends.
Suitable for coffee shops and curling up with cats.
 I even found her a little black dress for more formal occasions.
Suitable for all occasions.

With Ione done, Karen came next.  Karen's appearance I already had clear in mind,  Shorter than Ione, with long hair tied into a ponytail.  Again, easily done, except for the height.  The game doesn't allow for height variations.  No matter, I can live with it and remember that Karen is shorter.  With Karen, I found the ideal hairstyle quickly, then gave her glasses and earrings.
 I didn't get a photo of her nose piercing, but she has a gold stud on the other side.  To emphasize the difference between Ione's workplace and Karen's, I gave the latter a miniskirt and a black blouse.
The boots are a nice touch.
 The idea is that, in Karen's private sector job, what one wears is as important as capability, as opposed to Ione's public service job where clothing doesn't need to be emphasized.  Karen does not have a little black dress, though.  She's more colourful when out on the town.
Showing personality differences through clothing choice.

Since I had the game running, I went through character creation for Gemma.
 A British agent who has already appeared in the story writing, Gemma is a field agent.  It was appropriate to give her a pair of sunglasses.
The future's so bright...
 Her choice of clothes reflects her career.
The name's...
 And, for fun, since the outfit exists, a what-if, as in what if Gemma was in the Village.
The new Number 2.

To complete the character generation in the game, I filled out the personality bars to reflect the characters' personalities.  Karen is very outgoing while Gemma became very serious.  Once done, I tried to get a shot of the three women looking at the camera.  The didn't.  Instead, I got a few candid shots that, like the three fold, just worked.
I can't believe I have to work with two amateurs.

Amateurs?  Have you read the script yet?

That's what was in the envelope?

Fortunately, the game created a proper group shot with everyone looking at the camera.
Say cheese!