30 Sep 2013

NaNo Prep 2013 - Decision Time

Last year, I didn't make a decision on what to write until October 31.  That may have contributed to the low word count (barely over 50k words) and losing interest halfway through the month.  This year, though, I think I have a good candidate.

A quick reminder of the candidates:
- the steampunk superhero
- the Threefold
- the Traveller story
- the urban fantasy spy thriller

The Traveller story will have some work to be done, figuring out the speed of news.  I also want to get at the idea sooner, turning the concept into a more serial approach.  I'm liking the idea of a serial right now, plus having the story on the web instead of in a book would allow for hotlinks for some setting and game concepts.

At the same time I placed the Traveller aside, Jack from the urban fantasy spy thriller started feeding me scenes.  At this point, I have the base plot, most of my main characters, a start on the spy, a few locations in mind, and extra complications besides the end of the world.  With five weeks to go, that should give me enough time to work out details and key events.

The Clockwork Avenger and the Threefold will be set aside for now, though I'll keep playing with both ideas for future use.  They both have potential, but neither really had a character come up and say, "You will write me."

27 Sep 2013

Lethal Ladies #9 - Via Giuseppe Veratti

Rome, Italy
Via Giuseppe Veratti
23-APR-1982  2233

Rose stopped short, then ducked into a narrow alley.  On the street ahead, two men and a woman got out of a car.  She kept watch on them as they spread out, two on Rose's side of the street, one on the opposite.  Rose placed her hand on her pistol, inching it out of her waistband.  The man across the street stopped at another alley and shone a flashlight down it.  He took several steps down as his comrades watched.  Rose slunk back.  Behind her, she heard more footsteps.  Turning around, she saw another spot of light illuminating the walls of the dark alley.

26 Sep 2013

Lethal Ladies #8 - Commentary

Again, please read the chapter before continuing.

Last week's chapter is indeed the proper chapter 8.  The cat-and-mouse hunt is still going.  Rose is not taking being the mouse well.

If you look at a map of the area, there really isn't an alley.  Nor does it look like it'd be deserted at night.  Really, the apartments there look luxurious.  Granted, Google Maps shows 2013, not 1982.  Things could have changed.  However, the alleys should be the woods.  This really does highlight the need for proper research before using a location.  Ideally, I go there first and look and take photos for myself.  I should have placed the the chase in Drammen, Norway.  Or maybe Bergen, but neither of those cities have Russian embassies while Rome, the capital of Italy, does.  However, if I keep people involved in the story, no one is going to look for the locations I used until afterwards, ideally because they're in Rome at the time.

During the brief gunfight, notice that all that's being heard are the bullets.  I had meant to research the proper sound of a silenced pistol but never got to it when I wrote the scene.  The sound isn't the one heard in movies; the sound of the metal parts moving is still heard.  The Bourne Identity has a silenced pistol that sounds closer to reality; it also sounded wrong because of decades of movies using the pffft.  But the lack of a bang was deliberate, though it might have been too subtle.  Rose's wound and her reaction is mostly me working out the trajectory of the bullet as it grazes her leg.

Over at the Soviet embassy, Elena has the first moment that she's not in complete control and that it is possible for someone under her command to die.  The idea in the flashbacks is that both Elena and Rose are relatively new agents.  Elena is the analyst, searching for patterns, maintaining a large team.  Rose is the field agent, working either alone or in a small team.  Elena is playing chess at this point; she's trying to out-think Rose and cover the locations the American could go.

The last section is south of the start.  The area is far closer to what I wanted - light industrial.  Fewer people around because everything is closed, and more forboding walls, albeit in corrugated tin instead of brick.  Again, the streets in Rome were retrofitted to the story.  Next time, I work out the locations before writing a chase scene.  Makes it easier to figure out the dramatics.

Tomorrow, the end of the flashback.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Doom.
Coming soon, more details about my NaNoWriMo project as I prepare to write.

25 Sep 2013

Fun With Traveller - Philomena's Brother

This time around, time to test out the Traveller 5 character creation process.  Traveller 5 is the Big Black Book, with everything you need to create a universe.  It's not so much game as tool kit.  For the first test, Philomena's older brother.  Ideally, we get at least five terms out of him before he gets the boot or gets killed.

A few things should be kept from Philomena's sheet - her last name and her social standing.  Traveller 5 does allow for tracking family genetics for those who want, but I never recorded Philomena's rolls.  Instead, I'll assume a 50/50 split between her parents, then roll a single die to add on.  Not accurate, but it'll work for now.

Philomena's stats, for reference:
Name: Philomena Ashazu Gikdirkishkiga
Age: 30
Species: Vilani
Homeworld: Capital/Core (0508 A86A98A-F Hi Ht Wa)
Rank: Supervisor (2)
Characteristics
  Str 7/+0
  Dex 8/+0
  End 6/+0
  Int 8/+0
  Edu 9/+1
  Soc A/+1
Education won't transfer; I'll roll it separately for Philomena's brother since it is experience, not innate.  Social Standing remains at 10, at least for now.  The base for Strength will be on a high-low roll, with high being a base of 4 and low being 3.  The roll is 1, so the brother starts at 3 for his Strength.

First, he needs a name, something along the lines of Philomena.  Alexander fits the form; weighty, similar origin, and long.  Next, I roll his stats, which are in the quote block below.  Homeworld is the same, as is species.
Name: Alexander Gikdirkishkiga
Age:
Species: Vilani
Homeworld: Capital/Core (0508 A86A98A-F Hi Wa, Pr, Cx)
Rank:
Characteristics
  Str 4
  Dex A
  End 7
  Int 9
  Edu C
  Soc A
Philomena is stronger, but Alexander is far more agile and has far more education.  Traveller 5 includes descriptions for the values generated.  This means Alexander is weak, adroit, of average endurance, of above average intelligence, and has the equivalent of a doctorate already.  So, along with all her other woes, Philomena pales beside her brother.  She just can't catch a break.

Traveller 5 added new trade codes for worlds, so a quick check of Capital's Universal World Profile needs to be done.  The UWP is A86A98A-F, so the trade codes from page 496 result in Water World, High Population, Pre-Rich, and Imperial Capital.  These will provide early skills; in this case, Seafarer-1, Streetwise-1, Craftsman-1, and Language-1.

Alexander looks at his options.  Further education is possible, allowing Alexander to go a more scholarly way or gain skills before going into the Imperial bureaucracy.  He easily has the prerequisite for university; he needed Education of 7 or higher.  To get in, he needs to roll two dice (2D) under his Intelligence.  The roll is 9, exactly his Int, so he's in.  He needs to now roll twice either his Int or Edu with each success being a pass; he succeeds all both times without touching the dice.  He gets to raise his major to level 2 and minor to level 1; Alexander takes Bureaucrat as his major and minors in Counsellor.  One last roll under twice Edu gets an Honours degree and an extra level to Bureaucrat.  And for fun, using the flux die mechanic (1D-1D), Alexander's university is the (flux is -4) Ling University (after Ling Standard Products).

With a Bachelor's degree under his belt, Alexander looks at Law School.  Again, for fun, rolling up the name gets (flux is 3) the Horowitz Institute School of Advocacy Arts.  Alexander applies, needing to roll under his Education, and gets 12, thus squeaking in yet again.  He keeps his major and minor the same, and now rolls three times under his Education - 10, 7, and 6.  He raises his Bureaucrat to 5 and Counsellor to 2.

Now 24, he's ready to start his career!  Alexander qualifies for the Noble career without having to roll, so he heads there.  His starting rank is Gentleman, based on his Social Standing.  He gets four skill rolls right away, and chooses the Academic, Travel, Political, and Vocation tables.  In order, he gets one Trade, Zero-G, Tactics, and Bureaucrat.  He risks an Intrigue and is successful.  Alexander may now try for Elevation; he needs to roll over his Soc this time adding his successful Intrigues; he rolls a 9 plus 1 for a 10.  He is now Sir Alexander.  With Elevation comes two more skills; he takes them from Political and Technical and gets Liaison and one Art.  Alexander now checks to see if he can continue by rolling under his Soc; a roll of 10 is still under.

Alexander's second term goes the same way.  For skills, he chooses Personal, Academic, General, and Political and gets +1 Edu, Counsellor, Leader, and Liaison.  The Intrigue roll is a 5, below his Edu.  Elevation now needs an 11 or higher, but Alexander can add +2 from his successful Intrigues; the roll is 6 plus 2 is 8 is not enough.  The continuation roll is 9; Alexander can continue his career.

At 32 years old, Alexander is still young.  He stays in the Noble career.  His four skills are from General, Political, Personal, and Travel this time; Liaison, Liaison, +1 Dex, and Pilot.  The Intrigue roll is a 4; another success.  The Elevation roll is 5, plus 3 for 8 which is again not enough.  By the end of the term, Alexander has started Life Stage 5 (page 97) and needs to check for aging effects.  To do that, he has to roll 5 or higher for each of Str, Dex, and End or lose a point of the stat; the dice come up as 8, 7, and 6.  Close, but still okay.  The continuation roll is 11, on the nose.  Alexander is good at squeaking by.

I'll take Alexander one more term, which will place him at 40 years old by the end.  He takes skill rolls on the Personal, Travel, Political, and Academic tables, getting +1 Dex, Pilot, Tactics, and Counsellor.  The Intrigue roll is based off his Dex this time, for a change of pace; Alexander gets a 4, easily succeeding.  He tries for Elevation, with a +4 modifer; the roll is 6 for a total of 10, too low.  Aging needs to be checked again; the dice come up as 5, 7, and 8.  Close shave on Str, but Alexander pulls through.

Time to muster out.  He gets four rolls on the benefits table from terms served.  Fame also needs to be calculated.  From the errata, Nobles have fame of 1.5 times their Social Standing.  In Alexander's case, that works out to be 16.5, rounded to 17.  He does not qualify for another benefit roll as a result.  The chart on page 109 shows that Sir Alexander is known throughout Capital's solar system.  Rolling on the mustering out tables, Alexander goes for one roll and each of Money, Benefits, and Power, with a +4 from terms served as a modifier.  The totals are 10, 8, and 5, getting Cr200 000, Proxy (1D worth), and Proxy (1D worth).  The last roll is on the Benefits table; a 5 gets a +1 End.

All that's left is to clean up a few dangling skills.  Alexander received one Art and one Trade, and needs to choose a language.  For his Art, Alexander takes Artist as the skill.  For the Trade, he improves Craftsman by 1.  For languages, he has Anglic as his native and takes Vilani as his second.

Sir Alexander is now ready.  His terms served work out to parallel Philomena's; the age difference comes from his academic studies.  Alexander has had a better run than his little sister Philomena and hasn't yet heard about her difficulties or her decision to gallivant off in a Scout/Courier.  It will be about six months before the news arrives on Capital and another six to twelve for him to arrive at Mora/Mora.

Alexander's character sheet:

Name: Alexander Gikdirkishkiga
Age: 40
Species: Vilani
Homeworld: Capital/Core (0508 A86A98A-F Hi Ht Wa)
Rank: Knight

Characteristics
  Str 4
  Dex C
  End 8
  Int 9
  Edu D
  Soc B

Fame: 17

Skills
  Artist 1
  Bureaucrat 7
  Counsellor 4
  Craftsman 2
  Language
    Anglic 13
    Vilani 12
  Leader 1
  Liaison 4
  Pilot 2
  Seafarer 1
  Streetwise 1
  Tactics 2
  Zero-G 1

Education:
University - Ling University, Bachelor's with Honours, majoring in Bureacrat, minoring in Counsellor, 4 years
University - Horowitz Institute School of Advocacy Arts, majoring in Bureacrat, minoring in Counsellor, 2 years.

Career - Noble
Term 1: The Rangoon Ring: Successful; Elevated
Term 2: The Assassination of Vilghan: Successful
Term 3: Ferrold's Secret Exile: Successful
Term 4: The Lannis Ring: Successful

Cr 200 000
Ship Shares:
Intrigues: 4
Exiles:
Land Grants: 2
Proxies: 7 (worth Cr70 000/year)

20 Sep 2013

Lethal Ladies #8 - Via Giuseppe Veratti

[The real #8 this time.  Last week's entry had the wrong number but correct text.]

Rome, Italy
Via Giuseppe Veratti
23-APR-1982  2233

Rose stopped short, then ducked into a narrow alley.  On the street ahead, two men and a woman got out of a car.  She kept watch on them as they spread out, two on Rose's side of the street, one on the opposite.  Rose placed her hand on her pistol, inching it out of her waistband.  The man across the street stopped at another alley and shone a flashlight down it.  He took several steps down as his comrades watched.  Rose slunk back.  Behind her, she heard more footsteps.  Turning around, she saw another spot of light illuminating the walls of the dark alley.

19 Sep 2013

Lethal Ladies #7 - Commentary

First, turns out, I mis-numbered last week's chapter.  The contents are correct, the number is wrong.  Go fig.

Second, go read the chapter.  It'll make the commentary easier to follow.

When I wrote the flashback, I didn't take the time to properly search Rome for streets.  I left a placeholder, mainly because the flashback was unplanned and because I was running behind in word count and didn't want the extra work to interfere with the time spent writing.  The idea was that, once the story was written, I'd go back and fix the stamps.  I fixed the stamps.  Google Maps is far more easier to use in Europe than it was in 2006.  The key location comes up later, and I was able to work back.  So, Via Salvatore Pincherle is where the chapter leads off.

The flashback does mirror some of the previous action, as intended.  Last time, it was Allison shimmying to get out of the handcuffs.  This time, it's a much younger Rose, alone, using the old "hide the lockpicks in the hair" trick followed by the "sick prisoner" trick.  The Soviet agents do have a reason to make sure she doesn't die, the key component to the latter trick.

Valeri, one of the KGB agents, owes his name to an Arrogant Worms song, "We Like Hockey".  Yes, that line.  From there, I checked various hockey team rosters for other Russian names.  The pistols came mainly through a different interest - tabletop RPGs.  Specifically, the old James Bond 007 RPG supplement, The Q Manual, which detailed the various equipment, from weapons to vehicles to gadgets, in the 007 books and movies.  The Makarov and the PB are two different Soviet-era pistols in use by the KGB, with the Makarov being standard issue.

Elena makes her debut in the flashback in the Soviet Embassy.  The layout of the embassy is based on old spy movies and spy novels, where the major players had special rooms solely for use by their intelligence agencies built into the embassies.  Elena has a martial bearing, something she doesn't have in the 2007 portions.  She also takes to command, and has a strong grip on psychology.  Rose will have to he on top of her game to escape.

The agent names, again, come from hockey.  The team names, though, come from War and Peace.  I needed a theme, and Tolstoy's novel fit what I needed - a large cast of characters to poach names from.  Even if they weren't going to reappear in the story, Elena couldn't just say, "Take Whatshisname and Whozis and chase her!"  Someone, either Elena herself or the people under her command, would know these people.  Plus, nameless goons are easy to ignore.  Named goons aren't.

The time stamps for the flashback got complicated.  I started regretting using them as scene breaks here.  The timing between scenes might not work as well as it looks.  To be sure, I'd pretty much have to trace the same route in Rome.  I'll stick with the handwave here; if the numbers feel right, they're good enough.  I'm not trying to convince someone in Rome they're accurate, just the casual reader.

Tomorrow, in chapter 8, Rose and Elena continue their cat and mouse chase.
Saturday, at MuseHack, Doom.
Coming soon, wrapping up NaNo Prep 2013.

16 Sep 2013

Snippet - Tanya

A few years ago, an idea came to mind and just would not leave.  A dinner between two people, with a tragic ending.  After the break, the result after writing the scene down.

13 Sep 2013

Lethal Ladies #8 - Via Salvatore Pincherle

Rome, Italy
Via Salvatore Pincherle
23-APR-1982  2149

Rose struggled to sit up on the overstuffed couch.  Her hands felt numb, circulation to them being cut off by handcuffs holding her arms behind her back.  Once seated properly, Rose looked around the lavish room.  Only one door provided a way out; the narrow windows faced a wall only a few feet away.  With an effort, Rose stood up.  She swayed on her feat, the remnants of whatever knockout drug she was given still coursing through her body.  Rose closed her eyes to help her head to stop swimming around.  Slowly, she reopened them.

12 Sep 2013

Lethal Ladies #6 - Commentary

The first scene lets the elder Ladies discuss what happened and allowed me to emphasize that they aren't as young as they used to be.  Rose and Elena have made references to cities in the early 80s, placing them in their mid-40s as of the scene's time stamp.  The little details - not as energetic, the odd noises bodies make after being in one position too long - should help show their age without having to state it outright.  Variable schedules are hard on a body, too.  Having worked late shifts*, adjusting on days off to everyone else's normal day was difficult.  A one-shot late night or overnight is tough and I do need to sleep afterwards to recover.  Thus, Rose needing her sleep after the meeting.  Elena, on the other hand, is planning to stay up according to her regular schedule, slipping in a nap before the meeting.

The second scene adds a complication to the plot.  The FBI is involved.  I managed to refrain from shouting out to Die Hard with Special Agent Johnson and Special Agent Johnson, going with Thompson instead.  And, yes, Special Agent is the title agents use.  The agent allowed me to snark at myself over choosing Elena's surname; at least she can pronounce it.  The risk of scouring hockey rosters for appropriate last names.  The Miranda rights were found on the web, though I've lost the specific site.  The charges are serious and are under the FBI's mandate.

The third scene starts near the intersection of Arsenal and Hampton.  I chose that location for a reason, but I can't remember why.  Possibly because there is no FBI or police building near there.  Allison doesn't take being locked up well; neither does Amber, though the latter has an overactive imagination.  Rose once again gets to be the mother and separates the two.

Elena gives Rose a cryptic hint about how to escape, though Rome 1982 is coming up.  Rose tries to slip through, but Allison is far more limber, and there's a hint on what she does Thursday nights.  A classic ruse follows, though Elena is a method actress.  When a prisoner turns blue, something is wrong.  Rollins gets to be the unlucky agent to fall for the ruse.  It's a classic for a reason; if a guard is wrong about the ruse beign a ruse, a prisoner is dead and he has questions and paperwork to deal with.  Paperwork is never pleasant.  So, the guard has to check.

The last scene is at 1633 Bond Street in East St. Louis, across the river and state line from St. Louis, Missouri.  The Street View of the address shows that the lot is undeveloped.  I picked the address based on a satellite view in 2006 and saw a low density residential area.  A quick check at Wikipedia showed a high crime rate and urban blight, where abandoned buildings could be bought cheaply.  Perfect for a bolt hole.

The story was meant to be the first of several, so I needed a scene to get the characters to discover each other's secrets.  Rose and Elena have already hinted at events in their shared past.  Amber makes the Pinkie Pie-style leap in logic and gets the right answer.  I needed to show that Amber wasn't just a caffeine junkie who spouted pop culture catch phrases.  She's observant and has studied.  Amber just doesn't act like it.  And while discussing Amber, she would definitely be a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan.  She'd even paint her car the colour of her favourite pony, Apple Bloom.  Fortunately for Allison, Apple Bloom doesn't have a cutie mark, so Amber can't add it to anything she owns or uses, like computer equipment Allison maintains or a company car.

Tomorrow, find out what did happen in Rome in 1982.
Saturday, at MuseHack, the September link roundup of news about remakes and adaptations.
Coming soon, a sneak peek at a preliminary work and narrowing down the projects for November.


* 5pm to 2am, at two different jobs.  The second one also had a one to one-and-a-half hour commute, turning into a two hour commute on the way home because buses weren't running.

6 Sep 2013

Lethal Ladies #6 - Velasco Investigations

St. Louis, Missouri
Velasco Investigations
27-JUN-2007  0251

Rose locked the door once Amber and Allison left the office.  She stifled a yawn as she turned back to Elena.  "I'm getting to old for this."

"You've been up this late before."

5 Sep 2013

Lethal Ladies #5 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter first.

Two scenes this time around.  The first is too small to stand alone.  The second could by itself.  The first scene is back at Velasco Investigations, just like the "title" said.  The group dynamics get a good workout here.  Amber has a shout out to the origins of the story and acts like the annoying younger sister to Allison's cool older sister while Rose takes the mom role.  Elena remains professional.  To show that the Ladies have done similar work, Allison mentions that the job isn't going the normal way.

I chose St. Louis for mainly one reason; it has a Major League Baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals.  The stadium gave me a point of reference to build from in Google searches, especially in Google Maps.  The detail about the Cardinals playing in Chicago was based on the 2006 season.  Even with the Ladies working around midnight, baseball games could go longer than expected.  Baseball isn't a timed sport.  Games can be as quick as two hours or they could become six hour marathons heading into extra innings.  It all depends on how well the two teams are performing.  Even after the game, there are people around; cleaning staff, concession workers, the announcer, the groundskeepers, all taking care of post-game duties.  So, midnight at a ball stadium may still have activity.

The second scene leads off with stilted writing.  NaNoWriMo encourages a "write now, fix later" mindset.  Get the words out now, fix things in December or January.  That first paragraph shows the mentality.  Today, the paragraph would likely come out as:
The van coasted to a stop a block away from the women's destination. Elena and Amber stepped out, adjusting their coveralls. Taking a crowbar from the back of the van, Amber pried open a manhole cover. The sound of metal against asphalt echoed back from the surrounding buildings. Under the cover of the sound, Rose and Allison slipped out the side of the van, their coveralls shed before they left.
Shorter, but less clunky.  The crowbar and the manhole cover play into the scene only to set up the Ladies as a repair team for the power company.

The warehouse itself was based on similar areas in Ottawa.  Parking is gravel because asphalt needs maintenance.  The security is deliberately odd; Rose and Allison both pick up on it.  The thermographic goggles are another callback to Rose's street samurai origins; she had them installed directly when she replaced her original eyes with cybernetics.  There's also another hint at Elena and Rose's past tossed in as a warning for Rose.  A friend suggested adding flashbacks as he reviewed the story.  Future versions of Lethal Ladies will do that; first, padding and second, exploration of Elena and Rose's relationship.

The Socratic method is a great writing tool.  Not for teaching yourself how to write, but for getting one character to make a discovery by having another ask leading questions.  For NaNo, this means extra words.  For me, because I had decided to place the camera to cover all the Ladies, it let me show the thought processes allowed.  A solo character, like Nasty, makes it easy to allow the reader to see her thoughts.  A group, though, and there needs to be a justification for why I'm getting that deep into their heads.  But if one character needs to explain to another, then the two can talk it out.

Another artifact of when the story was written - Rose asking about camera phones.  Today, 2013, try finding even a basic cell phone without a camera.  In 2006, cameras were on the higher end cell phones, thus justifying Rose's question.  Try finding a film camera, even; the average person uses a digital camera just from sheer ease of use.  Technology marches on.

The last question from Elena might need an explanation.  The Stasi was East Germany's Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit), equivalent to the Soviet Union's KGB, and were known for infiltrating via informants and being brutal.  The Stasi was disbanded after the German Reuinification in 1990.

Tomorrow, the police get involved.
Saturday, at MuseHack[http://www.musehack.com], /Lost in Translation/ looks at /Blade Runner/.
Coming later, more NaNo prep work.

4 Sep 2013

NaNo Prep 2013 - The Urban Fantasy Spy Thriller

Now that the Traveller cast is finally out of the way, time to move on.  NaNoWriMo is only two months away and I need to work out a couple more ideas to see which one has the promise to get me through November and leave me with a story that I think will carry me through the month with something to polish and, maybe, hopefully, submit.for publication somewhere.

This time around, the idea is an urban fantasy.  Inspired by the Grigori Legacy series by Linda Poitevin, the story revolves around two characters.  One is a spy working for, as of right now, the British Secret Service, formerly known as MI-6.  The other is a demon.  Let the wacky hijinks ensue!

Well, maybe not.  If I'm going to cross urban fantasy with spy thrillers, then turning the work into a comedy isn't going to be a good idea.  There may be humour, but that humour will flow naturally from the characters and situation.  The story should be remind people of the more serious 007 stories and of Bourne.  Fortunately, I've read and watched serious spy thrillers, so I can work in the atmosphere.  Another issue, though, is that the Cold War is over.  Espionage has changed greatly since the Eighties.  The traditional boogeymen, the Soviet Union and China, aren't the threats they used to be.  The focus is now on terrorism and organized crime, not foreign agents trying to steal state secrets.

This is where my spy comes in.  She works for an agency, charged with gathering information.  Anyone who has watched Burn Notice will happily point out that most of the info gathering is done by cut-outs*, not by actual agents.  Even the people processing the signal and Internet intelligence are more likely to be contractors* instead of agents in the employ of the agency**.  Corporations are more likely to have employees doing "market research" than governments are right now.***  Despite all that, I need my agent working for the agency; freelancers don't have to deal with the paperwork or the supervisor asking difficult questions.

The agent is professional.  She worked her way up from entry level to a position of responsibility.  She started in signal intelligence (SIGINT) and expanded to using the Internet to intercept data.  Over her career, she gained responsibilities and managed to get assigned to missions and investigations that required getting out of her office.  She even has her own stable of cut-outs that she uses to build data models.  As far as she's concerned, the supernatural is a fiction to scare off the superstitious.

Over on the supernatural side, the demon.  Some time ago, I mentioned that he said I could call him "Jack".  Obviously, that's not his real name.  Names have power.  Nicknames don't.  Jack is a big believer in letting others do his work for him.  All he needs to do is nudge at the right moment.  Jack is going to be an enigma in the story, but I do need to work out his motive.  He has one, and it's a biggie; Jack has sympathy for the creatures on Earth.  Someone has to take their side, and he has yet to meet anyone on his or his opposition's that does.  Besides, humans are so amusing, and if they're destroyed, how is he going to keep watching Supernatural?  The only thing I know for sure about Jack is that he lies.  He lies convincingly.  There's no power behind it; he uses sheer charm.  What would be the more dangerous demon, the four-metre tall red-skinned horror with a flaming glaive spitting acid, or the one that looks like an average person telling you that if you just trust him, everything will work out?

The two lead characters, Jack and the spy, will have conflicts.  Jack doesn't care about the agent or her people; he has a bigger problem and, at best, they're useful only if they help him in his mission.  The spy feels the same way, but Jack is underfoot, in the way, and completely unreadable.  The question remains - do I hook them up, or do I just tease the reader?

Meanwhile, the antagonist is busy.  The villain of the story is the catalyst.  All three will appear in the opening act of the story, but it is the villain who forces Jack and the spy to get involved.  The leads have to work together to try to stop the dastard.  The villain?

An angel.

Let's go back a bit, to the Nativity.  The Archangel Gabriel appeared before Mary and said, "Fear not."  Odd thing for someone to say to people he's appearing before.  Except that angels are scary beings.  If one gets it into his head that humanity is a danger and goes rogue, what can stop him?

Hopefully, a spy and a demon.

I now have my key characters, and supporting characters can be determined as needed.  The setting is now.  But, well, where?  I could use Ottawa, but the city really doesn't have the levels of organized crime I need for the first chapter, and the presence of embassies from around the globe would add an extra element of complexity that isn't needed.  (An Angel storming through the American embassy would involve a response that makes overkill look lenient.)  If I move the setting over to Europe, there's an added flair of exotic destinations being menaced.  The agent's home country will determine her name; even limiting her to an English speaking country like the UK, the US, or Canada, the feel of her name would change to reflect her nationality.  If she's from the UK, Gemma; from the US and she becomes Stephanie; and as a Canuck, she becomes Sarah.  Nationality would then factor into personality to a degree.

So, I have my characters, a rough setting, a good idea of the first chapter, a rough idea of the plot, a mix of investigation and action, and this may be ready to go for November.


* For those familiar with Burn Notice, what Michael did for the CIA before being burned.  Long answer, people who are willing to provide information and do legwork but don't work for the agency.  They may not necessarily know who they are working for, depending on how the handler chooses to work with the cut-outs.
** I hearty wave to those of you doing your jobs right now reading this blog post.  I'm sure my browsing history makes for an odd read.
*** And the ads Google will give me just from the research for this post will be interesting.

2 Sep 2013

NaNo Prep 2013/Fun With Traveller - Personalities

I mentioned that last time would be the last with this group.  I was wrong.  I have backgrounds, connections, skill sets.  I don't have personalities.  Oops.

Well, I do have their personalities, but not well defined.  Right not, the crew is still a little blobby.  Time to rectify that.  I'll switch up the order a bit.  Usually, Philomena goes first, being the first one created.  Not this time.  Spencer's up.  Of the four, he's the one that didn't get kicked out of his careers.  Sure, at the end, the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service didn't renew his contract, but they loaned him his old ship and kept him on the books as a detached Scout.  Spencer comes from a sparsely populated world, spent a lot of time on his own or with a small number of fellow Scouts, and now doesn't have to check in every few weeks.  Spencer is a happy guy.  Takeaways: Spencer is self-sufficient, can stand to live with himself for weeks on end, personable despite being born to near-outcasts.  Spencer is someone who others wouldn't mind having a beer with.

Philomena, who needs a decent nickname*, on the other hand, has been dealt several major blows in her career.  She's always seen herself as having to work harder to be noticed.  On a world where counts and barons are easily found, Philomena's not-quite-noble background makes her just another face in the crowd.  She wanted more, she wanted recognition.  Her ambition led her to the Imperial Navy.  Not long after recruiting, she saves her ship.  Her reward, from her view, is a nice shiny medal and an honourable discharge; nowhere near the long career she wanted with her own command.  Philomena got back up, though; her naval career was short but memorable, letting her easily get a position as an aide to a Count in the Spinward Marches**.  That career went well enough for a decade, letting her move up in responsibilities, but she never predicted the political maneuverings that saw her career as an aide end abruptly.  Philomena is now dejected, self-doubting.  Two careers, both of which her classmates could have been doing, and she failed.  Takeaways: Philomena is her worst critic.  She may have borderline depression.  Travelling with Spencer is more "it's better than nothing" than anything else.  She may not know what to do with herself on a small ship like the Scout/Courier; there's nowhere to go to if she wants to be on her own.

Cuddy was described as the embittered soldier.  He followed family tradition and joined the Imperial Army.  He had ambition and the talent to back it up.  In three of his five tours of duty, he saw combat.  The last tour saw his regiment slaughtered because of errors further up the chain of command.  Like Spencer, Cuddy stayed in his career for five terms; the difference is the last term.  For Spencer, it was a gift.  For Cuddy, it was a disaster that saw him drummed out of the Army.  Meanwhile, he's heard from his old girlfriend, Philomena, who sounds off from what he remembers of her, and she has her own tale of woe.  Cuddy is going to be by her side; one of them is going to get through the next year.  Takeaways: Cuddy has empathy; he knows when something is wrong.  Cuddy also cares about the people he is responsible for; causing them pain gets you on the wrong side of a twenty-year veteran.  At the same time, he's survived wars.  His training lets him take command in a crisis; Cuddy might even do so even if someone else is in command.

Miryim had a career like Philomena's; unexpected departures and a rival who forced her out of a position.  Even the first terms were similar; both Miryim and Philomena served on an Imperial Navy vessel that got into a major battle.  In Miryim's case, she was on secondment from the Darrian Confederation Navy as part of her required service.  Afterwards, Miryim left the Confederation Navy instead of being discharged.  She decided that she prefered the 99% of the time bored instead of the 1% of the time hoping not to die and joined the Merchant Marine.  Note that Miryim is well educated and could have easily spent her time as a scholar in a university researching.  Instead, Miryim wanted first hand experience.  Forced out of the Merchant Marine?  No problem; she'll just drift from planet to planet and see where she goes.  Takeaways: Miryim prefers hands-on experience over reading a book or watching a documentary.  She's curious.  She's also easy going.  Fighting isn't her forte, and she'll be happy to avoid it, but the Imperium gave her a shiny medal that said that she can keep her head in a crisis.

Combining the group now gets interesting.  Philomena is still brooding.  Spencer is satisfied with his lot in life.  Cuddy is bitter but able to still function.  Miryim is chipper.  A week together in Jump space could be the most dangerous adventure in their lives.


* Suggestions welcome.
** World to be determined.