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!

3 Nov 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - The First Two Days

NaNoWriMo has started, and so have I.  It has been a frustrating two days.  Not because of the story, oh, no.  The story is progressing well.  No, the problem has been technical.  Two events combined to throw my pace off on Saturday.

First, my glasses broke.  Glasses do that, break.  It started Thrusday morning with one arm gone so far past the plastic stage in strain that it resembled a wet noodle that not so much snapped as fell apart.  I came up with a solution that would let me keep wearing the glasses while waiting for my next payday to pay for both a doctor's appointment* and a new pair.  However, thanks to winds that gusted up to 70km/h on Friday, the other arm basically did the same thing.  Without at least one arm to hold the glasses at the right height and angle, I started to get headaches.  My plans for Saturday changed drastically.  Originally, I was going to grab breakfast then go get groceries in the morning, eat lunch at home, then go to the library to write 2500-3000 words.  Instead, I walked up to the nearest mall, bought a pair of reading glasses that were meant for farsighted vision, then took the new pair and my broken pair to the optical store to transfer the arms.  The fit isn't perfect, but it'll do for the two to three weeks it'll take to get my new pair.

The second event was a return of an old problem on my netbook.  For whatever reason, instead of giving me an out-of-memory error, Windows 7 Starter** just hangs.  If you have music playing, you get to hear that last half-second of music until either the system sorts itself out or you give up and power cycle the machine.  I chose the power cycling option after five minutes of waiting for the netbook to sort itself out.  Not my first choice, either; there is a lot that gets loaded these days that really doesn't need to be.  Every application seems to want to be part of the start up.  It's getting to the point where I miss how fast Windows 3.11 started.  That aside, the netbook finished its startup, I killed a few programs that weren't needed, started the suspect program, Google Chrome, to shut down a few tabs, then, while waiting for pages to load in it, reopened my word processor, Libre Office 3.4 and recover what I could.  I lost a couple of paragraphs, maybe a hundred words at most.  Fine, I can retype, the dialogue was still fresh at the time.

Five minutes later, the same damn thing happens again after I type in the previously lost paragraphs.

Not fun.  I left Chrome closed after the second power cycle.  I was annoyed and frustrated enough that, once I typed the same paragraphs for a third time, I had lost the flow of the section.  I managed another couple hundred words before giving up for the afternoon.

The first two days weren't all frustration.  Because of the same wind gusts that finished off my glasses, the game night*** got cancelled due to a power outage.  The original plan for Friday night was to write a few hundred words while waiting for the rest of the players before going to the GM's home to play.  Thanks to the wind, not only did the mall suffer a partial outage, but the entire area surrounding did as well.  No game.  Instead of gaming, I wrote, getting a little more than a full day's worth of writing****.  These extra words meant that on Saturday, despite the setbacks and not reaching the 3000 words I wanted at the library to get ahead, I was still on schedule and even slightly ahead of where I wanted to be.  I also managed to get more than a full day's writing done in the evening, once I had a chance to re-focus on the story.

Thanks to the break I took, I realized that I had given Diesel, Ione's cat, an extra role.  Cats are apparently mystic in nature in my story.  It was never planned.  Diesel was just a small detail, a way to add a bit of depth to both Karen and Ione.  He was never meant to be a potential plot device.  This is what writing by the seat of your pants[link to scaffolding] allows; unexpected little details that come up can be integrated into the story without causing a cascade of rewrites to an outline.

Two days in, over 3600 words written.  I'm on a good pace, and the story is unfolding further than I realized.  I have a good feeling about this.

* In Ontario, eye doctor appointments cost $70.  The rest is covered by OHIP.
** Win7 Starter came with the netbook.
*** For the record, Legend of the Five Rings.  For those who have played the game, my character is a Tamori shugenja of the Dragon Clan.
**** A full day's worth of writing is 1667 words, or one-thirtieth (1/30) of 50k words.

NaNo 2013 - Scaffolding, My Writing Style

Anyone who has even listened in on a conversation about NaNoWriMo has probably heard the term "pantser".  In NaNo circles, "pantser" means someone who writes by the seat of their pants, adding to their story as they go with little to no outlining.  The opposite is an "outliner", someone who prepares by creating an outline to work from in November.  Outlines do not count towards the word count; even the NaNoWriMo site points out that an outline is permissible, as long as actual writing hasn't started before November 1st.  Me, I'm a scaffolder.

Okay, that needs an explanation.  I'm not an outliner.  I tried an outline once, where I worked out each scene and chapter, and found that it wasn't as interesting to work on.  I did, however, complete that story with over 58 000 words.  If you're following Lethal Ladies on Fridays, that turned into a seat-of-the-pants deal when I found myself coming to an end twenty thousand words too soon.  What I do, mostly, is create a framework, a scaffold, that I can hang my writing from.  To this end, I work out characters, work out key scenes, figure out the ending, then start writing.  If there's a gap between scenes, then I just hope something comes up to fill it in, but the pre-writing work helps me know what will happen.  Thus all the detail I've put into Ione and the rogue angel.

Once I start, I work on a few scenes, which could be one massive scene with action or a number spread over several chapters.  Often, this involves picturing the scenes in my head playing out like a movie.  This lets me move the "camera", the point of view, around so I can see what my focus character does.  I can stop the "film" as needed to take note of details, work out angles, adjust lighting, even move a character if needed.  The film also lets me take note of dialogue and see when voices aren't quite right.

Doctors complain about my illegibility.
After I get the scene in mind, I start writing it down in my head.  In NaNo, you're supposed to kick your inner editor to the curb.  Instead, I let the inner editor at the first go, in my head, before anything is committed to type.  Once I'm happy with the scene in my head, it gets typed out.  I used to write longhand, to force myself to do a revision.  My handwriting, though, is awful. if that.  So, I skip the handwriting and jump straight to typing.
 It's not so much an illegible scrawl as very squished.  Thanks to an old injury, writing longhand is also painful after ten minutes,

When I run out of scenes to write, it's time to make way towards the next key event, whatever that would be.  If I feel that there's a huge gap between where I am and where I need to be, I toss in a few extra bits to flesh out the characters, the setting, and the plot.  Worse case, I toss a random encounter at the characters to see what they do, then try to retcon why the encounter happened.  Best case, I figure out that the characters need to do something to cause the next key event to occur, so I can write them setting up the event.  Once the story is done, I can go back and smooth things over so that the unexpected events are seamless.

Simple, no?

Throw Off the Shackles!

Take back your hour of lost rest!  The tyranny of Daylight Savings has been vanquished.  No more waking up an hour earlier than necessary.  No more health risk because of the shock to your body from a disrupted sleep schedule.


Celebrate the returned hour!  Wake up when it's natural!

Down with Daylight Savings!

1 Nov 2013

Lethal Ladies #13 - 41 2nd Avenue, back entrance

St. Louis, Missouri
41 2nd Avenue, back entrance
28-JUN-2007  2218

The door clicked open.  Rose slipped her lockpick back into her hair.  "Typical alarm system for this type of building."

"Anything more would stand out," Elena said.  "Standard KGB approach:  Search for anything that is more or less protected than the the surroundings.  Around here, electric eyes are overdone, especially when there are other occupants to the building."

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Bang a Gong!

It is on!

Fifty thousand words.  Thirty days.

If the blog gets quiet, you'll know why.

Follow the progress at my NaNo page!