15 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 9

A night out had an uncomfortable coincidence and the return of Ione's stalker.
Ione had just zipped up her duffel bag when she heard the front door unlock and open.  "Karen?" she called.

"It's me."  Karen's heels could be heard on the foyer's linoleum tiles.

"Did you bring Ben home with you?"

14 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 8

Funny seeing you at the bar, Ben, in The Devil You Know Chapter 8.

Probably the most work I did imagining a scene went into this chapter.  I am not one for crowds and loudness, and guess what has both in abundance.  I don't get out to nightclubs.  Not my scene.  Good thing I watch movies and TV series that have such scenes.  Plus, I know people who have been to the club in question and thus had photos so I could set the scene.  I also took photos of the halls of my old high school during a reunion for future reference.  Remember, it's not really "write what you know."  It's "research what you write."  The former gets boring coming of age stories; the latter gets you galaxies.

Ione does indeed own a corset.  She uses it for cosplay and steampunk fun.  Ione has diverse interests, really.  The question, though, is how did Jack know?  At the end of Chapter 7, he did ask Ione to pack the corset.  Lucky guess, shrewd observer of humanity, or creepy stalker?

Back in the commentary for the first part of "Boomers Like Me", I mentioned that you can get one mirror scene in a writing career.  Um, looks like I had a second one.  Oops?  I did try to get more into Ione's head there, not just describe her looks but also how she felt about them.  Ione is her worst critic when it comes to appraising her looks; most people are.  After all, who is more familiar with a body than that body?

Work sites have their own dress code.  Which is an obvious statement, but, being a contractor, I got to see how different offices, even in the Federal government, dressed.  The Public Service tends to be more functional unless the job is client facing; even then, comfort tends to be the main concern.  In the private sector, workers tend to dress better, in part because of explicit dress codes.  The senior executive level is more likely to show up at a private business than in the government.  Ministers don't wander the halls on a lark; they have other duties including representing their riding in Parliament.  CEOs, though, can wander.  However, people like Olivier do exist and will dress well no matter where they work.  In short, Ione can get away with her university sweater and jeans; Karen can't.

Ottawa's nightlife does exist, despite rumours to the contrary.  Ottawa's downtown consists of government offices, with no reason to linger when the day is over.  However, the entertainment areas are close.  There are three main areas to go to at the end of a work week.  The first is Elgin Street, with bars and restaurants close to the office buildings.  Elgin is the eastern boundary of downtown Ottawa, so having an entertainment area there makes sense.  The second area is the Byward Market, which is a tourist draw but also has nightclubs along with the bars and restaurants.  The third are is across the river in Gatineau, Quebec, where the drinking age is a year sooner than Ontario.  Ione and Karen want to avoid the younger crowd for a change.  There are clubs that aren't in those three areas, but it's rarer.  Obsession is a real place, and at the time of writing, was a nightclub that featured live bands.  It sort of changed focus since then.

Speaking of bands, Assassin Kittens was a last minute addition.  I had a placeholder there just to avoid stopping to figure out a band's name.  Assassin Kittens was going to be used in an arc of Unruly.  The band does not exist as far as I can tell after a quick Google search.  However, what made me settle on the name was a video featuring kittens in the role of the lead of Assassin's Creed.  Ione's old band's name, though, was easier to figure out.  Math puns come far more naturally, hence Avogadro's Dance Number.

The appearance of "Gangnam Style" came about because it was 2013.  The song was popular and it had one of the key elements that made it a standard - it was danceable with its own choreography.  "Gangnam Style" is going to be played at weddings and other social events until the end of time, just like "The Macarena".  I figured that a nightclub that wants people dancing will use the song as an ice breaker to get people on the floor.

Ben the Barista returns!  This story had several characters who should have had one-time only appearances, and Ben was one of them.  His arc expanded, to say the least.  Can't really blame Ione for wondering why he was there.  She has been dealing with people popping up when they shouldn't and is wondering who is trying to ruin her life.  And since she doesn't know she's the main character in a story, she can't blame the author.  Ben does have a good point - when churches are seeing attendance shrinking, who can people talk to?  The bartender is a popular choice, especially in a regular bar, but for those who prefer coffee to beer, that just leaves the barista.

One of the core conceits of the story finally gets mentioned.  BitCoins, also known as Dunning-Krugerrands, are cryptocurrency, a form of money not tied to a government.  BitCoins are generated using an algorithm that gets more and more inefficient as time goes on.  However, they failed as a currency.  No one can go to a store with a BitCoin to purchase bread.  Their nature, though, is good for less legal pursuits.  They are traceable, but it is difficult to find out who owns the BitCoin.  They're the best known cryptocurrency, but not the only type; see also DogeCoin, created more to reward people for doing something beneficial.  Still can't buy bread with them.

Friday, Ione talks about her work, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 9.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Remaking Reptilicus.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, franchises and adaptations.

8 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 8

Jack made an offer to Ione after showing a photo of a man responsible for several explosions in Europe.
When Karen returned home from work, she found Ione on the couch, wrapped in a quilt such that only her face was visible.  Diesel looked up from the crook of Ione's legs.  The grey cat scrambled to get on his feet.  He climbed over Ione, ignoring her protests, then leapt from the couch to land near Karen.  Diesel mewed.

"I see that."  Karen knelt down to rub the grey cat.  "How long has she been there?"

"I'm right here."  Ione rolled the quilt down her waist.  "How was work?"

"Over for the week, just how I like it."  Karen slipped off her black pumps.  "What's with you?"

"Nothing."  Ione brushed a stray lock of hair out of her face.  "Just thinking."

Karen stepped over Diesel to get into the living room.  "And what were you thinking?"

7 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 7

Jack showed Ione a photo of someone who shouldn't be alive, in The Devil You Know Chapter 7.

The cliffhanger from the end of Chapter 6 gets resolved right away.  The goal with the end of chapter near-collision was to just keep readers reading.  It shouldn't have been a surprise that it was Jack in the car.  After the two previous appearances where he was somewhat subdued, Jack needed to be Jack.  A bit of flash, a bit of mystery, and charming.

Chapter sizes are going to be uneven.  The Devil You Know wasn't written as a serial, where the goal is to provide decent sized chapters of roughly the same length.  TDYK was conceived as a novel, not a serial, and chapters will be as long as they need.  In 2013, the plan was to write a novel, unlike 2015 with Unruly and 2016 with dba LTV Paranormalists.  With not having to worry about chapter lengths, I could let scenes go as long as needed.  And, I had a better feel for how chapters worked, unlike Lethal Ladies.

Ione does have a difficult decision here.  The mystery man who caused the explosion in Paris did destroy illegal weapons.  He did the same in Marseilles.  Whoever he is, his actions seem to be a net good.  Problem is, innocents could be hurt.  The criminals being hit might escalate and against the wrong people.  Not to mention the people Ione was working with at the beginning; they were doing their jobs when they were killed.  Welcome to the no-win situation, Ione.

I slipped in a favourite gag.  I failed a Will save there.  "Don't call me Shirley," is right out of Airplane!  Ione wanted to deflate Jack a bit.  It's right up there with, "What do you make of this?"  I decided that having Ione know pop culture wasn't a bad thing.  If Ben could make references to Star Wars and Doctor Who in Chapter 3, why can't Ione do something similar?  I've established that she's somewhat geeky, and more proof comes up next chapter.  Ione's human, and I do try to not let her just quote geeky properties.

The stakes are now set, if Jack can be believed.  Ione's mystery man wants to end all life on Earth.  She has good reason to be suspect.  Ione's job isn't a cinematic spy action film.  At best, she's the nameless analyst that gets mentioned in a grittier techno thriller.  Of course, no one ever realizes the genre of novel they're in.  The correct answer for most of is is biography.

Friday, a night out leads to odd meets, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 8.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Mutant X.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Remaking Reptilicus.

3 Sep 2017

NaNo 2017 - Two Months to Go!

Brace yourselves.  NaNo is coming!

Where do things stand now from the last update?  A few things that should have been done weren't, so there's not too much to say.  I wound up not being able to focus on any one idea over the recent weeks and was just able to get the required posts out.  That aside, some thoughts have occurred.

Right now, the Shadowrun serial is still the front runner.  The setting already exists and the goal wasn't to write a story but create something to adapt to another medium.  The idea was to put into practice what I've discovered through Lost in Translation.  However, another reason to go forward with the idea came up.  Science fiction has always been about issues when the work is written, even if the story is set in the future.  With recent events in the U.S., including the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, and neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and neo-Confederates (providing a very fuzzy circle of a Venn diagram) marching, there's a group in Shadowrun that lets me nail a few points home.  Skater, the elf decker that I've updated over every edition since the first, is tied to a major event in the game's in-setting history, the Night of Rage.  Shadowrun's KKK equivalent, the Humanis Policlub, was responsible.  That element can be easily worked into one of the arcs, including having Humanis march through the streets of Seattle.

The time-travelling daikaiju invasion is still in the cards.  The story would be more to distract from current events, though I really should figure out when and where the giant monsters appear, just so I can work out the equipment the team needs.  The general rules of time travel have been determined, though.  The Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle is in effect; the team can know where or when but not both.  They also try to not create paradoxes; they know less about practical temporal mechanics than the writer.  Mind, there will be some oddities left around.  It's difficult to shoot a dinosaur with a modern rifle and not leave a trace of gunpowder.  Still trying to work out some of the ideas, such as adapting St. George and the Dragon to the time travelling.  I also still need to get the future chapter set up that leads into the first.  Time travel weirds causality.

Mecha Academy is still a possibility.  It's an older story, but it still checks out.  I did go through the core cast and wonder about logistics about housing.  Do I need to drop a character or add one?  Neither really work for me.  I may have to do some hand-waving, though I can make it work since there is a reason two of the main cast are in the same dorm.  Serializing the story won't be difficult; it really does work better as one.  And, unlike the Shadowrun idea above, I can adapt to other formats without stomping over someone else's intellectual property.

The Final Fantasy VIII fanfic may be dropping off the list.  I need to adjust the concept to remove the FFVIII DNA.  That means, new setting, new reason why I have a military academy filled with teenagers, and figure out how to also not look like RWBY.  The three main characters won't change that much, at least at the start.  It's the later elements that get messed up.

I have ideas for both Unruly and Subject 13 but haven't been able to get those ideas to become concrete.  Unruly has several arcs that need to be done, including one focusing on Vamsi, one set over Thanksgiving, and Laura's testifying against her father.  There's also Fawna's deal with Mags, though that could be a short story instead of a full arc.  Could be useful for filler at the end of November when I'll want a change of pace.

The ideas for Subject 13 require a time jump, just to get Nasty home.  Essentially, I'll be starting a Volume 2 before Volume 1 is complete.  Nasty is also not going to be as angry; part of the reason is that I just don't need to vent like I did when I first wrote the series.  The result - Nasty gets to mature a bit.  She also gets to work out the new dynamic between her and her mother.  They've both grown, even in the chapters I've finished, so they now have to build a new relationship.  And Nasty gets to be more involved at her school while still dealing with having powers.  I'll also have to set things up for Crossover.  Or, I could just skip past Crossover and go to Nasty's senior year.

So, not much has changed since last time.  The above order is more or less the likelihood of what gets done, with the Shadowrun serial having the best chance.  I have two months.  I need to think a bit more, but I should have a decision by October, or at least some background work done.

1 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 7

Ione's mind returned to pondering over the failed mission after a news broadcast.  A trip to a coffee shop led to running into Jack again, this time almost literally.

Ione dismounted from her motorcycle.  "What the hell are you doing?"  She approached the open door and bent down to see Jack.  "You could have killed me!"

"We need to talk.  There's a Starbuck's not far from here."

"Not on your life, not after that stunt you pulled."

Jack gave Ione a seductive smirk.  "I had plenty of space."

"Answer's still no."  Ione straightened up.  "Ask again and it'll be more colourful."  She turned on her heel back to the Vulcan.

"It's about your mystery man."

31 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 6

Another explosion in France sent Ione out to clear her mind, but Jack won't give her the time she needs, in The Devil You Know Chapter 6.

Not all cats move as fast as Diesel when it's time to be fed.  Some will run.  Others will just get far enough in front so they can keep turning back to make sure the staffer is following.  It all depends on the cat.  Even the type of food eaten is cat-dependent.  Sure, you can buy the expensive fancy wet food, but I've had cats that would turn their nose up at it and prefer the cheap, smelly food, in part for the added floor show.

Ione is having a typical morning where she doesn't have to go in to work.  Feed the cat, drink coffee, watch some TV.  The problem is, she's not in a slice-of-life story.  The news story is about her mission that started the story.  And now what was in the warehouse is known to the world - illegal arms.  Ione's mission wasn't a complete failure; all those weapons will never get to their destinations.

One of the problems of being in a city where the primary industry is government is that most people understand how the bureaucracy works.  There is a method to the madness, and most people in Ottawa understand that.  The rest either are newcomers or deliberately obtuse.  The question isn't whether someone works for the government but which department.  So, if one works or even applies to one of the more secretive agencies in the National Capital, it's a little harder to brush off the question of where one works by answering, "a government analyst".  Even if one can say, there are still times when something interesting happens at work and can't be told because of secrecy and security.

Media conventions in Ottawa is a relatively knew thing.  Sure, Cangames has been around for forty years, but other cons fizzled.  The mindset wasn't really there; Ottawa was more a sports town than anything else.  Rough Riders would see large turnouts, even during their worst season and only dwindled when it became obvious that the ownership didn't care about the team.  However, with more attention being paid to comic cons of all sorts, there's a new interest.  AC Cubed, of which I was one of the exec, saw large turnouts, far more than expected.  Can*Con has returned.  And, finally, Ottawa got a pro comic con.  Fourth largest city in Canada here, and it gets treated like a bloody backwater at times.  The biggest problem the city has is a lack of space for conventions.  The hotels here are set up for smaller events.  The lack of space was one of the reasons AC Cubed folded; the con was about to burst from being a small convention to being a medium one or larger, and there really wasn't anywhere to expand.  So, the mention of a new media con was news in 2013.

The last scene at the intersection made a good spot for a chapter break.  Who is this daredevil who dared to cut off Ione in a dangerous yet flashy manner?  The answer should be obvious and will be revealed in Chapter 7.

Friday, Jack makes Ione an offer; can she refuse?  The Devil You Know Chapter 7.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, when an adaptation isn't an adaptation.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Mutant X.

25 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 6

Ione met with Jack, who knew far more about what happened in Paris than anyone should.
The next morning, Ione once again woke up with a weight across her legs.  "Diesel," she groaned.  "Did you miss me that much while I was gone?"  With effort, she managed to flip over on to her back.  Diesel padded across the bed to meet Ione face to face.  He sat down, staring at the brunette.  Ione stroked his grey fur.  "I'm sorry for disappearing this week."  She raised her head, offering her forehead to the cat.  He leaned forward and touched Ione's forehead with his, then purred.  "Let's get breakfast."

By the time Ione's feet hit the floor, Diesel had torn out of the bedroom and was halfway downstairs.  Ione grabbed her robe and followed.  The grey cat sat patiently in front of his food dish and stared without blinking at Ione as she shuffled into the kitchen.  She topped off his dry food, then searched through the cupboards for a clean dish.  Finding one, she scooped half a can of salmon flavoured wet food into it and set it beside Diesel.  The grey monster pawed at Ione until the dish was set as his feet.  Diesel lunged at the cat food, chomping loudly as he ate.  Ione shook her head.  "Just don't make a mess."

24 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 5

Jack arrived, in The Devil You Know Chapter 5.

Again, I'm using a real location.  The Earl of Sussex is a real pub in a real city and near a real American embassy and counts as three words for NaNoWriMo.  The crowd is typical for mid-week.  In Ottawa, the Senators' away games are on many a bar's televisions.  October also means Redblacks games and baseball playoffs.  An embarrassment of sports for the sports fan.  Fortunately, the Market also has dance bars for those wanting to do more than drink and watch sports.

Meet Jack.  Jack was the first character I worked out for the story, with Ione coming after.  Yes, he was the Mountie in Chapter 3, but he gets his proper introduction here.  Jack also knows more than he tells, even to the author.  He was fun to write.

Those who pay attention may be wondering why Jack is calling Ione "Sarah".  Again, Chapter 3, which turned out to be a key chapter even if that wasn't planned.  Ione's sister used the classic "so angry I'm using your full name" approach - Sarah Ione Mackenzie.  That is also how Ione's name appears on her driver's license.  If someone only knows Ione's name from her license or other official form, they'd use the traditional first name, not the middle, until corrected.  Note that Ione hasn't corrected him.

Amy makes another appearance.  Ione's family won't be the distraction that Brenna's was in The Soul Blade.  Amy's there because she's part of Ione's normal life.  Ione's life is already getting upset; Amy's appearance is to cement that home for the readers and push Ione a little more off-balance.  There's also the issue that Ione can't really talk about work.  She works for an intelligence agency.  One does not talk about work there, for security reasons.  Instead, one gets caught up in international intrigue in foreign countries, apparently.

I'm still getting into the feel of things with the /Previously/ intro.  The details aren't in depth, but I'm just summarized the chapter.  How are readers taking it?  Yay?  Nay?  Meh?

Friday, work beckons, in The Devil You Know Chapter 6.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Captain Power & the Soldiers of the Future.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, when an adaptation isn't an adaptation.

18 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 5

After evading a stalker, Ione is pulled over for speeding.  However, the ticket she received was an invitation, not a summons.
Ione stepped into the Earl of Sussex fifteen minutes early for her meeting with the constable.  Her neon red helmet dangled by its strap from her hand.  She stopped just past the doorway to let her eyes adjust to the soft lighting inside the pub before stepping up to the bar.  Before sitting, she looked over the clientèle; there was a young couple lost within each other to the point that they didn't notice anyone else.  A group of five young men, their suit jackets off, sat with a round of beers watching the muted pre-game show for the Ottawa Senators' away game.  Across the room, on the other side of the bar, a group of three, two men and a woman, chatted.  Spying a seat that faced the door, Ione walked around the bar to get to it.  She sat down, shifting herself on the bar stool to get comfortable.  As she set her helmet on the seat beside her, the bartender turned his attention to her.  "A Coke, please."

"Coming right up."

Ione craned her neck to check the hockey pre-game show.  Her mother's side of the family were lifelong Canadiens fans for generations; Ione, however, became a fan of the Sens as a tween-aged girl and tried to follow them whenever she could.  She wished she was home to watch the game instead of meeting a mysterious constable in a bar.  Ione paused.  A question came her mind; what did the constable look like?  She racked her memory.  She remembered his car, a Ford Crown Victoria with the RCMP logos and livery.  She remembered his uniform.  She remembered the ticket book.  She even remembered his sunglasses.  Ione just couldn't remember any facial details, despite looking right at him.

17 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 4

Ione's ticket turned out to be a meeting request, in The Devil You Know Chapter 4.

Let's see if the oddities were apparent.  The big one is the ticket Ione received in Chapter 3.  Diesel found it, but Ione never took it out of her jacket pocket.  The cat is treating it like it was a threat.  The note could have been a Mountie trying to hit on Ione, but then he added the bit about Paris.  Did it work?  Was it just off enough to get readers wondering?  That's up to readers to answer.

Diesel's antic are something I've seen cats do.  Cats know when their staff are upset and will take it out on the object they believe is the cause.  Contrary to popular belief, cats do have loyalty to their people.  It's just that the cat believes it is in charge.  My own floof has come to me after I've awakened after a bad dream, concerned about me.  In the past, I've had cats come tell me that something was going wrong.  In particular, going back iver twenty years, three cats came to tell me that the burger I was trying to reheat in a microwave a problem, including the little feral who was afraid of people.  She was the one that made me realize that something was serious.  Turns out, the wrapper had foil, which made for a light show.  If I had been more awake, I would have realized the wrapper shouldn't go in, but I had a headache and was tired.

This floof cares about her staff.  Photo by author.
Ione's using a method I tend to use with problems - setting them aside to clear my head and come back refreshed.  It works provided there's no deadline.  Probably shouldn't be used when being trailed by an unknown and having a third person step into the mess.  But, Ione needs to take a step back to get a better picture of what's going on.

It was fun writing Karen's part of the dialogue this chapter.  She doesn't know what is going on, so getting a note from a cop instead of a ticket is more thrilling than odd.  Karen is encouraging her friend's love life.  There's an unstated backstory going on there, something I never really expanded on.  However, Ione and Karen have called each other on first dates to see if the other needed to be extricated.

Friday, meet Jack, in The Devil You Know Chapter 5.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Hercules & Xena Roleplaying Game.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Captain Power & the Soldiers of the Future.

13 Aug 2017

Test Run - Hercules & Xena - Priestess

It's been a while since I've put a character up here.  Since I'm about to review the game anyway, why not give The Hercules & Xena Roleplaying Game a spotlight?  If any TV series looked like an actual RPG as played, it would look like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess.
Xena: "I want to be a warrior princess atoning for past sins."
Gabrielle: "I want to be her sidekick, chronicling her adventures."
Joxer: "I want to be the black sheep from a family of murderers.  Oh, and I don't know which end of a sword to hold."
GM: "Er, you do realize that this is swords and sorcery?"
Joxer: "I do.  And I've written my character's theme song."
GM: “Of course you did.”
Salmoneus: "Now I don't feel so bad for creating a cowardly merchant."
West End Games picked up the license and created a game using their D6 Legends mechanics, a variant of the d6 rules used in Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game.  Very cinematic, which suited both series.  Alas, in 1998, when the game was published, WEG's parent company was going through bankruptcy and drained the game company dry, so Herc & Xena was the last RPG released under the old company.  WEG has been reborn, but it lost all of its licenses, including Star Wars*, Herc & Xena, and Men in Black.

History aside, let's create a character!  I'll go through the step in the book, as usual, but I already have a concept.  A priestess of Athena, cast out of Sparta for both her size and her hobby of studying scrolls.  I could use one of the templates in the book, but none fit the concept, so I'm going with the creation process.

11 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 4

On her day off after returning from Paris, Ione's jitters get to her.
Back at her home, Ione hung up her jacket, then went up to her room.  The email from Babbage's contact lurked in the back of her mind.  She had dismissed it thoroughly, but the encounter with the silver car brought it back.  Ione wished she had seen into the car as it passed, but with the Mountie writing her a ticket, she didn't want to annoy him on top of everything else.

She set up her laptop and fired the program to create a link to the web mail host through the anonymous proxy servers.  Ione tested a few approaches in her head before settling on being accusatory.  Better to go on the offense instead of looking like she was responsible for Babbage's death, her guilty conscious aside.  There had better be an explanation for what happened.  I know I have no leaks.  How were we found out?  I barely escaped!  My people died!  Ione hovered the cursor over the send button.  Sending meant that Babbage's people would know that she, well, her alter ego Ada, was still alive.  At the same time, she needed to know what went wrong.

10 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 3

So much for a mental health day, in The Devil You Know Chapter 3.

Ione needs time to recover.  However, being well aware of my cycle of action-reaction-recover, I decided to switch things up.  Ione's still off-balance, but to show her out of sorts, I need her in sorts.  Thus, her mental health day.  It's another chapter with her in her normal life, from waking up with a cat draped on her to dealing with her family.  Ione's world gets a little bigger.

Diesel is a cat.  I've had many, some who liked to sleep on me, others that needed space.  Some who would leap out of bed when I woke up and others who would just sleep harder despite me trying to extricate myself.  I've even had cats that preferred to sleep on my pillow, forcing me to move aside.  Diesel is the type that likes to curl up right beside his humans, no matter what the weather is.  It's great in the winter, but in the summer, the cat is treating the human as a heat sink.

My little heat sink.  She has no problems curling up beside me in the summer.  Photo by author.

Same heat sink is also good at getting out to the treat drawer when I'm finally out of bed.  However, Tux wasn't as interested, so he'd take his time, usually stopping right in front of me.  Cats will be cats, though they do understand when their humans are upset.  Mischief will curl up on me if I'm having a bad day of if I had a bad dream.

Ione's been out of town for a few days on a mission that she can't talk about.  Naturally, family doesn't understand when she doesn't answer right away.  Since we're seeing everything from her point of view, we're going to have a biased view of her sister, Amy.  The family dynamic comes up again later, but this scene sets up the later scenes and keeps Ione from completely recovering from her trip.

One again, there's evidence that Ione isn't average.  Sure, women ride motorcycles, too, but even a male character riding one despite having a government job is an indication that he's going beyond expectations.  With Ione, couple her riding preferences with her hobby of LARPing and her job of SIGINT analysis, both detailed in last week's commentary.  So, Ione is an urban fantasy heroine in the making.  She doesn't have power, or at least, none have manifested yet, and she has unusual skills, provided that one believes math is unusual.  At the same time, she does need to be a spy thriller lead, if not an experienced agent, then the analyst who gets involved in missions because of specialized knowledge.  It's a balancing act.

The Bridgehead Roastery is a real place.  The chain has more outlets than Starbucks locally, though nowhere near as many as Tim Horton's.  Pumpkin spice everything is available in October, and chocolatines are part of the regular menu.  Ben, though, is not based on a real barista.  He started out as a sympathetic ear for Ione.  It became a running theme for characters in the story - instead of just being around for one scene, they kept returning.  Ben's one of the returners.  But, he did allow me to get a couple of geeky quotes.  "Always in motion, is the future," and "Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff."

Ione's full name finally comes out.  She uses her middle name, mainly because there were too many Sarahs in her grade in school.  Amy's use of the full name is an indication of her anger.  They love each other like sisters, which means they'll stand up for each other, but if they fight, they know exactly where to hit, physically and metaphorically.  To be fair to Amy, she was never told her sister went out of town on work to Paris, someplace she wants to go.  And life goes on, with family being family.

The "chase" sequence, such as it is, is on local roads.  Ione made a poor choice of road.  The Parkway doesn't have many exits.  However, each direction is just two lanes, with curbs and no sidewalks.  A motorcycle can slip through traffic, while Ione's stalker is stuck.  The other feature of the Parkway is that it falls under Federal jurisdiction.  Welcome to the National Capital Region, where there are six separate police forces - Ottawa Police Service and Gatineau Police covering the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Sûreté du Québec covering mainly the highways, the RCMP who have jursdiction over Federal lands, and the Military Police.  And that's not even touching embassy security.

Friday, the citation turns out to be a summons, in The Devil You Know Chapter 4.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, let's remake Disney's The Black Hole.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Hercules & Xena Roleplaying Game.

4 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 3

After a mission's abrupt end, Ione returns home and tries to deal with her regular life with her housemates, Karen and Diesel.
Ione woke up with a weight draped across her legs.  She pushed herself up off her stomach to try to roll over.  "Ugh.  Diesel, time to get up."  Half twisted, she shoved the blankets aside to take a look.  As she expected, the huge grey cat sprawled across her legs.  "Come on, kitten, I want up."  Ione pulled her left leg up.  Diesel slid into the newly created gap.  He let out a loud purr.  Ione let herself collapse back down on the bed.  "Be that way."  With effort, Ione inched her body towards the head of the bed, sliding her right leg out from under the cat.  Soon enough, she was able to climb out around him and get out of bed.  Diesel curled up one the tousled covers and fell back asleep.

After stretching, Ione changed for the day, exchanging her oversized t-shirt and sweat pants for a black tee, her faded jeans, and a fleece-lined grey sweater with the University of Waterloo's seal.  She gave Diesel's ears a scritch, then padded over to the laptop on her desk.  The machine beeped as it came out of hibernation.  Ione sat down, then opened her email.  Scanning through, she saw a number of messages from her sister, the subject lines growing more and more desperate.  Ione rolled her eyes; Amy was more used to instant feedback and couldn't understand why anyone would delay answering.  She figured there were a number of text messages waiting on her phone; checking, Ione was not surprised to find that she was right.

Setting aside her family, Ione started a different program, one that she had written.  The program searched for different anonymizing proxy servers to create an almost untraceable path to a web mail site.  After several seconds, an Opera browser window opened to let Ione sign into the site.  To her surprise and shock, a new email waited for her.  The email address was completely fictional and the subject line was left blank.  After making sure her anti-virus program was up to date, Ione opened the email and read it.  Her brows furrowed; one of Babbage's contacts was trying to find him.  Ione hesitated in responding.  She wondered if it would be best to let him think that she had perished in the explosion at the warehouse along with Babbage.  Ione closed the browser, then ran a second program, again of her own creation, to carefully destroy the path the early application had created.  She stared at the laptop's screen until the screen saver triggered.  "Screw it," she muttered.  "It's a mental health day.  I'm not working."

3 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 2

Ione's mad dash home, in The Devil You Know Chapter 2.

This chapter needed research, which started before November 1, 2013.  With NaNoWriMo, all writing that goes towards the final word count must be done in November.  Other work, like outlines and research, can be done before NaNo starts.  So I took the time to figure out how Ione could get home.  It's not easy getting from Paris to Ottawa.  There are no direct flights.  Some flights required changing planes five times.  Routing through Toronto led to wait times longer than it would take to drive from Pearson to Ottawa.  Same thing happened with Montreal, but I remembered one other option available.  VIA Rail does stop at the airport, allowing for a quick transfer without a long wait.  Really, it's a two hour drive between Ottawa and Montreal; wait times of four to five hours just didn't make sense, even with Ione's jet lag.  The flight Ione does take would involve a trip to Toronto, then another wait and another plane to Ottawa.  Yeah.

We now know what Ione's job is.  That was part of the plan from the beginning; in a spy thriller, one needs a character working for an intelligence agency.  Ione, though, is an analyst.  More details are coming about why she was in Paris.  Her basement office owes more to the TV series Adderly than anywhere I've worked, though she isn't part of Miscellaneous Affairs.  Other than that nod, the office is a cubicle farm much like any corporate or government office.  A photo from a cube farm could be from any department, whether Agriculture or Defense.

Olivier, the admin assistant, is loosely based on someone I met at a government department.  This someone was in an important office - think high up - and kept the office running smoothly so that the people he worked for could focus on their jobs.  Olivier is the same, even if he's not in as high-placed an office as the guy I based him on.  And for someone with such a brief appearance, I put a bit of work into him.  Olivier is from Gatineau, dresses better than anyone else in the office, and is gay.  He also should be the best paid employee there, but that's up to the the union's bargaining people, not me.  Without Oliver, Ione's office would be a mess.

While I don't like basing characters on real people, I did it twice this chapter.  Normally, I feel that writing should be creative, that the characters should be independant of who I've met.  However, cats don't get their noses out of joint when they get fictionalized.  Diesel is based on Charlie, a cat I once had, a long time ago.  Charlie was a big grey cat who moved in with us just after we moved to the new place.  He loved to hug, which made picking him up the first few times awkward.  A strange cat is struggling in my arms as I'm trying to put him back outside, but once he got turned around, he hugged.  No one had the heart to kick him out after that.  Not that putting him back outside would have stopped him.  Charlie figured out how the window screens worked, and was able to slide them open so he could walk in.  Diesel is based off Charlie, from his appearance to his loud purr to his tiny mew.  Diesel has his own traits, too, and also his own story arc.  Yes, even the cat got a story arc.

Karen isn't based on anyone.  Her role is to be Ione's confidant.  Before the weird sets in, it helps to have a baseline normal.  It gives Ione a chance to reset herself and the readers time to see her personal life.  And there are indications that Ione is on her own path.  She's involved in a LARP - live action roleplaying.  Her job is analyzing data for an intelligence agency.  So, Ione's normal may not be everyone else's.

One thing I tend to do is create new locations, from schools to bars, mainly to give a place my own spin.  This time around, I'm using real locations.  Ione and Karen's home is based on a quick look in the neighbourhood I wanted.  The Prescott is on Preston Avenue, a real road in a real city.  I felt the nature of the spy thriller genre needed a bit of verity to anchor the nature of the urban fantasy.  It also made checking details easier.  I'll point out when I create a new place, though.  It does happen, but to to the same degree as Unruly.

The description of the Prescott also let me cement the time of year.  It's not just the fall, it's that bizarre overlap between the end of baseball season, with playoffs, and the beginning of hockey season, with Maple Leaf fans' hopes for a winning season haven't been crushed yet.  October also brings a relief from the summer heat.  Also handy, since TDYK was being written for NaNo, I could just look at the weather where the action was happening and not have to worry about historical trends.  Ottawa happened to be warmer than Paris that fall, which surprised me.  But, it got worked in.

Friday, is it paranoia if there is someone following Ione, in The Devil You Know Chapter 3
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, a second look at the A-Team movie.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, let's remake Disney's The Black Hole.

28 Jul 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 2

Working with a group of British agents, Ione's mission goes up in flames, literally, after an unknown man with a sword causes a warehouse to explode.
Ione held on to the back of a chair in her manager's office to stand up.  Sleep was fleeting since the explosion in Paris.  The Canadian Consulate managed to get a last minute flight for her, a SN Brussels Airlines flight through Brussels and Montreal, followed by taking VIA rail from Trudeau Airport to Ottawa.  Ione managed to grab a short catnap in a chair designed with function over comfort in the basement office CSIS maintained, waking up stiff and feeling worse.  She also managed a short sleep before the turbulence grew to be too much.  Even before the turbulence, her dreams replayed the events at the warehouse, ending on the shadowy man unaffected by the flames.

27 Jul 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 1

Ione's mission goes up in flames, in The Devil You Know Chapter 1.

Welcome to the new story!  I wrote the bulk of The Devil You Know during NaNo 2013.  I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go with the story and did some early research, though I still had to do some quick searches later in the plot.  I'd classify TDYK as Urban Fantasy, crossed with Spy Thriller, though I won't say why right now.  I hope the two genres mesh well and that elements from both come through.

The most noticeable feature is the font change.  I switched to a serif-based font for one reason, my lead character's name.  When I wrote TDYK, I used LibreOffice, where I have it default to Times New Roman.  My blog, though, is in Arial, a sans-serif font.  Thus, when Ione's name appears, it looks like lone.  Or, to show the difference, when Ione's name appears, it looks like lone.  Something that I will have to remember for the future, though I now use Wordpad defaulting to Arial when I write, more for the speed of loading than anything else.

Chapter 1 also got something done that wouldn't normally be done.  In January 2014, Ottawa's Municipal Liaiasons held a how-to-edit session for the WriMos in the region.  I couldn't make it, but I offered TDYK to be a sample.  Thanks to Angela S. Stone, I have a first chapter that looks far better than it did originally.  First chapters are always the roughest; I'm trying to get the ideas out in a way that looks reasonable and sets me up for the rest of the story, but the rhythm isn't quite there.  This time out, a much better presentation.

I wanted to start the story with a bang, so I blew up a warehouse.  With Ione outside, just how the explosion happened is left a mystery, as is the identity of the person who caused it and how he managed to survive being in the inferno.  That should be the hook, though other mysteries will come up.

TDYK had a rough plan, as mentioned.  Two main characters, including Ione, with supporting characters as needed.  However, what I hadn't expected was several of those supporting roles to expand.  I'll point them out along the way.  Every character has a story arc, some that get wrapped up, others that remain unravelled, and that was part of why the roles got expanded.  It helped having a loose plan instead of s tight outline.  Gave me more room to write as characters lingered.

21 Jul 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 1

Ione shivered in the early morning chill.  She adjusted her grey overcoat, trying to keep warm and trying to ignore the weight of the SIG Sauer under her left shoulder.  The pistol was on loan from her British hosts.  Ione peered into the false dawn at the warehouse.  Two of her hosts enter the building.

"Everyone, look lively."  The British woman's tone was clipped and sharp.  Acknowledgements clicked over the radio.  Ione added hers as she crouched down near a a scraggly bush.  A mist built up over the warehouse's parking lot.

Gemma's voice broke the silence again.  "Car and a truck arriving."

Ione looked past the warehouse taking note of the approaching headlights.  Once the vehicles stopped, she raised her binoculars and zoomed in on the passengers.  "Four people total," she reported.  "Confirm that Babbage is there."  Babbage was the code name Ione chose for her contact, a weapons dealer.

"Acknowledged," Michael replied.  "Time to get to work."

20 Jul 2017

The Soul Blade Epilogue - Commentary

Brenna had her talk with Matt, in The Soul Blade Epilogue.

Okay, now it's over.  So many dangling plot points.  But, the last chapter gets some explanations that didn't fit with the direction I was going in.  And Brenna got to talk to Matt properly.  Sort of.

Matt probably should have called first to avoid surprising Brenna.  If he did, he'd never have been able to see flustered!Brenna.  And while Brenna being flustered would add to a NaNoWriMo word count, I wasn't writing the epilogue for a NaNo event.  She's just trying to work out her thoughts and separate them from her desires.  Good thing the door is open and facing the rest of the neighbours.

Nellie's is fictional, but I searched for a typical pub menu in Brenna's area to figure out what the vegetarian offerings are.  Fish and chips is a standard, though, and beat a burger.  I figured Matt wouldn't go for beef when out with Brenna.  He's not oblivious.  The ambiance is generic, but most pubs aren't going to have specialized music mid-afternoon.  Top 40 music is inoffensive, usually, and easy to come by.  Matt can take Brenna to a bar that plays Japanese metal idol on a later date.

There are some quick explanations thrown in.  Why Grace stepped up to fight Brenna instead of letting someone else.  Why Brenna had Matt get closer in the fight.  Why Brenna wears gloves and had a bed in her van.  What the Ashen Man's plan was, though even Grace didn't tell the full story; he was going to open a portal, get his minions to bring his body, transfer back, then sacrifice Brenna.  Grace might have seen that, but didn't tell her sister.

Brenna's psychometry is a plot-breaking ability.  She just has to touch something to get a good read on what events happened with it.  However, it's always on.  Just brushing up against something can trigger a vision.  She gave Matt fair warning about the ability, and she can refrain from looking even when curious.  Try not to think about what happens in hotel rooms.  Best case, Brenna gets a flash of passion.  Worst, well, hotel rooms have been murder scenes, and it's awkward to ask if a crime occurred in the room she's assigned.

I have no idea where Brenna's jealous streak came from.  An early version of Brenna had it, but she was sixteen and had just received the Blade, so the possessiveness came from the sudden increase in sexual desire and her not coping at all with it.  But here?  Brenna doesn't share, apparently.  Tillie is who Matt says she is, someone who gave him advice.  She has her own story, but she didn't get a chance to tell it here, so feel free to make up your own backstory for her.  All characters have a story; some just don't get the time in the spotlight to tell it.

And now, that is it for The Soul Blade.  I hope everyone reading enjoyed it.  A new story starts next week, The Devil You Know, from NaNo 2013.  Since I was able to get The Soul Blade done because of posting it here, I'm going to give that a shot with the new work.  The Devil You Know is an urban fantasy crossed with a spy thriller.  Have fun!

Friday, the first chapter of a new story, The Devil You Know.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, a hiatus week.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Return.

14 Jul 2017

The Soul Blade - Epilogue

"Too many futures."
"Get off me, fluff."
"Get out of my body!"
"What part of 'No one dies,' did you not get?"
Three days of being stuck at home alone was all that Brenna could take.  Her father had his work and Amy filling his time.  Grace kept busy working two jobs to raise money for her move to LA and reading ahead for her fall classes while still juggling time with her friends.  Her visiting family left for home Sunday evening, leaving the house quiet again.  With her van crushed, Brenna couldn't leave the house without bothering Missy.  Even her sewing starting to be tedious, especially with no way to get out to a craft show or a small convention to sell the results.  Joni hadn't reappeared after the fight, worrying Brenna a bit, but without being able to get to Bert Stanford's building, she couldn't just assume her mother had finally moved on.  She also didn't want to know if her mother was getting friendly with Bert; it was bad enough that Brenna's own sex drive was overactive, she didn't want to know that her mother's was still working.

13 Jul 2017

Boomers Like Me - Commentary 2 of 2

A rogue robot has existential angst in the conclusion of "Boomers Like Me".

Lorelei has made her escape and has a new life as Erin.  The story picks up six months later.  A lot of the details I might have fleshed out more if I wasn't hampered by a word count limit.  The fanfic contest encouraged short stories, mainly for the ease of the judges.  I mentioned the difference last week, but it doesn't hurt to say it again here - writing short stories is a different enough skill from writing novels.  Short stories have to get to the point, so there's no time to get into details, like Lorelei meeting with the black marketer to get new identification.  It's worth trying both formats, especially if you're writing fan fiction = it lets you discover and expand your writing abilities.

Lorelei/Erin is now in Tokyo.  Why there?  That's where the Knight Sabres are, the main characters of Bubblegum Crisis.  My approach to fanfic is that the characters who appear in the original do need to make an appearance.  Otherwise, I'm just writing original fiction under someone else's title*.  And I have a rogue boomer, the main target for the Knight Sabres.  So, this chapter has a lot more name dropping than the first.  The AD Police - the unit responsible for fighting rogue boomers - also appear, mostly as cannon fodder.  Other names dropped - Hot Legs, the nightclub Priss performs in; Lady S633, home to Sylia Stingray, the head of the Knight Sabres; Silky Doll, Sylia's cover business, a lingerie story; the Member II pistol, a cut down rifle that Pris prefers to use.

Ariko, though, is my creation.  She's a fellow courier, though she rides a bicycle, and a way to show that Lorelei/Erin is fitting in with others.  Ariko doesn't suspect that her friend is a rogue boomer, and Erin isn't telling her, for good reasons.  Ariko's main purpose is to get Erin into Silky Doll.  However, she's also the reality anchor for the boomer.  As long as Ariko is there, Erin can fit in with humans.

The trip to Silky Doll does raise an odd question - what sort of underwear does a robot wear?  Most people want comfort, some want to feel sexy.  Given the purpose of Lorelei's make and model, she's going to have touch sensors.  But if she's buying for herself, instead of being supplied by an owner, then the question is just hanging there.  I figured Erin would go with inexpensive underwear - something that can last under normal wear and tear but without the issues that arise from digestion and reproduction.  She's not dating; there's no need for anything fancy, and her programming lets her feel sexy no matter what she wears.  Naturally, I only think about this question now instead of while writing - the answer was so obvious then, but without the thought processes that led to the conclusion.

The above is something to think about no matter the character, really.  What sort of clothes - underwear or outerwear - would the character wear?  Sometimes personality dictates the answer.  Autumn in Unruly has a drawer full of lacy underclothes while Skye has a number of sports bras along with fancier underwear for special occasions.  Nasty from Subject 13 wears comfortable underwear, often mismatched because she doesn't care about that sort of thing most of the time.  Although, she would have made the effort to make sure panties and bra matched in Crossover.

The main thrust of Part II was to have robot existential angst.  Erin is well aware of who and what she is.  If she was merely a runaway robot, she'd be returned after a memory wipe.  However, she killed her owner.  Anyone hunting her isn't going to stop to consider what happened to cause her to kill, just that she killed and is dangerous.  Erin is well aware of that, too, thanks to news reports about the AD Police.  Renegade boomers get shut down, usually in a violent way.

There was a Part III written, but dropped for the fanfic contest.  It's been lost over the course of several hard drive changes, but I still have some of the feedback.  The last part was the last recording Erin made, ending with two words - "I am."  I really wish I could remember what I had there.

I also had ideas for a part in between Part II and the lost Part III..  It would have involved Wagner's youngest daughter, mentioned in Part I, tracking down Lorelei and using Ariko as a pawn.  Keep in mind that Lorelei considers the daughter to be much like her father.  Erin would have had to reveal her secret to Ariko during the chapter.  The events would force Erin to decide which was more important to her, Ariko's life or her own.  It wouldn't have been an easy choice, either.  I have a start to it, from Ariko's point of view.  However, "Boomers Like Me" was one of three fanfics that got me wondering why I wasn't creating an original work, considering how little of the main Bubblegum Crisis cast appear in the story.

I don't normally write in the first person.  I prefer ensemble casts, even when I have a solo lead - see also Subject 13 and The Soul Blade.  With a first person perspective, the only events that are shown are those that the main character is around to participate in or, at least, witness.  The fight between the AD Police and the rogue boomer - taken from the first episode of the OAV - had Erin hiding.  I kept the fight short - the purpose was to propel Erin into her angst, not make her a participant.  The hardest part of writing in the first person was keeping the tenses straight.  The first draft had tense problems all the way through.  I naturally tried to use past tense, which is how most stories are told.  Except, the opening sentence - "He is dead" - doesn't hit as hard in the past tense.  One sentence determined the nature of the writing that followed.

First person also meant trying to figure out how to get key details out to the reader.  Look at this commentary - I use "I" when referring to myself, not my name.  Yet, I needed the name out there early enough so that it didn't look like I was hiding it.  Wagner's bodyguard used Lorelei's name more so that the reader knew who she was.  Likewise, getting a description of Lorelei in resulted in a scene where she changes her looks.  Apparently, you can get away with one mirror scene in a writing career to describe a character, and that was mine.

"Boomers Like Me" was my most serious fanfic.  I tended towards oddities and crossovers, or even odd crossovers.  The effort was about the same, though in 2000, I was still on the improvement curve.  The story let me stretch my abilities, which is always a good thing.  Without "Boomers Like Me", I might not have had the confidence for /Subject 13/, and that work was a gateway to longer efforts.

Friday, The Soul Blade epilogue.  Surprise!
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Bond Project introduction..
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, a hiatus week.  Things got weird for me this week.  Sorry.

* If you read last week's commentary, that's why I switched to original fiction - I was just using the setting, not the characters.  Note that there can be exceptions, mostly where the setting is large enough that original characters can explore without ever running into anyone from the main work.  Works that can support such approaches include the various Star Trek series and, arguably, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica (either version).

11 Jul 2017

NaNo 2017 - Four Months to Go!

With under four months until November, it's time to review the possible projects.  I listed a few back in April, but I've had time to think about what to do.  Some ideas have changed, some ideas have been added to the list.

The Shadowrun serial may be the front runner right now.  I have the first two arcs of the series in mind, and the cast is more or less stable.  Ultimately, I want to take the serial and adapt it as an audio script, to see how that process would turn out.  Why audio?  The special effects are easier; no need to use extensive CGI for trolls and dwarves and no need for makeup effects for elves.

The time-travelling kaiju invasion is also shaping up, though it will need a portion written before NaNo starts, just to set up what happens in the first chapter.  Because of time travel, it's not a prologue.  Temporal mechanics flip cause and effect, but the bit written before NaNo won't count towards the 50k words needed.  I probably won't reach the events for some time in the story.  I'm also working out the rules the defense team uses when time travelling.  Since they are still trying to figure out temporal physics, they're doing everything possible to avoid paradox.  Their method of travelling uses a variation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, where they can know where a team is going or when a team is going, but not both.  It's easier to plan for a known time than a known location, so the team uses the former when planning.  Going to the late 19th Century?  These are the typical clothes, this is a typical weapon, and tell not!Burt to hide his rifle better.

The Terran Commonwealth stories - the new colony and the courier crew - are on hold.  The ideas are sound, but plots are thin.  They're on the back burner while I work out just what the casts are supposed to do.  Not a problem, really.  Other ideas are going to take their place.

Finishing The Devil You Know is also off the table.  Posting The Soul Blade created a push to finish it, so why not try that again with The Devil You Know?  That means that once "Boomers Like Me" is complete, you can expect to see TDYK appearing on Fridays.

An older project, though, wants attention.  Mecha Academy, an older work that hasn't seen much light, could use a rewrite of the beginning to properly set up the characters.  When I was working on it, I was trying to turn it into a novel.  The story isn't working out that way, though.  It is a serial at its heart, and would work best in that format.  The chapters need changing to reflect the new approach, and I do need to work out what all the characters' arcs are, not just two in particular.  Fortunately, the setting is mostly built, and can be easily expanded as necessary.  I even worked out rank structures, since the academy is for military cadets.

I also have an old Final Fantasy VIII fanfic that could get the numbers filed off without losing much from the story.  As I mentioned in the first "Boomers Like Me" commentary, this was one of three fanfics I worked on that had me wondering why I didn't just do original fiction.  There are going to be questions, such as why is there a military academy taking in young teenagers and sending them out as elite soldiers before they turn eighteen, to be worked out, but rebuilding the world may help.  I'll also have to make sure that it doesn't look too much like RWBY, which has a similar premise.  However, the characters are solid enough and can be moved to the new setting without too much effort.

Unruly and Subject 13 both need more love.  I've posted some ideas about Unruly already, and there are some outstanding plot points that need development and wrappage.  Subject 13, though, was left just before what would be a massive crossover event in a major comics line and is a major headache for a serial with just one title.  I may want to skip to the aftermath of the battle against the Four Horsement of the Apocalypse to get Nasty back on her own arc so she can finally return home.

At some point, I'll have to narrow down the selection.  Right now, though, I do want the wider range, to let me see what intrigues me enough to delve into the idea further.  I don't want a replay of 2015, where The Elf's Prisoner was the last minute choice with next to no preparation and world building done on the fly.  Made for an interesting November, one where I wasn't sure what direction I was going in.  With the above, I do have an idea of where I'm going, though without a path set.

9 Jul 2017

The Unruly Gap

A recent Lost in Translation review gave me a reason to watch a couple of the St. Trinian's films.  For those not aware of St. Trinian's, it's a cartoon gag comic strip created by Ronald Searle that had been adapted as a series of movies first in the Fifties and then again in 2007.  The girls of the school are, well, delinquents, the type who see field hockey as an excuse to turn their violent instincts against another school instead of one another.  St.  Trinian's is also the grandmother to Unruly by way of the tabletop RPG, Hellcats & Hockeysticks, itself essentially being the unofficial St. Trinian's RPG.  After viewing both the 1954 The Belles of St. Trinian's and the 2007 reboot St. Trinian's, I realized one thing about Unruly.

I have to step up the Unrulies' activities.

While Caitlin could easily deal with the sixth form girls from the '54 film, the fourth form girls would give her fits.  Most of that is on Caitlin - she's a Bond villain-in-training, not a criminal mastermind.  She wouldn't be able to handle the raw chaos that the fourth formers provide.  Most of my work so far has been with Laura and Caitlin, and the redhead is conservative, which rubbed off on her roomies.

The 2007 film, though, well, they would eat the Unrulies for lunch and ask for seconds.  Just listen to their school song.  The best the Unrulies have is "Tubthumping"; it's even where the school's motto, "Concidimur sed resurgimus"* comes from, thanks to my University of Alberta Classics faculty cousin and her husband.  Even the '54 movie had "In flagrante delecto", or "Caught in the act".  The difference is mottos and school songs reflects the difference in schools.  The Gephardt Academy is there for girls who are trouble and have nowhere else to go.  St. Trinian's is for budding and blooming criminals.  Still, there are lessons to use.

The big one is that there isn't an Unruly version of the posh totties of the reboot movie, the girls who are getting by more on their beauty than their brains.  Cassie was originally meant to be this type of girl, but she went in a different direction, and the rest of the Unrulies don't really give her the respect or credit for being able to do anything with walking her through step by step.  Autumn thinks she's in that group, but she's easily distracted.  Oddly, Skye may turn out to be better for the role, but she doesn't advertise the fact.

Again, putting Laura in with Caitlin means that using beauty for gains is off the table.  It's just below Caitlin, and she's the mastermind of the dorm room.  However, there are more girls than just that one room.  I haven't fleshed out the full senior class.  There's about twenty or so girls in the one class, English, they all have in common, and I've only named eleven publicly and one more in a work in progress.  That gives me at least two more dorm rooms to fill, and Cassie does run the Fashion Club.  There's room.

What can I do to close the gap and make the Unrulies the threat that they're supposed to be.  I do have two characters who have ties to the criminal element.  Vamsi fills the Flash Harry role, the go-between and fixer between the Unrulies and the Oshawa criminal element.  Laura is more familiar with parts of the Toronto underground, though she's more supply side than thief.  That does leave a huge gap that could be filled by a yet-unnamed Unruly.  And the Academy does look for girls who are creative at breaking the law.  There's always room for a Bay Street insider and a budding young cat burglar.

* "Concidimur sed resurgimus/Subjectos nos non retinebitis" for the full chorus.  It does scan with the music.

7 Jul 2017

Boomers Like Me - Part 2 of 2

(Note: Bubblegum Crisis and related characters copyright and trademark of Artic and Youmex, with North American rights held by AnimEigo and are used here without permission.  "Boomers Like Me" was originally submitted to Anime North's fanfiction contest in 2000, winning the Best Action/Suspense category.)

II -- June, 2032

        It's been six months since, well, since escaping.  Shortly after I arrived in Tokyo, I adopted a new identity.  I found a black marketer in the Yokohama district who was willing to allow me to pay for the identity in part with my hard currency and in part with services rendered.  In exchange for my new identity as Erin Merrick, I became a courier for the black marketer.  I still owe him a favour, and he is waiting to call it in.

        After paying back most of what I owed, I was hired by a legitimate courier company.  I paid for my motorcycle and some protection -- a Member II pistol -- with returns on stock investments.  I made sure that with every side job I took, some of the money was invested in the stock market.  The black marketer allowed me to miss payments several weeks after seeing how well I was doing.

        That brings me to now.  It's late.  I have a package to be delivered.  Business never sleeps in Tokyo, and the lights from street lamps and ads guide me down the street.  The only thing on my mind is to deliver the package as quickly as I can.

6 Jul 2017

Boomers Like Me - Commentary 1 of 2

Last week, I posted the first of a two-part fanfic.  "Boomers Like Me" was one of three fan works I created that had me wondering why I didn't just do original work, the other two being an incomplete story based on Final Fantasy VIII and an incomplete alternate-future Sailor Moon story partially posted elsewhere.  That last one involved enough world building that I could have created an original work for the same effort.

I am not putting down fanfiction.  It's a great way for budding authors to learn the mechanics of writing while building confidence and finding their writing voice where the the stakes are low.  Experimenting is to be expected.  But when you start making wholesale changes to the setting and characters, it may be time to make the leap to original fiction, even if it's still inspired by fandom.  Again, everyone has to start somewhere.

The bulk of "Boomers Like Me" was written December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000.  I ended 1999 the way I spent most of the year - doing overtime.  The Y2K bug was more hype than effect, mainly because IT departments were working hard to make sure that critical systems didn't cause major time problems, such as rolling back a hundred years or jumping ahead 17 000*.  I was supposed to be scheduling test files to make sure that they triggered properly.  They did.  But in between the scheduling, which was easily done from a batch file, I typed up `Boomers Like Me".  It was a few weeks later when I finally had the time to sleep and wind down a bit from work when I realized that I wrote a story about an artificially intelligent robot having a homicidal break the night of the Y2K bug.

Lorelei's origin came from R. Talsorian's Bubblegum Crisis RPG as much as she did the direct-to-video anime series.  Granted, the game was based on the anime, and included all the elements from both Bubblegum Crisis and the follow-up/prequel series, AD Police.  The book was ideal for looking up little details after watching the series.  In the game, it was possible to be a boomer, the setting's name for a robot, but the suggestion was to keep the android character around the same power level as human PCs.  Thus, combat boomers were out, but the BU-33S, aka the sexaroid, was allowed.

Every bit of writing advice I'd heard included making sure that the story started with a hook that would keep readers wanting more.  The very short first paragraph, all of two words, was what I thought of - short, succinct, enough information to show what just happened without necessarily going through the actual murder itself.  The follow up paragraph went right into the main character's mindset with her immediate panic.  The entire first part was the escape, getting away from the scene of the crime, building towards the end.

During Lorelei's escape, I tossed in what would normally be mundane encounters.  Lorelei, though, is in full flight, running away and sees everything as a potential threat to her existence.  The annoying seatmate attracts attention from station security.  Customs follows up on obvious discrepancies, and this was before security theatre existed in airports.  At the same time, Lorelei is an artificial intelligence.  Her thoughts come from heuristics that include simulated emotions.  Her thinking shows how she invokes those emotions.

The idea of an android gaining sentience is an old one.  In film, renegade robots can trace back to the German film Metropolis.  Not all robots go mad when they gain sentience - Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation is a perfect example.  Lorelei committed murder just before the story started, but it may have been justified.  So, temporary insanity or self-defense?

As mentioned in the disclaimer at the beginning of the chapter, "Boomers Like Me" won its category at Anime North's fanfic contest.  I wound up winning something for the contest's first five years, never getting the grand prize, but placing no lower than Honourable Mention, getting category wins four years out of five.  This is after slowly turning around my desire to write and not having confidence.  Apparently, I can write.  Go fig.

The fanfic contest had a 5000-word limit, which I may have slipped by or came close to exceeding with "Boomers Like Me".  This puts the work solidly into the short story range.  The skills needed to write a short story are just different enough from writing novel-length works, something I discovered in 2006 with Lethal Ladies.  Short stories reward conciseness and getting to the point quickly.  There really isn't much time for in depth development.  Everything needed has to be out there.  Yet, I didn't want to just state what everything was.  Details are there, but much of it is through inference, including the personality of Lorelei's owner.

Friday, the conclusion of "Boomers Like Me".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, St Trinian's.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Bond Project introduction.

* I was using Windows 3.1 running on top of DOS 6.22.  DOS handled the change from 1999 to 2000 with no problems. Windows 3.1 used the last two digits of the year, then added a `19`in front, leading to years being listed as 19100.  It still worked, mainly because Windows ran on top of DOS at the time, so files were dated correctly, just not displayed properly.

30 Jun 2017

Boomers Like Me - Part 1 of 2

(Note: Bubblegum Crisis and related characters copyright and trademark of Artic and Youmex, with North American rights held by AnimEigo and are used here without permission.  Boomers Like Me was originally submitted to Anime North's fanfiction contest in 2000, winning the Best Action/Suspense category.)
I -- January, 2032

        He's dead.

        I let go of his throat, letting his lifeless body fall back on the bed.  His eyes stare up at the mirror on the ceiling.  I step back, rearranging what little clothes I had on.  The bra ripped during the struggle he put up while I strangled him.  No matter - the bra is easily replaced.  I take it off, and put on my business suit.  His business suit - the one he picked out for me.  I'll have to replace it.

        It dawns on me - I can't be caught here.  The laws are strict -- I will be killed if I am caught with the body.  I have to leave.  I finish dressing and stuff the ruined bra into a briefcase.  No, that won't be enough.  I need to leave the station, get down to Earth, hide in the population.  He has too many people up here who will hunt me down if I stay.  Yes, I will go down.

29 Jun 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 39 - Commentary

Brenna got her happy ending, in The Soul Blade Chapter 39.

And it's done!  I had two false starts, resulting in rearranging scenes to try to get things worked out, then rearranging again because I needed a different beginning.  There was a lot that wound up not getting in, in order to have the end happen.

Brenna's possession was set up back in Chapter 24.  She and Matt discussed what happened on their class trip to Gettysburg.  Brenna's susceptibility to being possessed was one of the core ideas I had for her, long before the story was even a concept.  She refers back to the Gettysburg trip to remind readers of the conversation, so it doesn't feel like the twist came from nowhere.  Grace's resistance to telepathy, empathy, and all that has been hinted as well through the story.  Brenna has used the Blade on her sister a few times, though only really twice because of a major fight between them.  So Grace is the one to keep the possessed Brenna busy.

I needed Brenna to come up with the solution to retake her body.  She's the heroine.  She can't sit back and wait for someone else to come to her rescue.  The original idea was that with Grace being attacked and hurt, Brenna would be able to regain some control.  However, the idea hit me that Brenna knows her own body's reactions than her unwanted guest would.  Thus, Matt.  The combination of Grace in danger and Matt in proximity gave Brenna what she needed to get some control back.  The colours in the Blade represent that fight for control.  At least there, I kept to my original idea.

The wrap up threatened to continue.  Again, there was a lot outstanding that needed some sort of conclusion, from McCoy's investigation to Tricia's body.  I almost forgot that she was still there, lying on the road, dead from multiple gunshot woulds.  Matt's placing was good, which means he also gets to be investigated by Internal Affairs.  Gary and Keith still needed one last appearance - as Greg mentioned in the comments for Chapter 37, they're not going to just leave their daughters in danger, even if the daughters are more capable in the fight than they are.  I was starting to see ending fatigue, which was the reason why I couldn't finish the story in 2009.

There's still some outstanding problems.  Joni is the biggest one.  An idea that came to mind that I wish I had thought of sooner was that Joni's time on Earth as Brenna's advisor is coming to an end.  Brenna did mention that it may be time.  The day to day writing left that potential dangling, though.  Oops?

Now, if I were to adapt the story, I would treat what I'd written as the pilot movie or mini-series, with a lot of editing to bring to a manageable length, then move on with a new premise.  Detective McCoy gets tagged to head a special unit that investigates paranormal oddities.  Not quite X-Files; McCoy is aware that the supernatural exists.  He'd have a small staff, including Matt, Cruz, and Henderson, and would have Brenna on a retainer for when it really does look like the supernatural is involved.  The focus remains on Brenna, though.  It's her life, though she can now work with Matt.  I have no idea who to cast, so feel free to suggest names in the comments below.

I want to thank a few people.  First, the Ottawa NaNoWriMo Region for making November an enjoyable time, especially as one of the Municipal Liaisons in 2009.  You guys made things easy and kept me going.

A big thank you to Greg Taylor, who not only left comments on the story here on the blog, but also provided an early look.  Go over to his site and check out his own work, and vote on his current Epsilon Project!

And thank all of you who have read through The Soul Blade.  You've made it through three-quarters of a year with weekly updates on a story that might not have been finished at all.

Friday, the first chapter of a two-part story.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Batman (1966).
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, St. Trinian's.