17 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 18

Previously:
Ione scrounged up money for Jack's trip to the casino.
Ione's dream of a chocolate warehouse exploding was cut off by the ringing of the phone.  She groaned as she tried to remember through the fog of sleep where she was.  The phone blared again, getting cut off by Mara answering it, her voice raspy.  Ione pushed herself up, willing herself to get moving.  "Ione, are you up?" Mara asked.

"Almost."

"That was Jack.  He's waiting in the lobby for you."

"Good for him."  Ione heard Mara's sharp bark of laughter.  "I'm up."  The brunette rolled out of bed.  "Do you need the bathroom?"

Mara threw off her covers.  "You go ahead."

Ione opened her sports bag.  She stared at her jeans for a moment, then passed over them for her new  cream skirt.  Ione reached for her new shirt, then stopped as she spied her corset under her jeans.  Even though Jack asked her to bring the corset, she had decided to pack it.  When she bought it, she had made sure that it would match her jacket, just in case.  Ione grabbed the corset and a fresh pair of underwear, the padded to the bathroom.

When Ione came back out, Mara was up and out of bed.  The redhead turned to look.  "Looking sharp, Ione."

"Thanks."  Ione sat down on the edge of the bed to pull on her boots.  "Are you coming down with me?"

"Jack said he was waiting for you.  He never mentioned me."

16 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 17

Getting Jack his money, in The Devil You Know Chapter 17.

The Hôtel de Paris is another real location.  Monte Carlo isn't that big and shoehorning another luxury hotel in the city wasn't something I was up for at this point in writing.  I didn't even know Jack was going to bring Ione here when I started.  Pantsing, bringing excitement to writing!

My French got another work out this chapter.  I think most of the dialogue is just me exercising my own knowledge, without having to touch a translation site.  I did check an online menu locally to check how "club sandwich" translated.  Here's what was said, if you don't want to bother translating yourself:
"Oui.  C'est le club sandwich?" -> "Yes.  That's the club sandwich."
"Oui, madelle." -> "Yes, miss."  (Madelle is the equivalent to Ms, really, but translation also includes gist, not just word-for-word.)
"Sur le bureau, merci." -> "On the desk, thanks,"
"Non, non madelle.  Monsieur Jack a arrangé pour tout.  Merci." -> "No, no miss.  Mister Jack arranged for everything."
"Oui, ici chambre trois quartoirse.  Nous voulons deux tortes chocolates et deux Cokes, s'il vous plait." -> "Yes, this is room three fourteen. We want two chocolate tortes and two Cokes, please."
"Oui, parfait.  Merci!" -> "Yes, perfect.  Thanks!"
Ione is fluent in French, probably way more than I am.  However, her accent, which I didn't describe properly, is Montrealais, which tends to be nasal.  Oui, normally sounding like "oo-wee" with the first syllable cut short, comes out as "oo-way", and imagine that pronounced by Fran Drescher.  To get the full effect, I recommend the film Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which uses French Canadian accents for humour and as a clue to why the villain is on a killing spree.  Hint: I recognized the villain's French accent from being from Western Canada.  I had a French instructor in university from Saskatchewan one semester, than a Montrealais instructor the following semester.  They pointed out the differences in accents in class.

Mara is a very sensual woman and very comfortable with her body.  She may be the one character I've written who has no issues with her appearance across all the stories I've worked on.  Get undressed in the middle of a crowded room?  It's not a big deal for her, and, as seen in Chapter 12, she doesn't believe in underwear.  There is a reason and it will be revealed in Chapter 19.  Meanwhile, enjoy the idea that she has a cleavage of holding.

The idea of computer work, like hacking a government database or selling Dunning-Krugerrands sounds exciting.  Visually, it's just someone staring at a screen and possibly typing.  These days, hacking can be done at a push of a button provided that all the coding and compiling is already complete.  So, how did Ione cash in her BitCoins?  With a few clicks.  It's a key moment for her, demonstrating that she is top notch in her field.  Her field just doesn't make for exciting action.  And to earn my place on some NSA agent's watch list, I researched crypto-currency including then-current exchange rates and how to turn BitCoins into real money.  Later in The Devil You Know, I cement my place on the list.  Writing and research, perfect for raising suspicions in intel agents everywhere.

Friday, Gemma catches up, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 18.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, continuing the remakes MST3K featured movies, with Robot Holocaust.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, remaking another MST3K featured movie, Manhunt in Space.

12 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 2 Update

Total Words: 26 780
Words Since Last Update: 15 170
Completed Chapters: 4, 5, 6

Mecha Academy progresses!  Many more words have been written since the end of Week 1.  Chapters are completed!  Conflicts are happening!  Let's see where things stand.

First as mentioned last week, Mecha Academy is an older project that I'm redoing from scratch.  I have some scenes in mind, but they're starting to look less and less likely to happen.  That's why I try not to do full rewrites - I go off on new tangents.  So, that leaves iterative edits.

Second, when I get into a groove when writing, I tend to forget details, mostly names.  I've spelled Lars' last name two different ways and a rifle model had a number changed from its introduction to its next mention in the next paragraph.  Oops.  Fortunately, all this is fixable during a break from writing.  Repairs are easier than creation.

Third, I was able to get ahead of pace far faster than I expected.  I've only had two days where I didn't reach even the minimum word count, 1667, to maintain a good NaNo pace.  I'm still a few days ahead of pace despite that.

That covered, the story is still coming along.  Conflicts are building up.  The conflict between Rhiannon and Dusty escalated to physical violence.  Miyami has taken Rhiannon's side, leaving Dusty sleeping on a couch for now.  Ric is trying to keep the squad together despite the history Dusty and Rhiannon share.  Lars, alas, hasn't gotten his own conflict yet.  Instead, he's getting the romance, so far one sided.  A few new characters have appeared, ones not mentioned in the original work, including a sergeant handling the training regimen for the cadets and Susanna, who has her sights on Lars.

The chapters are running longer than they did in Unruly.  I'm letting them go as long as needed for now, but I did have to cut Chapter 5 off.before it took over.  It was starting to look more like my earlier works, where I hadn't figured out chaptering.  I did have a good place to end it, letting me change the point of view and the tone in Chapter 6.

I'm building up to the first major event, an obstacle course that will determine who stays and who leaves.  One of the points I keep returning to is that the squad has to act together, even if they can't stand each other.  This needs to pay off.  I also need to get Miyami to be willing to tolerate Dusty.  One of the changes from the original idea has Miyami be far more a royalist than before.  Miyami knows the history between Dusty and Rhiannon and isn't afraid to show where her loyalties are.  I need her to start wondering about Dusty.  I did slip that in, but it's subtle.

Part of my goals during NaNoWriMo is to maintain my life and not become a hermit.  Some of that is done by getting out to write-ins, a social occasion where everyone writes.  It is surprisingly productive.  I also still get out to most of my gaming, though the missed session isn`t because of NaNo.  My life now, though, also includes this blog and Lost in Translation.  While the Friday fiction posts are usually written well in advance, the commentaries aren't.  Likewise, Lost in Translation is typically done a few days before the day it goes live.  In the past, I've dropped the commentary near the end of November because I couldn't think of what to say.  This year, I'm trying a new approach that I thought would be easier - taking a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode and writing on how the featured movie could be remade better.  Easier, right.  Danger!! Death Ray ran over 2000 words, over a day's worth of work in NaNo alone.  I may have to rethink this approach.

Coming up, the obstacle course to wrap up the first arc.  After that, I need to get the cast into their mecha and let slip Dusty's past to the rest of her class.  I need this to work out well and leave some questions with the audience so that the legal drama coming much, much later can call back to it.

10 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 17

Previously:
Ione explained how she tracked Babbage.
The limousine passed through the border between France and Monaco without Ione noticing the change.  To her, the road continued with just a sign indicating the border.  She did notice a few agents, but the agents did not seem to see the limo.  Not that it mattered to her.  Ione just wanted to stretch for a bit.  Mara managed to avoid a few traffic snarls, but a collision lost them some time.

Mara brought the limo to a stop outside l'Hôtel de Paris.  Valets walked over and opened the passenger doors while the red haired driver got out to open the trunk.  Ione stepped out, then stretched.  She heard her spine crack.  Groaning, she followed Jack inside.  The lobby took Ione's breath away with its marble floors, crystal chandelier, and arched ceiling.  Jack brought the brunette to a chair.  "Wait here.  Try not to call attention to yourself."

Ione looked around at the people in the lobby.  "How?  I think they might be calling the police to take me away for vagrancy."

9 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 16

On the road to Monte Carlo, in The Devil You Know Chapter 16.

Modern technology really helps writers working on contemporary novels.  There is so much available a search engine inquiry away.  Need a hotel?  Ta-daa!  Need to know what bistros are around?  Ta-daa!  Need to know the flight speed of an unladen swallow?  Ta-daa!  Directions, flight schedules, maps, photos, anything that may be needed but difficult to get out to obtain is easy to find.  When I needed to figure out how long it would take for Mara to get from Paris to Monte Carlo, I chose two landmarks in both locations, then checked Google Maps for directions.  Much easier than the method I was taught in high school geography, which was to measure the length of a road with a sheet of paper, turning it and marking the sheet when the road curved, then figuring out the total distance on the paper and multiplying that by the map's scale.  Google Maps even helpfully calculates driving time and points out where traffic is backed up.  All I had to do was apply the Mara factor, where she would ignore speed limits and possibly physics and add in time spent at pit stops.

The full quote Ione refers to is, "The avalanche has already started.  It is too late for the pebbles to vote."  Ambassador Kosh was well known for such adages.  In essence, events are in motion, it's too late to bail now.  Ione is finding herself swept up in what's happening, whether she wants to be there or not.  She did have a chance to say no, back in Chapter 7; she just didn't.

Ione's explanation of crypto-currency came from a brief but intense bit of research.  I knew of BitCoins prior to starting the story; they were the reason why Ione got involved.  However, details were needed to make it look like Ione knew what she was talking about.  BitCoins are the best known crypto-currency, but they're useless for the purpose of being money.  Few places take them as currency; there's no going into a store to purchase groceries with BitCoins.  They've been treated more as a stock investment, but even there, there is no stability.  The main use has been in two fields, for criminal endeavors and as Dunning-Krugerrands.  Not all crypto-currency shares the same fate; DogeCoins became a way for an online forum to reward members when they did something positive.

If you think Chapter 16 is shorter than Chapter 15, you'd be right.  I've mentioned it before, but it doesn't hurt to repeat it now - The Devil You Know was written as a novel, not a serial.  Chapters will take up the size they need instead of being planned to be similar sizes.  Chapter 16 is about a third the length of the previous chapter.  Ione's travelling to Monte Carlo and Jack is starting to get his ducks lined up for what he has planned there.  Other than that, not much happens, but key information is given.

Friday, hello Monte Carlo, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 17.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, beginning a short series of remaking movies featured on MST3K, starting with Danger!!  Death Ray.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, continuing remaking MST3K featured movies, with Robot Holocaust.

5 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 1 Update

Total Words: 11 610
Words Since Last Update: 11 610
Completed Chapters: 1, 2, 3

NaNoWriMo has begun!  This time, I'm re-creating an old project from scratch, using what I've written previously as a scaffold for this year's project.  So far, I've discovered a few new things that I hadn't realized before.  Let me introduce the characters first, though.

Rhiannon: Originally meant to be the sheltered daughter of a noble, she's not as sheltered, despite her parents best efforts.  She's taking charge early, though she is stepping up as the new heir to her father's duchy.

Lars: The local boy, big and brawny.  He's naive compared to Ric, below, but he's got a good head on his shoulders.  Lars is also now the squad's medic with first aid training, go fig.  He also already understands the basics of the Centurion training mecha, since his father's heavy farm machines have similar controls.

Ric:  He was meant originally to be the anime-style ace pilot.  Now, he's chatting up most girls his age, having hit on a barista in his first scene.  Successfully.  He's also planning on help Lars in that area.  But before pegging Ric as an MRA-type, his big asset is that he /listens/ to the women he talks to, and he's doing the same with Lars.  He's not bi, but if /Mecha Academy/ ever gets a visual treatment (TV, film, live action or animated), I do expect Ric and Lars to be shipped.

Miyami:  The underaged student and hacker of the group.  She still has that element, but she also wants to puch people.  In the junk.  Who am I to disappoint her?

Dusty:  The atoner, returning to the Empire after her parents defected.  She and Rhiannon have a history, which has come out already.  Some of the details I need for later scenes came out as well, so go me?

The big changes are that Ric and Lars have a proper intro and that Miyami wants to punch someone in the junk.  It's not that Miyami is a nasty person.  She just doesn't believe in a fair fight.

Chapter 1 is complete and was longer than expected.  I gave each of the main cast a scene of their own before bringing them together.  The cliffhanger I figured out about halfway through writing the chapter.  Chapter 2 is complete, though I had to end it before I wanted because of how long it got.  Chapter 3 focused on the big inter-character conflict, but let me sort of explore the main location; emotionally, it's not a happy chapter.  Chapter 4 got started and features the first slap.  It looks like Rhiannon and Dusty are going to have a rougher relationship than in the original plans.  Speaking of, I think I've veered off those, with only the general gist remaining.  The fun of being a pantser.

The writing process feels more natural now.  Okay, /my/ writing process feels more natural now.  I don't recommend my process to anyone, but it works for me.  The flow feels better, I'm not stopped for long for a direction, and I can get far more output than I could in 2006.  What has changed?  This is my twelvth NaNo, so I have a writing method that works for me.  I'm also writing more over the year, thanks to blogging here and to Lost in Translation.  Even the latter's 1000 words a week, typically done in one sitting, means I get regular writing done.  Fiction or metafiction, it's still writing.  Add in the commentaries for the weekly fiction posts and having to write an ending to The Soul Blade; the act of writing feels more natural now.  Not quite second nature, but I feel like I know what I'm doing now.  An added bonus, I'm not wincing at what I write anymore.  Sure, I find a few clunky lines, but overall, the writing is far more solid than with Lethal Ladies from 2006.

My goal for the coming week is to just keep adding to my word count.  NaNo is a marathon, not a sprint, and the more I can get done now, the more buffer I have if I stumble on the way.

3 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 16

Previously:
Mara helped Ione get ready for Monte Carlo and Gemma tried to get ahead.
Ione and Mara met Jack at city hall.  If he noticed Ione's new outfit, he never said.  Instead, he told Mara to start driving.  He settled back in his seat.  Ione looked over at him.  "Where are we going?"

"Monte Carlo.  I haven't changed my mind since I left the hotel."

"I know that, but how are we getting there?"

Jack turned to look at Ione.  "We're driving.  Technically, Mara's driving and we're riding in the back."

"Driving?  How far is it?"

"For most people, ten hours."  He faced the front again.  "Mara, how long?"

"Eight hours, non-stop, depending on the traffic at the tolls."

Ione raised an eyebrow.  "Eight hours?  And what if I need to use the facilities?  What about eating?"

"I already put lunch in the car," Mara said.

"And when we stop for gas, you can use the facilities at the station.  Haven't you been on long rides before?"

Ione nodded.  "To get home from school for long weekends.  But I planned out the trip, especially when I had passengers with me."

Jack patted Ione's leather-clad leg.  "This trip is planned, other than being a last minute idea."

"So much for what the pebble wants."  Ione sat back in her seat.

2 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 15

Oh, Mara, in The Devil You Know Chapter 15.

As mentioned in the commentary for Chapter 12, Le Bristol is a real location.  I chose it because it was a luxury hotel and it had photos of its suites for visitors to see.  The tub is real and became the point that sealed the decision to use the hotel as the setting.  I haven't been there because the hotel is expensive, but I have an imagination.  No one pays top Euro for a tub that doesn't have hot water on demand.

If you're wondering why Ione didn't just lock the bathroom door, you're thinking ahead more than I was while I was writing.  However, who is to say that it wasn't locked?  Yes, that means there is something more to Mara than the surface, but I've been trying to hint at that with bother her and Jack anyway.  And while it is true that Mara and Ione are both women, Mara is far more comfortable in her skin than Ione is in her own.  Most people, whether they admit it publicly or not, have something about them that they wish was different, men and women alike.  Since most of The Devil You Know is written from Ione's point-of-view, even though the story is third person, the bias reflects how she feels, even about herself.  It would be a completely different story from Mara's view*.

Would the bathroom scene have happened if Ione was Ian?  It's something that I hadn't considered at the time, but with the increased sensitivity about diversity and respect of late, it's something to ask.  The answer is "maybe."  I was writing by the seat of my pants at this point, with an unplanned character who loves attention.  Mara would have walked on Ian in the tub, but I don't know if Ian would have been taking a bath or taking a shower.  There might have been some sexual tension, at least on Ian's side, which might have killed an upcoming twist.  The scene would have had a different feel, as would the shopping trip.  Mara wouldn't be looking at a possible friend like she does Ione.

The shopping trip could have been glossed over.  "With Mara's advice, Ione bought a light green blouse, a cream skirt, a backless black dress, and a pair of soft leather pants."  Done.  Except, that wasn't the goal, not that I had one when I started writing the scene.  The shopping gave Ione and Mara time together where the latter wasn't trying to flash everyone else in the scene.  Mara can be decent.  Her sense of appropriateness is completely different from Ione's, though.  However, she does want to help Ione, in her own way.  Complimenting Ione's legs was more to encourage the woman to display them more.

The return of Gemma came up when I realized that, much like The Soul Blade in 2009, the plot was happening elsewhere.  Jack was keeping his cards close to his vest, Ione was waiting for messages from Karen, and Mara was more likely to go to a strip club and put on her own show than do anything to advance the plot.  That mean switching to Karen's subplot.  Since Gemma was the mover and shaker for that element, she got to headline the scene.  When the warehouse exploded in Chapter 1, Gemma was outside.  Like Ione, she wasn't in the blast.  Gemma was one of the few planned characters for the story and I always intended for her to be involved.  With the focus on Ione, I didn't get a chance to jump back to Gemma.  But she did appear; in Chapter 3 in the silver car following Ione, in Chapter 8 waiting outside the nightclub for Ione, in Chapter 10 following Ione in a new car, and in Chapter 14 described by Karen as the intruder.  Sometimes, pantsing does allow for planning, but only if the idea comes early enough.

Gemma's reappearance was the point where I realized that I never gave Karen a last name.  With the magic of after-the-fact editing, Karen's last name is now Dietzman.  The name just never came up.  Ione may be the only character to have a first, middle, and last name.  Her sister Amy only has a last name because she's related.  Most of the time, I try to find a way to work in a last name as soon as possible.  The longer a story goes without the name drop, the more apparent the drop becomes.  Yet, the only last name that came up naturally was Ione's, thanks to Jack impersonating a police officer.  Ione doesn't use her roomie's last name in general, though she does know it, and would only use her sister's full name when upset, like how Amy did with Ione's.  It's a tough call at times; when does it make sense to include a full name?  And I'll have had to figure that out for this year's NaNoWriMo, made more interesting by having an ensemble main cast of five characters.  Whee!

Friday, on the road to Monte Carlo, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 16.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, how the adaptation sausage is made.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, beginning a short series of remaking movies featured on MST3K, starting with Danger!  Death Ray!!

* Mara is petitioning for her own story.  She might even get one if I can figure out a plot for her.

1 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Starts Now!

NaNoWriMo is go!

This summer got away from me.  Other worries were on my mind, ending with the passing of Mischief.  This ate at brain processing cycles that should have been used for working out details for November.

Thus, the project for NaNoWriMo 2017 is Mecha Academy.

I've done some work on Mecha Academy in the past, but the goal will be a rewrite, to properly introduce the characters, and give all the characters an arc, not just a certain two.  The end goal will be a serial, with three academic years worked out, at least in rough.  However, I still expect the story to take its own path.  I write by the seat of my pants, and even with what I have now, I will have to create new content which may affect the course of the story.

Let's get it on!

27 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 15

Previously:
Karen's safe, but someone is definitely after Ione.
Ione woke up to an alarm clock blaring.  She pulled the covers over her head to shut out the sound.  The blankets were ripped back, exposing her and her nightwear.  Ione opened her eyes and saw Mara standing at the side of the bed, blankets in hand.  "Good morning, Ione."

As she sat up, Ione mumbled her, "Good morning," back to the red haired woman.  "Wha ti' izzit?"

"I'm sorry?"

Ione cleared her throat and blinked the sleep out of her eyes.  "What time is it?"  Her voice was still rough from lack of use.

"Almost six."

"Six?"  Ione fell back on the bed.  "Why so early?"

Jack walked out of the dining room.  "We have work to do, my dear.  Up!  Up and at 'em!"

"I'm done with the tub," Mara said.  She skirted around the bed to get to where Ione was sprawled.  "Let's go."  She grabbed Ione's arm and pulled her up.

"I'm up!"  Ione shrugged out of Mara's grip as she stood up.  "Why so early?"

26 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 14

Dinner with Jack kept Ione off-balance, in The Devil You Know Chapter 14.

Ah, dinner.  Jack may have gone to excess here.  Escargot, elk, baby vegetables, all meant to tantalize and tempt taste buds.  I haven't had escargot, though I have been at a table where someone else has.  The texture is what dissuades me; taste isn't the only thing food has.  I also can't eat lobster bisque or peas because of the texture.  I have had elk and moose, both wild and tame.  A not-so-local anymore burger chain has elk on the menu.  Worth a try.

Ione's concerns are being waved off by Jack.  He's not doing that because she's a woman, despite appearances.  He'd have done the same thing to everyone else.  He needs Ione, so he's going to keep her around as long as he can.  Since he's the one providing transportation, he has the upper hand.  However, yes, I am aware of what it looks like.  Ione is trying to push back.  Jack, despite appearances, is not a good person.  Feel free to hate him for what he's doing here.

Computer science owes a lot to two women.  The first is Ada Lovelace, who essentially invented computer programming.  While Charles Babbage developed the difference engine to help polynomial algebra calculations, Lovelace worked out a way to program the device.  The other woman making huge strides in the field was Admiral Grace Hopper, who, among her achievements, developed both UNIVAC and the COBOL programming language.  Given Ione's educational background - math major, computer science minor, post-grad work in cryptography - having her use historical figures in computer science as a source of names made sense.  From there, though, the number of usable names drops.  Most of the major work has been done in the past few decades; the silicon chip opened up the field to better computational approaches that weren't feasible with vacuum tubes or even transistors.  However, if anyone claims that computer science is for guys only, remember Ada Lovelace and Admiral Hopper.  Without them, the field would be much poorer or even non-existant.

Karen is safe, though making a poorly thought out decision.  Unlike Ione, Karen is stucj with the vagaries of commercial flights.  Ottawa, despite being the nation's capital, has few direct flights overseas.  Everything tends to get routed through Toronto, adding time and cost to trips.  It is possible to avoid Hogtown, but that still means going through a different hub, like O'Hare in Chicago.  It's a pain.  Flights I've personally done include Ottawa-Toronto-Vancouver, Ottawa-Chicago-Los Angeles, and Ottawa-Toronto-Helsinki-Stockholm-Oslo, with the Helsinki-Stockholm-Oslo portion being one plane with two stops.  I ran into the same thing when trying to get Ione home from Paris.  This is why Jack got his own jet for the story, to avoid all the hassle of switching planes.  And, since his jet needs a co-pilot, thank commercial air passenger service for having Mara in the story.

Gemma was one of the British agents in Chapter 1 working with Ione to shut down the arms dealer.  She wasn't inside the warehouse when it exploded.  Gemma was outside and had spotted the man suspected of destroying the warehouse and its contents and killing everyone inside.  I planned to have her return, and we will see her again soon.

Mara made a quick appearance.  The opinion of Mara's outfit is Ione's.  If the viewpoint character had been male, the dress may have been better appreciated.  And, still, Mara doesn't think the dress is revealing, or revealing enough.  Again, for a character who exists because of a minor detail, Mara is making the most of being in the story.

Diesel, the cat that lives with Ione and Karen, came back because I wanted to set a detail up for later.  However, I'm not sure if I want that detail anymore.  It's not critical, but it adds to the idea of the weirdness surrounding Ione right now.  However, the story of how he moved in isn't odd.  I've had a cat, Charlie, who did the same thing.  My family had just moved in to a new place, and it was warm, so windows were open, including the basement.  One cat had already slipped in through the basement window, so I closed it, not wanting our own cat, Selina, to get out the same way.  Later, I found Charlie inside.  I picked him up and he seemed to struggle in my arms.  I put him out, then went to check the basement window, which was still closed.  When I got back upstairs, there was Charlie in the kitchen.  I noticed that the screen to the kitchen window was wide open, so I put Charlie back out and closed the screen.  That should have been the end, except I saw Charlie put his claws in the screen and slide it over so he could get in.  And the struggling?  Charlie's preferred way of being carried was to hug, a paw on each shoulder - he was big enough to do that - and purring all the way.  How do you kick out a cat that hugs?  Selina wasn't happy, but Charlie let her be in charge.

More Eighties music comes up, this time Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It?" being quoted.  Ione counters with "Love Hurts" by Nazareth.  It's odd; most of my leads during NaNo are not only single, but also not looking.  Even Brenna, who ended her story with Matt in The Soul Blade, wasn't looking for anyone at the beginning.  There are exceptions.  Nasty in Crossover started with Eric, so single but not looking.  Bronya and Morwenna had each other, so not looking, but not single.  Digital Magic was supposed to be a romance, but given the trend of my leads to not be looking, I do see why the story didn't turn out to be romantic.

Jack leaves Ione with a tough question.  Who is she supposed to be if not herself?  It's one that hangs over all our heads.  Not everyone realizes it's there.  For me, I do know that I put on personae as needed.  I'm still me and the persona is an aspect of me, but it's not the full me.  Some of this is just to deal with situations.  When I did call centre work, I had a professional persona on to try to give me distance between the callers and myself.  I have a different professional persona for tech support work, where I don't need the extra armour but still need some professionalism.  When meeting new people, I have a more reserved persona.  When I get comfortable around a group of people, the real me starts coming through.  It does feel, at times, that I put on the personae like a jacket.  They're all me, though, but just the parts of me that I want to project.  Ione hasn't figured that out - she hasn't needed to.

Friday, Preparing for Monte Carlo, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 15.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, when does a contemporary work become a historical piece>
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, how the adaptation sausage is made.

20 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 14

Previously:
Ione introduced Jack to her late contact's connections.
Not long after Ione returned to the hotel room with Jack and Mara did a knock come from the door.  Mara answered and allowed a bellboy to enter with a large tray.  Jack showed the bellboy to the meeting room, where the tray was put down, and gave the hotel employee a generous tip.  Once he had escorted the bellboy out, he turned to Ione.  "Dinner is served.  I trust that it will meet with your standards."

Ione followed Jack back to the meeting room.  The tray held a three course meal and a bottle of champagne on ice.  Jack held out a chair for the young woman.  Ione sat down, not quiet believing what she saw.  "Jack, isn't this, well, a bit much?"

"Nonsense.  Life is for living.  How can you live without experiencing anything new."  He picked up a covered plate.  "I believe this is the escargot.  The chef here does wondrous things to snails."  Jack removed the cover.  "Excellent.  You should try one."  He set a shell down on a plate that he then passed to Ione.

"Um, okay."  Ione eyed the shell on her plate.  "How do I eat this?"

Jack demonstrated, picking up a shell for himself.  He used a cocktail fork to dig inside the shell, loosening the snail within, before pulling the delicacy out and eating it.  "Like that."

Ione tried to imitate what Jack did, using her own cocktail fork to pull out the snail.  With effort, she pulled the snail out.  She held it up in front of her eyes before popping it into her mouth.  The butter and garlic flooded her tastebuds as she chewed.  After a few minutes, she swallowed.

19 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 13

Ione met with the next level up in the underworld chain, in The Devil You Know Chapter 13.

In the past, my rhythm when writing was have a major event then give the characters time to process what happened.  Ione should be so lucky.  After being flown to Paris and dumped back into a case that she's been pulled off, Ione now has to deal with a missing roomie while also trying to convince a skeptical hard case that she wasn't the reason a deal literally exploded.  And Jack doesn't seem to care.

The Terrasse du Septième is another real place, though the interior is somewhat generic.  I did a quick bit of research before writing the scene, enough to figure out the general decor and menu.  Ione is in a tourist area, somewhere that has people coming and going and not really paying attention to much else except the sights.  Perfect to have a quiet conversation while not risking being stabbed or shot in the pub.  Ione doesn't want to wind up like Greedo.

Jack is fashionably late.  He has a sense of drama.  Too bad he didn't give Ione a copy of his script.  Then again, Jack doesn't play well with others.  He is protective of his things.  Yes, that does have implications for Ione.  But, as long as she is useful to Jack, Ione is safe.  Relatively safe.  She doesn't have to worry about Babbage's people.  At this point, Jack is now the one they need to worry about.  He's also acting as Ione's superior, so that is where the focus should be, not on her.  Jack has also done his homework.  At this point, assume that Jack knows far more than anyone else involved, including Ione and even Marco's bosses.  Jack is playing a deeper game than the rest of the players, who think they're merely actors upon a stage.

Ione is the viewpoint character.  Considering some of the reveals coming much later, it made writing easier to just follow Ione.  She's in the centre of the action most of the time, and when she isn't, the goal is getting out her frustration.  Karen is missing and Ione doesn't know what happened.  Jack disappears without comment and Ione doesn't know what happened.  Talking to Mara doesn't clear anything up.  Ione is in the dark, but as she discovers what's happening, so do the readers.  The goal with The Devil You Know was to have a character piece together the mystery and then take charge.  Ione will find her new balance, but she has more problems to deal with before that can happen.

NaNoWriMo encourages writing.  Anything that distracts from writing should be minimized.  But for participants who write by the seat of their pants, like me, at some point, research needs to be done.  Sometimes, the research can be the start of a writing session, as an upcoming scene gets fleshed out before typing.  Sometimes, though, a detail comes up that needs research that would stall the flow of writing.  Minor details, like the flower Ione put in her hair, need to be worked out, but the amount of work to figure that out wasn't worth the time that would be taken from writing the scene.  In those cases, I use a placeholder.  Works great for minor details, like flower names.  I can research later, when the crunch isn't on.  Of course, that means getting to the research far sooner than while preparing the chapter for posting.  Whoops.  And the difficult part is that floral arrangements do take time to research.  The goal was to find a flower that wouldn't be a mouthful for someone to say, and Jack removed the obvious choice, the rose.  Still, I still use the trick; when writing, don't interrupt the flow to research a minor detail.  Save it for later, either before the next writing session or for after the first draft is done.

Friday, Jack pulls Ione in deeper, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 14.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, cultural changes over time and adaptations.

13 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 13

Previously:
Ah, Paris, where Ione can try to make sense of her new companions.
Ione woke up the next day in the middle of one of the king-sized beds.  The morning sun streamed in through the window.  With effort, Ione rolled over on to her back, trying to figure out where she was.  Realization set in.  Ione threw off her blankets and struggled to get to the edge of the bed.

"Good morning, Ione."  Jack waved from the couch.  "You slept well, I see."

"What time is it?"  Ione's voice was rough.

"Morning.  Otherwise, it does not matter.  What is time?"

Ione fell backwards on the bed.  "I don't need philosophy first thing after I wake up."  She glanced at Jack, a charcoal three-piece suit hanging smartly on his frame.  "Business meeting?"

"I don't know.  Do I have one today?"

Ione rolled out of bed.  She smoothed out her old t-shirt.  "I need coffee first."

Jack pointed at a silver urn on the low coffee table.  "Help yourself."

"Thanks."  Ione padded on her bare feet, enjoying the feel of the rug.  She poured herself a mug, taking a whiff of the brown liquid.  "This isn't the civet coffee, is it?"

"No, my dear."  Jack set down his newspaper.  "Decadent, isn't it?"

12 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 12

Ione set up a meet between Jack and her late contact's people, in The Devil You Know Chapter 12.

Jack is a busy person.  He has other projects on the go besides the work he's doing with Ione.  This is where Mara, who was only supposed to be his co-pilot, came in handy.  Jack can't be expected to do all the work himself.  Back when I was prepping The Devil You Know, I had some idea of who Jack is and what he does.  As the story was written, more of Jack's working style came out.  He is hands-on, but he is well aware of appearances.  Thus, well, Mara, plus all the other trappings he surrounds himself with.  Jack was fun to write, though.

Ione finally revealed why she uses her middle name.  Should be obvious, but the explanation provided many extra words towards NaNoWriMo's word count.  The goal here wasn't so much to tell why Ione uses her middle name as show how she felt about having to share a name.  Names are part of our core; changing one is a major deal.  Finding out that you have to share something so personal means shaking up one's own being, especially when young.  Ione's solution was to use her middle, a name that is rare in the wild.  In contrast, Jack doesn't worry about being lost in a crowd with his name.  Such is Jack.

I used a real location for the hotel in Paris.  Le Bristol exists and has an Imperial Suite, which could be viewed on the hotel's website.  It is that lush, just from the photos.  Again, the purpose for using real locations was two-fold.  The first was to give a sense of realness for when the oddities began.  If everything is weird, then the deliberate and needed oddness won't stand out.  Jack should be standing out right now - he's shady and enjoying the expensive things in life.  Creating a fictional hotel wouldn't have driven that home.  The other reason is that it was far easier to just use an existing location.  Unlike Unruly, where I'm involving schools and want to make sure that there's no impact on minors, The Devil You Know features adults going to a luxury hotel.  The risk for the hotel is far less than it is for high school students in Oshawa; Le Bristol is not a hive of scum and villainy unlike The Academy for Unruly Girls.

Glenn Frey's "Smuggler's Blues", from the album The Allnighter, turns out to be a very useful song for me.  I've referred to it for gaming, particularly for espionage RPGs and Shadowrun.  While I don't associate the song with cyberpunk of any flavour, it captures the criminal element.  I wasn't alone; an episode of Miami Vice was based on "Smuggler's Blues" and guest starred Frey as a smuggling pilot.  And, yes, Ione was a mere baby when the song came out.

Mara was fun to write.  I mentioned that last time and I'll mention it again.  She is Ms Fanservice, and there is a reason that will be revealed later.  For now, she's a contrast to Ione.  Where Ione has maintained a professional demeanor in her life, Mara gets away with being a hedonist.  Ione is a private person, in part because she can't really talk about work.  Mara doesn't really have a brain-to-mouth filter, though some of it is for effect.  However, Ione does need someone to confide in.  Karen is on the other side of the Atlantic.  Ione doesn't really like Mara, mostly from first impressions, but she needs to vent to someone and Jack doesn't have a sympathtic ear.  And, yes, Mara was not lying about her underwear status.

Friday, problems back home and meeting Pascal, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 13.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the expectations of nostalgia.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight.

11 Oct 2017

Happy Fifth!

Well, time flies.  It's been five years since I created this blog.  Wow.

I started the blog to see if I could maintain one.  I had no idea of what I was going to fill it with, either, though NaNoWriMo was coming up.  The challenge was to make regular updates.  Guess what?

I've been making regular updates.  I've created content.  I've posted fiction, starting way back with Subject 13 #1 and continued through until even now.  And if the fiction was work I'd already written, then I started commentary tracks, just to make sure I got something new done.  There's also the gaming material.  Which, yeah, crosses with the fiction because the two are related.  I got to play around with ideas and even if no one else is reading them, I know that I've done something.

Some fun stats.  This is the nth post since starting.  The most popular post, by count, is the first chapter of Digital Magic, of all things.  That supplanted the "Cars as Girls" post, so I suspect bots were looking for key words and phrases.  The fiction is gaining attention, though.

So, joyous fifth anniversary, all!

6 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 12

Previously:
Jack presented the problem to Ione using the Socratic method.
Jack's car turned out to be a black Mercedes-Benz, stretched to become a limousine.  Mara sat up in the driver's compartment, steering the behemoth out of the airport and on to the road into Paris proper.  Ione sat in the back with Jack, her eyes taking in the lush red interior and feeling well out of her league.  For his part, Jack sat back in his seat.  He turned on the small television built into the divider between the passenger and the driver.  Channel after channel, Jack flipped through the dial before turning the TV off again.  He grimaced.

"That's a first."  Ione turned to watch out her window.

"Just catching up with some outstanding work.  Nothing you need to be concerned about."  Jack leaned forward and tapped on the tinted window acting as a partial barrier to the front seat.  The window lowered.  "Mara, after you've dropped us off, please see Monsieur Laval.  He needs some encouragement."  Mara nodded, then raised the window.

"That's probably far more than I needed to know."

5 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 11

Welcome to Paris, bienvenue à Paris, in The Devil You Know Chapter 11.

Some information on how Ione found and tracked her contact, some character development for Jack and Mara, and a bit of fun, at least for the author.  At least the group is now in Paris, so the plot can get going again.

Ione's tracking of the Dunning-Kruggerand reflects the use of the cryptocurrency.  Money moves up the chain, from low-end dealers to high-end criminal enterprises, leading to Silk Road 2.0.  From there, it's just a matter of correlating when the cryptocurrency moved with known criminal deals to find out what was bought and sold.  The catch, though. is that over half of the Dunning-Kruggerand is in the hands of one organization, Mt. Gox, formerly the Magic the Gathering Online Exchange, thus well suited for tracking virtual widgets of dubious value.

Mara turned out to be fun to write.  I did almost no work on her, just figuring out her appearance and a general background, and that was because Jack's jet needed a co-pilot.  Mara made the most of her first appearance.  She then became useful to have, as will be seen next chapter.  However, Ione doesn't seem to like Mara.  The main reason is that Ione worked /hard/ to get where she is.  She had to show that she was as good as her male counterparts by putting in twice the work.  Mara, from Ione's point of view, is eye candy, getting her job because of her looks instead of ability.  First impressions, and Mara isn't helping her cause.  It's part of the reason Ione corrected herself after asking for a Coke.  She wanted the drink, not the powder.

The scene with French Customs was more to show Jack's influence on the people around him than for any other reason, other than exercising my meager French skills.  Most of the dialogue was my own work, with just quick checks to make sure I used the right gender of preposition.  Some translations if you didn't understand what was happening, though not word for word:
"Monsieur Renaud.  Et Monsieur Favre.  Trés enchanté.  Vous vous souvenez Madelle Mara, oui?" -> "Mister Renard.  And Mister Favre.  So delighted.  You remember Ms Mara, yes?"
"Et qui est elle?  Un autre des votres filles, Monsieur Jacques?" -> "And who is this?  Another of your girls, Mister Jacques?"
"Oh, non, non, non, Monsieur Favre.  Elle ne travaille pas pour moi.  Mais, j'ai besoin d'aide et elle est la personne idéalle." -> "Oh, no, no, no, Mister Favre.  She doesn't work for me.  But, I need help and she is the ideal person."
"Je viens d'Ottawa.  Mon employe est dans le gouvrement du Canada." -> "I come from Ottawa.  My job is in the Government of Canada."
"Avez vous de contrebande dans votres velises?" -> "Do you have any contraband in your luggage?"
"Non, Monsieur.  Vour pourrez regarder si vous voulez." -> "No, sir.  You can look if you want."
"Et vous, Monsieur/ Jacques?  Avez vous de contrebande?" -> "And you, Mister Jacques?  Do you have any contraband?"
"Moi?  Non, Monsieur.  Jamais." -> "Me?  No, sir.  Never."
If it seems like Jack is getting off lightly here, he is.  It's not for a lack of researching procedures at Customs, either.  This is deliberate.  Jack knows Renaud and Favre.  And they know Jack.  Earlier in the chapter, Jack mentioned that he analyzes people.  He has analyzed Renaud and Favre in the past.  And note the vousvoyer; everyone is using the formal vous instead of the familiar tu.

Friday, correcting Jack and arranging meets, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 12.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, expanded universes.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, balancing nostalgia and adaptations.

29 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 11

Previously:
Ione slipped a tail as she went out to get on Jack's private jet.
With breakfast out of the way, Ione settled in for the flight.  She brought out her laptop and started going through the files she collected and built tracing Babbage.  The money trail was easy; she had made notes as her virtual coins travelled through transaction after transaction.  Each time, the electronic currency was used in a shady deal.  Drugs at first, low amounts of a variety that Ione figured were meant for street deals, but as the currency moved up the chain, the purchases changed from drugs to guns, then from guns to rockets.  This is where Babbage came in.  Ione wasn't sure of his real name, nor did she want to know.  His purchases, though, were enough for her to flag him for Lawrence before tracing his emails and instant messaging.  If she wanted, she could easily have followed him through social media.

A squeal from the cockpit pulled Ione's attention away from her work.  Mara's high-pitched giggle penetrated through the cockpit door.  "At least they closed the door," Ione muttered.  She tried to ignore the noises coming from the front of the jet, but couldn't focus on her files.  Ione set down her laptop, closing its lid, and picked up her tablet.  If she couldn't concentrate, one of the games on the tablet should distract her.

28 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 10

Ione's stalker returned, but couldn't keep up as she left for Paris, in The Devil You Know Chapter 10.

Ione's stalker appears yet again and still unseen.  The stalker has a new car after a mysterious engine problem in Chapter 8.  Following a bus is difficult.  It's not that the bus is faster; it isn't.  The bus makes stops and it starts getting obvious that there's a tail when the car doesn't take the opportunity to pass.  Downtown Ione has the advantage.  Ottawa is a mess of one-way streets that even local drivers can't handle.  Where she got off the bus, she has a block to get to the stop she wants while her stalker has to find a north-bound street that will allow for a left turn to go back.  The main north-south road, Bank, doesn't allow left turns during rush because of the heavy traffic.  The westbound trip means that the stalker can't follow.  Even with today's LRT construction, the bus eventually hits the bus-only Transitway, and there isn't a road that runs parallel.  Even the station at the Bayshore mall is away from the road and parking.  Ione used local transit to give her stalker the slip.

I'm taking some liberties with the capabilities of the Carp Airport.  It's not a big airport, meant more for private planes than heavy commercial traffic.  A jet may be pushing the runway's capacity.  Yet, somehow Jack managed to land one there.  That alone should have people wondering.  If it isn't, I must have either hooked the reader or lost the reader.  The reader can decide.  However, I did give a nod to reality during take-off.  Jack really doesn't listen to people in authority.

Mara makes her first appearance.  She wasn't a planned character at all.  I needed her because Jack's jet needs a co-pilot.  But once she was there, she became useful and brought along her own backstory and story arc.  Mara was also fun to write.  She's not just an extension of Jack, though that was the original reason for her inclusion.  Mara joins Ben in the roster of characters who didn't remain in their original scenes.

The references to 10am all come from the MST3K episode featuring Danger! Death Ray.  The hero of the movie, Bart Fargo, at one point helps himself to his hotel room's bar, and damn the excessive cost to the room.  The riff of the moment is, "It's 10am somewhere," implying that Bart may have a drinking problem.  The audience will if they drank every time the main music played.  The line stuck in my head for some reason, so it'll get tossed in every now and then when appropriate.

Kopi luwak is a real coffee.  The beans pass through the digestive system of the civet cat before being collected.  The "wild sourced" means that someone had to go looking for the beans.  I'm sure it's a delicacy and the processing removes any, um, residue from the civet, but I'll pass, thanks.  Why does Jack have the coffee?  He's a man of wealth and taste, and he knows people who do drink that coffee.

Friday, Jack shows some of his cards, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 11.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus due to circumstances.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, expanded universes.

* There are exception, including Deadpool and Pinkie Pie.  Most people in their works consider them off and slighty mad.

27 Sep 2017

Unruly Bonus

Unruly now has a book cover!  Steven Savage, who graciously allows me to post over at The Seventh Sanctum, has been creating fake book covers as a way to learn how to create real ones.  He provided me with one for Unruly.  Please leave a comment here or on his page if you have suggestions for him.

Cover by Steven Savage.

22 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 10

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

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

"You better."

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

"What about the truth?"

21 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 9

Ione let Karen know why she's leaving, in The Devil You Know Chapter 9.

For everyone who was wondering what Ione was doing in Paris in the first place, the explanation is now out.  Sorry for the delay, but it didn't fit in anywhere else.  This is one of the reasons why Karen isn't from Ottawa.  Chances are, if you live in Ottawa, you either are in the Public Service or know someone in it.  You know what the different departments are,  Karen isn't from Ottawa.  She knows there are government departments, but doesn't grok the differences.  To her, Ione's a government analyst.  Amy, Ione's sister, knows better.  Thus, I need Karen so that Ione has someone to explain things to.

Since The Devil You Know was written, there was a Federal election with the government in power then voted out.  With the new government, some of the departments had their name and focus changed.  Not all, though.  Most of the ones I used, though, have.  The RCMP is still the federal police department, but the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, or DFAIT, is now Global Affairs Canada, not known as GAC, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is now Fisheries and Oceans Canada*.  Ione's department, CSEC, is the Communications Security Establishment Canada, though the last C is usually dropped.  But that ruins the joke here.  Karen is referring the the Mass Effect series of video games, where the Citadel Council has its own security force, Citadel Security, or C-Sec.  Turians are a species in the setting, good at being soldiers and police.

Ione is not a spy.  She's an analyst.  She crunches numbers for a living.  Her background suits someone who does that for a living, with a Bachelor's and Master's degree in mathematics from the University of Waterloo, a university known for its math grads.  Ione maths for a living.  She's also curious, so she digs a little deeper.  I'm hoping I've set her character up so she seems believable.  Believability will be important once the more outré elements start appearing.

Nine chapters and the baseline of the plot is now out there.  That might have been longer than necessary, but I did try to get the idea that while Ione was done with her mission, the mission wasn't done with her.  She tries to get out, but people keep pulling her back.  Now she's off to find out why.

Friday, Ione's off to Paris again, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 10.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, franchises versus adaptations.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus, due to circumstances.

* Note that the URL still uses DFO.  Changing a name is easy.  Changing a web site's URL isn't.

RIP Mischief

Mischief - April 2007 - Sept 21, 2017.  Photo by author.

15 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 9

Previously:
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

Previously:
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.