8 Dec 2017

Mecha Academy - Episode 1 - Roommates

Episode 1 - Roommates
Chapter 1 - From Around the Sector

Rhiannon slipped through the crowd inside Tamar's tiny spaceport.  She stopped long enough to switch her suitcase from one hand to another and get her bearings before continuing her walk.  This far from home, she hoped she wouldn't be recognized right away, but she didn't want ot take the chance.  She chose the Colonel KL Terin Military Academy because it was far from home.  Rhiannon didn't want interference, not from the press and definitely not from her parents.  Ever since her older brother's death two years ago, her parents ramped up their already over protectiveness to new levels.  Rhiannon just didn't want to be sheltered.  It wasn't as if she snuck away, exactly.  It was a family tradition for the heir to the Duchy of Bourgon to serve in the Royal Guard.  Her brother had been serving when he died.  Rhiannon didn't want to be the exception; she could still hear her brother's voice saying how important serving was.

7 Dec 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 20

Ione met the endgame players, in The Devil You Know Chapter 20.

This is how writers get on NSA watch lists.  The adage, "Write what you know," means researching areas that you've never considered before.  I got to research the illegal drug trade and specific mind benders just to figure out what would be involved in the three-way deal Jack's setting up.  I guessed at the amounts based on arrests and numbers tossed around on Miami Vice.  Three hundred kilograms of cocaine should be enough to keep Wall Street high until the end of time.  I needed the larger numbers to show how far up the chain Jack has gone.

Adding to the fun of the above research is krokodil, which gained notoriety in 2013 because it tended to eat away at its user base.  Krokodil is not a good substance to deal in; repeat users become scarce.  Ione pushes for it because she knows it'll be off the streets if Jack's plan works out.

With the weapons, I did some online research, but the bulk of my information came from tabletop RPGs set in the now.  The M-16 is the standard rifle for the US military, so was an easy weapon to choose.  Add in cases of a pistol, the Glock, and a few extras, and everyone is happy.  Except that the AK-74, like its predecessor the AK-47, was meant to be an export to nations that had limited manufacturing.  Get the assault rifle from the wrong supplier and it could be a shoddy weapon.

Ione now has enough evidence to put these guys away.  She just has to turn the information over to the police.  However, that's not why she's there.  As seen in Chapter 19, there is a bigger threat.  How will she deal with it?  Um, later.

Mara raises a good point.  Angels are awesome and terrifying.  Think about the greeting, "Fear not."  It's not "Hello," or, "How's it going," or even "Greetings, puny Earthling."  The angel said, "Fear not," like it was expected for Mary and Joseph to run away, or worse, in fright.  If you go back to Chapter 1, Ione ran.  Sure, part of it was because a warehouse had just exploded, but there was more going on.  You now may be wondering, why didn't Ben cause the same reaction?  Ben's working on muting his frightful side.  He's been among humanity for a while, just like Jack, so he knows how not to be frightening.

I'm not sure how the little character bits between Ione and Mara came about.  I think it was just from their interactions in earlier chapters.  Here, Mara shows some vulnerability.  For a character who wasn't planned, she showed growth.  And even I was surprised to see the crush, but it came naturally.  Thus is the nature of pantsing in NaNo.

You may have noticed the TBA for next week.  I ran out of steam after crossing the 50k mark in 2013.  I have a start on Chapter 21, but it is in now way complete.  I felt like I had written myself into a corner.  Four years later, I think I have an endpoint to hit.  I will be working on it to have up as soon as possible.  This week, though, I'll put up the first chapter of Mecha Academy, raw, no edits, to show what I've been working on this year.  After that, it'll be week by week until I have The Devil You Know complete, with past short works appearing.  However, if TDYK goes much like The Soul Blade did, it shouldn't take long.  I have everything I need laid out.  It's time to pull everything together.

For an added bonus, I've designed Mara through The Sims 3.  While I figured I had a good idea of what she looked like while writing - she is a temptation demon, so what could tempt me? - it's always good to see if I can get the image in my head out.  I don't draw well, so games that allow for character customization are a huge help.

Friday, a sneak peak of Mecha Academy while I get the rest of The Devil You Know written.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, wrapping up the MST3K remakes.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, to be announced.

1 Dec 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 5 Update

Total Words: 67 911
Words Since Last Update: 7609
Completed Chapters: Episode 3 chapters 3, 4.

Pens down!  NaNoWriMo 2017 is over!

My pace slowed down in the last week.  Reaching 50k words meant the big push was over.  I also found that I was far off the original ideas I had for the story.  Some of the later character moments were going to occur far sooner.  That's not really a problem; the way the story was working out, having the tension between the two characters wasn't sustainable.  I also need the squad to work as a team properly.  So, off in a new direction I go!

This isn't my best word count.  That was 2009 with The Soul Blade, with over 83k words.  However, I am happy with the output.  I'm finding that I can maintain a good pace, can create content for longer periods (unlike 2006), and can rebound from a marathon writing session.  My wordiest day occured during the all-day write-in here, with 6250 words written.  Most will be kept, too.  I'm also just above 5000 words short of reaching 700k career NaNo word count.  Many words have been written.

Mecha Academy is going to be set aside for a bit.  I need to finish The Devil You Know, then I want a month off from posting fiction to focus on cleaning up last year's dba LTV Paranormalists.  I hope to work on Mecha Academy after that, to get the current episode completed.

It's far too soon to think about NaNo2018.  I need a bit of time away from the push before I can think straight about next November.  I now have four serials that want work done on them and I like to have a buffer before I start posting anything.

It was a blast participating again.  It felt odd to be motoring along like I was without the dreaded third week doldrums, but that was a good odd.  I am now 12-for-12 with NaNo.  The marathon is second nature now.  Maybe I can write.

The Devil You Know - Chapter 20

Jack and Ben revealed their true natures.
After eating Ben's pork and sautéed onion stir fry, accompanied by a garden salad, the angel excused himself to let Ione and Karen catch each other up on the weekend happenings.  Ben also was the one who sensed someone approaching and was several steps away when a knock came from the door.  He opened it.  "Ah, Mara, we were expecting you."  The smile on the angel's face had no warmth behind it.

"Jack told me you'd be here.  Is Ione still here?"  Mara walked past Ben.  She wore a bright yellow bodysuit that she had unzipped to her navel, giving everyone in the room a good view of her cleavage.

Ione got up from the couch.  "I'm here, Mara."

Karen followed her friend.  "You're Mara?"  She appraised the newcomer.  "Ione, this is Mara?"

"Mara, my friend, Karen."

Karen waved her hand in front of her face.  "Did it just get warm in here?"

30 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 19

The spy thriller becomes an urban fantasy, in The Devil You Know Chapter 19.

Jack's nature revealed!  Finally!  And the biggest problem with labelling The Devil You Know as urban fantasy was the nature of the spoiler.  Until now, there's nothing explicit about the supernatural.  Sure, there were some odd happenings, but I didn't call attention to them.  Ione calls out Gemma having car problems at the end of Chapter 8, but even then, there's nothing said about how the car was disabled.

I did leave a few hints, though.  Some were just turns of phrases, but others were done with purpose.
Chapter 10:
"Speak of the devil."  I wanted to put the idea out there that Jack is a devil.  At this point, there's no reason to assume that Jack is one, just roguish.
Jack learned to fly in Gander.  This was to hint at his age.  Gander was used for training pilots during the First World War, and was also a refuelling point for trans-Atlantic flights.  Jack learned to fly in a biplane during WWI.

Chapter 12:
"No one has ever accused me of not having wealth and taste."  The Rolling Stones song, "Sympathy for the Devil" opens with the line, "Please allow me to introduce myself/I'm a man of wealth and taste."  Jack does have wealth, as seen with his private jet and the kopi luwak coffee.  He also prefers refinement, as seen in his hotel choices.  Again, the line was meant to place the idea of Jack being a devil in readers' heads.

Chapter 13:
The decadent coffee.  Jack chose that blend on purpose to tempt Ione.

Chapter 14:
Jack tempted Ione into having a one night stand against her better judgement.  That's what Jack does for a living, tempts people.

Ben's nature was hinted at, too, but since he and Karen were offscreen for most of the story, there's not much to go on.  Gemma did bash Karen over the head with her pistol.  That act should have left Karen with a concussion and in the hospital.  Ben healed her.

Given the reveal, it might be worth going back and checking out some of Mara's scenes.  There's a reason why she turned into Ms Fanservice.  Temptation demons are always on the job, though Mara is moonlighting a little.  The worst she did was tempt Ione with chocolate.

I didn't work out the theology.  I am using handwavium to distract readers.  Angels, devils, and demons exist.  Gemma has a Valkyrie in her family tree somewhere.  Some of the ideas were inspired by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, a comedy about the Apocalypse.  Other ideas came from Linda Poitevin's The Grigori Legacy series.  The main takeaways from both is that angels are frightening, humanity has potential, and the Final War between Heaven and Hell isn't a sure thing.  With the latter, if the War was a given for either side, it'd have been fought by now.  Expanding from just Christian beliefs into myths was me, though, and something I would explore again with dba LTV Paranormalists in 2016.

So, did the reveal work?  That's up to the readers to decide.  Let me know in the comments, please.

Friday, meeting the other players, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 20.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, going for broke with remaking Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, wrapping up the MST3K remakes.

29 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 18

Gemma killed Jack, but it didn't take, in The Devil You Know Chapter 18.

It's not that Ione's corset is transforming her into being more assertive; her assertiveness is starting by wearing the corset.  Ione's reached a point where she's tired of being the passenger.  She's pushed back somewhat against Jack, but her sense of duty and her desire to find out what happened in Chapter 1 has been her main drive.  Now, she's becoming more active.

Ione's Google-fu is stronger than mine.  I haven't been able to find anything official for the song "Smuggler's Blues", let alone a video.  The lyric Ione quotes, "No matter if it's cocaine, heroine, or hash/You've got to carry weapons 'cause you always carry cash," was written in the 80s and is still a bit of advice drug dealers follow.  Jack's getting involved in a dangerous business, and he's bringing a small sword to a potential gunfight.  However, as seen later, Jack doesn't have much worry too much about that sort of thing.

Gemma was always meant to be one of the key characters, along with Ione and Karen.  I spent time working out a few details for them, ultimately creating a look for each of them in The Sims 2.  Somehow, getting the personalities worked out in the game managed to a good sequence that seemed to set up the antagonism Gemma has for Ione.  I didn't work out Mara; remember, she was a late addition because of crew requirements for Jack's jet.  The work in the game did let me get an idea of what the characters looked like for descriptions in the text.

Gemma left, Ione middle, Karen right.
Gemma: "Are you two seriously going along with this ridiculous plotline?"
(Photo capture from The Sims 2)

Ione: "Do you have anything better to do?  I don't see you going out there and auditioning for other stories."
(Photo capture from The Sims 2)

Gemma: "You can do that?"
(Photo capture from The Sims 2)
That leaves Jack.  Gemma shot him.  Jack should be dead.  And yet, there he is.  He's a little angry; getting shot tends to do that to a person.  The big reveal is in Chapter 19, but should be confirmation that Jack is far more than he appears.  I'm hoping that there was a bit of a surprise to what happened with him, but I also started to lay down a few clues ahead of time.

While writing this chapter, I was wondering if Gemma should have Karen stashed somewhere.  The problem with that is Karen's not alone, and I know Ben's true nature.  Not helping matters is that a rescue mission distracts from the main plot at this point.  So, Gemma lied.  She's a spy; it comes with the job.  Gemma lied to Ione and kept our heroine from being able to spend much time thinking about how Karen could have been caught.  No need to have a real damsel in distress to make Ione think there is one.

Since I had no idea where the story was going most of the time, I wound up doing quick research just before I needed details.  One of the things I was wondering about was the border between Monaco and France, especially around Monte Carlo.  Turned out, the border is a street, with no real passport control.  To get to Monte Carlo, travellers have to go through France or travel by boat, both of which will involve customs.  Border hopping is possible, but the two countries probably have treaties to deal with that sort of thing.  This was helpful.  I didn't want to deal with customs just to get Ione to see Karen and then go off to help Jack.

The cliffhanger leads to the reveal in Chapter 19.  Jack and Ben have met before.  Many times.  But, that's for the next commentary.

Friday, meeting the other players, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 20.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, going for broke with remaking Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, wrapping up the MST3K remakes.

26 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 4 Update

Total Words: 60 302
Words Since Last Update: 13 215
Completed Chapters: Episode 2 chapters 4, 5; Episode 3 chapter 1

The big news, I've crossed the 50 000 word threshold.  The push is over.  Now, the goal is to get more chapters done so that I have a buffer.  As it stands, I have fifteen completed chapters, one in an incomplete episode.  So, it'd be nice to get a little more done before November 30.

My supporting cast grew over the past week, to the point where I took the time to work out some potential names.  With the new names, I have new antagonists to be introduced.  So far, the conflict has been kept within the main cast.  At some point, I need them to deal with external problems.  I'm not ready for the invasion yet - a murder is needed before that happens - so a new source of conflict has to come up.  That conflict has been introduced and just needs to have the first main incident written, a scene that I had in mind before NaNo started.

I've finally got my cast into the mecha of the title, and even that is just in simulations.  I've adjusted the size of the mecha for the series.  When Mecha Academy was first conceived, the mecha were going to be around 20 metres tall, minimum.  As I've worked on the story's background, I've reduced the size.  Now, there's an evolution in how mecha are used in the settings, starting from exoskeletons meant for moving cargo to powered armour to oversized powered armour standing about two to three metres tall.  Mecha aren't walking tanks but force multipliers for infantry.

Mecha Academy is an older idea that had some work done to it already.  I'm not able to just dump what I've done already into the work, though.  Mecha Academy is so far off script that many of the later ideas are no longer valid.  The relationships have developed in a different direction.  There is still hostility, but not the full out physical assaults of the original idea, not this far in.  Some ideas can stay, they're not dependent on the characters' actions.  This is why I prefer iterative editing instead of full on re-writes.  Details get changed.  An edit pass will find problems and let me correct for what I want.  A re-write will result in something completely different.

Coming in the final days of NaNo - adding more words.  I have a scene to aim for and, if I run into a roadblock, Subject 13 and The Devil You Know to work on.

24 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 19

Gemma had a talk with Ione.
Karen came out of the bathroom, drying her hands with a towel.  "Ben, what's going on?"

Jack stood behind Ione.  "You're going by Ben now?"

"You have no power here!"  Ben tried to push past Ione.  "Begone!"

Ione pushed back against Ben.  "Hey, wait!"

"Ben, what are you doing?"  Karen grabbed one of Ben's arms and tried pulling him back in.  "Ione?  What's going on?"

23 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 18 - Delay

Despite crossing the 50 000 word mark on Tuesday, I wasn't able to write the commentary this week.  The events in Chapter 18 deserve more than dashed off remarks.  The commentary will be up when it gets done.

Friday, confession is good for a soul, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 19.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, remaking another MST3K featured movie, Manhunt in Space.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, going for broke with remaking Manos: The Hands of Fate.

21 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Mid-Week Update

I've hit 50 000 words.

This isn't the earliest I've hit 50k. The Soul Blade reached that mark, barely, on the 16th back in 2009, followed by 2008's Crossover.  However, what Mecha Academy has in common with those both seems to be a desire to be written.  I have had some amazing days without trying this year.  And the story's not done yet.  It has barely begun.  I'll need a few more episodes and an editing session before I think about posting it here, but the series is starting to shape up.  I did what I wanted to do, and this year, the writing just flew.

19 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 3 Update

Total Words: 47 087
Words Since Last Update: 20 307
Completed Chapters: Episode 1 chapters 7, 8, 9; Episode 2 chapters 1, 2, 3

The end's in sight.  The chapters keep coming.  I have no idea where I'm going.  Yay, NaNo!

The third week is when the doldrums traditionally hit.  Somehow, I'm still going despite them.  This is possibly my best year at this point in November.  And yet, when the first arc wrapped up, I had no idea what would happen next.  The original idea was an early map, but I'm now off where I had marked "Here be dragons."  Much of the original plan is obsolete.  Ideas that can return aren't due yet, so now what?

Fortunately, in the first arc, I kept mentioning an event in Lars' hometown.  Ric wanted to check it out, though I didn't know why at the time.  So, off four-fifths of the main cast went, with new character Susanna tagging along.  Meanwhile, Dusty has stayed behind and was more or less ordered to go have fun in Shelter Cove, where the main spaceport is.  This, I hope, lets me contrast the groups.  The fair-going group is having a good time together and learning about each other while Dusty is coming to terms with being herself.  However, I need some excitement.  Two men with guns are going to break through a door somewhere.

The first arc finally wrapped up.  Again, I used the event I kept mentioning, the obstacle course, as the end piece.  This time, though, all of the main cast showed up.  I also set up a few other conflicts.  Miyami has a secret which Dusty is aware of.  Rhiannon wants her title to be kept quiet.  Lars and Ric, though, they haven't said anything about having a secret.  Either they don't have one, which would be a pain for me, or they haven't revealed anything.  Lars will get a bye here; he's dealing with Susanna.  Ric, though...

Coming up, a bit of excitement for the split party, some insight on Dusty who has been a bit of a black box for readers so far, and, possibly, 50 000 words.

17 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 18

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.


"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

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

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

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

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

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

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.