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.

1 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It's about your mystery man."

31 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 6

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

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

24 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 5

Jack arrived, in The Devil You Know Chapter 5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 5

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

"Coming right up."

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

17 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 4

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

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

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

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

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

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


13 Aug 2017

Test Run - Hercules & Xena - Priestess

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

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

11 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 4

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

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

10 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 3

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



4 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 3

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

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

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

3 Aug 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 Jul 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 2

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

27 Jul 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 Jul 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

20 Jul 2017

The Soul Blade Epilogue - Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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