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 outrĂ© 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."