8 Nov 2019

Digital Magic - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

I wake up with the sun streaming through my window.  The back of my mind is telling me that something is wrong; the sun streams in only in the afternoon.  Crap.  I slept late.  I know it's Saturday, but I had some plans.  I roll out of bed, still in the t-shirt and jeans I had on last night.  Crap.  Crap crap crap.  Okay, time to get moving, salvage the remains of the day, finish the damned assignment, get a life.  First, a shower.  I grab clothes for today; underwear, an oversized plain black t-shirt, and a pair of track pants.  Should do for all my afternoon errand running.  Then I can sit down and figure out what I did to the game.

Clothes under my arm, I leave my bedroom and head towards the shower.  Unfortunately, Trish is in the living room and notices me.  "Finally," she says.

"Morning," I mumble.  If I can just get to the bathroom . . ..

"Jackie, we need to talk."

So much for escaping.  "Trish, I don't --"

"Yes you do.  I was expecting to see you last night.  Instead, I find you here in the apartment looking the same way you did when you left yesterday morning.  You're turning into a hermit, Jackie."

I half-sit on the arm of the couch.  "The assignment took longer than I thought."

Trish arches a perfect red-tinged eyebrow.  "It's not even due this weekend."

"I had a thought I wanted to follow through with before I forgot it.  I lost track of the time, that's all.  By the time I got the program to work, it was too late to bother going out."

"And how long were you online after that?"

I feel my cheeks grow warm.  "I don't know."

Trish shakes her head, disappointed.  "Jackie . . . you need to get out.  It's been too long since you had a date."

"I've been busy."

"Look, if it's because of the guy back in June--"

7 Nov 2019

Digital Magic - Commentary 1

Digital Magic was my second ever NaNoWriMo project back in 2007.  I figured a SF/fantasy/romance mashup should be easy.  Ha!  This is what I will call my glorious mess.  Romance isn't easy.

The idea I had was to mix magic, video games, and romance.  Sounds like it should be at least interesting.  What you'll see is that I got focused on one element at the cost of the other two.  But, there's stuff in the story that I feel I can salvage for use elsewhere.  Not a complete loss, but disappointing in retrospect.

The first scene is on Jackie's favourite game character, one of her own devising.  She's playing a nameless MMO, one not based on any that existed at the time.  To be honest, I don't play MMOs.  If I want to go slay monsters with friends, I'm pulling out D&D or some other RPG.  The MMO is more or less what I want to see in one, not what exists commercially.  And, given that there's a twelve year gap between when I wrote Digital Magic and today, there's a tech gap as well.

Chapter 1, like many of my Chapter 1s, presents the main character, in this case, Jackie, in a typical day in her life.  I realized in later works that I do this to show when things start going weird for the character.  There's dropping a character /in media res/ to get the action going, and that works if weird is normal for the character.  Here, though, Jackie is a student, not a spy or a mystery writer.  Heaven's Rejects can get away with the weird coming up early; that's Nadia and Ian's job.  Digital Magic needs the slow build up.

The not-quite-off screen sex scene just happened.  I tend to pants my way through writing, so if something came about organically from the scene, I went with it.  Trish is the more outgoing of her and Jackie.  There's backstory, and some of that comes out later.  They are friends, but Jackie is well aware of who Trish is, and vice versa.

I may have been asking for trouble writing in the first person.  Thing is, I couldn't figure out how to work a later scene in third person.  While I pants, if I get an idea of something to add, I will work my way up to it, using the idea as a guide post.  The advantage of first person is being in the character's head and knowing what she thinks and feels.  The disadvantage is that you're stuck with that character.  The character has to be interesting.  While Jackie did go digging through the settings, I'm hoping her thought processes help keep things fresh.

Tomorrow, girls' night out in Digital Magic Chapter 2.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Expanse Season 2.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, fixing and remaking The Raven.

1 Nov 2019

Digital Magic - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Jacinda stopped as the trees thinned to a clearing.  She knew her quarry lurked in the plains ahead.  The dragon had been terrorizing the area for far too long, and the mage remained determined to put an end to it.  It would be easier if the rest of her group had survived with her; one by one, they succumbed to wounds.  The serpent had allies, enough to toss at her and her friends to slow them down.  With a determined look on her face, Jacinda stepped out into the open.  The beast would pay for its ravages.

A lone man came running from the distance.  "Flee!  It's unstoppable!"

Jacinda stopped.  The wind teased her long golden hair and her light robes.  The foul creature had found a new victim.  Jacinda vowed that the man running would not fall to the dragon.  "Over here!" she called.

The sprinting man changed course and ran towards the fair magician.  "Get out of here!  Run while you still can!"  Behind him lumbered an impossibly tall creature Jacinda had never seen before.  "Go!"

Jacinda stood her ground.  She held her hands in front of her, elbows bent outward, fingers taut.  A wisp of flame appeared between her hands.  The fire grew in size and intensity, but never burning the magician's hands.  She released the flame.  The fireball blazed overhead and struck the creature true in the chest.  The beast kept moving, unaffected by the inferno that had hit him.

"It's immune," the man panted as he reached Jacinda.  "I tried the same thing."

"We can't outrun it."  Jacinda held her arms straight out, her palms facing the ground.  The ground rumbled.  Bits of earth erupted from the ground to form a human-like mass.  Jacinda pointed at the approaching creature.  "Delay that!"  The elemental trod towards its target.

"That can stop it?"

"Hell no.  It's buying us time."  The magician held her left arm straight over her head.  A green glow appeared, surrounding her hand.  A similar glow enveloped the monster as the elemental neared it.  "Do you have any spells that can help?"

"Everything I have is fire-based."

Jacinda eyed the fight.  Her elemental traded blow for blow, but looked more battered than the creature.  "Right."  She brought her hands together in front of her.  A pattern of energy zipped around her interlocked fingers before streaking at the beast.  The whirling energy changed from fire to lightning to ice to raw magic, clawing at the monster.  As the maelstrom ravaged the beast, Jacinda cast another spell.  Blades fell from the sky, piercing the monster's hide.  "It's weakening!  Get it before the spells end!"

The man produced a shining sword and leapt at the creature.  He swung his sword in a wide arc.  The blade cut deep into the monster's chest.  The elemental kept pounding its rocky fists on the creature's leg.  Still away from the melee, Jacinda cast another spell, one that sent a stream of swords into the creature, stunning it.  Unable to defend itself, the monster fell and lay unmoving.


I push the keyboard away.  So much for the dragon.  Damned newbies going around a new area and aggravating new monsters.  I should have dropped an area effect spell on both the monster and the newb.  Why I thought this game would relax me is beyond me right now.  I should have played the Sims – no, wait, I wanted to keep track of time.

On screen, my magician, Jacinda, stood waiting for me to do something.  There's times where I think she's annoyed with me for being so slow.  Of course, those are also the times when I've had too much to drink.  I probably should just shut down the game and return to my assignment.

A flash on my monitor catches my eye.  I look closer; someone in the game wants to chat with me.  What's surprising is that the gamer is using proper English.  What the heck, why not see what he wants.  If he wants to cyber, I'll just shut down anyway.

Are you still online?

Okay, not much to judge grammar by, but he did type out "you" in full.  I type back that I am.

Sorry for dragging you into my mess.  I should have been able to handle it without dragging anyone else in.

That's different.  No one's ever been sorry for screwing up another player's plans before.  I type back, That's okay.  I was probably going to be killed tonight anyway.

The way you handled yourself?  Most players I've seen would have kept using their most powerful spell and hope that it's enough.

He's got me there.  Thanks.

Let me make it up to you.  I've got an invite for a new game in development and they're looking for beta testers.  I think you'd give the game a challenge.  Interested?  I can send the links by email.

Beta test?  Oh, why not?  Who knows, maybe I can get a job with the company when I finally get my Computer Science degree.  I type in my throwaway Hotmail address.  So who should I be expecting in my inbox?

Lance179.  And thanks again for saving my bacon.  And with that, he leaves the game.  Not a bad idea, really.  I quit as well.  I stifle a yawn.  Must be later than I thought.  Before I can check the time, I hear the front door unlock.  Probably my roommate, but I better check.

Padding on bare feet out of my room, I see my roommate, Tricia Halliwell, pulling her key out of the lock.  I have no idea how she's remaining steady on her stiletto heels and not show her ass in that barely-there skirt of hers.  Her cheeks are flushed rosy.  "Did it turn cold out?" I ask.

Trish looks over to me, staggering a little, causing her red curls to bounce a little.  She titters at her mis-queue.  "Jacqueline Hart, what are you doing home?  I thought you were going to meet us at the bar."  Her eyes are unfocused as she stares at me.

"What are you doing home so early?"

"What early?"  Trish giggles.  "It's past three."  As I glance at the clock and see she's right, she continues, "You weren't playing online again, were you?"  She shakes her head at me, then adds an admonishment.  "Geez, Jackie."

I feel my cheeks grow warm.  "I was going to, but my assignment took longer than I expected.  Have a good time?"

Trish's laughter trilled.  "Would have been better if you were there.  You should have seen some of the guys there.  Mmm.  Oh, wait."  She stepped out for a moment, then dragged a sandy haired guy into our apartment.  "Jackie, this is Simon.  Simon, my roommate Jackie."

Simon gives me a half-wave.  "Hi."

I try to smile.  "Hi."  So much for getting to sleep right away.  Trish is, how can I put it, enthusiastic in bed.  Ear-piercing levels of enthusiastic.  I head to the kitchen.  "Anyone else want tea?"

"No, thanks."  Trish still has a hold on Simon.  It looks like they're trying to merge into one.  Simon's hand disappears behind Trish, eliciting more giggles from her.  I turn away so I can roll my eyes.  "Don't be that way, Jackie," Trish admonishes.

I make a show of getting out a mug and a teabag.  "What way, Trish?  I just want a tea before I go to bed."  I hope that Simon won't last longer than it takes me to finish drinking.  Without turning to see either Trish or her boy toy, I fill the kettle and put it on to boil.

"We'll talk tomorrow, Jackie."

I hear Trish's bedroom door slam shut.  My shoulders relax a little.  Maybe she's drunk enough that she won't remember wanting the talk.  A shriek of laughter erupts from the bedroom.  Simon isn't wasting anytime.  By the time the kettle boils, Trish is already moaning in rhythm.

All right, I'm being hard on her.  Naturally curly hair, good figure, legs that won't quit, and constantly being hit on by men.  The only thing I have on her is height and cup size, and she even manages to beat me out on the latter by being perkier.  If Trish wasn't my best friend since kindergarten, I'd probably hate her.

Trish's moans have climbed up an octave and have grown louder.  I give up on focusing on my tea.  There's no way I can pretend I don't hear the chorus coming out of her bedroom.  With any luck, Simon won't be able for another go.  I pray that he won't be.  I just want to go to bed.  Trish reaches her loudest, then stops.

I finish the last few drops of my tea and trudge back to my own room.  At last, quiet enough so I can get to dreamland.  Trish starts her moaning again; this time I can hear her louder and clearer through the thin wall between our rooms.  I groan.  Fine, Trish can get her groove on all night.  I've got something else I can do.  Lance179's email.  I can grab his link, download the play test files, and see if the game is decent.  In the meantime, I set my iPod to shuffle and try to isolate myself with music.

The earphones don't completely muffle Trish's cries.  Please, Simon, do give her more so I can get to sleep sometime before the sun rises.  I refrain from hammering the wall.  Never has helped before.  As the download completes, I stare outside.  Fat snowflakes float like autumn leaves, settle on the window, and melt.  Odd, since the forecast called for clear and well above freezing.  I bring up Environment Canada's webpage and check the conditions.  The forecast hasn't changed, but the current weather does say light snow.  Not to mention that Trish didn't complain about the cold, especially in her outfit.  Weird.  Global warming, go fig.

The download finishes and I start the installation.  Nice and smooth, no glitches, no odd questions, registration is painless, and five minutes later, the game is running.  Graphics are impressive, but that's a given these days.  The title screen calls the game "Valor Quest: The Test of Lord Tottenheim".  A nice intro movie explaining the world starts; I watch it to see if anything inspires me.  The back story could use some work.  Right now, it's a Tolkien rip-off, with a great evil threatening to spread throughout the world.  I suppose it's good enough for now, but I'd be disappointed by it if I had, you know, paid money for this.

I'm jarred out of the game when Trish climaxes.  She should have gone into musical theatre; wouldn't even need a microphone.  I turn down the volume on my iPod and wait to see if there's another encore from next door.  With no sounds of love making coming after a minute or two, I leave the iPod's volume down and let a out a sigh.

Back to the game, I check what options I have.  Looks like the usual: warrior, wizard, rogue, priest, and variants of each.  I'll try my favourite character type, the sorceress, like Jacinda, to see how well she can be done.

Navigation is nice; the choices are easy to find and easy to click.  I have several choices of wizard; generalist, summoner (here, Spot!), necromancer (ew, no), invoker (hmmm), and illusionist (maybe if I was fully awake).  Jacinda has always been a generalist, using all sorts of spells, so that's what I'll try.  I can modify her appearance, but the selection of hair styles and robe colours isn't that big.  That's something that the developers can change, though.  It could be that they're trying to test game play and will worry about details later.  Still, something to bring up.  I get Jacinda version nine done.  Yeah, I've played her in many games, including The Sims; she was a little vixen there and now has far too many grandchildren to keep track of in Veronaville.

Off to the virtual world I go!  Jacinda Nine materializes in the middle of a city near an ornate fountain with streams of water coming out of a trio of dolphins.  Nice touch, that.  I'm not overly happy with her grey robe and the plain staff in her hand  I get Jacinda to walk around the the market to see what's there and to see how well she moved.  Her hips have a bit of a wiggle to them.  The boys will enjoy that touch.  Me, not so much, but I've seen worse.  Walking and running animations are flawless, though, wiggling notwithstanding.  Time to see if she can talk to the locals and spend some of the gold in her belt pouches.

As I start to click on a local merchant, my finger slips somehow and an options menu appears on screen.  I read through the list of changeable attributes, looking for something that won't cause a fatal crash before I've saved anything.  Colour looks to be the safest.  I try entering a number in the field then apply it.  Jacinda's bland robe turns pink.  She is so not a pink.  I change the number again, trying to remember my colour codes.  My memory isn't so good at this hour.  Whatever this hour is.  I check the time on my alarm clock.  The glowing numbers are trying to tell me it's 4:07.  Or the secret of the universe.  Way past bedtime, at least.  I type in what I hope is the correct code for light blue and apply the change.  Jacinda's robe is now a deep blue.  Close enough.  I close the attribute screen and think about sending an email to the development team.  Of course, what could I say?  "This screen popped up and I changed my character's outfit colours but I can't say how I did it?"  Tomorrow, I'll try getting the pop up again and make note of how I did it.  For now, though, I exit the game and turn off the monitor.  Without changing, I drop on to my bed.

NaNoWriMo 2019 is Go!

It`s that time of year again.  NaNoWriMo is go!  Fifty thousand words, thirty days, it's dark, and I have no plan.  Should be a fun one.

31 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Final Commentary

Heaven's Rejects was fun to write.  I had no plan, just characters and a broad concept that let me send my cast wherever I wanted if the whim amused me.  The series wasn't serious, as the animated Elvii can attest to.  The goal was to try a new twist on the masquerade a lot of urban fantasy tries to maintain.  The masquerade is blown, so let's have a camera crew follow a team!

The characters helped a lot.  They had strong personalities that carried a few chapters alone.  Demona was fun to write - half-succubus, half-Catholic, all librarian.  Nadia turned into her Demona's opposite, mortal, flawed, and perpetually cranky.  Ian was the fun-loving one of the group, the stable bedrock for the other two.  The dynamic kept things fresh for me.

Drawbacks, though, were the lack of planning and the subsequent pacing issues.  I had to rein in the desire to get to the punchline with the Elvis impersonators in the third arc.  The second arc had things boiling up without a solution until I started digging into American history.  The chapter length should've been shorter in a few cases.  Hindsight leads to learning if viewed properly, though, and the problems I had while writing Heaven's Rejects should be smoothed over in the future.

The lack of planning, though, also lets me take into account weirdnesses that come up while I'm writing.  The zombie Elvii were inspired by the bingo cards created by the local municipal liaisons.  I'm not committed to a specific ending if something better comes up.  There's a trade off between planning and pantsing, and while pantsing takes effort during the act of writing instead of off-loading some of it before writing begins, it also feels more organic.  I had an outline for By the Numbers that I kept to until the end, where the direction of the story meant Numbers leaving.  The story was kept in a steady direction, but it didn't feel right at the end of writing.  It works now, after the passage of time.  Meanwhile, stories like Unruly and The Soul Blade had the story grow organically, leaving me more satisfied at the ned.

One thing that I may not do again is include character asides with their pics.  The formatting takes time, and I'd want a greater variety of images to reflect the characters' moods.  It was an experiment with Heaven's Rejects.  If I could draw, I might have gone that route.  I do like having pictures to refer to with my characters, even if I have to build them in a video game.  The act of describing the character forces me to consider elements I'd have never thought of.

NaNo is coming, so I hope to remember what I learned with Heaven's Rejects.

Tomorrow, going back a bit, or romance be hard, yo.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Raven.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Expanse Season 2.

25 Oct 2019

A Breather

This past week has been hectic.  Can*Con ran all last weekend, forcing a delay in my usual weekend chores.  That wouldn't have been so bad, but Monday was election night, and I didn't have time before work to find my poll, so after work it was.  By the time I was done and home, I was too tired to go back out and do laundry, which was getting needed.  Tuesday, laundry, because it was needed.  Wednesday had a quick grocery run, something else postponed from the weekend, plus finally getting to watch the planned review for Lost in Translation.

In short, I am beat.  I managed to get the writing I wanted done - the commentary and the review.  But I am behind, so this is what I can do for today.

The plan, though, is to start a new serial next week, and one last commentary for Heaven's Rejects while still getting next week's review properly researched and prepping for NaNo.  I should be caught up just in time for NaNo to take over my life.  I also want to get an index set up for both LTV Paranormalists and Heaven's Rejects so that they can be found more easily.  There's also a new edition of Shadowrun out to test character creation for.  I have ideas.

The blog will go on and on and on, but I just need a breather.

24 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 11

A start of an overseas adventure, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 11.

Tel Aviv, Israel, chosen because it counts as two words during NaNoWriMo, three if I include the country name.  The best city for that might be Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam, but the idea I had for this arc wound up going to the Mediterranean.

First, though, Episode 11 was the last full chapter written before I ran out of steam during NaNo 2018.  I broke past 50k words and kept going a little further, but between having to do the research I wanted and the sheer marathon NaNo is, I ran out of steam.  Heaven's Rejects gets added to the other unfinished serials as to-be-done-when-ideas-recharge.  NaNo is fulfilling, but exhausting.  I maintained a good average for the month, about 2000 words/day until I hit the wall.

The research I got into was all on mermaids.  I wanted to find out where the first mermaid legend was and got the Eastern Mediterranean, near Assyria.  A bit more research and I worked out the general plot.  The catch, though, is keeping the cast from figuring out what's happening too fast.  Fortunately, there are many reasons for people to go missing off the coast of Israel and neighbouring countries.  Demona's guess of a water bender causing waterspouts to pick up sharks comes from crossing Avatar: The Last Airbender and the Sharknado series, so she's not even close yet.

Turns out, Ian loves a good bad B-movie.  Demona just wanted to keep hip to what the kids who went to her library were watching.  Shakrnado is just cheesy and deliberately so.  It became a brief phenomenon and carried on from there.  Having a character watch it made sense.  It ties them into the real world just a little more.

Nadia's reputation precedes her.  She tends to leave a bit of a wake behind her.  There are a few places she's not allowed to go to anymore.  Israel isn't one of them, but the Section Chief is well aware of her proclivities.  He also keeps notes.  Lots of notes.  More notes than I do.

Next week, I'll add a commentary for the story overall.  Thanks you for reading and please feel free to comment on the parts, even if it has been months.

A breather tomorrow.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, RWBY After the Fall.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Raven.

18 Oct 2019

Heaven’s Rejects - Episode 11

Episode 11 – “Your Reputation Precedes You”

The threat to Las Vegas is over.  The bodies are back in the morgue.  The casinos are cleaning up to get back in business.  And I am finally out of Las Vegas.  If one more person said that I wasn't allowed to be there, I think I'd have kicked them in the crotch.

Fighting the animated dead is tough.  And we added to the difficulty by trying to not damage the bodies too much.  Their loved ones would be thankful, if the John Does are ever identified.  What happened after all that, though, well, shit show is too kind.

There's another player on the scene.  No idea who.  No idea what they want, except the necromancer.  I was a step behind in all this.  I want to blame myself, but Demona pointed out that there wasn't a way to predict what happened.  An army of dead men dressed as Elvis out to destroy Las Vegas?  Another group of people stealing the necromancer from the local cops just before we could?  Team One One Seven is going to follow up in Las Vegas.  My team gets a new assignment.

Nadia stood behind Demona, who sat on the office chair on the other side of the Chief.  "Seriously, Chief?  This isn't a joke?"

The Chief glared at Nadia.  "Do I look like I'm joking?"

"Not at all."  Nadia smiled.  "I've always wanted to go to Israel."

"All of you are up on your immunizations?  And you all have valid passports?"

All three agents nodded.  "What's the mission?" Ian asked.

"Our teams in the Middle East are reporting people disappearing along the Mediterranean coast.  No one country is losing more in these disappearances.  And since they're spread out, local authorities aren't aware of a bigger problem."

Demona raised her hand.  "What sort of disappearances?"

The Chief slid an brown envelope across the table.  "Details are here.  You'll have plenty of time to read on the flight to Tel Aviv."


17 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 10

The last batch of Elvii, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 10.

I was pushing it, having three groups of shambling Elvis impersonators menacing Las Vegas.  The fight scenes were starting to feel the same to me.  I wanted a different way to deal with the last group.  The solution happened off-screen, though, which irks me a little.  My leads didn't come up with the idea, but there were also busy trying to deal with Elvis being everywhere.  Team One One Seven had to do something other than watch.

Why "Gangnam Style"?  Why not?  The song is popular and has a dance move that that vast majority of club-goers can do.  I also set up Demona as being a fan of PSY earlier, with her ringtone being "Daddy".  The other catch is that, overall, Heaven's Rejects isn't supposed to be serious.  And fighting Elvis with PSY falls right in with that concept.  Along with zombie Elvii dancing.

Nadia finally gets her explanation on why there are so many demons in security and why Demona isn't allowed in the city.  Demona's mother almost brought the arrangement crashing down by being herself.  It took until this chapter to give Demona's mother her name, and that took some research to have it sound authentic.  If I planned things out, I'd have known what Meleri's name was long before I started.  I never expected the name to come up, though.

To add to the fun, I introduced a new element to the setting.  A group that is at odds with the Agency, because why should there be just one secret organization lurking about.  The idea here is that I introduce them now, bring them back as background elements in a few episodes, then have the big confrontation that leaves the Agency reeling.  It's a long-term plan.  This organization knows exactly what words to use to stop pursuit, though American security paranoia is high, overreacting to false positives.

Off on a new mission, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 11.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Feast of Legends.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, After the Fall.

11 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Episode 10

Episode 10 – “Dead Men Walking”

I hate it when the opposition thinks things through.  The necromancer made it difficult to stop the animated John Does.  Demona figured out what was powering them, but grabbing gold chains while fighting off something that can't be killed isn't easy.  Not to mention, the necromancer split her army of the dead into three groups.  We're not going to get out of this without injury.

I got scratched up in the last fight.  It stings a little, but it's not so bad right now.  Definitely will have to see a doctor later.  The dead aren't known for their cleanliness.  I don't want to be sidelined by an infection.  Nadia shoiuld've brought some of Team One One Seven with us.  The more people we have, the faster we can stop the Elvii.

Just what did Mom do here?  Two security guards have yelled at me for just being in Las Vegas.  Why?  Because of Mom.  I never had the chance to do anything.  I didn't even want to come here.  She owes me for this.

Nadia, Ian, and Demona dashed across the Strip, heading to the last casino suffering from a walking corpse invasion.  Ian pointed out the SWAT team setting up near the necromancer's white moving truck.  "Our time's almost up," he said.

"Ignore them," Nadia said.  "They can't do anything useful."

Demona caught up to Ian.  "I need the stun stick again."

"It won't work on the John Does.  It's a little late to try to restart their hearts."

Ian pulled the stun stick out of his gym bag.  "Clubbing them isn't going to do much, either."

"It's not for them."  Demona took the weapon from Ian.  "Wait, does gold conduct electricity?"

Nadia slowed her pace while she thought about the question.  "I think it does, but it tends to melt."

Demona grinned.  "Good."

The three agents arrived at the casino.  Its main doors were destroyed.  One hung from its hinge, the other lay on the floor, huge rents in it.  Beyond in the lobby, security guards sprawled unmoving on the floor.  Others tended to their fellows.  One noticed the agents enter.  "Get out!  Get out while you can!  Bullets don't stop them!"

10 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 9

Elvis is everywhere, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 9.

The army of undead Elvii are running amok.  Good thing Nadia and her team are around.  The necromancer became a character when I realized that someone had to be animating the Elvii.  Her motives are somewhat shallow, but the serial isn't supposed to be serious.  Someone using dark magic to punish sinners hits the irony button and adds to the theme that the real danger tends to be the human element.

Vegas, at least in the setting, is an unusual city where the supernatural is part of the scene, at least in the touristy areas.  "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and all that.  Demons can get jobs or go out for a bit of harmless fun.  Demona's mother forgot about the "harmless" part in the past and earned herself a lifetime ban.  The ban got passed on to her daughter.

I toyed with the idea of giving all the Elvii a name based on a song by Elvis.  Blue is named after "Blue Suede Shoes", Teddy Bear after the song of the same name, Lonesome after "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"  Then I realized that I'd have to name at least twenty Elvii and there are way too many Top 40 Elvis songs.  Just naming three was enough.

The one thing I was starting to regret was the length of the chapters.  These are longer than what I have for other purpose-made serials, like Unruly.  This makes a difference on when to wrap up an entry, to make sure that each one is more or less the same length.  With novel chapters, length isn't as important as content and purpose.  Posting a regular chapter week after week, though, has a different requirement.  Too short, what's the point of visiting.  Too long, and it's easier to download and read later.  And differing lengths add some uncertainty when there shouldn't be any.  Next serial, I get the chapters a little shorter, giving me less space to fill.

Friday, if it's stupid but it works, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 10.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Convoy.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Feast of Legends.

4 Oct 2019

Heaven’s Rejects - Episode 9

Episode 9 – “Elvis Has Left the Building”

I'd have thought seeing zombies would be, well, scarier.  These guys, though, I don't know.  It might be the silver jumpsuits.  It's hard to take anyone wearing a silver jumpsuit seriously.

What sort of sick person would change the look of a corpse?  Pompadours, jumpsuits, gold chains.  There's a limit to performance art and taste.

Zombie Elvii.  Man, what a trip.

Nadia looked around for a police officer.  Spotting one several yards away, she pushed through the crowd.  "Hey!  Hey, you!  Officer!"

The cop turned his head to find who was calling him.  "What is it?"

"I need to get through."

"You and everyone else, lady."  The cop pointed at the phalanx of shambling Elvis impersonators.  "No one's getting through until they're gone."

"And who's going get rid of them?  That's why I'm here."

"Yeah, you and everyone else here."

Nadia rolled her eyes.  "Look--"

"Attention denizens and visitors if Sin City!"  A woman came out of the white moving truck, a microphone in her hand, letting her be heard over the general din.  "You have benefited from the wages of sin for far too long!  Now the bill comes due!"

3 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 8

Everywhere a zombie Elvis, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 8.

Heck of a place to leave off, with zombie Elvii.  This was the moment I had in mind when I started the arc.  I tried not to rush the build up, making sure that I had everything I needed laid out so that when the undead Elvis army started marching, it wasn't going to be a joint face-palm by the audience.  I had to make sure that the missing bodies more or less could pass as Elvis, and that Demona didn't jump to that conclusion.  She had no reason to suspect an Elvis impersonation theme.

Leading up, I realized that the anti-magic blanket couldn't have been done by the person animating the Elvii.  Doing that would inhibit their own goal of sending the army of undead Elvii through Vegas.  I figured that out soon enough that I could bring in Byron.  His reasoning was that if there's bodies going missing, someone might want to raise or animate them and cutting off the magic would at least delay them long enough for his team to find them.  He forgot about Nadia, which was not a good idea.

Demona asking about which Frankenstein goes back to my other main project, Lost in Translation.  Demona, though, comes to the question because she's a youth librarian who has to explain to students that watching the movie adaptation doesn't always work as a substitute for reading the original work.  Frankenstein is a great example of why - the book never goes into how the Monster is brought to life and adds the fear of fire.  The Monster is different in the movie, being more child-like.

Nadia is a speed demon.  She's pushing the SUV's limits.  The SUV was chosen because I needed a vehicle large enough for the cast plus the camera crew, so a seven-passenger SUV it is.  Passing a cop while doing 30 over tends to get attention, and you don't have to outrun the cop; you have to outrun the radio.  Said cop also comes back as a way to stop Nadia from catching up to the antagonist too soon and as a way to just end the scene.  Camera goes off, scene ends.  Part of the framework of the story.

I took a different approach to the zombie invasion.  I'm assuming people are genre aware here.  Zombie movies and TV series have been around for some time.  Las Vegas is known for its entertainment, so a zombie invasion there may just look like just another spectacle.  No one is going to run away right away.  Once the zombies attack, there will be people in the crowd willing to draw a gun and try for headshots.  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.  Things would not go well.  Then add police, including SWAT, moving in.

Friday, Love Me Rotten, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 9.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Flash (1990).
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Convoy.

2 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 7

The morning after the night before, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 7.

Starting the catch up now.  The past couple of weeks have been busy and something had to give.  Unfortunately, it was this blog.  That's past, it distracts from the now.  On we go!

A little bit of fun, at least for the writer and, hopefully, the audience at the beginning.  Nadia thinks she's been seduced and taken advantage of by Demona.  Yes, Nadia has a few prejudices to work through, but she hasn't run into any half-succubi.  Full ones, yes; half, no.  This let me get out a bit of background about Demona.  If sleeping with a succubus leads to one's soul being drained, what does sleeping with a half-succubus result in?  If the other half is Catholic, guilt.  Incredible guilt.  That, or Demona just has really lousy luck when it comes to sex.

The other side of the scene is the question of nature or nuture.  Demona is part demon, but her father raised her well.  The core of her beliefs is the ideal of forgiveness.  Demona doesn't want to hold grudges and, generally, she is a decent sort.  The nicest person in the story is a half-demon.  Nadia, the most acerbic, is fully human.  Tends to be something I play with - see also The Devil You Know.

Ian did some investigating off-screen.  If this were a visual medium, he'd get a montage of walking around and talking to different people.  Here, I skipped past it because it wasn't the current focus.  Nadia's break down and Demona being a friend were.  Ian gets to deliver the summary, which is some good news for Nadia.

The bit about Nellis Air Force Base is a nod to B-grade horror and monster movies, where the military exists either to create the horror/monster or to be completely ineffective at stopping it.  Nadia is just making sure that things aren't getting out of hand, and having Nellis on alert is way out of hand.

I wound up using Google Streetview to get an idea of what the highway Nadia's driving on looks like.  It's handy, especially when getting out to a location may be difficult.  I did the same with with LTV Paranormalists and Kristi's hometown, Moose Island.  It's not as good a first-hand experience, where I'd get not just the sights, but the sounds, smells, and temperature, but considering that I'd probably burst into flames in the Nevada desert sun, I'll live with it.

I'm dropping the previews for the next chapter.  Turns out, when I wrote the chapters, I bookended them with character asides, either wrapping things up or hinting at the coming chapter already.  So, it's just extra work retrofitting it in.  I'm leaving them out for now, at least for Heaven's Rejects.

Friday, Love Me Rotten, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 9.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Flash (1990).
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Convoy.

26 Sep 2019

Taking the weekend off

Apologies for anyone expecting commentary today.  This week got away from me to the point where I lost a full day somehow.  I am taking this week off from posting here, so no new commentary today and the next chapter of Heaven's Rejects will be a week delayed.  I hope to get everything back on track for this time next week.

Friday, no chapter, but Heaven's Rejects will return next week.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, thoughts on a Battlestar Galactica reboot.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Flash 1990.

20 Sep 2019

Heaven’s Rejects - Episode 8

Episode 8 - "With Friends Like These"


I took a field trip with Demona to find out just how far this blanket cutting me off from the flow of magic went.  Far enough, but it's shrinking.  That gives me time to find the /kelev/ responsible and feed him a personal part of his anatomy.

It was just us girls going out of town.  Nadia loosened up a bit, though after what happened in the morning, there wasn't much left to be bared.  When she gets a chance to relax, Nadia can be nice, in her own way.

I went looking around Las Vegas trying to find what happened and the people behind it.  I came up with nothing.  That's going to be the focus now.  Team One One Seven can keep looking for the missing John Does.

The next day, Nadia, Ian, and Demona split up, each following up on different leads.  Demona remained holed up in her hotel room, going back to her online research.  Ian walked around Las Vegas, looking into the smaller venues to see if there was anything amiss.  One had a magic act cancel at the last minute, but beyond that, he found nothing out of the ordinary.  Nadia drove around the city in the rented SUV, working out the edges of the blanket cutting her off from the flow of magic.  Through trial and error, she worked out approximately where the blanket was centered.  In the afternoon, she drove to a local high school not far from the Strip.  With school still in session, Nadia could only drive past and make note of the parking lot.

The three met up again in Demona's room to share their findings.  Demona had a Power Point presentation ready to go, much to Nadia's annoyance.  Ian sat down for the report, giving his feet a rest.  Nadia only paced.  Demona's report showed a pattern in when the John Does went missing.  The morgue needed to have at least four unknowns arrive, with the missing John Doe being either the second or third of the night.  She didn't have any information that could lead to exactly when the bodies were removed from the morgue, though.

Demona's smartphone rang, playing the chorus from PSY's "Daddy".  She answered it, then passed the phone and Kaye over to Nadia.  A few minutes later, plans were made for Kaye and one of her teammates to meet in the buffet for dinner.  The meeting broke to let everyone clean up.

Nadia, with a clean black t-shirt to match her jeans and her boots, was the first to arrive at the hotel's restaurant.  She let the hostess take her to a large table.  Ian arrived not long after, trailed by the camera crew.  The crew set up so that no other table would be in the shot.  Ian, wearing a polo shirt that stretched over his frame and a pair of grey slacks, sat next to Nadia, ordering a draft beer while he waited for the rest to arrive.  Demona slipped into the restaurant, trying hard not to be seen,  Even her clothes, a silver cardigan over a grey t-shirt and floor length floral skirt, were meant to not attract attention.  She saw Ian and Nadia and joined them.

As the waitress took Demona and Nadia's drink orders, Kaye Ortiz arrived with a taller man with a dark complexion.  Kaye led the man over to the table.  "Hi guys," she said.  "This is Byron Calhoun, Team One One Seven's magic expert."

Nadia stood up.  "HI.  Nadia Wallach."  She shook Byron's hand.  "This is Ian Markowitz and Demona Bell.  Please to meet you."

"I've heard about your team," Byron said.

"And you still came?  You're brave."  Nadia sat back down.  "I figured the buffet would keep everyone happy.  There's something for everyone."

The waitress returned with Nadia's gin and tonic and Demona's diet cola.  She left with Kaye's request for a glass of white wine and Byron's order of a sour apple martini.  Once the group was alone again, Nadia asked, "How is the John Doe case looking?"

Kaye shrugged.  "Still looking.  Demona's been helpful, crunching numbers.  I've managed to get all the information she wanted.  It still feels like something is missing."

Byron grinned, his teeth gleaming under the restaurant's lights.  "Other than the John Does, that is."

"We figured."  Nadia leaned in closer.  "Have any more gone missing in the past couple of days?"

"One, last night," Kaye said.  "Thanks to Demona, the guys at the morgue were able to tell me when they noticed.  No deliveries, no visitors, nothing else happened before they discovered another John Doe left the building."

Demona frowned.  "That's not possible.  Someone had to be there."

"Unless it's an inside job," Ian said.  "Is that possible?"

Kaye shook her head no.  "The night shift guys have been there for years.  The newest guy on the team came on two years ago.  Someone would notice if any of the others are taking bodies out."

"Just a thought."

"We've been following up a new problem," Nadia said.  She looked over at Byron.  "Two days ago, someone dropped a blanket of sorts that cut off the flow of magic.  We've been trying to find whoever's responsible."

"Oh, well, you can stop looking."  Byron beamed.  "I did that."

Nadia launched herself over the table, knocking over her drink.  Before anyone could react, she had a grip on Byron's shirt.  "You what!?"

Kaye grabbed hold of one of Nadia's arms.  "Hands off my people!"

Ian wrapped his arms around Nadia's waist.  "Let's hear him out first, Nadia."

"Do you know how many people you screwed over with that stunt?"  Nadia ignored the people pulling on her.

"Nadia, people are watching," Demona said.  "They're going to kick us out."

Nadia piushed Byron back into his seat.  "That stunt of yours let every practicing mage and who knows how many supernatural entities know that you're in town.  How does it feel to have a target on your tuches?"

Kaye got herself between Nadia and her teammate.  "If you have a problem with anyone on my team, you bring it up with me."

"Did you know that he was going to do something stupid?"

Byron adjusted his shirt.  "It was a preventative measure.  If someone was taking the John Does to animated, then I delayed them."

"But cutting off the flow of magic in Las Vegas?"  Nadia sat back down.  She worked to get her volume under control.  "You closed off a method of finding the thief.  What sort of mage are you?"

"I'm not.  I'm an alchemist."

Nadia rolled her eyes.  "And you didn't think to ask a mage if your idea was a good one?"

"Do you have a better idea?"

Ian formed a T with his hands.  "Time out, everyone."  He looked over to Nadia.  "We found out who cut off the flow of magic.  One less mystery."  He turned to Byron.  "How about giving all agents a heads-up before you do something like that again.  Maybe you can't feel the flow, but cutting it off sent up a flare.  If there were supernaturals in town that weren't aware there was an Agency team in town, they do now.  That's going to make it harder for all of us."

"There's a bright spot in it, thought."  Demona shrunk back from Nadia's glower.  "Whoever is stealing the John Does isn't using magic, right?  They couldn't have last night, but a body went missing."

Nadia bit her lower lip.  "The rookie has a point.  There's no magic involved."

"Unless they used a potion or an amulet," Byron said.  "Those wouldn't be affected.  The magic's already in the item."

"But can you create something to animate the dead?" Demona asked.

Byron shrugged.  "Probably?  It's just a matter of working out the matrix needed."

"No, you'd still need to infuse the body with magic, even with an amulet," Nadia said.  "Magic items can't store enough magic to do much more than getting a corpse to sit up.  It also takes time to create these things.  How many missing John Does are we up to now?"

"About a dozen," Kaye said.  "Probably more."

Ian drained his beer.  "Unless there's a Frankenstein process involved, that's going to take to prepare."

"Which Frankenstein, book or movie?" Demona asked.

"There's a difference?"

Demona smiled.  "A big one.  Mary Shelley didn't go into the details of how the Monster was brought back to life.  The movie used a lightning bolt.  We're in a desert.  Who is going to count on a thunderstorm to hit here?"

"No one, but Hoover's Dam isn't far from here," Kaye said.  "Maybe an hour out of town at most, depending on traffic."

Nadia looked over to Ian.  "Did you get your gear in yet?"

Ian nodded.  "It arrived around noon yesterday."

"You're thinking of checking out Hoover Dam?" Demona asked.  "I thought /Frankenstein/ was fiction."

"It is, but that doesn't stop anyone from doing something stupid.  Kaye, call your team.  We'll meet them there.  We're going to eat before we go."


Nadia urged the rental SUV faster down the freeway, passing traffic like the cars were standing still.  Beside in the front passenger seat, Ian braced himself, making sure his seat belt was fastened properly.  He watched as a sedan swerved out of the lane.  A loud honking followed.  Demona clutched at her door handle in the back seat, her knickles turning white.  "Slow down!"

"I'm not even thirty over the limit," Nadia called back.  "The rental company must have put a limiter on it.  It's bad enough that it's an automatic."

"You almost hit that car!"

"I missed, didn't I?"

Ian looked back.  "I think we just blew past a cop going the other way."

"Yeah, and?"  Nadia checked the rearview mirrors.  "It's not like he's gonna catch up with us."

"The police have radios," Demona said.  "He could call us in."

"And say what, there's a speeding truck?"

Demona rolled her eyes.  "If we're stopped, I don't know you."

"If we had my car, we could check the police frequencies," Ian said.

"If we had your car, Demona would be strapped on top," Nadia counted.  "Look, we need to get to the Dam."

"Why the rush?"  Ian winced as the SUV came within inches of sideswiping a semi.  "We don't know that anything's happening there."

"Kaye and the rest of Team One One Seven are on their way."

Demona looked out the back window.  "We passed them ten miles back."

Nadia held down on the horn to get a Corvette to move out of the lane.  "They're still on their way."  She let out a low whistle.  "We're too late."  She pointed over to a bright display of light coming from Hoover Dam.  Actinic light played along power lines.  Over the Dam itself, lightning surged skywards then arced back down.  Thunder cracked.  Winds buffeted the SUV.  Nadia gritted her teeth as she fought to stay on the road.

Coaxing as much speed as she could out of the Ford SUV, Nadia raced to get to Hoover Dam, cutting off a camper as she exited on to the Dam's access road.  The light show dimmed, but didn't end.  Nadia eased off on the SUV's speed on the double-laned road.  There was no traffic ahead of her, though, letting her still drive above the speed limit.  As the SUV neared the last bend before the Dam, a white moving truck roared by.  Nadia put the SUV into a bootlegger turn, throwing Ian, Demona, and the camera crew into the side of the Ford.

"What was--"  Demona's question got cut off as Nadia floored the accelerator.  Tires squealed before they found traction.  "I missed something."

"Hoover Dam's visiting hours ended at five.  It's well past that.  So why is there a delivery truck coming from the Dam?"

Ian shrugged.  "Late delivery?"

"And just happens to be leaving after the light show?"

"Makes perfect sense to me," Demona said.  "If I was a delivery driver, I'd leave, too.  No one gets paid enough for that."

"Okay, you two, answer me this.  If they were running away, would they have passed us sooner, like when the light show began?"  Nadia waited a moment for an answer.  "The average /shlmiel/ would have taken off when everything went nuts.  Even if they froze at first, they'd be gone before the light show ended."

Ian nodded in agreement.  "So what's in there?  The missing John Does?"

"Got a better suggestion?  Oh, shit!"  Nadia stood on the brake.  The SUV screeched to a halt, its front bumper half an inch from a Nevada Highway Patrol cruiser, its lights strobing blue and red.

The state trooper walked around his car to approach Nadia.  "Care to explain why you were so far over the speed limit?"

Nadia produced her license and the rental agreement.  "Hello, Officer."

The trooper glanced at the paperwork.  "I'm waiting."

"This might be above your pay scale, Officer."

"And you want my supervisor."  The state trooper glared at Nadia.  "Just who do you think I am?"

Nadia smiled.  "Look, Officer, did you see the fancy light show with the thunder and lightning just now?"

"Was that your handiwork?"

"Just how fast do you think I was going?"

"At least eighty miles per hour.  I wouldn't be surprised if you hit a hundred."

Nadia glanced back at Ian.  "Maybe I was too harsh on this car."  She turned her attention back to the state trooper.  "To be honest, I didn't think it would go that fast."

The trooper brought out his ticket book.  "Just consider yourself lucky I'm not hauling you--  Is that a camera?  Hey, are you recording me?  Turn it off.  Turn it off now--"


The biggest obstacle we face in the Agency is law enforcement.  We are told to not break the law but there are times when we bend it.  A lot.  Speeding is minor considering everything else we do, but when it gives the cop a reason to search our car, then it gets a little sticky.

I am not taking the blame for this.  I was just a passenger.  Nadia has a lead foot.  I knew she'd be pulled over.

It'd be easier to do our jobs if we could just pull out a badge that trumps these cops.  Or use some sort of code.  But the Agency wanted to be secret, so no.  At least Kaye arrived to help out.  She has some pull around here.  I gotta ask her how she managed that.


Nadia followed Kaye back into Las Vegas, driving at a more sedate pace at the speed limit.  The urge to pass Team One One Seven and their full sized passenger van gnawed at her.  She was sure something was happening in the city.  Just what, Nadia didn't know, but there was something happening.

Ian turned on the radio.  He flipped from station to station until he found an all-news broadcast.  The news announcer droned on about the day's news.  Ian looked over at Nadia.  "It's quiet."

The news announcer gave way to the traffic reporter.  "A truck has blocked the Las Vegas Boulevard at East Tropicana.  Police have set up roadblocks in the area.  Traffic is halted in both directions."

After exchanging a glance with Nadia, Ian got out his smartphone.  He sent a quick text to Kaye.  Team One One Seven's van sped up.  Nadia followed suit, passing the van.  Demona grabbed on to Ian's seat.  "What's the rush?  Wasn't one lecture from a highway patrolman enough for one day?"

"Ian, start the timer," Nadia said, ignoring the question.  "We have fifteen minutes."

"Fifteen minutes?"  Demona turned her attention from Ian to Nadia and back again.  "Fifteen minutes until what?"

Ian shifted in his seat to look at Demona.  "Police are already on site.  That means people will wonder what's going on.  The Strip is a tourist attraction, so there's going to be people with phones out taking pictures.  What do you think will happen when they see the John Does walking around?"

Demona shrugged.  "Run away?"  She sat back in her seat.  "No, wait, they wouldn't.  Not right away.  This is Las Vegas, entertainment capital.  They'll think the zombies are part of a show and move in to get photos.  If the zombies attack, then people will get hurt and a panic happens."

"There's more," Ian said.  "One person posting about a zombie apocalypse might not be noticed.  Hundreds posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media?  That gets noticed.  Hashtag zombies hashtag Las Vegas.  That will bring in the wannabe zombie hunters, who will get in the way."

"Hashtag headshot hashtag morons."  Nadia managed to fit the SUV between a pair of semis.  "Crowd control is hard enough without having the helpful in the way."  She glanced down at the speedometer.  "We should be there in about ten minutes, giving us a really slim margin to get past the police and find whoever stole these John Does."

Nadia pushed the Ford SUV to its limit, never easing up on the throttle until well inside Las Vegas city limits.  Even then, red lights and stop signs were more suggestions than requirements.  It was only when the traffic came to a dead stop that Nadia did, too.  The three agents jumped out of the SUV.  Ian ran to the back to get his gym bag.  Nadia and Demona pushed their way through the gathering crowd.  The white truck that had eluded them at Hoover Dam blocked the road ahead.

Ian caught up to the two women.  He stared at the spectacle in front of him.  "Huh.  You don't see that everyday."  Shambling away from the truck and the roadblock were a score of dead men, each with a pompadour, each wearing a silver jumpsuit.  "Zombie Elvis impersonators."

19 Sep 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 6

Mission or vacation, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 6.

Nadia and Ian are treating the trip to Vegas as a vacation.  They're there as consultants, not active investigators, so they're going to take advantage of every moment they can.  Demona, not being an active agent for long, is having second, third, and fourth thoughts about her life choices.  The behaviour comes down to beliefs.  Demona believes that she will get into Heaven as long as she lives well.  She is religious, which I'll get to below, and does her best to be a good person.  Ian and, especially, Nadia believe they won't get in because of what they do to keep people safe.  Nadia is very much aware that she has shut down all avenues.  Thus, Demona is refusing to go beyond her hotel room while Ian and Nadia are enjoying their time in Vegas.

Religion does play a role, at least in the background.  Nadia is a semi-practicing Jew who is fluent in Yiddish insults and swearing.  Demona is Catholic.  Her nature, though, creates problems.  Hallowed ground, and it doesn't matter the religion involved doing the blessing, causes problems for Demona.  Like, she catches fire crossing a church's threshold problems.  When I was creating Demona, I knew she was half-succubus.  The other half is Catholic, or so the joke went in my head.  And she is faithful; of all of her parish's members, she is well aware of what awaits in the afterlife.  Her father raised her as Catholic, and she does go to services when she can.  Holy symbols affect her when used against her, as seen in Episode 1.

That's why I had Nadia try to banish her again.  I wanted to show that Nadia lost her power.  The holy symbol is more a focus than anything else, but if Demona didn't feel the banishing attempt, something is wrong.  One of the reasons Nadia calls herself "Heaven's reject", besides the title drop, is because she knows there's a demon waiting for her to fall so he can drag her to Hell.  No magic, no protection.  No protection, and the demon can grab her when he wants.

Sometimes, writing by the seat of my pants leads to interesting revelations for characters.  At the beginning, I didn't know that Demona spent summers with her mother.  But her mom did want to see her daughter once she was beyond being a toddler.  Custody was easy enough; Hell has the best lawyers.  Demona is essentially the team's walking demon wiki, though with the caveat that she knows specific demons, not all of them.

I knew what the payoff I wanted for this arc of the series was going to be when I started it.  It was a random whim, but damn if didn't turn into a driving force.  I needed to set up the punchline, though, so that it didn't come completely out of left field.  The descriptions are important.  The missing bodies do have something in common.  The reveal is coming, but the body thief does have a plan for her ill-gotten booty.

Friday, Hoover Dam, magical light, and the clock begins, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 8.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, thoughts on a Battlestar Galactica reboot.

13 Sep 2019

Heaven’s Rejects - Episode 7

Episode 7 – The Day After the Night Before

Something happened last night that cut Nadia off from her ability to use magic.  I don't get how that works and Nadia's in no condition to explain, but it freaked her out.  A lot.  For reasons.

I should put in for babysitting fees.  Nadia is a loud drunk, the type to get into everyone's business.  I preferred her being morose.  At least she wasn't singing.  She doesn't really get the idea of hitting notes.

Nadia head throbbed, waking her up.  She lay on her stomach, eyes still closed, trying to figure out why her tongue felt like it needed to be mowed while jackhammers pounded her temples.  The bed shifted.  Nadia opened her eyes.  The hotel room didn't look any different, yet somehow, it was.  The bed moved again, as if there was someone else there with her.  Moving slow in case the other person was sleeping, Nadia rolled over.  Seeing Demona, she pushed backwards, falling out of the bed.

Demona stirred at the noise.  "Nadia?"

"What are you doing in my room?"  Nadia picked herself up from the floor.

"This is my room."  Demona sat up.  "You stayed with me last night."

"I what?"  Nadia shut her eyes as her headache redoubled in strength.  "What am I doing here?"  Opening her eyes again, she looked down.  "And where the hell are my clothes?"  She covered her breasts with her hands.

"You threw them around the room last night."  Demona swung her legs out from under the blankets.  "I barely, excuse the pun, kept you from running out into the hall.  Then you took some of the drinks from the fridge here.  I am not paying for those, for the record."

"How did we end up in bed?"  Nadia narrowed her eyes.  "You must have seduced me to sleep with me."

12 Sep 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 5

Viva Las Vegas, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 5.

Some nice character moments in the briefing.  Nadia is hooked on British drama and comedies, and would be watching Good Omens if it had been out when I was writing.  She grew up on PBS.  Demona gets to freak out for no apparent reason, though that will come out later.  The idea that the daughter of a succubus isn't allowed to go to Vegas amused me.  I then built the reason around that whim.

Heaven's Rejects was more or less written on whims, with some planning.  Once I had the idea, though, I started working out the details, mostly asking "Why?" as many times as needed.  This entire arc started with a whim.  I'll point it out once it comes up, but I had to keep myself from rushing to the big twist/reveal.

Vegas is set up for gambling.  Casinos exist to drain money from visitors.  It's only gambling when the odds aren't in your favour.  To keep people gaming, everything is set up around the gaming floor.  Lights never change, there's no natural light allowed in, it's easy enough to order something to eat or drink while at the tables.  Some people celebrating every once in a while, because it's always possible to roll a 5 on 2d6 twice before rolling a 7, adds to the idea that you, yes you, could win.  The casinos aren't the only things in Vegas, though.  They're an attraction, but people do live there.

I'm using a few different sources for my interpretation of Vegas.  While not a realistic series - just how did Grissom get the money for two very expensive forensics machines, anyway? - CSI: Crime Scene Investigation did show the city.  Likewise, Ocean's Eleven and its sequels allowed a different look at the city.  I also have friends who have been there that told me about their trip.  It's the "write what you know" adage, except I take to mean do the research before getting too deep.

The camera crew reappear!  The idea behind Heaven's Rejects is that it is a reality series following a team of agents who protect humanity from the supernatural.  They don't get mentioned a lot because the view is meant to be from their lens.  If they get seen, they're doing their job wrong.  But sometimes, it's hard to just forget about them.  They're there in the scene, and if they're present, someone will notice.

Some of the possible uses for the missing bodies come from other sources.  I once played a doctor in a French RPG, Te Deum, set in 16th century France.  Once event in his background was that he stole bodies to practice on when in university studying medicine.  Hence, the frat prank.  The brothel and subsequent comments was inspired by Weekend at Bernie's.  The comment about the ranchers is, well, accurate.

Friday, Nadia and Demona's road trip, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 7.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Phantom of the Opera (1942).
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week.

6 Sep 2019

Heaven’s Rejects - Episode 6

Episode 6 – “What Happens in Vegas”

We met with Kaye from Team One One Seven.  She wants us for our knowledge.  Her team is going to do the heavy lifting.  Me and mine get to sit back and relax.  And we're in Las Vegas!  Casino, here I come!

Nadia's happy and Demona's miserable.  And here I am, not trying to get in the middle.  Yeah.  Anyway, if we're not being called in to deal with a problem that the team onsite can't handle, I'll take advantage of the down time.  A show or two, try out a few restaurants, maybe wander through a casino or two.  Maybe there's a bus tour for other sights.  My gear should be on its way, but it's not going to be needed.

I hope I didn't jinx myself.

I hate this place.  Not the hotel.  The entire city.  I could do what I'm doing back in Chicago or even back home in Iowa City.  But, no, here I am in the suitably named "Sin City".  I am never leaving this room except to go to the airport to go home.

Nadia took a deep breath of the night air.  Neon light up her black t-shirt and jeans in a kaleidoscope of colour.  Throngs of people walked around her.  On the road, a steady stream of traffic flowed by.  Nadia turned to the camera crew.  "This is the life, you know?  No worries about what I might be facing tomorrow.  No creature trying to rip off my limbs.  No fighting for my life.or my soul.  You don't get that often in the Agency."  She resumed walking.  "Look at everyone here.  Not a care in their worlds.  I get to be like that for a night.  The only decision right now is which casino I want to go to.  Caesar's Palace?  Circus Circus?  New York New York for a taste of home?  So many choices."

5 Sep 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 4

Into the belly of Des Moines, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 4.

I am a pantser during NaNo.  I may have general plans and markers I want to hit, but how I get there is very much dependent on me finding a path as I write.  When I started this arc of Heaven's Rejects, I didn't have an endpoint immediately in mind, but current events of November 2018 and the months leading up to then made the decision easier.  With LTV Paranomalists, written November 2016, I found myself questioning if I wanted to use a redcap as the villain of the part currently in progress.  I didn't want to get that political in my writing.  In 2018, that worry went out the window.  The ghost of a Confederate officer using dark magic to screw over the North?  I had nothing stopping me.

However, Iowa was never a battleground in the American Civil War.  The state supplied food for the North.  I had to figure out why a crazed Confederate officer would be sending ghouls out in Des Moines.  The food supply became the answer; along with Sherman's March to the Sea.  General William Tecumseh Sherman and his troops were determined to end the fighting by making examples of people who fought back, taking their food and livestock and burning their farms.  Why wouldn't a Confederate officer try the same thing to hamper Union supply lines?  The further an army gets from home, the harder it gets to maintain the delivery of required materiel, from guns and ammunition to food and drink.  Cut off part of the supply chain and the army starves.  There was my villain's motive.

From there, I just had to work out the details and how the ghouls came about.  After that, my characters just had to figure out how to stop the ghouls.  I also needed to work out how Team Six died.  So many threads to pull together, though not as bad as the number of dangling plot ends near the end of The Devil You Know.  The other piece I wanted to add is that guns aren't always the best solution.  Ian could have kept shooting ghouls until he ran out of ammunition and they still would keep coming.  The solution, the one Demona discovered and Nadia implemented, took the fight to another level.  I did something similar with The Devil You Know and The Soul Blade.  It makes for a more interesting story.

When I created my core cast, I hadn't planned on throwing in a Confederate villain.  Nadia came about as I realized that I really don't have religious characters for the most part, and the idea of someone using a Star of David to focus faith and magic through in a way that normally involves a cross or crucifix, then failing to exorcise Demona.  Throwing a Jewish woman from New York City against an officer of a breakaway state claiming to be Christian was not planned ahead of time.  I accidentally added some layers there that I didn't realize until I was writing the paragraphs.  Having set up Nadia with her use of casual Yiddish, inspired by the likes of Mel Brooks, her tossing in Yiddish words just helped with the gap between her and the officer.

Setting up the finale, I used a lot of numbers for the cops.  Part of that was thanks to NaNo's word count; one number is one word, three numbers triples the count.  I could also toss in the 404 error, this time, "Police officer not found."  The supervisor's numbers were randomly generated.  I don't even know if that's how Des Moines's police department runs things.  It was needed, it worked, therefore, it stayed.

Friday, two out of three Rejects enjoy Vegas, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 6.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Superman vs the Mole Men.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Phantom of the Opera (1943).

30 Aug 2019

Heaven’s Rejects - Episode 5

Episode 5 – “Sin City, Here We Come!"

Hi, I'm Demona, and I'm the new girl on the team.  I'm supposed to be the demon expert, but I'm more a researcher than anything else.  Last week, I managed to distract ghouls by offering myself as bait.  That doesn't sound as good as it did at the time.

I'm Ian.  I work with my partner, Nadia, and our new, I guess you'd call her an apprentice?  An intern?  Trainee?  Anyway, Demona.  We cleared out a nest of Confederate ghouls in Des Moines, so I'm hoping for something less threatening to the public.  One where if we mess up, no one gets eaten.

The Chief owes us.  He sent us into a situation blind.  That we got out with our tuches in one piece is a bloody miracle.  I'm going to spend the time catching up on Doctor Who, Coronation Street, and Dirk Gently.  Anyone disturbing me better have coffee with them.

Nadia strode into the Chief's office, not caring that she was half an hour late.  She dropped into a free chair.  "I thought we were getting a week off."

The Chief looked up from his paperwork.  "So happy you could make it, Ms Wallach."

"I was watching a Doctor Who marathon, Chief.  I told you that I was going to be incommunicado.  What the hell were you thinking, sending Ramona?  Without coffee, even."


Nadia settled into her chair.  "Done."

"Good."  The Chief slid an envelope over to Ian.  "Team One One Seven requested you.  They've been tracking some oddities in Las Vegas.  You three get to go help them."

Demona held up her hand.  "Um, sir?  Las Vegas?  Sin City?  That Las Vegas?"

The Chief levelled his stare at the former librarian.  "Unless there's another one in the world, yes, that Las Vegas."  He leaned back in his chair.  "Everything you need to get to Vegas is in the envelope.  Talk to Marcie about shipping any other gear you need.  Team One One Seven should have supplies, too."

"I can't go to Vegas!"

29 Aug 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary Break

Taking the week off from the commentary.  I'll get caught up after the long weekend.

Friday, dealing with missing persons, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 5.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Kong: Skull Island.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Superman vs the Mole Men.

23 Aug 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Episode 4

Episode 4 – “Hello Darkness"


Me and Demona found where Team Six set up.  Turns out, they had found a pattern of disappearances and found out there were ghouls around.  Now we're trying to stop them from coming out and eating everyone in Des Moines.  Fun times to be had by all.

Nadia pulled the minivan to a stop in front of the police roadblock.  "Ian, you're with me.  Everyone else, stay here."  She got out of the van and strode towards the police officer.  "You!  I need your supervisor!"

The officer stepped forward to stop the woman.  "You can't be here."

"You're telling me.  Wallach."  Nadia hooked a thumb in Ian's direction.  "Markowitz.  CDC."


"Center for Disease Control."

"No one told me you were coming.  I need some ID."

Nadia flashed an exasperated look at Ian.  "No one told you?  I don't believe this.  A major breakout and no one told you we were coming."  She pulled out her leather ID case and handed it to the cop.  "Here.  And get a supervisor here."

The officer clicked his radio.  "Dispatch, this is Four-Zero-Four Adam.  I need an officer in charge at my location."

"Four-Zero-Four Adam, informing officer in charge," a woman's voice said over the tinny radio speaker.  "What is the problem?"

"Is that encrypted?" Nadia asked.  "Not a word unless it's encrypted.  Do you want to start a panic?"