3 Mar 2016

The Devil You Know - Commentary

Title: The Devil You Know
Year: 2013
Main Characters: Ione MacKenzie, Jack
Current Status: Incomplete

Skipping past 2012's Beaver Flight brings me to 2013's The Devil You Know.  The project was the first one I blogged about here, from concept through progress reports to final results.  The characters may even be familiar.

The Devil You Know began with the concept of crossing urban fantasy with a spy thriller.  Prior to writing, I had read Linda Poitevin's Grigori Legacy, an urban fantasy police procedural that involved angels.  I've also read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, a comedy about Armageddon featuring, among others, an angel and a demon working together to prevent the apocalypse.  With those two sources playing in my head, another idea mixed in, one that began with the musing of characters named Jack.  Jack coalesced as a character, and the core idea finally formed.

The first chapter sets up the entire premise, though doesn't spell it out.  A rogue angel out to start the Final War between Heaven and Hell is targeting operations he believes aids the other side, operations like drug running and arms dealing.  Ione got involved through the tracking of BitCoins, leading her to work with the doomed British agents and Gemma.  Jack, who doesn't appear until Chapter 3 and not named until Chapter 5, wants to stop the rogue for his own reasons.  He never told me what those were, though.

The cast grew from just Jack and Ione to a larger ensemble that included Ione's friend Karen, sister Amy, and cat Diesel; British agent Gemma, angelic barista Ben, and Jack's succubus aide Mara.  Each of them received their own minor plotline, from Karen's attempt to have a relationship with Ben to Diesel's secret life.  Everything I learned from previous years got applied, from know who the characters were to giving each character a story of his or her own, even if it was wrapped up when they first appeared.  I also had a direction to head in, the final confrontation between Ione, Jack, and the rogue.  The growth came naturally, though.  Mara, originally added because Jack's jet needed a co-pilot, integrated herself into the plot, becoming a confidante for Ione.  Ben started as a barista but had his role expanded because I needed an angel around.

The story is starting to show its age.  BitCoins have had their day and have failed in being a replacement for currency.  The Russian drug krokodil had its brief moment in the press and has faded to obscurity.  Both BitCoins and krokodil served their purpose in the story, details that tied the narrative to the real world even while devils and angels walked the Earth.

Why incomplete?  Just as with The Soul Blade, I wound up with too many dangling plot lines at a point where I wanted to start pulling everything together.  Gemma, while useful to keep Ione even further off balance, became the odd woman out at a time when I needed to push towards the rogue angel.  I was heading to the confrontation and realized that I hadn't worked out the choreography of the scene.  Beside Ione, Jack, and the rogue angel, there were going to be two high-ranking criminals on a boat in the Mediterranean.  The details weren't working out in my head, and late in November, my brain starts getting fuzzy.  The other issue is length; at almost 52k words, the story is a little short if I want a shot at publication.  Even the last confrontation wouldn't add much more that 2500 words.  That leaves me going back and adding details, either from Ione's view or someone else's.  My first choice for alternate viewpoints is Gemma; it was her people who died in Chapter 1.

For added fun, here's some of the early research I did for The Devil You Know.  I wanted to have an idea for when Ione would return home, so I did a quick search on various airlines' websites to see what the shortest and longest routes from Ottawa to Paris would be.  The results surprised me.
Short notice flight, Paris/de Gaulle to Ottawa:
KLM ($2955), depart 7:20am, 13h, 38min flight, arrive 2:58pm
Route:  Paris – Amsterdam (1h20min)
        55 minute layover
        Amsterdam – Toronto (8h10min)
        2h15min layover
        Toronto – Ottawa (58min)
Thus, Ione gets to work at 4pm, gets chewed out, and gets home at 5:30pm before collapsing.

Air France ($4834), depart 10:30am, 12h28min flight, arrive 4:58pm
Route:  Paris – Montreal [PET] (7h25min)
        2h5min layover
        Montreal – Toronto (1h18min, wait, what? Via WestJet)
        42min layover (yeah, right)
        Toronto – Ottawa (58min)
Thus, Ione gets home at 6:00pm, gets chewed out in morning.
BUT!  Montreal is a two hour drive from Ottawa, while Ione wastes that just waiting for the flight to TO.  She could be in at 2:30 to be yelled at.

British Airways ($2520), depart 10:55am, 13h33min flight, arrive 6:28pm
Route:  Paris – London [Heathrow] (1h15min)
        1h5min layover
        London – Toronto (7h55min)
        2h20min layover
        Toronto – Ottawa (58min)
Thus, Ione gets to home at 7:30pm, gets chewed out at work the next morning.

Checking Paris – Montreal:
Swiss Air ($4587), depart 7:00am, 14h flight, arrive 3:00pm
Route:  Paris – Geneva (1h10min)
        1h55min layover
        Geneva – Zurich (55min)
        1h50min layover
        Zurich – Montreal/PET (8h10min)
Thus, Ione gets home at 5:30pm and chewed out the next day.

Multiple ($2911), depart 7:30am, 16h flight, arrive 5:30pm
Route:  Paris – London/Heathrow (1h10min via British Airways)
        1h50min layover
        London – New York/JFK (7h45min via Virgin Atlantic)
        3h40min layover
        New York – Montreal (1h35min via American Airways)
Thus, Ione gets home at 8pm, gets chewed out next morning

Delta ($4051), depart 7:30am,, 21h30min flight, arrive 11:00pm O.O
Route:  Paris – London/Heathrow (1h20min)
        5h15min layover (what?)
        London – New York/JFK (8h18min)
        5h7min layover (again?)
        New York – Montreal (1h30min via WestJet)
Thus Ione gets home at 1:30am, gets chewed out next morning while still jet lagged.

SN Brussels Airlines ($4505), depart 8:30am, 10h flight, arrive 12:30pm
Route:  Paris – Brussels (55min flight)
        1h25min layover
        Brussels – Montreal (7h40m flight)
Thus, Ione gets to work for 2:30pm to be chewed out, gets home at 4pm.
Next, VIA Rail
Leaves 1:14pm, arrives Ottawa at 2:51pm, but lets Ione get to office by 3:15pm, home by 4:40pm.
There was no direct flight from Ottawa to Paris.  The best time came from heading to Montreal then taking VIA Rail to Ottawa, skipping layovers that are longer than driving from either Montreal or Toronto to Ottawa.  The last leg of the first flight listed, via KLM, is just faster than driving, but by just an hour.  The longest, via Delta, has two 5+ hour layovers.  Just getting the right flight details made the difference of how awake Ione would be when she talked to her boss.

Tomorrow, the NaNo retrospective wraps up with The Elf's Prisoner.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, "Casting the Runes" Part I.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, "Casting the Runes" Part II.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

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