31 Dec 2017

Goodbye 2017

Go join 2016 on the trash heap.  Lowered expectations and 2017 still failed to meet them.  Bah.

29 Dec 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 22

Ione made arrangements with Gemma.
Ione and Karen arrived back at the hotel.  When they entered, Ben held the note Karen had left.  Ione waved to the angel before flopping on the couch.  Karen walked across the room on unsteady legs.  "Ione, I am never riding with you again."

"We got here safe and sound."

"Barely.  You almost hit that truck!"

"There was plenty of room."

Ben glanced from Ione to Karen.  "Let me get you something, Karen."  He helped the young woman sit down at the counter.  "You seem healthy."

"Just shaken.  Never get on a motorcycle with Ione."

28 Dec 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 21

Ione takes control, in The Devil You Know Chapter 21.

After Chapter 20, I found that I had written myself into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to pull all the different plots and subplots together.  I also had a rough idea of where the climax was going to happen but not how to get there.  I also wanted Ione to take control of what she was doing; so far, she'd been a passenger on the plot wagon and I do hate it when a main character doesn’t have input over what's going on.  What happened to break through the block was looking around for places for Ione to meet Gemma and found a lovely view of the Mediterranean and some other street view locations that got the writing going again.  I also found the Brasserie de Monaco, a brewery with its own bar, with photos and videos online.  All I needed, really, was to do some research, something I couldn't think of doing near the end of November 2013.

With an idea of where events will happen, the next part was figuring out what the events would be, the other part of the corner.  Working on serializing the story did help remind me what I had set up earlier, and having Karen and Ione back together helped with prompting Ione into thinking.  Sure, some of what comes up here was part of my own thought processes, but I had set up some details in the past that now pay off.  Ione's LARPing experience isn’t the best to build on, though.  It’s not like I could go slay a dragon or stop an Aslan ihatei fleet just because I play D&D and Traveller.  But it’s a start and works with the character.

Karen’s plan of getting wasted makes sense from her point of view.  Angels and demons roam the lands, the world’s about to end, and the only person who can stop a rogue angel is her best friend.  Getting drunk is the sanest thing possible; at least she’ll be too numb when the world ends to feel it.  Karen has another purpose in the scene.  With Mara gone, Ione needs someone she can confide in and Karen is the perfect person for that.  Karen is better; Ione knows her better.  Karen can act as both conscience and provocateur.

Gemma was a resource I wanted Ione to use somehow.  At the time of writing, I didn't know just how yet.  Despite all the time used to post the story, I still hadn't worked out what Gemma could do.  I just knew I would need her somehow.  However, Gemma has been established as a British secret agent, one who is tenacious and efficient, if somewhat brutal.  She’s the experience that Ione doesn't have, and Ione knows this.  Thus, the phone call and the meeting.  Ione also took charge during the call.  No pleasant chit-chat, no begging, no explanation, just telling Gemma when and where.  Ione's hoping that the spy will be curious or angry enough to show up.

I had to check the earlier chapters to see if Karen had ever ridden on a motorcycle with Ione before.  Anytime the two of them had gone anywhere together, Karen drove her car, leaving the motorcycle behind.  I had never mentioned if Karen had or hadn't.  I had to make a quick decision – Karen doesn't like being on a motorcycle as a passenger.  Not helping is the choice of ride; Ione's motorcycle back home is a cruiser, not a sport bike, and is a slower machine.

The meeting itself was Ione running her LARP.  She wasn't joking about the type, either; Ione’s seeing everything happening as more Jason Bourne than James Bond.  The author is seeing what’s happening as more Adderly meets urban fantasy, with Ione being more Mona than Adderly.  Ione is keeping the upper hand.  She knows she has something Gemma wants.  Ione doesn't know what she, herself, wants yet, other than that she hopes Gemma will keep being Gemma.  And what Ione has to offer is a big boon to Gemma’s career; a major drug and weapons deal plus the names and descriptions of the major players, sans Jack.

This chapter basically sets up some of the pieces for the ending.  I didn't want to just jump to the end, and even if I did, I needed to work out where everyone was.  This way, the audience can follow along instead of seeing people and items pop out of nowhere.  It’s more organic this way, even if it’s slower.

Friday, into the breach in The Devil You Know Chapter 22.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, holiday adaptations.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, a look forward to 2018.

22 Dec 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 21

The deal is made.
Ione followed Mara as they retraced their route back to the Adagio Monaco Monte Cristo, the redhead's words still echoing in her head.  A demon's friend, Ione never expected to have mixed feelings over the concept.  On one hand, Mara was a succubus and, as such, tempted people.  On the other hand, other than dessert the previous night, the red haired woman hadn't even tried to lure Ione, and, once past her ditzy façade, could be someone to confide in.  Ione amended, as long as Mara could remain fully clothed.

At the hotel, Ione dismounted her motorcycle.  She took off her helmet and ran her fingers through her short hair to try to fix it.  Noticing Mara was still on her ride, Ione asked, "Not coming in?"

21 Dec 2017

dba LTV Paranormalists Sneak Peek Commentary

Last year's NaNoWriMo began with an odd thought - could a story be told by jumping back and forth in the timeline?  The answer is . . . not this one.

dba LTV Paranormalists began as an idea with two young women talking, one skeptical of the other.  Both names were there from the start.  Kristi, the more open to accepting the supernatural, was originally meant to be a bit fore flaky.  Things changed between original concept and the actual writing; the business is her idea and she did think things through.  Ayel was the more skeptical and more cynical.  Again, the character changed a bit from the initial concept.  There is a third character to come, but she didn't fit in the first chapter as it was written.

Flashbacks take care to use.  They serve a purpose.  They don't make for easy writing when every scene leads to one.  I do have ideas of stories that span over two time periods, but this wasn't one.  The plan is to get the narrative to be linear.  That means four chapters are getting the heck editted out of them.  Fun, but at least I realized that the technique is difficult to maintain.

I looked up what the requirements for a Private Investigator's license is in Ontario.  According to the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, a license is needed to be paid for investigating "the character or actions of a person," "a person's business or occupation," or "the whereabouts of persons or property."  Kristi's idea doesn't touch these directly, but there is a nice grey area right before she and Ayel are looking at fines for investigating without a license.  Students don't get into trouble for researching, though.  However, since I'm not a lawyer, a judge, nor a regulator and neither are Ayel or Kristi, I played it safe and made sure to have a fourth character on call.

Raccoons became a running gag in this story.  Turned out 2016 was the year of the raccoon locally.  First was the Rideau Raccoon, who showed up on a scaffold near the Rideau Centre.  Several days later, a sinkhole opened up near where the raccoon was seen, swallowing a minivan.  Later in the year, a fight broke out at the MacDonald's at the Rideau Centre.  Normally, this isn't news; fights happen there all the time.  This time, though, a bystander pulled a baby raccoon from his jacket.  The new raccoon was too small to be the Rideau Raccoon, so now there are two raccoons that were around for unusual events.  Okay, one was the unusual event, but the point stands.  Oh, and the minivan got buried under concrete.  England buries kings under parking lots; Ottawa buries minivans under roads.

I did do some research to update some of the ideas behind both Kristi and Ayel.  Ayel is going for her B.Comm degree from Carleton.  While checking what sort of courses she would take and if she'd be in a class that Kristi might also be in, I discovered that Carleton now has an Entrepreneur stream in the degree, perfect for Ayel.  Kristi is in Art History with a minor in Medieval Studies, mainly because she can.

The flashbacks set up how the business started.  The present is the investigation, which is mostly in the rain.  The plot moves slowly, existing mainly to introduce everyone.  But there is a plan.  Kristi and Ayel have been hired to find out what is haunting Mrs. Jenkins.  There is something out there.  It'll take the first arc for Kristi and Ayel to find out what.

The post is essentially a first draft with minimal editing done.  It's raw.  Work needs to be done, but it works as a sneak peek for now.  I'm hoping to fix the first chapters to get the narrative more linear and get the major character parts out up front.  The cast has some interesting conflicts coming up.

Friday, The Devil You Know returns with Chapter 21!
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, thoughts in the Disney/Fox deal.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, holiday adaptation.

15 Dec 2017

dba LTV Paranormalists - A Limited Liability - Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Rainy Day Monday

The morning rain teemed down, turning the field grey.  The overgrown grass hid the signs of construction in the new development, and what the grass couldn't hide, the rain shaded in its gloom.  Two young women crouched under an umbrella, tryng to avoid being soaked.  One, a tall blonde, sighed.  The other. a tawny brunette, shot the blonde a glare.

"I don't know why you brought me here," Ayel said.  She twisted the umbrella in her grasp, trying to relieve a cramp she felt building.

Kristi flicked back her tawny hair, her curls weighed down from the rain.  "I wanted a second set of eyes."

"All I see is rain."

14 Dec 2017

Mecha Academy Episode 1 - Commentary

With The Devil You Know still being completed, the regular fiction was replaced with a sneak peek my 2017 NaNoWriMo project.  When there's more done with it, it'll be posted here in its entirety, or as much of it that's done given it's a serial.

MechaAcademy began as a concept in 2002, with brief scenes written out but nothing complete.  The problem I ran into then was that I was trying to turn it into a novel when it didn't fit that format at all.  It works as a serial or a series of novellas.  There are elements of soap operas in it, same as Unruly and, to be honest, Subject 13.  The story crept into the list of ideas for NaNo2017 and became a front runner when I realized that I could do what I want with it without worrying about stomping over someone else's intellectual property the way the Shadowrun story would.  I also wanted to have a story done to adapt to another format, whatever that format would be.  At one point, Mecha Academy was planned to be a web comic; that's still a possibility once I either find an artist to work with or learn to draw.

The first chapter introduces the main characters.  I could have started with them meeting in their dorm, but then a key conflict starts and there isn't time to show who they are when they're relaxed.  Each gets a scene of their own, to set them up.  That way, the cliffhanger isn't completely out of the blue.

Rhiannon got the first scene.  Her concept that she is fulfilling the role her brother would have had if he hadn't been killed.  Rhiannon believes in her duty as the heir to the Duchy, and her parents weren't going to stop her.  She's also a little sheltered, thanks to her parents being protective.  That doesn't mean she's naive; Rhiannon isn't going to fall for a simple con.

Miyami has her own secret - she's hacked the system to create a false ID to hide that she's underage.  She has a reason; her parents' business has run into a slow spot, so Miyami applied to the academy.  Miyami is also a royal watcher.  She recognized Rhiannon right away when no one else mentioned anything to the young noble.

Ric's intro went a direction I wasn't expecting.  He's the first to interact with anyone instead of being lost in his own thoughts.  He also didn't exactly hit on Abby, but he was charming.  This sets his personality up in ways I hadn't expected.  The original plan was to have Ric and Rhiannon become an item.  Right now, that's not looking likely, and that's fine.  The story will go where it wants.  Abby wasn't planned on.  She's not going to be a Mara, but now that she's named, she will return.

Dusty was the first to arrive at the academy.  Unlike Rhiannon, Miyami, and Ric, she didn't arrive on planet that day through the spaceport.  She's also more reserved than the rest.  Her scene also explores the setting a bit more, with one of the main sets being detailed.  The dorm has three rooms with bunks, allowing two to a room.  The standard squad is six; Dusty's is down one.  Commander Haag, Dusty's mentor, has a recurring role; he was planned from the start.

Lars is the local boy of the squad.  His family lives not far, a five hour drive away, so his parents dropped him off.  Lars may be the one character in the main cast that can talk to his family without too many problems like faster-than-light restrictions.  He can also call them when he needs help.  The scene also let me put in one of the mecha.  Say hello to it; it'll be some time before it returns.

With the characters established, time to bring them together.  Rhiannon and Miyami were first; they were on the same bus, the one Ric missed and Lars saw unloading.  Miyami is using protocol; Rhiannon's full title is "The Most Honourable Rhiannon Tudor, the Countess of Filton, the Baroness Curren".  The title is a courtesy, taking on a secondary title of both her father, the Duke of Bourgon and her mother, who has her own title of Countess of the Flat Hills along with being the Duchess.  She doesn't want to use it, though.  Lars, being the third to arrive, catches up.  Dusty's already in the room, leading to the cliffhanger.  Seems like Rhiannon and Dusty have a history.

The presence of dukes and duchesses sets up the government of the setting, too.  Thanks to Rhiannon, the Poulos Nova Empire exists.  The core setting is the Colonel KL Terin Academy; everything else got built as I needed to expand from there.  The Empire is loosely based on ideas in the Traveller RPG, but not the Third Imperium.  Rhiannon's father is the Duke of Bourgon, a border region that includes Tamar, the world with the academy.  The means of governing may never come up, but it helps to have it in mind when writing, just in case.  At the planetary level, the planets are more or less self-governing, though they all provide taxes to the Empire as well as locally.  The Empire tries to provide a minimum standard of living, and it's not autocratic.  I loosely based the Empire off the British Commonwealth, so there's a parliament with a House of Lords and a House of Commons at each level, from Empire-wide to planetary and even planetary provinces.  Planets become baronies when they hit a certain population level; below that, they're considered colonies.  Tamar is technically a colony, though getting close to being a full member of the Empire.

The structure of the Royal Guard was needed before I started.  The Guard is split into three main foci - the Foot Guard, or the ground forces, the Sea Guard, the planet-based wet navy, and the Star Guard, the space navy.  The Colonel Terin Academy prepares students to become part of the Foot Guard, and most of the characters at the school will be in that branch.  Commander Haag, though, is Star Guard.  The Foot Guard then was broken down to the different elements, infantry, cavalry, support, military police, and artillery.  The mecha troops fall under infantry, which I've broken down as mechanized infantry, powered infantry, and armoured infantry.  Mechanized infantry is the standard soldier seen even today, the boots on the ground to take and hold territory.  Powered infantry wears powered armour, a step up from cargo exoskeletons.  Armoured infantry covers the mecha troops.  Instead of being twenty to fifty metre tall behemoths, the mecha in the story are two to three metres tall, filling a role between infantry and armour.  The mecha are a force multiplier and can hold territory that armour can't.

Mecha Academy is more space opera than hard science fiction.  The mecha aren't the only advanced vehicles around.  The Thorensen family van uses turbo fans, a higher tech personal hovercraft.  Ric was originally going to arrive on a fanbike - a motorcycle with fans where the wheels would be - but he talked to Abby instead.  There is FTL travel through the use of singularity gates connecting worlds and gate drives for ships that have reason to not want to use the existing connections.  There's even FTL communications that tap into the singularity gates.  But tech shouldn't be the way problems are solved in the story.  No particle of the week story here.

Everything is set up now.  Once the  story starts, we get to see why Rhiannon assaulted Dusty and where Ric is.

Friday, a sneak peak of dba LTV Paranormalists while I get the rest of The Devil You Know written.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, to be determined.

8 Dec 2017

Mecha Academy - Episode 1 - Roommates

Episode 1 - Roommates
Chapter 1 - From Around the Sector

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

7 Dec 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Dec 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 5 Update

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

Pens down!  NaNoWriMo 2017 is over!

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

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

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

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

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

The Devil You Know - Chapter 20

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

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

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

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

"Mara, my friend, Karen."

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

30 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 4 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 19

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

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

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

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

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

23 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 18 - Delay

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

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

21 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Mid-Week Update

I've hit 50 000 words.

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

19 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 3 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 18

Ione scrounged up money for Jack's trip to the casino.
Ione's dream of a chocolate warehouse exploding was cut off by the ringing of the phone.  She groaned as she tried to remember through the fog of sleep where she was.  The phone blared again, getting cut off by Mara answering it, her voice raspy.  Ione pushed herself up, willing herself to get moving.  "Ione, are you up?" Mara asked.


"That was Jack.  He's waiting in the lobby for you."

"Good for him."  Ione heard Mara's sharp bark of laughter.  "I'm up."  The brunette rolled out of bed.  "Do you need the bathroom?"

Mara threw off her covers.  "You go ahead."

Ione opened her sports bag.  She stared at her jeans for a moment, then passed over them for her new  cream skirt.  Ione reached for her new shirt, then stopped as she spied her corset under her jeans.  Even though Jack asked her to bring the corset, she had decided to pack it.  When she bought it, she had made sure that it would match her jacket, just in case.  Ione grabbed the corset and a fresh pair of underwear, the padded to the bathroom.

When Ione came back out, Mara was up and out of bed.  The redhead turned to look.  "Looking sharp, Ione."

"Thanks."  Ione sat down on the edge of the bed to pull on her boots.  "Are you coming down with me?"

"Jack said he was waiting for you.  He never mentioned me."

16 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 17

Getting Jack his money, in The Devil You Know Chapter 17.

The Hôtel de Paris is another real location.  Monte Carlo isn't that big and shoehorning another luxury hotel in the city wasn't something I was up for at this point in writing.  I didn't even know Jack was going to bring Ione here when I started.  Pantsing, bringing excitement to writing!

My French got another work out this chapter.  I think most of the dialogue is just me exercising my own knowledge, without having to touch a translation site.  I did check an online menu locally to check how "club sandwich" translated.  Here's what was said, if you don't want to bother translating yourself:
"Oui.  C'est le club sandwich?" -> "Yes.  That's the club sandwich."
"Oui, madelle." -> "Yes, miss."  (Madelle is the equivalent to Ms, really, but translation also includes gist, not just word-for-word.)
"Sur le bureau, merci." -> "On the desk, thanks,"
"Non, non madelle.  Monsieur Jack a arrangé pour tout.  Merci." -> "No, no miss.  Mister Jack arranged for everything."
"Oui, ici chambre trois quartoirse.  Nous voulons deux tortes chocolates et deux Cokes, s'il vous plait." -> "Yes, this is room three fourteen. We want two chocolate tortes and two Cokes, please."
"Oui, parfait.  Merci!" -> "Yes, perfect.  Thanks!"
Ione is fluent in French, probably way more than I am.  However, her accent, which I didn't describe properly, is Montrealais, which tends to be nasal.  Oui, normally sounding like "oo-wee" with the first syllable cut short, comes out as "oo-way", and imagine that pronounced by Fran Drescher.  To get the full effect, I recommend the film Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which uses French Canadian accents for humour and as a clue to why the villain is on a killing spree.  Hint: I recognized the villain's French accent from being from Western Canada.  I had a French instructor in university from Saskatchewan one semester, than a Montrealais instructor the following semester.  They pointed out the differences in accents in class.

Mara is a very sensual woman and very comfortable with her body.  She may be the one character I've written who has no issues with her appearance across all the stories I've worked on.  Get undressed in the middle of a crowded room?  It's not a big deal for her, and, as seen in Chapter 12, she doesn't believe in underwear.  There is a reason and it will be revealed in Chapter 19.  Meanwhile, enjoy the idea that she has a cleavage of holding.

The idea of computer work, like hacking a government database or selling Dunning-Krugerrands sounds exciting.  Visually, it's just someone staring at a screen and possibly typing.  These days, hacking can be done at a push of a button provided that all the coding and compiling is already complete.  So, how did Ione cash in her BitCoins?  With a few clicks.  It's a key moment for her, demonstrating that she is top notch in her field.  Her field just doesn't make for exciting action.  And to earn my place on some NSA agent's watch list, I researched crypto-currency including then-current exchange rates and how to turn BitCoins into real money.  Later in The Devil You Know, I cement my place on the list.  Writing and research, perfect for raising suspicions in intel agents everywhere.

Friday, Gemma catches up, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 18.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, continuing the remakes MST3K featured movies, with Robot Holocaust.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, remaking another MST3K featured movie, Manhunt in Space.

12 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 2 Update

Total Words: 26 780
Words Since Last Update: 15 170
Completed Chapters: 4, 5, 6

Mecha Academy progresses!  Many more words have been written since the end of Week 1.  Chapters are completed!  Conflicts are happening!  Let's see where things stand.

First as mentioned last week, Mecha Academy is an older project that I'm redoing from scratch.  I have some scenes in mind, but they're starting to look less and less likely to happen.  That's why I try not to do full rewrites - I go off on new tangents.  So, that leaves iterative edits.

Second, when I get into a groove when writing, I tend to forget details, mostly names.  I've spelled Lars' last name two different ways and a rifle model had a number changed from its introduction to its next mention in the next paragraph.  Oops.  Fortunately, all this is fixable during a break from writing.  Repairs are easier than creation.

Third, I was able to get ahead of pace far faster than I expected.  I've only had two days where I didn't reach even the minimum word count, 1667, to maintain a good NaNo pace.  I'm still a few days ahead of pace despite that.

That covered, the story is still coming along.  Conflicts are building up.  The conflict between Rhiannon and Dusty escalated to physical violence.  Miyami has taken Rhiannon's side, leaving Dusty sleeping on a couch for now.  Ric is trying to keep the squad together despite the history Dusty and Rhiannon share.  Lars, alas, hasn't gotten his own conflict yet.  Instead, he's getting the romance, so far one sided.  A few new characters have appeared, ones not mentioned in the original work, including a sergeant handling the training regimen for the cadets and Susanna, who has her sights on Lars.

The chapters are running longer than they did in Unruly.  I'm letting them go as long as needed for now, but I did have to cut Chapter 5 off.before it took over.  It was starting to look more like my earlier works, where I hadn't figured out chaptering.  I did have a good place to end it, letting me change the point of view and the tone in Chapter 6.

I'm building up to the first major event, an obstacle course that will determine who stays and who leaves.  One of the points I keep returning to is that the squad has to act together, even if they can't stand each other.  This needs to pay off.  I also need to get Miyami to be willing to tolerate Dusty.  One of the changes from the original idea has Miyami be far more a royalist than before.  Miyami knows the history between Dusty and Rhiannon and isn't afraid to show where her loyalties are.  I need her to start wondering about Dusty.  I did slip that in, but it's subtle.

Part of my goals during NaNoWriMo is to maintain my life and not become a hermit.  Some of that is done by getting out to write-ins, a social occasion where everyone writes.  It is surprisingly productive.  I also still get out to most of my gaming, though the missed session isn`t because of NaNo.  My life now, though, also includes this blog and Lost in Translation.  While the Friday fiction posts are usually written well in advance, the commentaries aren't.  Likewise, Lost in Translation is typically done a few days before the day it goes live.  In the past, I've dropped the commentary near the end of November because I couldn't think of what to say.  This year, I'm trying a new approach that I thought would be easier - taking a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode and writing on how the featured movie could be remade better.  Easier, right.  Danger!! Death Ray ran over 2000 words, over a day's worth of work in NaNo alone.  I may have to rethink this approach.

Coming up, the obstacle course to wrap up the first arc.  After that, I need to get the cast into their mecha and let slip Dusty's past to the rest of her class.  I need this to work out well and leave some questions with the audience so that the legal drama coming much, much later can call back to it.

10 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 17

Ione explained how she tracked Babbage.
The limousine passed through the border between France and Monaco without Ione noticing the change.  To her, the road continued with just a sign indicating the border.  She did notice a few agents, but the agents did not seem to see the limo.  Not that it mattered to her.  Ione just wanted to stretch for a bit.  Mara managed to avoid a few traffic snarls, but a collision lost them some time.

Mara brought the limo to a stop outside l'Hôtel de Paris.  Valets walked over and opened the passenger doors while the red haired driver got out to open the trunk.  Ione stepped out, then stretched.  She heard her spine crack.  Groaning, she followed Jack inside.  The lobby took Ione's breath away with its marble floors, crystal chandelier, and arched ceiling.  Jack brought the brunette to a chair.  "Wait here.  Try not to call attention to yourself."

Ione looked around at the people in the lobby.  "How?  I think they might be calling the police to take me away for vagrancy."

9 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 16

On the road to Monte Carlo, in The Devil You Know Chapter 16.

Modern technology really helps writers working on contemporary novels.  There is so much available a search engine inquiry away.  Need a hotel?  Ta-daa!  Need to know what bistros are around?  Ta-daa!  Need to know the flight speed of an unladen swallow?  Ta-daa!  Directions, flight schedules, maps, photos, anything that may be needed but difficult to get out to obtain is easy to find.  When I needed to figure out how long it would take for Mara to get from Paris to Monte Carlo, I chose two landmarks in both locations, then checked Google Maps for directions.  Much easier than the method I was taught in high school geography, which was to measure the length of a road with a sheet of paper, turning it and marking the sheet when the road curved, then figuring out the total distance on the paper and multiplying that by the map's scale.  Google Maps even helpfully calculates driving time and points out where traffic is backed up.  All I had to do was apply the Mara factor, where she would ignore speed limits and possibly physics and add in time spent at pit stops.

The full quote Ione refers to is, "The avalanche has already started.  It is too late for the pebbles to vote."  Ambassador Kosh was well known for such adages.  In essence, events are in motion, it's too late to bail now.  Ione is finding herself swept up in what's happening, whether she wants to be there or not.  She did have a chance to say no, back in Chapter 7; she just didn't.

Ione's explanation of crypto-currency came from a brief but intense bit of research.  I knew of BitCoins prior to starting the story; they were the reason why Ione got involved.  However, details were needed to make it look like Ione knew what she was talking about.  BitCoins are the best known crypto-currency, but they're useless for the purpose of being money.  Few places take them as currency; there's no going into a store to purchase groceries with BitCoins.  They've been treated more as a stock investment, but even there, there is no stability.  The main use has been in two fields, for criminal endeavors and as Dunning-Krugerrands.  Not all crypto-currency shares the same fate; DogeCoins became a way for an online forum to reward members when they did something positive.

If you think Chapter 16 is shorter than Chapter 15, you'd be right.  I've mentioned it before, but it doesn't hurt to repeat it now - The Devil You Know was written as a novel, not a serial.  Chapters will take up the size they need instead of being planned to be similar sizes.  Chapter 16 is about a third the length of the previous chapter.  Ione's travelling to Monte Carlo and Jack is starting to get his ducks lined up for what he has planned there.  Other than that, not much happens, but key information is given.

Friday, hello Monte Carlo, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 17.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, beginning a short series of remaking movies featured on MST3K, starting with Danger!!  Death Ray.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, continuing remaking MST3K featured movies, with Robot Holocaust.

5 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 1 Update

Total Words: 11 610
Words Since Last Update: 11 610
Completed Chapters: 1, 2, 3

NaNoWriMo has begun!  This time, I'm re-creating an old project from scratch, using what I've written previously as a scaffold for this year's project.  So far, I've discovered a few new things that I hadn't realized before.  Let me introduce the characters first, though.

Rhiannon: Originally meant to be the sheltered daughter of a noble, she's not as sheltered, despite her parents best efforts.  She's taking charge early, though she is stepping up as the new heir to her father's duchy.

Lars: The local boy, big and brawny.  He's naive compared to Ric, below, but he's got a good head on his shoulders.  Lars is also now the squad's medic with first aid training, go fig.  He also already understands the basics of the Centurion training mecha, since his father's heavy farm machines have similar controls.

Ric:  He was meant originally to be the anime-style ace pilot.  Now, he's chatting up most girls his age, having hit on a barista in his first scene.  Successfully.  He's also planning on help Lars in that area.  But before pegging Ric as an MRA-type, his big asset is that he /listens/ to the women he talks to, and he's doing the same with Lars.  He's not bi, but if /Mecha Academy/ ever gets a visual treatment (TV, film, live action or animated), I do expect Ric and Lars to be shipped.

Miyami:  The underaged student and hacker of the group.  She still has that element, but she also wants to puch people.  In the junk.  Who am I to disappoint her?

Dusty:  The atoner, returning to the Empire after her parents defected.  She and Rhiannon have a history, which has come out already.  Some of the details I need for later scenes came out as well, so go me?

The big changes are that Ric and Lars have a proper intro and that Miyami wants to punch someone in the junk.  It's not that Miyami is a nasty person.  She just doesn't believe in a fair fight.

Chapter 1 is complete and was longer than expected.  I gave each of the main cast a scene of their own before bringing them together.  The cliffhanger I figured out about halfway through writing the chapter.  Chapter 2 is complete, though I had to end it before I wanted because of how long it got.  Chapter 3 focused on the big inter-character conflict, but let me sort of explore the main location; emotionally, it's not a happy chapter.  Chapter 4 got started and features the first slap.  It looks like Rhiannon and Dusty are going to have a rougher relationship than in the original plans.  Speaking of, I think I've veered off those, with only the general gist remaining.  The fun of being a pantser.

The writing process feels more natural now.  Okay, /my/ writing process feels more natural now.  I don't recommend my process to anyone, but it works for me.  The flow feels better, I'm not stopped for long for a direction, and I can get far more output than I could in 2006.  What has changed?  This is my twelvth NaNo, so I have a writing method that works for me.  I'm also writing more over the year, thanks to blogging here and to Lost in Translation.  Even the latter's 1000 words a week, typically done in one sitting, means I get regular writing done.  Fiction or metafiction, it's still writing.  Add in the commentaries for the weekly fiction posts and having to write an ending to The Soul Blade; the act of writing feels more natural now.  Not quite second nature, but I feel like I know what I'm doing now.  An added bonus, I'm not wincing at what I write anymore.  Sure, I find a few clunky lines, but overall, the writing is far more solid than with Lethal Ladies from 2006.

My goal for the coming week is to just keep adding to my word count.  NaNo is a marathon, not a sprint, and the more I can get done now, the more buffer I have if I stumble on the way.

3 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 16

Mara helped Ione get ready for Monte Carlo and Gemma tried to get ahead.
Ione and Mara met Jack at city hall.  If he noticed Ione's new outfit, he never said.  Instead, he told Mara to start driving.  He settled back in his seat.  Ione looked over at him.  "Where are we going?"

"Monte Carlo.  I haven't changed my mind since I left the hotel."

"I know that, but how are we getting there?"

Jack turned to look at Ione.  "We're driving.  Technically, Mara's driving and we're riding in the back."

"Driving?  How far is it?"

"For most people, ten hours."  He faced the front again.  "Mara, how long?"

"Eight hours, non-stop, depending on the traffic at the tolls."

Ione raised an eyebrow.  "Eight hours?  And what if I need to use the facilities?  What about eating?"

"I already put lunch in the car," Mara said.

"And when we stop for gas, you can use the facilities at the station.  Haven't you been on long rides before?"

Ione nodded.  "To get home from school for long weekends.  But I planned out the trip, especially when I had passengers with me."

Jack patted Ione's leather-clad leg.  "This trip is planned, other than being a last minute idea."

"So much for what the pebble wants."  Ione sat back in her seat.

2 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 15

Oh, Mara, in The Devil You Know Chapter 15.

As mentioned in the commentary for Chapter 12, Le Bristol is a real location.  I chose it because it was a luxury hotel and it had photos of its suites for visitors to see.  The tub is real and became the point that sealed the decision to use the hotel as the setting.  I haven't been there because the hotel is expensive, but I have an imagination.  No one pays top Euro for a tub that doesn't have hot water on demand.

If you're wondering why Ione didn't just lock the bathroom door, you're thinking ahead more than I was while I was writing.  However, who is to say that it wasn't locked?  Yes, that means there is something more to Mara than the surface, but I've been trying to hint at that with bother her and Jack anyway.  And while it is true that Mara and Ione are both women, Mara is far more comfortable in her skin than Ione is in her own.  Most people, whether they admit it publicly or not, have something about them that they wish was different, men and women alike.  Since most of The Devil You Know is written from Ione's point-of-view, even though the story is third person, the bias reflects how she feels, even about herself.  It would be a completely different story from Mara's view*.

Would the bathroom scene have happened if Ione was Ian?  It's something that I hadn't considered at the time, but with the increased sensitivity about diversity and respect of late, it's something to ask.  The answer is "maybe."  I was writing by the seat of my pants at this point, with an unplanned character who loves attention.  Mara would have walked on Ian in the tub, but I don't know if Ian would have been taking a bath or taking a shower.  There might have been some sexual tension, at least on Ian's side, which might have killed an upcoming twist.  The scene would have had a different feel, as would the shopping trip.  Mara wouldn't be looking at a possible friend like she does Ione.

The shopping trip could have been glossed over.  "With Mara's advice, Ione bought a light green blouse, a cream skirt, a backless black dress, and a pair of soft leather pants."  Done.  Except, that wasn't the goal, not that I had one when I started writing the scene.  The shopping gave Ione and Mara time together where the latter wasn't trying to flash everyone else in the scene.  Mara can be decent.  Her sense of appropriateness is completely different from Ione's, though.  However, she does want to help Ione, in her own way.  Complimenting Ione's legs was more to encourage the woman to display them more.

The return of Gemma came up when I realized that, much like The Soul Blade in 2009, the plot was happening elsewhere.  Jack was keeping his cards close to his vest, Ione was waiting for messages from Karen, and Mara was more likely to go to a strip club and put on her own show than do anything to advance the plot.  That mean switching to Karen's subplot.  Since Gemma was the mover and shaker for that element, she got to headline the scene.  When the warehouse exploded in Chapter 1, Gemma was outside.  Like Ione, she wasn't in the blast.  Gemma was one of the few planned characters for the story and I always intended for her to be involved.  With the focus on Ione, I didn't get a chance to jump back to Gemma.  But she did appear; in Chapter 3 in the silver car following Ione, in Chapter 8 waiting outside the nightclub for Ione, in Chapter 10 following Ione in a new car, and in Chapter 14 described by Karen as the intruder.  Sometimes, pantsing does allow for planning, but only if the idea comes early enough.

Gemma's reappearance was the point where I realized that I never gave Karen a last name.  With the magic of after-the-fact editing, Karen's last name is now Dietzman.  The name just never came up.  Ione may be the only character to have a first, middle, and last name.  Her sister Amy only has a last name because she's related.  Most of the time, I try to find a way to work in a last name as soon as possible.  The longer a story goes without the name drop, the more apparent the drop becomes.  Yet, the only last name that came up naturally was Ione's, thanks to Jack impersonating a police officer.  Ione doesn't use her roomie's last name in general, though she does know it, and would only use her sister's full name when upset, like how Amy did with Ione's.  It's a tough call at times; when does it make sense to include a full name?  And I'll have had to figure that out for this year's NaNoWriMo, made more interesting by having an ensemble main cast of five characters.  Whee!

Friday, on the road to Monte Carlo, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 16.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, how the adaptation sausage is made.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, beginning a short series of remaking movies featured on MST3K, starting with Danger!  Death Ray!!

* Mara is petitioning for her own story.  She might even get one if I can figure out a plot for her.

1 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Starts Now!

NaNoWriMo is go!

This summer got away from me.  Other worries were on my mind, ending with the passing of Mischief.  This ate at brain processing cycles that should have been used for working out details for November.

Thus, the project for NaNoWriMo 2017 is Mecha Academy.

I've done some work on Mecha Academy in the past, but the goal will be a rewrite, to properly introduce the characters, and give all the characters an arc, not just a certain two.  The end goal will be a serial, with three academic years worked out, at least in rough.  However, I still expect the story to take its own path.  I write by the seat of my pants, and even with what I have now, I will have to create new content which may affect the course of the story.

Let's get it on!

27 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 15

Karen's safe, but someone is definitely after Ione.
Ione woke up to an alarm clock blaring.  She pulled the covers over her head to shut out the sound.  The blankets were ripped back, exposing her and her nightwear.  Ione opened her eyes and saw Mara standing at the side of the bed, blankets in hand.  "Good morning, Ione."

As she sat up, Ione mumbled her, "Good morning," back to the red haired woman.  "Wha ti' izzit?"

"I'm sorry?"

Ione cleared her throat and blinked the sleep out of her eyes.  "What time is it?"  Her voice was still rough from lack of use.

"Almost six."

"Six?"  Ione fell back on the bed.  "Why so early?"

Jack walked out of the dining room.  "We have work to do, my dear.  Up!  Up and at 'em!"

"I'm done with the tub," Mara said.  She skirted around the bed to get to where Ione was sprawled.  "Let's go."  She grabbed Ione's arm and pulled her up.

"I'm up!"  Ione shrugged out of Mara's grip as she stood up.  "Why so early?"

26 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 14

Dinner with Jack kept Ione off-balance, in The Devil You Know Chapter 14.

Ah, dinner.  Jack may have gone to excess here.  Escargot, elk, baby vegetables, all meant to tantalize and tempt taste buds.  I haven't had escargot, though I have been at a table where someone else has.  The texture is what dissuades me; taste isn't the only thing food has.  I also can't eat lobster bisque or peas because of the texture.  I have had elk and moose, both wild and tame.  A not-so-local anymore burger chain has elk on the menu.  Worth a try.

Ione's concerns are being waved off by Jack.  He's not doing that because she's a woman, despite appearances.  He'd have done the same thing to everyone else.  He needs Ione, so he's going to keep her around as long as he can.  Since he's the one providing transportation, he has the upper hand.  However, yes, I am aware of what it looks like.  Ione is trying to push back.  Jack, despite appearances, is not a good person.  Feel free to hate him for what he's doing here.

Computer science owes a lot to two women.  The first is Ada Lovelace, who essentially invented computer programming.  While Charles Babbage developed the difference engine to help polynomial algebra calculations, Lovelace worked out a way to program the device.  The other woman making huge strides in the field was Admiral Grace Hopper, who, among her achievements, developed both UNIVAC and the COBOL programming language.  Given Ione's educational background - math major, computer science minor, post-grad work in cryptography - having her use historical figures in computer science as a source of names made sense.  From there, though, the number of usable names drops.  Most of the major work has been done in the past few decades; the silicon chip opened up the field to better computational approaches that weren't feasible with vacuum tubes or even transistors.  However, if anyone claims that computer science is for guys only, remember Ada Lovelace and Admiral Hopper.  Without them, the field would be much poorer or even non-existant.

Karen is safe, though making a poorly thought out decision.  Unlike Ione, Karen is stucj with the vagaries of commercial flights.  Ottawa, despite being the nation's capital, has few direct flights overseas.  Everything tends to get routed through Toronto, adding time and cost to trips.  It is possible to avoid Hogtown, but that still means going through a different hub, like O'Hare in Chicago.  It's a pain.  Flights I've personally done include Ottawa-Toronto-Vancouver, Ottawa-Chicago-Los Angeles, and Ottawa-Toronto-Helsinki-Stockholm-Oslo, with the Helsinki-Stockholm-Oslo portion being one plane with two stops.  I ran into the same thing when trying to get Ione home from Paris.  This is why Jack got his own jet for the story, to avoid all the hassle of switching planes.  And, since his jet needs a co-pilot, thank commercial air passenger service for having Mara in the story.

Gemma was one of the British agents in Chapter 1 working with Ione to shut down the arms dealer.  She wasn't inside the warehouse when it exploded.  Gemma was outside and had spotted the man suspected of destroying the warehouse and its contents and killing everyone inside.  I planned to have her return, and we will see her again soon.

Mara made a quick appearance.  The opinion of Mara's outfit is Ione's.  If the viewpoint character had been male, the dress may have been better appreciated.  And, still, Mara doesn't think the dress is revealing, or revealing enough.  Again, for a character who exists because of a minor detail, Mara is making the most of being in the story.

Diesel, the cat that lives with Ione and Karen, came back because I wanted to set a detail up for later.  However, I'm not sure if I want that detail anymore.  It's not critical, but it adds to the idea of the weirdness surrounding Ione right now.  However, the story of how he moved in isn't odd.  I've had a cat, Charlie, who did the same thing.  My family had just moved in to a new place, and it was warm, so windows were open, including the basement.  One cat had already slipped in through the basement window, so I closed it, not wanting our own cat, Selina, to get out the same way.  Later, I found Charlie inside.  I picked him up and he seemed to struggle in my arms.  I put him out, then went to check the basement window, which was still closed.  When I got back upstairs, there was Charlie in the kitchen.  I noticed that the screen to the kitchen window was wide open, so I put Charlie back out and closed the screen.  That should have been the end, except I saw Charlie put his claws in the screen and slide it over so he could get in.  And the struggling?  Charlie's preferred way of being carried was to hug, a paw on each shoulder - he was big enough to do that - and purring all the way.  How do you kick out a cat that hugs?  Selina wasn't happy, but Charlie let her be in charge.

More Eighties music comes up, this time Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It?" being quoted.  Ione counters with "Love Hurts" by Nazareth.  It's odd; most of my leads during NaNo are not only single, but also not looking.  Even Brenna, who ended her story with Matt in The Soul Blade, wasn't looking for anyone at the beginning.  There are exceptions.  Nasty in Crossover started with Eric, so single but not looking.  Bronya and Morwenna had each other, so not looking, but not single.  Digital Magic was supposed to be a romance, but given the trend of my leads to not be looking, I do see why the story didn't turn out to be romantic.

Jack leaves Ione with a tough question.  Who is she supposed to be if not herself?  It's one that hangs over all our heads.  Not everyone realizes it's there.  For me, I do know that I put on personae as needed.  I'm still me and the persona is an aspect of me, but it's not the full me.  Some of this is just to deal with situations.  When I did call centre work, I had a professional persona on to try to give me distance between the callers and myself.  I have a different professional persona for tech support work, where I don't need the extra armour but still need some professionalism.  When meeting new people, I have a more reserved persona.  When I get comfortable around a group of people, the real me starts coming through.  It does feel, at times, that I put on the personae like a jacket.  They're all me, though, but just the parts of me that I want to project.  Ione hasn't figured that out - she hasn't needed to.

Friday, Preparing for Monte Carlo, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 15.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, when does a contemporary work become a historical piece>
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, how the adaptation sausage is made.