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.

20 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 14

Ione introduced Jack to her late contact's connections.
Not long after Ione returned to the hotel room with Jack and Mara did a knock come from the door.  Mara answered and allowed a bellboy to enter with a large tray.  Jack showed the bellboy to the meeting room, where the tray was put down, and gave the hotel employee a generous tip.  Once he had escorted the bellboy out, he turned to Ione.  "Dinner is served.  I trust that it will meet with your standards."

Ione followed Jack back to the meeting room.  The tray held a three course meal and a bottle of champagne on ice.  Jack held out a chair for the young woman.  Ione sat down, not quiet believing what she saw.  "Jack, isn't this, well, a bit much?"

"Nonsense.  Life is for living.  How can you live without experiencing anything new."  He picked up a covered plate.  "I believe this is the escargot.  The chef here does wondrous things to snails."  Jack removed the cover.  "Excellent.  You should try one."  He set a shell down on a plate that he then passed to Ione.

"Um, okay."  Ione eyed the shell on her plate.  "How do I eat this?"

Jack demonstrated, picking up a shell for himself.  He used a cocktail fork to dig inside the shell, loosening the snail within, before pulling the delicacy out and eating it.  "Like that."

Ione tried to imitate what Jack did, using her own cocktail fork to pull out the snail.  With effort, she pulled the snail out.  She held it up in front of her eyes before popping it into her mouth.  The butter and garlic flooded her tastebuds as she chewed.  After a few minutes, she swallowed.

19 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 13

Ione met with the next level up in the underworld chain, in The Devil You Know Chapter 13.

In the past, my rhythm when writing was have a major event then give the characters time to process what happened.  Ione should be so lucky.  After being flown to Paris and dumped back into a case that she's been pulled off, Ione now has to deal with a missing roomie while also trying to convince a skeptical hard case that she wasn't the reason a deal literally exploded.  And Jack doesn't seem to care.

The Terrasse du Septième is another real place, though the interior is somewhat generic.  I did a quick bit of research before writing the scene, enough to figure out the general decor and menu.  Ione is in a tourist area, somewhere that has people coming and going and not really paying attention to much else except the sights.  Perfect to have a quiet conversation while not risking being stabbed or shot in the pub.  Ione doesn't want to wind up like Greedo.

Jack is fashionably late.  He has a sense of drama.  Too bad he didn't give Ione a copy of his script.  Then again, Jack doesn't play well with others.  He is protective of his things.  Yes, that does have implications for Ione.  But, as long as she is useful to Jack, Ione is safe.  Relatively safe.  She doesn't have to worry about Babbage's people.  At this point, Jack is now the one they need to worry about.  He's also acting as Ione's superior, so that is where the focus should be, not on her.  Jack has also done his homework.  At this point, assume that Jack knows far more than anyone else involved, including Ione and even Marco's bosses.  Jack is playing a deeper game than the rest of the players, who think they're merely actors upon a stage.

Ione is the viewpoint character.  Considering some of the reveals coming much later, it made writing easier to just follow Ione.  She's in the centre of the action most of the time, and when she isn't, the goal is getting out her frustration.  Karen is missing and Ione doesn't know what happened.  Jack disappears without comment and Ione doesn't know what happened.  Talking to Mara doesn't clear anything up.  Ione is in the dark, but as she discovers what's happening, so do the readers.  The goal with The Devil You Know was to have a character piece together the mystery and then take charge.  Ione will find her new balance, but she has more problems to deal with before that can happen.

NaNoWriMo encourages writing.  Anything that distracts from writing should be minimized.  But for participants who write by the seat of their pants, like me, at some point, research needs to be done.  Sometimes, the research can be the start of a writing session, as an upcoming scene gets fleshed out before typing.  Sometimes, though, a detail comes up that needs research that would stall the flow of writing.  Minor details, like the flower Ione put in her hair, need to be worked out, but the amount of work to figure that out wasn't worth the time that would be taken from writing the scene.  In those cases, I use a placeholder.  Works great for minor details, like flower names.  I can research later, when the crunch isn't on.  Of course, that means getting to the research far sooner than while preparing the chapter for posting.  Whoops.  And the difficult part is that floral arrangements do take time to research.  The goal was to find a flower that wouldn't be a mouthful for someone to say, and Jack removed the obvious choice, the rose.  Still, I still use the trick; when writing, don't interrupt the flow to research a minor detail.  Save it for later, either before the next writing session or for after the first draft is done.

Friday, Jack pulls Ione in deeper, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 14.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, cultural changes over time and adaptations.

13 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 13

Ah, Paris, where Ione can try to make sense of her new companions.
Ione woke up the next day in the middle of one of the king-sized beds.  The morning sun streamed in through the window.  With effort, Ione rolled over on to her back, trying to figure out where she was.  Realization set in.  Ione threw off her blankets and struggled to get to the edge of the bed.

"Good morning, Ione."  Jack waved from the couch.  "You slept well, I see."

"What time is it?"  Ione's voice was rough.

"Morning.  Otherwise, it does not matter.  What is time?"

Ione fell backwards on the bed.  "I don't need philosophy first thing after I wake up."  She glanced at Jack, a charcoal three-piece suit hanging smartly on his frame.  "Business meeting?"

"I don't know.  Do I have one today?"

Ione rolled out of bed.  She smoothed out her old t-shirt.  "I need coffee first."

Jack pointed at a silver urn on the low coffee table.  "Help yourself."

"Thanks."  Ione padded on her bare feet, enjoying the feel of the rug.  She poured herself a mug, taking a whiff of the brown liquid.  "This isn't the civet coffee, is it?"

"No, my dear."  Jack set down his newspaper.  "Decadent, isn't it?"

12 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 12

Ione set up a meet between Jack and her late contact's people, in The Devil You Know Chapter 12.

Jack is a busy person.  He has other projects on the go besides the work he's doing with Ione.  This is where Mara, who was only supposed to be his co-pilot, came in handy.  Jack can't be expected to do all the work himself.  Back when I was prepping The Devil You Know, I had some idea of who Jack is and what he does.  As the story was written, more of Jack's working style came out.  He is hands-on, but he is well aware of appearances.  Thus, well, Mara, plus all the other trappings he surrounds himself with.  Jack was fun to write, though.

Ione finally revealed why she uses her middle name.  Should be obvious, but the explanation provided many extra words towards NaNoWriMo's word count.  The goal here wasn't so much to tell why Ione uses her middle name as show how she felt about having to share a name.  Names are part of our core; changing one is a major deal.  Finding out that you have to share something so personal means shaking up one's own being, especially when young.  Ione's solution was to use her middle, a name that is rare in the wild.  In contrast, Jack doesn't worry about being lost in a crowd with his name.  Such is Jack.

I used a real location for the hotel in Paris.  Le Bristol exists and has an Imperial Suite, which could be viewed on the hotel's website.  It is that lush, just from the photos.  Again, the purpose for using real locations was two-fold.  The first was to give a sense of realness for when the oddities began.  If everything is weird, then the deliberate and needed oddness won't stand out.  Jack should be standing out right now - he's shady and enjoying the expensive things in life.  Creating a fictional hotel wouldn't have driven that home.  The other reason is that it was far easier to just use an existing location.  Unlike Unruly, where I'm involving schools and want to make sure that there's no impact on minors, The Devil You Know features adults going to a luxury hotel.  The risk for the hotel is far less than it is for high school students in Oshawa; Le Bristol is not a hive of scum and villainy unlike The Academy for Unruly Girls.

Glenn Frey's "Smuggler's Blues", from the album The Allnighter, turns out to be a very useful song for me.  I've referred to it for gaming, particularly for espionage RPGs and Shadowrun.  While I don't associate the song with cyberpunk of any flavour, it captures the criminal element.  I wasn't alone; an episode of Miami Vice was based on "Smuggler's Blues" and guest starred Frey as a smuggling pilot.  And, yes, Ione was a mere baby when the song came out.

Mara was fun to write.  I mentioned that last time and I'll mention it again.  She is Ms Fanservice, and there is a reason that will be revealed later.  For now, she's a contrast to Ione.  Where Ione has maintained a professional demeanor in her life, Mara gets away with being a hedonist.  Ione is a private person, in part because she can't really talk about work.  Mara doesn't really have a brain-to-mouth filter, though some of it is for effect.  However, Ione does need someone to confide in.  Karen is on the other side of the Atlantic.  Ione doesn't really like Mara, mostly from first impressions, but she needs to vent to someone and Jack doesn't have a sympathtic ear.  And, yes, Mara was not lying about her underwear status.

Friday, problems back home and meeting Pascal, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 13.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the expectations of nostalgia.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight.

11 Oct 2017

Happy Fifth!

Well, time flies.  It's been five years since I created this blog.  Wow.

I started the blog to see if I could maintain one.  I had no idea of what I was going to fill it with, either, though NaNoWriMo was coming up.  The challenge was to make regular updates.  Guess what?

I've been making regular updates.  I've created content.  I've posted fiction, starting way back with Subject 13 #1 and continued through until even now.  And if the fiction was work I'd already written, then I started commentary tracks, just to make sure I got something new done.  There's also the gaming material.  Which, yeah, crosses with the fiction because the two are related.  I got to play around with ideas and even if no one else is reading them, I know that I've done something.

Some fun stats.  This is the nth post since starting.  The most popular post, by count, is the first chapter of Digital Magic, of all things.  That supplanted the "Cars as Girls" post, so I suspect bots were looking for key words and phrases.  The fiction is gaining attention, though.

So, joyous fifth anniversary, all!

6 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 12

Jack presented the problem to Ione using the Socratic method.
Jack's car turned out to be a black Mercedes-Benz, stretched to become a limousine.  Mara sat up in the driver's compartment, steering the behemoth out of the airport and on to the road into Paris proper.  Ione sat in the back with Jack, her eyes taking in the lush red interior and feeling well out of her league.  For his part, Jack sat back in his seat.  He turned on the small television built into the divider between the passenger and the driver.  Channel after channel, Jack flipped through the dial before turning the TV off again.  He grimaced.

"That's a first."  Ione turned to watch out her window.

"Just catching up with some outstanding work.  Nothing you need to be concerned about."  Jack leaned forward and tapped on the tinted window acting as a partial barrier to the front seat.  The window lowered.  "Mara, after you've dropped us off, please see Monsieur Laval.  He needs some encouragement."  Mara nodded, then raised the window.

"That's probably far more than I needed to know."

5 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 11

Welcome to Paris, bienvenue à Paris, in The Devil You Know Chapter 11.

Some information on how Ione found and tracked her contact, some character development for Jack and Mara, and a bit of fun, at least for the author.  At least the group is now in Paris, so the plot can get going again.

Ione's tracking of the Dunning-Kruggerand reflects the use of the cryptocurrency.  Money moves up the chain, from low-end dealers to high-end criminal enterprises, leading to Silk Road 2.0.  From there, it's just a matter of correlating when the cryptocurrency moved with known criminal deals to find out what was bought and sold.  The catch, though. is that over half of the Dunning-Kruggerand is in the hands of one organization, Mt. Gox, formerly the Magic the Gathering Online Exchange, thus well suited for tracking virtual widgets of dubious value.

Mara turned out to be fun to write.  I did almost no work on her, just figuring out her appearance and a general background, and that was because Jack's jet needed a co-pilot.  Mara made the most of her first appearance.  She then became useful to have, as will be seen next chapter.  However, Ione doesn't seem to like Mara.  The main reason is that Ione worked /hard/ to get where she is.  She had to show that she was as good as her male counterparts by putting in twice the work.  Mara, from Ione's point of view, is eye candy, getting her job because of her looks instead of ability.  First impressions, and Mara isn't helping her cause.  It's part of the reason Ione corrected herself after asking for a Coke.  She wanted the drink, not the powder.

The scene with French Customs was more to show Jack's influence on the people around him than for any other reason, other than exercising my meager French skills.  Most of the dialogue was my own work, with just quick checks to make sure I used the right gender of preposition.  Some translations if you didn't understand what was happening, though not word for word:
"Monsieur Renaud.  Et Monsieur Favre.  Trés enchanté.  Vous vous souvenez Madelle Mara, oui?" -> "Mister Renard.  And Mister Favre.  So delighted.  You remember Ms Mara, yes?"
"Et qui est elle?  Un autre des votres filles, Monsieur Jacques?" -> "And who is this?  Another of your girls, Mister Jacques?"
"Oh, non, non, non, Monsieur Favre.  Elle ne travaille pas pour moi.  Mais, j'ai besoin d'aide et elle est la personne idéalle." -> "Oh, no, no, no, Mister Favre.  She doesn't work for me.  But, I need help and she is the ideal person."
"Je viens d'Ottawa.  Mon employe est dans le gouvrement du Canada." -> "I come from Ottawa.  My job is in the Government of Canada."
"Avez vous de contrebande dans votres velises?" -> "Do you have any contraband in your luggage?"
"Non, Monsieur.  Vour pourrez regarder si vous voulez." -> "No, sir.  You can look if you want."
"Et vous, Monsieur/ Jacques?  Avez vous de contrebande?" -> "And you, Mister Jacques?  Do you have any contraband?"
"Moi?  Non, Monsieur.  Jamais." -> "Me?  No, sir.  Never."
If it seems like Jack is getting off lightly here, he is.  It's not for a lack of researching procedures at Customs, either.  This is deliberate.  Jack knows Renaud and Favre.  And they know Jack.  Earlier in the chapter, Jack mentioned that he analyzes people.  He has analyzed Renaud and Favre in the past.  And note the vousvoyer; everyone is using the formal vous instead of the familiar tu.

Friday, correcting Jack and arranging meets, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 12.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, expanded universes.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, balancing nostalgia and adaptations.