Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Memorable characters

With the release of David Weber's Storm from the Shadows this month, I found myself drawn back into the Honor Harrington Universe. Much as I'd like to grab this book, it's $60 Aussie bucks I don't have.

But, Baen has a website to torture fans of the series and other Baen authors. Collected Driblets serves as a kind of testing ground for Baen authors where readers can make comments on the work posted.

I finished the significant excerpt and decided to revisit the beginning of the series, On Basilisk Station (I need a new copy; the one I have is falling apart).

Of course, once read, I had to carry on with For the Honor of the Queen, The Short, Victorious War and currently, Field of Dishonor. I can't help myself. These initial books are brilliant; the latter books get a little mired in politics, diplomacy and info-dumps rather than epic space battles and wholesale slaughter.

The question is, why is Honor Harrington such a compelling character? What makes her so attractive that Weber has sold over three million books in this series, two spin off series and other series? Me, I'd like to shrug and say 'dunno', but there is something about the character that draws readers in.

Honor Harrington is a commoner (which scores highly in a country founded by convicts and commoners under the yoke of British Imperialism). She fights her way to a peerage whether she wants it or not. She has a cast of villians who hate her because of what she is; and that is someone who will do her duty regardless of the consequences. She does, in fact, demonstrate how corrupt certain parts of the government truly are.

But don't make the mistake that she's a Mary-Sue (unlike another character I could name). Doing her duty gets thousands killed when a temporary tactical withdrawal would have lost a system but cost less in lives and equipment to regain. She also has a barely-contained violent streak that rears it's head every now and then with nasty consequences for at least three characters.

The character grows - not just in professional stature - but in personality; from shy, gawky teenager (told in back story) to woman confident enough to take on a whole new society, and win.

At the core is an indestructible morality of integrity and self-belief. A core wrapped in duty to the Queen, the people and the crews of the ships she regularly gets shot up. And that's the clue: to keep a solid, unbreakable core to a character. For Honor Harrington, it's 'to do my duty, regardless'. Another example of this is S.L. Viehl's Cherijo, it's 'do no harm, regardless'. Even romance has it's core: 'follow your heart'.

If your character has this... 'stability', then you can throw everything at them, torture them, even kill them, but they'll always be memorable.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Couch potato

I spent most of yesterday on the couch - and enjoyed it.

The morning was for Anime - Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Black Lagoon and Blood Plus - but the afternoon? Oh, yeah, baby! A Battlestar Galactica marathon that went into the night and finished with the direct-via-satellite final movie-length episode.

I freely confess I watched the original series as a kid and to see Richard Hatch as a... well, was he a villain, or was he simply representing a lot of people in the fleet? Sure, his methods sucked and he was a master manipulator, but he'd fought the Cylons for a long time. I guess what mattered was the way in which he tried to enforce his ideology. With Zarek and Adama so set in their ways, conflict - major conflict - was bound to happen and end with one of them dead.

What I liked about the series was the continuity in the personalities. Not one deviated. Action, reaction. They were who they were. Some characters grew, some did not - just like real life.

And the end suited the series: well planned in advance and a well executed finish. No, oh-the-series-is-ending-we-must-think-of-something! The seeds were well sown in the previous series.

I'm gonna hafta watch it again.

So. Say. We. All.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Touch, pause, engage!

Anyone who knows these words understand they are spoken by a referee about to mediate between two teams in a rugby union scrum.

But they've taken on a whole new meaning with the release of Mills & Boons new eight part series involving a swell gal and a rugby player.

Romance embraces Rugby

Given that a Mills & Boon book is sold every three or so seconds, I can only see success for the series, and perhaps an increased increased in rugby union.

I just wonder how they're going to get around the usual stereotypical description of a rugby player, the cauliflower ears, the scarred features, the tape around the brow to hold the ears in, the scent of Denco-rub or magic spray.

All I can think of are our own rugby players, and there are some fine specimens of manhood representing Australia. England? Not so much.

Questions must be asked:

Will the heroine find herself rucked out or tearful at the break-down? Will anyone intercept the pill and show a clean pair of heels? If the lineout turns into a maul, will she be able to identify the mauler? Will she be penalised for hands in the ruck? Can she stay on her feet, run the angles and make a long pass?

I guess, since it's an M & B that it will be up to him to keep possession and avoid the turnovers.

The next time I watch a rugby match and listen to the ref say: "Touch, pause, engage." I'll be thinking of an alternative meaning...

Real and Imagined

It's interesting how life imitates art.

I'm working on a free sequel to Huntress called, Hunted. It's about the hunt for a serial killer on an alien world. Excalibur Jones killed quiet a few people, but let one go, the protagonist, because he has a special affection for her.

Now, you might be wondering how this compares with real life. Well... you'll recall I spent a few days away in Canberra, whooping it up with the rellos. In our absence, mice moved in from the garage. Lots of 'em. More than I thought, anyway.

Before we left, I caught two in traps; when we returned, two had died of... something, and I spent some quality time cleaning out cupboards.

In two weeks, the total mouse kill stands at two dead from, let's say, natural causes, and eight - count them - eight! in traps. And one... I let him go. He was so cute with his bewhiskered nose poking out of my computer bag, black eyes curious. I zipped up the bag and took him outside, released him away from the house.

These mice are half the size of what you see on the teev. They're brown, small, incredibly fast and remarkably smart (though you might not think so given they're now dead). I set and reset the traps around the house with peanut butter or honey as the lure. A lot of the time, the bait vanished and the trap still set.

Eleven of the beggars! Ten now gone to their reward and one tasting freedom in a wood pile - or he's snuck back into the house.

Excalibur Jones has a similar kill or release count. Will the free mouse succeed where so many have failed? Take the bait and win or be caught in the trap and lose?

I guess I'll have to write it to find out... but the parallels are eerie.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


When I think about it, yeah, I'm busy. I'm letting one trilogy sit for a week before a final lookie, I've got two books bubbling away on a back-burner and making notes as they occur, I'm considering expanding two long short stories and making a book to post and I'm writing the sequel to Huntress.

None of the above are far from my thoughts. But it is Hunted that's taking up my attention.

For the past two days, I've not written much - but I'm working on the piece. I had a translator fail on an alien world and so... have to create a new language for my protagonist to not understand.

I tried LangMaker, and while I'm sure it's perfect for some, I'm more of a perfectionist. For example, no comes out as 'gik' but not came out as 'rekshash'. Obviously, the two words bear no resemblance to one another and I think they should. Of course, it may be I'm being too 'English' in my approach.

So I set up my own little database and tried to sort out the basis for a language - not so easy. You really have to dig in to the basis structure of a language and develop it from there. I've done some research, including J.R.R. Tolkien's languages. He, of course, spent years on his languages which are spoken today by Tolkien fans.

I have no hope of getting close to that mark, nor do I want to; I just want my new language to sound and look like a real language.

It also seems like a lot of work for a couple of sentences, but to be convincing, you - as a writer - must go that extra mile. When you write fiction, you must sound as if you know what you're writing about and that means learning about the subject. You don't have to drop an infodump into your work, just give enough information to sound as if you know your subject.

Language, creating a new one, is the same, so I'm working on it. Twenty words. That's what I need, but I have to maintain the integrity of the piece otherwise, it won't work and I doubt making it up as I go along will succeed.

Sigh. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Space, now and then

Space... the final frontier... yada, yada.

I'm making some notes for one of two books I'm thinking of writing. The second one is about a woman who can see past lives and, since she works for the Justice Department, decides whether a murder was revenge for one in a previous life.

But the first... a group of astronauts (ours) are intercepted by aliens who give warning of another species stripping the populace of their futures - it's a life force thing. One species have human elements; the other does not. Who are the bad guys?

Anyway, with Discovery blasting off and space junk causing problems (why don't they clean it up? Jeez, isn't it enough we pollute our own planet, now we're littering space?), the interest in space is rising again.

But I'm wondering: do astronauts have weapons?

I know, I know. Idealogues would say 'space isn't for conflict; it's for friendship', and that's nice for them. The reality? I don't know. I can think of many reasons why they should bear arms - landing in unfriendly waters, for one. I can also think of reasons why they shouldn't - and I don't suppose a bullet through the shell of the ISS is a good thing.

Are weapons a part of military survival kits? Of any spacefaring nation? Is there even a protocol for astronauts if someone from outside the Solar System drops in for a cuppa?

And the big question: how do I find out? Anyone?

Maybe I'll let it simmer and work on the more terrestrial story. I mean, how hard can revisiting past lives be?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jaye needs...

Ah, games. Something to take your mind off what ever it is you need taking off your mind. This one comes from Marina who filched it from somewhere else and so on.

The idea is to use Google to find what you need. Put in your name and 'needs' and do a search. Use the first ten.

Here's what I got:

Jaye needs...
1. You!
Give me some time and I'll come up with why.

2. to sneak back over the border.
The border's a long, long way away. Ohh, you mean in my current WIP? Neat!

3. it the most.
Well, spare my blushes! I don't think I should comment on this.

4. a photo to post.
Mmm... No.

5. 2 more or gain 30 more Slayer points to reach the next level.
Woo hoo! What? Slayer points? Okay...

6. to help an old nemesis plan a reunion.
Again, no. Yes, there's a reunion coming up, no I'll not be attending.

7. an exorcism.
Eh? You mean my head isn't supposed to do that three-sixty business? Green vomit isn't acceptable human behaviour? Well, hell, who knew?

8. a connection.
Ah, so that's the problem: I'm not plugged in!

9. to finish her sentences.
But it's... I think... You can't mean... Surely...

10. her morning fix of caffeine.
Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

And what does everyone else need? Or is this a virus thing that needs to be purged from the internet? What's this "Wonderfalls" program and why does the lead character have my name?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Surprise deaths

The last couple of days have been relaxing after the excitement of the weekend. Sigh. I should have paid more attention, not gone the quick and easy route for meals.

Last night, I figured I'd cook something nice and opened one of the cupboards.


While away, a mouse had crawled into the cupboard... and died. So I spent some time clearing out the baking dishes and cake tins, the wok and electrical devices searching for the remains. Found 'em. I also spent some significant time washing and scrubbing and rubbing and wondering if I should just chuck the whole lot out.

Now, I have a sparkly clean and disinfected cupboard and stuff.

Once done, I noticed the dog at the back room door. It's been closed since we went away. I do that, you know: close every door, turn off as many appliances and power points as possible, close curtains, the works.

So, yeah, I opened that door, too.


I shut the door. I'll look for the remains tomorrow.

My question is why now? Why are we being invaded like this? It's not Summer and it's not Winter. Never have we had so many! They have got to go! I'm thinking one of those electronic devices to shoo them out, otherwise, my Karma is going to take a beating.

Anyway. I've posted another story on The Takeaway. Have at it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On the way

Okay, the last scene is done on Autumn's Fall.

One more read through of all three Season books and the first gets sent out, probably next week, though I think that might be wishful thinking.

The toughest part about writing a book or two... or three, is to determine when it is good enough to go out into the wide world. Is it grown up enough, or does it still have teething problems? Maybe it's still trying to work through the up and downs of teenagerhood. Does it read well, flow, engender emotional responses?

Will it make an editor or agent sit up and pay attention? Demand more or drown in the slush pile?

I'm guessing my next job is to put together a synopsis. I have a few examples to draw from so I'm not completely in the dark. Once that's done, it's seeking out an agent...

Phew. Just had an attack of nerves. Well, I'll never-never know, if I never-never show. I've set the deadline at the 31st of March. Out it goes, it's sponged off me long enough. There. Set in stone, out in public. Damn. I'm going to write some notes on a new book, try and shake the nerves.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Medical triumphs

Ah, me. Doing a happy dance and a little shimmy and a minor jig, followed by a subdued 'woot'!

Did the First Aid course this morning, followed by an exam - practical and theory - in the afternoon. Yes, I passed... okay, I kicked butt, with a final mark of, wait for it: 100 per cent! Yay! Toss those wounded bodies at me! I'll fix 'em!

Right. I'm no doctor, it's true, but I now know what to do in emergencies and that can't be a bad thing. Any medical training is useful.

* * *

I finished Lynn Viehl's Stay the Night this evening - eschewing Star Trek: Voyager, mind you - and the series doesn't feel finished. I'm guessing when I read it again, I'll see it, but at the moment... I'll have to think on the ending. I don't, at this stage, see what happened as a solution; but then I want the Brethren to pay a high price for their misguided, evil ways.

Alex Keller continues to search for a cure to the pathogen, an FBI agent is kidnapped by Robin of Locksley - and there is irony in that - Nottingham returns as a man still open to manipulation by the evil of others and his own conscience, and a nasty little psychopath seeks revenge on them all.

Like the others in the series, I enjoyed it, but Lynn presented some tantalising glimpses and leads that could be future books, as if she's keeping the option open to write more should fans demand it. There's so much more that could happen.

I like series to end on an absolute: Cardinal D'orio dead (he so needs killin'), the Brethren dead, scattered or finally see how they were manipulated... but perhaps that's for the new series of Kyndred. The first, Shadowlight, comes out in November and the excerpt at the end of Stay The Night is a temptation I want, nay, need to indulge.

With all the vampire novels out there today, the Darkyn series is a breath of fresh air blowing through the genre with medical reasoning written with absolute conviction to be believable. This is a series I'll be re-reading. It's a stand out in a genre that is both becoming tired as it is popular.

Bring on the next series.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Busy week

Woo hoo! Can my cousins party or what?

I'm back after an extended long weekend. It was good to catch up with the cuzzes, even those I haven't seen in... mumble, mumble... years! It's amazing the changes those years have wrought. Everyone was relaxed and cheerful and chatty, but worse, most have a similar sense of humour so eruptions of laughter echoed around the neighbourhood.

I managed to do some shopping in the big smoke: picked up Lynn Viehl's pink-covered Stay the Night, Rachel Caine's Undone and a classic copy of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Do you think I had a chance to read any of them?


We went out on Friday night, had the party on Saturday night, lunch on Sunday to clear up any fabulous left overs, home baked pizza-oven pizzas on Monday night, shopping and baby sitting in between. And so... I am worn out.

I've yet to finish the final scene on two books, read what I've purchased and make notes on a book I had a scathingly brilliant idea for on the three-hour drive back to the coast.

It all has to wait until Friday when I have a day off my current obligations.

Oh, and we arrived home to find a few mouses running rampant. I am, however, relieved I didn't catch any. I had driven... maybe two hours before I remembered I'd set traps - and forgot to unset them. Can you imagine the stinkiness of bodies trapped for four days? Hmmm? In late Summer? HMMM? So. They got to party too, and defeated the traps anyway.

Tomorrow I'm off to do a Senior First Aid course. Should be interesting and worthy of some note-taking.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Family tree-d

I've been trying to get to the last scene of my current WIP... and failing. Real life keeps getting in the way.

This weekend, I'm taking the maternal influencer to Canberra for the 60th anniversary of her family arriving in Australia from England.

I'm working on organising photographs and printing out that side of the family tree for those who know nuffink about their origins. Some, we rarely see or hear from.

But that's the way with families. They came out as children, grew up here and wandered off to different parts of the country - and Australia is a rather big land. The grapevine, however, is alive and kicking and various cousins, second cousins, aunts and uncles have promised to turn up. It will be great to see them all: a generation of English and two generations of Aussies, all mingling.

What I find interesting is that no matter how long they've been in Australia, they still retain an English accent. I'm thinking it's because of the household they grew up in. Although... when my brother came back from a year in New Zealand, he had a New Zealand accent, and when I came back from a year in England, I had an English one. I'm guessing it's the people we're constantly with that gives us the speech patterns. (While in England, I was also mistaken for being Swedish or South African. What's up with that?)

It's something to think about - especially with the latest WIP *hurries off to make a note* - um, where was I? Oh, yes. I can't recall any books I've read that has someone returning home after a long absence with a different accent; attitude, personality and looks, yes, but accent? No. I wonder why that is? I'll have to rummage around my bookshelves, I think, and seek out any books that have this change.