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Low-Hanging Fruit

February 15, 2010 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, The Craft  2 Comments

The alien peered through her Schmidt & Bender 3-12×50 Police Marksman LP Riflescope at the meat below.

Her favorite human killing rifle was a Bushmaster Predator in 5.56/.223. She liked the barrel length, and the 1:8 twist was perfect for her Hornady 75 grain 5.56 TAP rounds. The rifle and optic were, in her mind, perfect. Each magazine held 30 rounds (although she only filled hers to 29), and her vast experience with firearms centered on having as much ammunition as she could carry.

The rifle had other advantages, mainly the optic was a superb light gather and the reticule was an outstanding visual interface to her internal sight augmentation program. The rifle did not have any fancy bells and whistles. She had a simple sling on it, and that was all. Low-recoil, lightweight and very accurate, the 20” barrel was fluted and bled heat at a surprisingly good rate.

Heat, of course, was bad.

The meat below was noisy. The local cops called them meth maggots; the populace called them tweakers. She chose to think of them as low-hanging fruit.

She did not know how many would be here, but now there were five. It was a big operation, and they had supplies to camp here for a week or two as they did their cooking. Meth cookers were inadvertently tweakers themselves. They were about the only people stupid enough to expose themselves to the chemicals to make it.

Home labs had been dangerous as of late, the alien mused. The state prosecutor made it his mission to rid the state of the things, and the Sheriff was more than willing to comply with the push. Unfortunately, federal lands were a great place to cook something up, and the Olympic National Forest was very large indeed.

The rangers were sparse and kept to the hiking trails to keep close to the hikers. Not many people suspected, she thought, that a cooking operation would be on the wet side of the mountains. Putting a meth lab where it rained constantly was very stupid. Gutsy, but stupid.

Their isolation would not help them today, oh no. She found them by scouting, something she did at least once a week, and fining their tracks. She was new to the area, but she already thought of the temperate rainforest as “hers”. She would not suffer evil men in one of the planet’s most beautiful places.

From her perch, they were just over 142 yards away, a figure she derived at with her internal range finder that calculated distances based on the size of objects relative to the hash marks in her scope’s reticule. There was no wind, but there was considerable cover if she lost the surprise advantage. This is why she chose the semi-automatic rifle as her sniping platform. Fast as she was with a bolt-action rifle, this situation called for even more speed.

She sighted carefully. Twilight was here.

Sight. Breathe. Squeeze. Kill. Recover and aim.

Breathe. Squeeze. Kill. Recover and aim.

Breathe Squeeze. Kill. Recover and aim.

One of her victims was finally running. She shot him in the leg, careful to aim below the knee. The bullet blew a huge chunk off his lower left leg off, and he went down screaming.

The very last man was firing blindly in her general direction with a Mini-14. If he knew where she was, that would be bad. It was mostly accurate, assuming one aimed it properly.

She carefully aimed for his head.

Squeeze.

His head exploded.

BOOM headshot, Baby! The alien giggled.

***

Cody was simply talking to Justin about their favorite topic: alternative music. Then Justin’s back exploded outwards the same time he heard the rolling echo of a gunshot; the large crater in his back obscenely disproportionate to the small hole in his chest. Before what was happening registered, most of the crew all around him died, including his brother.

He ran. Miguel was firing blindly off in the woods; maybe he could use him to cover his escape.

That’s when Cody’s leg blew apart.

He screamed and screamed, and then Miguel’s head exploded.

That caught his attention. He pulled his SIG from his waistband.

BOOM! PAIN!

Suddenly his hand was gone.

Cody resumed screaming. He felt sharp pains and it made him dizzy. Eventually it dawned on him, he noticed he was still alive.

Suddenly a pair of boots came into view. He looked up, resigned to his fate.

A woman?

She put down her rifle.

Off came the boots and socks.

She took off her clothes.

Quickly, she was naked.

Beautiful, he could not help thinking through the pain—even though he knew he was bleeding to death.

She stood there looking at him, holding something small in each hand.

Cody began to pant with fear.

“What is the name of your main buyer?” she asked in a strange accent.

“W-w-Warren.” Suddenly Cody could see fangs in her mouth. He began to cry.

“Please… please… don’t kill me.”

“Shhhhhh,” she said, “no begging now. Keep some dignity, eh?”

“What… what are you?” he stammered.

Suddenly, the thing flexed her wrists, twisted her hands. Two long dirks she was hiding under her arms appeared as if magic.

“I am silf, and I will be your personal chef for the evening.”

As the silf walked towards him, Cody began to scream once more.

Ding Novel is Done

December 20, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  4 Comments

I finished my work in progress in the wee hours of the morning, The Wælcyries Murders.

What a fun novel!

The novel, according to conventional wisdom, should not be—it’s a sequel to a book I haven’t sold yet, which, according to some, isn’t a good idea.

Like much of the advice written on the Interwebs, a person has to be very careful not only consider the source, but also the context.

One reason it’s not a good idea is that your first book may never sell. Your agent or editor may also suggest changes to the first novel that render the second one invalid. Thus you’ve wasted your time.

Or have you?

I learned so much writing this novel. It took me six months to write. What did I learn in six months?

  • I learned that there are tricks and techniques to writing your first novel so the second novel in the series gels and flows with the first
  • I leaned about advanced characterization beyond a self-contained novel
  • I learned how to write a sequel
  • I learned new things about world-building and continuity
  • I learned that even well respected writers and industry can over-generalize

Out of all of these points, the most valuable to me is the characterization I learned. What’s my main character’s motive, beyond solving the mystery? How does she grow? Where do the other characters fit?

This is my fourth novel I have written; with the caveat the first novel was a pure writing exercise with no basis in publishing reality. So, it’s more novel number three. I will repeat this to myself until it is true. Heh.

The first book in the series could never sell.

I can guarantee that if I do sell a book, and my publisher asks for a sequel, the process of producing that creative work will be much better. I learn by thinking about things and doing in an iterative process.

Next post I talk about the wok itself and the other things I learned.

Don’t Mess with Aunt Lucinda

December 08, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Not Exactly Random, The Craft  0 Comments

It’s been almost a year since I wrote this, and it still cracks me up. This is from an excerpt from my unfinished YA Novel, The Baby Dancers.

Chapter Two

***

Zeke knew there was trouble when they came down the trail and Aunt Lucinda was standing there with her hands on her hips, smiling a smirk Zeke had never seen.

They set down their jars, and Aunt Lucinda bowed to Master Ji. “Josh, Zeke, how are you today?” she said to them, giving them a little bow also.

“I am well, Aunt Lucinda,” said Josh.

“I have been enjoying this day,” said Zeke. “How are you?”

“Good.” Again, with the smirk.

Master Ji turned to Zeke. “Today’s sparring lesson…” Zeke noted the use of the word ‘lesson,’ “…will be taught by your Aunt. Zeke, you are to engage her in hand-to-hand combat. The first to yield loses.”

“What? But, but… she’s pregnant!” Zeke said. Had the adults gone crazy again?

“That is of no consequence,” Master Ji said matter-of-factly.

“I can’t hit her, what if I harmed the baby?” Zeke could not believe what was happening. It had to be a joke.

“You would hit her if she is trying to kill you. Regardless, this is an important lesson Zeke, one that your aunt approached me to implement. I do not agree with her methodology, but I do agree with her message. Prepare yourself.”

Zeke took off his sword while looking at Josh, whose eyes were as big as saucers. Zeke decided right there to use blocks. He knew that Lucinda was a marginal fighter when it came to martial arts. She was good with her sword, but her real purpose at the monastery was academic teaching—and keeping Uncle Hubert happy, it seemed. In any event, he would simply wear her out.

Then Master Ji blindfolded him.

Uh-oh, thought Zeke.

“Begin,” Master Ji said simply.

Zeke’s mind whirled, thoughts seemingly coming to him like bolts of lightning striking the trees in the valley in a storm. He heard footsteps and twisted, stepping to one side. He heard and felt a fist traveling past his head.

Zeke at that point knew he was going to lose, and take lumps. His aunt may be a marginal warrior, but she had training from the best. His brain went into overdrive. Was this a lesson on yielding to the inevitable? Should he give up now? Should he…

A sharp blow landed on his calf and he collapsed instantly, hitting the ground. He rolled.

Don’t think, act, thought Zeke.

Zeke sprung to his feet and crouched. “I am not surprised you swept me with your foot, Aunt Lucinda. I believe your ever-growing breasts have dampened your ability to hit me with your arms. Surely your swing close to your body has been hampered.”

Zeke heard a sharp intake of breath and shot his hand out now that he had a direction. Indeed, his hand connected with a breast in question. He quickly but gently squeezed it and said, “Honk honk!”

He swiftly withdrew his arm but a fist connected with his wrist. He sidestepped again, but a blow landed on his side, sending him tumbling. He twisted but not fast enough, and slammed into the ground on the same wrist. He grunted in pain.

That’s when a foot connected with his butt. He rolled but it was no use, more blows rained down on him. He tried to get up, failed, shoved back into the dirt with a mighty kick. Blindfolding him evened out their fighting abilities but he could not hit her. He could not overcome that disadvantage no matter how hard he tried.

Zeke tried to summon anger, but he found it difficult to be angry, and he did not know why. Instead, in the rain of blows and pain, he felt calm. His thoughts felt strangely dejected from the hurt he was now enduring. He was thankful she was not raining blows down on his head; otherwise, she would severely injure him.

Then he figured it out.

He took off the blindfold.

The first to yield loses. Master Ji had said. He said nothing about a blindfold. Zeke had worn it for no reason.

As he removed the cloth, a foot was traveling to his crotch. He turned to one side and grabbed it, using her momentum to throw her off balance not by pushing, which she would expect, but by pulling. Her other foot popped off the ground and she landed right on top of him, and though she was surprised, she grabbed his injured wrist and squeezed. Zeke yelped. He instantly relaxed. If she broke his wrist, his summer would be a waste.

Now Aunt Lucinda was lying on top of him, and they were nose to nose.

“I yield, Auntie Lucinda.”

She frowned, but then smiled. She made no move to get up, but she did let go of his wrist.

“Aunt Lucinda?”

“Yes?”

“I feel your baby will be the best thing that ever happened to us.”

Lucinda’s face crumpled and she started to cry.

“Oh Zeke, you always know what to say.” Then she kissed him, and just as suddenly, got up and ran off.

Zeke thought about getting up but the ground was comfortable, much more comfortable than the previous pummeling.

Master Ji came into his view on the right hand side, looking down at his face. “And what lesson did we learn today, Ezekiel?” asked Master Ji, his tone light and full of mirth.

“In battle, there are no rules. There is only the objective.”

Joshua came into view on his left side.

“What about you, Joshua? What did you learn?”

“Don’t anger a pregnant woman,” said Josh, bringing the entire week into focus.

Girly Stuff

November 09, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  1 Comment

I like to believe, as a male writer, I write a good female protagonist. In my Investigator Lexus Toulouse sci-fi murder mysteries, Lexus is a three-dimensional character that seems to resonate with my female readers in a way that I don’t quite understand.

Actually, I take that back. Part of the reason I can write a three-dimensional female character is because I have done research pertaining to women in lawn enforcement, and I’ve met female police officers while on duty while doing this research.

Research is vital. It is not enough to look into the heart of a female character and try to bring that to the page. The setting and plot details need a basis in reality. Lee Lofland writes to this in his latest, “Female Police Officers: Are They Really Wimpy, Or Do You Just Write Them That Way?” This article really resonates with me, because Lee often gives great tips around certain themes, themes that appear in his blog over and over again. Essentially, what he tells his blogs readers is to write life as it is, rather than life as you think it is.

Sound familiar? It should. Rachelle said the same thing:

“I get the feeling many people are so saturated with media (books, TV, movies) that they are writing not from life but from their perception of life as shown in media. They’re writing stories I’ve seen and heard a hundred times before.”

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent: Fiction Writing: Craft and Story

Back to Lexus (because, this post is all about me, me, me, me), Lexus is a flawed individual. You can make a compelling argument that she is mired in psychosis. She certainly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. She has an addiction-prone personality.

These are flaws.

Lexus is also an emotional creature. She has a deep sympathy for people with problems and a strong intolerance for injustice. She takes injustice personally. She approaches problems with logic, but does not have tight reigns on her empathy. She feels. She feels a lot. As a woman, she has feminine emotions.

This is not a flaw. That is part of her strength. Too often, I read characters where the author went out of her way to make sure I, as a reader, understood the character was not flawed because she had boobs and lacked a penis. Yet the character is still a cliché; essentially she is an immature girl compensating for being female.

There is strength in femininity, just as there is strength in masculinity. I can write the strong female main character because I play on my strengths: observation and research. Sometimes I write the obvious in a way that is appealing to women simply because I’m an outsider and am providing a fresh, outsider voice.

Or something like that. I don’t fully understand it. I’m certainly not blazing new territory. My running theory: women are powerful creatures. As technology progresses and makes physical strength not even worthy of a secondary characteristic, the era of the woman may be upon us.

LindaT2

Dinner Excitement in the Year 21

September 15, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, The Craft  5 Comments

Dinner in the Toulouse poly marriage can be exciting.

Everyone at dinner thinks Papa moving in is a great idea.

Mainly because, sometimes, I am a medical mess.

Except Katie. To her, this is beyond a good idea. She looks so happy she is about to burst.

“What?” It is easy to think that Katie is a dumb blonde, rather than one of the smartest scientists ever to walk the Earth, the bio-equivalent of Albert Einstein.

Minus the crazy part. Right now, she looks like a bubblehead with a goofy grin.

“My twenty-five-ish year old evil plan is coming to a close!” She actually claps her hands.

I sigh.

“What?” asks Cazandra, looking confused.

“Babies! Milo would make a great grandfather. It’s what he wants, really, really bad,” says Kate, although it is blazingly obvious who wants the babies.

“I need to relearn how to just be a normal woman first,” I say.

“Oh! Oh! She didn’t say no!”

I roll my eyes, but then I look at everyone. “Yes. I would like to have a baby someday. Not anytime soon.” I give Kate a big grin. “Just warn me before you stick an egg up there.”

She startles as if I poked her with a shock baton. Oh my God!

“Sharon Kaitlin Toulouse! You were not planning on putting an egg in me for fertilization without me knowing about it, were you?”

“Yeeeeee…no. No, of course not.”

I reach across the table, grab her wrist and twist.

“Ow! Ow! Let go!”

“If I suddenly find myself pregnant without planning, I swear to God I will chop your hand off at this wrist and feed it to the beagle!”

“Okay! I’ll be good!”

“Swear!”

“I swear,” she says with hesitation in her voice.

I twist and pull. Her place setting crashes to the ground as she comes partially out of her seat. Everyone is looking at me with wide eyes.

“Ow! I swear I won’t impregnate you without you knowing about it first. I promise!”

I yank her all the way onto the table. Dishes and food go everywhere. I pin her hand to the table with one hand and with the other, I grab my steak knife and make a cut on her palm.

“Ahhhh!”

I stand on my chair and put a knee on her arm, and I let go. I then cut my own palm, and hiss in pain.

I grab her bloody hand and with my bloody hand, then remove my knee. I squeeze her hand tight until she cries out again.

I let go.

“There. Your promise is a blood oath. We are now blood sisters by honor and deed. The vow is set.”

Kaitlin is lying on the table, smeared with food, drink and blood soaking her clothing, and crying.

I turn to Caz.

“So, what’s for dessert?” I ask, dripping blood on the floor.

“Aaaaand that’s why you don’t fuck with the LT,” says Vash.


Conflict in the Year 21: Tokyo

August 29, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  2 Comments

Oh man, the absurd situations I foster on my poor main character.

As a ex-NI soldier and pilot, I was naked on base many a time. There were times where if I had anything touching my skin I would just lose it. It’s a common side effect of neural implants. My sensitivity to touch is higher than a normal person is, and sometimes that’s a disadvantage.

Today, nudity isn’t common, but it isn’t rare either.

So it was with some nervousness Kaoru is escorting me to the front of the hotel lobby where I can summon Thor, because I’m wearing nothing but a pair of spaghetti-strap fuck-me heels. Each step is a sparkly slither of the naked sexy.

And people are staring. Conversations stops, mouths hang open, women pause, men drink me with their eyes. Oh, this was a mistake. I feel self-conscious and stupid that I, of all people, feel self-conscious.

Kaoru is following behind me carrying a locked case containing my purse, PDA, and needler. She is smirking at the reactions to her handiwork.

Thor is suddenly at my side. Never have I been so grateful to see him. “I can take that, Miss Kaoru-san,” he says. She hands the case over, bows at me, and when I return her bow, she grins and leaves.

The lobby is still silent. Thor puts his hand on my arm.

“Look, Lieutenant, I want to be up front this was not my idea. I told them no. I might as well have been speaking to a rock.”

“What?” This doesn’t sound good. No, not good at all!

“Come.”

I plant my heels and almost fall over. “Thor, I am naked, wearing only scandalous heels and an absurd amount of credits in diamonds. Spit it out!”

“There is a crowd of people outside waiting to escort you to the Palace.”

No! Damn it!

I feel faint, on the verge of hyperventilating. I don’t do well with crowds. “Crowd? Can I slip out the back? Can we VTOL over? How many people are we talking about here?”

I detect a wisp of a smile from the normally stoic Thor.

“All of them, I think.”

Crap.

imperial-palace