Alfisti's Ramblings

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Mon 5 May 2014 - 5:12

Meanwhile in Italy, CH17 - Lorem Ipsum, is now up...

...in which I probably make too many in-story introductions.

Special thanks to Voodoo for running an eye over Elio's part.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Il Direttore on Mon 5 May 2014 - 8:48

This is.... unprecedented. 

Danilo having to deal with problems on his end? That's unexpected, and I don't mean that mockingly. He seems to be taking it... well? I suppose?

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Tue 6 May 2014 - 4:52

@Il Direttore wrote:This is.... unprecedented. 

Danilo having to deal with problems on his end? That's unexpected, and I don't mean that mockingly. He seems to be taking it... well? I suppose?
Yeah, this time Danilo too has his problems, and they're not just Raych related.

As to him taking it well... The way I see it, as far as Danilo is concerned, he's been asked to do something beyond what should be expected of him (read: taking up a role outside his job description and major experience). He'll give give it his best shot, but he's no the sort to see it as a challenge to be defeated, just his bosses being unreasonable and, so, if he fails, the onus is entirely on them. He doesn't want to be seen to fail of course, an ego is an ego after all, but he has, to put it one way, already got his excuse prepared.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Sat 24 May 2014 - 7:03

Meanwhile in Italy, Chapter 18 - Stranger in Moscow, is now up...

So, I reckon there's two, maybe three chapters left in this before I end/put MiI on hiatus, to switch the story's focus back to J+M.

Then again, I thought I had four or so chapters left just before Christmas... which was obviously a very accurate prediction.  sweat

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by PolosElite23 on Sat 24 May 2014 - 16:15

Pretty Good Alfisti.

So ah...When we switch POV from Kara to Danilo, You lost me for a bit. I had to reread a few times. Linebreak perhaps?

Very interested to see how this goes forward. I'm liking all the cyborg interaction here. You write good story Alfisti.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by tremec6speed on Sat 24 May 2014 - 17:36

Cool story you're shaping up Alfisti, always enjoyable read. Smile

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Thescarredman on Sat 24 May 2014 - 21:07

You pulled another 'Excel spreadsheet' bit with the lecture, Alf: You say that you don't really know how to use Excel, yet for Monty it's a productive and indispensable tool. Here, you pack a hall with fratelli taking instruction in Moscow Rules, but manage to avoid actually talking about the subject. Switching to Danilo's POV was a perfect way to do this, I think, since he could probably sit in a lecture hall for hours while Sandro and Michele spoke and not absorb a thing.

Raych's robotic docility is heartrending as always. I'd like to see her take sniping instruction from someone else for a week, then ace her qual, just to stuff Danilo's arrogance down his throat. I'll note once again that he's making friends wherever he goes.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by PolosElite23 on Sat 24 May 2014 - 21:17

Not just friends TSM.... He's making BFFs

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Sun 25 May 2014 - 1:29

@PolosElite23 wrote:So ah...When we switch POV from Kara to Danilo, You lost me for a bit. I had to reread a few times. Linebreak perhaps?

Very interested to see how this goes forward. I'm liking all the cyborg interaction here. You write good story Alfisti.
Yeah... I was um-ing and ah-ing over whether to linebreak that or not. One one had it would help delineate the swap of perspective, but on the other the sections are a bit short for my taste to be breaking them up to brutally. I thought I might be able to write around it, but it's still an awkward transition.

I will admit, I do enjoy writing the cyborg interactions , and playing with/fleshing out (for better or worse) the various personalities using what can be gleaned from the manga/anime.


@thescarredman wrote:You pulled another 'Excel spreadsheet' bit with the lecture, Alf: You say that you don't really know how to use Excel, yet for Monty it's a productive and indispensable tool. Here, you pack a hall with fratelli taking instruction in Moscow Rules, but manage to avoid actually talking about the subject. Switching to Danilo's POV was a perfect way to do this, I think, since he could probably sit in a lecture hall for hours while Sandro and Michele spoke and not absorb a thing.

Raych's robotic docility is heartrending as always. I'd like to see her take sniping instruction from someone else for a week, then ace her qual, just to stuff Danilo's arrogance down his throat. I'll note once again that he's making friends wherever he goes.
Now if I could just figure out how to do the whole sniper bit without having to actually talk about it that would be great...  sweat 

Frankly, despite having written J+M for so long, I really have no idea where I would start with an "espionage" lecture, or even what to put in one. To be fair, I think Sandro and Michele are feeling a bit put upon as well.

Besides, I'm fairly certain no-one wants to read a lecture word for word (see info dumping conversation over in "on writing" ).  sweat 


And yes, Danilo is making friends left, right and centre.


Cheers chaps.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Kiskaloo on Sun 25 May 2014 - 22:14

I was able to follow the POV change okay. Chapter 17 on the sniper range is where I became confused in terms of who was speaking. sweat

Danilo continues to actively refuse to see the forest before the trees and his attitude seems to be rubbing more and more people the wrong way. I'm just waiting for the whole thing to go off the rails during a multi-fratelli mission.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Mon 26 May 2014 - 5:11

@Kiskaloo wrote:I was able to follow the POV change okay. Chapter 17 on the sniper range is where I became confused in terms of who was speaking. sweat

Danilo continues to actively refuse to see the forest before the trees and his attitude seems to be rubbing more and more people the wrong way. I'm just waiting for the whole thing to go off the rails during a multi-fratelli mission.
To be honest, the sniper range is always a pain as there's usually a group of people in those scenes, and it becomes difficult to track who is who without repeating names over and over.  sweat 

As to group missions, hopefully Jean is bright enough to keep Danilo on a tight leash for awhile, or make sure to pair him up with handlers who can keep him in line. Opinionated though he may be, he seems to back down quickly in the presence of those he considers as having one over him.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Kiskaloo on Mon 26 May 2014 - 9:00

@Alfisti wrote:As to group missions, hopefully Jean is bright enough to keep Danilo on a tight leash for awhile, or make sure to pair him up with handlers who can keep him in line. Opinionated though he may be, he seems to back down quickly in the presence of those he considers as having one over him.

He strikes me as someone who is secure in his beliefs, but only in relation to himself and those he considers his peers. When it comes to those he views as his superiors, he does seem to be someone who will back down rather than stand up for those beliefs.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Tue 27 May 2014 - 5:23

@Kiskaloo wrote:
@Alfisti wrote:As to group missions, hopefully Jean is bright enough to keep Danilo on a tight leash for awhile, or make sure to pair him up with handlers who can keep him in line. Opinionated though he may be, he seems to back down quickly in the presence of those he considers as having one over him.

He strikes me as someone who is secure in his beliefs, but only in relation to himself and those he considers his peers. When it comes to those he views as his superiors, he does seem to be someone who will back down rather than stand up for those beliefs.
Secure in his beliefs or, perhaps, is heavily invested enough in those beliefs that he refuses to back away from them. He doesn't like being wrong.

Either way, he does indeed seem to spruik them until he feels he has something to loose from doing so... so pushing them at a superior or someone he views as having something on him, eg. Gaetano (van incident) or Jethro and, much to his distaste, Monty (hospital incident), at which point he contents himself with grumbling about it in his head.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Il Direttore on Thu 29 May 2014 - 19:53

I have the unspeakable and pressing urge to shoot Danilo in the head. 

Seriously, the sort of bent he's got is marginally acceptable in an office, where the worst you can do is pitch a hissy fit in a meeting. As I was telling Pez just now, if I was a handler, I would flatly refuse to have him be on any mission with me. He's managed to make C. Raych almost completely useless as a combatant, and I'm not getting my cyborg killed because someone who was supposed to help her stopped working without a direct order. 

I'm not sure if that's considered a compliment, given context, but yeah. Ugh.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Fri 30 May 2014 - 4:43

It's probably a compliment to me as an author, not so much to Danilo as a person.  Razz 

Cheers mate.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Sat 14 Jun 2014 - 3:44

Meanwhile in Italy, Chapter 19 - The Shipping News, is now posted.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Il Direttore on Sat 14 Jun 2014 - 7:23

I felt an urge to make a joke about romances, but I couldn't think of any. 

Hm, unsure if I agree with Raych's reactions here. Given that Danilo told her not to be sorry, explicitly, it seems like she might be more confused rather than distressed? My personal read on her character, at least.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Sat 14 Jun 2014 - 7:37

@Il Direttore wrote:I felt an urge to make a joke about romances, but I couldn't think of any. 

Hm, unsure if I agree with Raych's reactions here. Given that Danilo told her not to be sorry, explicitly, it seems like she might be more confused rather than distressed? My personal read on her character, at least.
I think confused and distressed are sort of the same thing for Raych... she's not someone who deals with contradiction very well.  Razz 

That said: I can see where you're coming from, it is a little against her "exactly as Danilo says/Danilo is always right" pattern. By the same token though, she's so certain that everything is her fault by now, and that she's a huge disappointment to Danilo, that being told that a failure was okay would probably get her trying to read more into it... enough to set her off into her usual depressive spiral.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Fri 20 Jun 2014 - 3:20

Not fanfic, but a few might remember me having a moan on chat about being drafted to write an article for the club mag. Not my best work ever to be honest (scratch off "journalism" as future career choice) but, if anyone's interested, the web version is here:

Lotus Club - Woodford Run

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Thescarredman on Fri 20 Jun 2014 - 16:22

Very cool. Wish I could talk you into writing something for the 'Travelogue' thread. Is the white-haired gentleman your dad?
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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Il Direttore on Fri 20 Jun 2014 - 17:26

I'm not sure why I did this, but much of that article was read in the voice of Jeremy Clarkson. It may be because I've been binging through Top Gear Archives on Netflix, or perhaps your writing style has assimilated some of Mr. Clarkson's characteristics. What is certain, however, is that what I just read was entertaining and well written.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Fri 20 Jun 2014 - 19:59

@Thescarredman wrote:Very cool. Wish I could talk you into writing something for the 'Travelogue' thread. Is the white-haired gentleman your dad?
We are, indeed, related... not certain which you should feel more sorry for.  Razz 

Cheers chaps, glad people got some entertainment value from it.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Tue 8 Jul 2014 - 7:58

Meanwhile in Italy, Chapter 20 and Epilogue now posted.


And so this part of Danilo & Raych's story draws to a close. Thanks to everyone who has commented or offered crit and encouragement, it's always appreciated. Special thanks too to those who have loaned me characters to flesh the universe out.

Truth is, I've still got pages and pages of notes for Meanwhile in Italy, however this brings their story up to date events wise with And the Adventure Continues, which means it's time to switch back to Jethro+Monty and finish their story which started in Monaco, and this seemed like as good of a place as any to break Meanwhile... either temporarily or permanently. The call for that will be made once J+M's current story is wrapped up, and I intend to take a short break before jumping into that.

Either way, I hope Meanwhile in Italy has been at least moderately entertaining to read, and thanks again to those who have done so.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Kiskaloo on Tue 8 Jul 2014 - 13:34

Solid place for an ending. Ties it up well so that if you do decide to end it here, there is a sense of completeness, if not truly one of closure.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by PSVT on Wed 9 Jul 2014 - 0:06

A wonderful last chapter and epilogue for the travails of Danilo and Raych. I must say that I definitely enjoyed reading the entirety of the story, even if I haven't had much time to say that while doing so or to provide any usable specifics in the form of a review. Most definitely, I plan on actually doing so whenever I get the time and can get back in practice, but in the meantime I'll provide this short synopsis of what I thought.

The thing I liked most about this story was the way you portrayed the vastly differing perspectives of Danilo and Raych: the way his confidence in his cyborg-training methodology (even if everyone else found it and him utterly infuriating and wrong-headed) contrasted Raych's massive insecurity, especially how that only increased her servility in the face of Danilo's unwitting abuse of her. The way the whole narration took the personality of the person in focus served to further emphasize these points in a way that I think ultimately helped the story and my personal enjoyment of it. One major threat of such a writing tactic I believe is that the narration becomes too heavy-handed with the loss of separation between character and narrator, and that we readers lose any sense of suspense with a character's motives or future actions because so much (too much?) was revealed in the narration. However, I think in this instance you used it to your advantage as we needed to see that Danilo absolutely did think his actions were proper, that Raych was suffering because of them, and that neither ever really knew what the other was feeling (that is, until that moment in the van). So, massive kudos to you in that regard.

Beyond that aspect, I liked the amount of detail given here in terms of background and the like. That is, I think the chapter lengths were ideal, not too short with important details or opportunities to delve into the characters' personalities inadvertently left out, nor too long so that it began to drag. (Having said that, I did not mind the even longer chapters in And the Adventure Continues, but this length may be better suited for future work.)

Now, moving away from the story in general and focusing more specifically on the ending, I really enjoyed the fact that Raych finally got to see action and that she ultimately did well. What struck me more was Gaetano's and Chiara's deaths and how it affected Raych, her lack of sadness and her sense that she should feel sad but couldn't. Sure, this aspect of cyborg psychology nothing particularly novel to GSG writers, but I still enjoyed how aware Raych was of her missing emotion, and of her questioning her relationship with Chiara as a result. Of course, this whole issue is something I plan in my own story when I eventually get around to writing, so that may be why I'm even more interested in it.

Overall, excellent work, and if it's truly an ending to Danilo and Raych's story then you've constructed quite a fitting ending. However, I most certainly wouldn't mind seeing more of them (even if Danilo is a complete twat Laughing).
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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Wed 9 Jul 2014 - 6:51

@Kiskaloo wrote:Solid place for an ending. Ties it up well so that if you do decide to end it here, there is a sense of completeness, if not truly one of closure.
That was pretty much the thinking. I think the Genoa mission makes for a nice "coming of age", as it were, for the fratello: they've had their first success, and the signs are there that they are starting to come to grips with each other. To be honest, though I had lots of notes for MiI itself, I really did not have that many more for D&R. The planning I had for them sort of ended with them reaching, if not an understanding, then at least a sort of equilibrium they could both function within, and their relationship probably being no more dysfunctional than seems the Agency mean.  Razz 

To put it a different way: things from here on would likely be fairly positive, and the character conflict/development/relationship building which I originally intended to centre MiI on was starting to find its resolution.


@PSVT wrote:The way the whole narration took the personality of the person in focus served to further emphasize these points in a way that I think ultimately helped the story and my personal enjoyment of it. One major threat of such a writing tactic I believe is that the narration becomes too heavy-handed with the loss of separation between character and narrator, and that we readers lose any sense of suspense with a character's motives or future actions because so much (too much?) was revealed in the narration. However, I think in this instance you used it to your advantage as we needed to see that Danilo absolutely did think his actions were proper, that Raych was suffering because of them, and that neither ever really knew what the other was feeling...
Cheers mate. The balance of trying to give the audience an idea of which way the character was likely to jump through their narration, vs. rubbing their noses in it and showing steps to come blatantly, was one I found myself working at quite a lot (though, to be honest, I don't think I was entirely aware of it until you put it in words like that). I think the personalities of Danilo and Raych themselves helped a bit in this, as neither is particularly prone to reasoned progression of thought or noting the consequences of their actions. Oh, sure, Danilo sees things going wrong and blames those around him, and Raych's mind runs around, hands in the air, in ever decreasing circles, but neither makes it to the next step of asking "why?", coming up with a "because", or moving up to a "what if?"... and by that I mean doing so in a positive, progressive manner (though I like to think, after his experiences in Genoa, even Danilo is managing to take a good, long, hard look at the situation). Either way, that makes it easier to trap D&R in the now, and not give too much away about what they may do in the future... I think. It would be harder to do with, say J+M, as they are both thinkers, and to keep them in character they need to reason things out and problem solve... but since they are also story-tellers rather than delivering a character drama, it probably is not so much of an issue.

Probably.

I dunno, I'm think I'm trying to assess and explain at the same time here a process which, generally, is based on "what feels right".  sweat 



@PSVT wrote:That is, I think the chapter lengths were ideal, not too short with important details or opportunities to delve into the characters' personalities inadvertently left out, nor too long so that it began to drag. (Having said that, I did not mind the even longer chapters in And the Adventure Continues, but this length may be better suited for future work.)
From a practical/mechanical perspective, I think the 20k chapters of AtAC were definitely too long... though they did work well (I think at least) for the "episodic" nature of that story. Unfortunately, by the time I realised they were too long, the pattern was already set up, and I don't like changing formats mid-story. That said, I found the 5k word chapters of MiI a bit too short for my tastes when writing the more story-driven arcs (specifically the Roman Sniper chapters). They were fine when the story was running on its characters, but I found they did not give enough space to get rolling when driving something more plot-centric. As it stands, for J+M's next story, I was intending to hit the mid-ground and aim for about the 10k mark each chapter. Between Chapter 20 and the Epilogue, this last upload around that level, and it worked okay. As an ongoing thing, a four week turnaround on chapters, rather than the current three weeks (one week write, one week edit, one week off), to account for the additional words (and barring any major changes in lifestyle), should be sustainable.


@PSVT wrote:What struck me more was Gaetano's and Chiara's deaths and how it affected Raych, her lack of sadness and her sense that she should feel sad but couldn't.
To be honest, I feel a bit guilty about killing off Gaetano and Chiara... I certainly did when the planning wound up going that direction. Don't get me wrong, Chiara was always going to die, it just was not intended to be this early or in this manner. I originally chose those two to flesh out because, frankly, Chiara was my favourite of the background 'borgs (lesson learned there ), and offing the fratello earlier than intended makes me feel a bit like I simply set them up to die.  sweat 

That said, I still think it was the right route to take, particularly when the decision got made to end the story at this point, as it allowed things to finish generally positively for D&R, whilst still maintaining the bitter-sweet feel of the GsG series as a whole. At least I hope it did.



Anyway, thanks again chaps.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Il Direttore on Thu 10 Jul 2014 - 16:03

Well then, that was... alarming. 

Danilo and Raych make for a surprisingly good fast-response fratello. As I've bewailed before, I was extremely fearful that Danilo's emphasis on Raych being an order-follower rather than a more dynamic partner would restrict her ability to operate in combat, but it seems that the off-screen training allowed her to respond effectively and rapidly to changing conditions based on minimal input. The niche has been found, it seems? 

This does leave the SWA in something of a terrible lurch though. The line that Danilo wants to draw between a girl and a soldier seems to be increasingly impossible, especially given the nature of the evolving battlefield. Do you intend for this to be an ongoing conflict on a global scale (ie: to impact the Blackers and their operations) or is it more limited to the Italian City-states?

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Fri 11 Jul 2014 - 9:24

@Il Direttore wrote:Danilo and Raych make for a surprisingly good fast-response fratello. As I've bewailed before, I was extremely fearful that Danilo's emphasis on Raych being an order-follower rather than a more dynamic partner would restrict her ability to operate in combat, but it seems that the off-screen training allowed her to respond effectively and rapidly to changing conditions based on minimal input. The niche has been found, it seems? 
Well, assault, combat and fast response were supposed to be their basic "specialities", outside of just being a general use unit. Up until now however, they've only really ever been portrayed out of the action, in a role not "theirs" (Danilo's narrow viewpoint making things worse), or with Danilo expecting too much too soon. As I noted further up the page, once they have a bit of experience under their belts, I suspect they wouldn't be particularly more dysfunctional than any of the other fratelli.

That said, I actually thought Danilo's instructions to Raych were quite specific through the battle (or I at least intended them to be). "Hide here, shoot there"... she was not having to do a lot of thinking for herself. About the only time she did anything on her own initiative was to pull Danilo to safety, which I tend to view more as a "natural" and ingrained/programmed in cyborg response. "Save my handler" as it were... or that's certainly what I was aiming for at least.


@Il Direttore wrote:This does leave the SWA in something of a terrible lurch though. The line that Danilo wants to draw between a girl and a soldier seems to be increasingly impossible, especially given the nature of the evolving battlefield. Do you intend for this to be an ongoing conflict on a global scale (ie: to impact the Blackers and their operations) or is it more limited to the Italian City-states?
I presume by this you mean the Padania adapting to needing to take on the SWA? Starting to learn to identify fratelli and how to combat them? If that's the case, then the answer is sort of both yes and no.

Going forward, I do intend for it to be mostly confined to Italy itself, perhaps a bit of spill over its nearer borders just through the natural spread of people. There's a couple of reasons for that. Firstly I tend to picture (and certainly within the bounds of my own stories) the conflict with the Padania as a primarily domestic one, and the SWA as a primarily domestic agency, it's global reach limited to J+M, and the occasional excursion by another fratello. Dealing with the rest of the world is, after all, technically AISE's job, and the potential fallout from a human agent getting caught by a foreign power is going to be less than a cybernetic one. It is, however, also nice to have some of your own cards to play, and I imagine the reason for creating the Blacker fratello originated somewhere in the SWA finding itself on the back foot because AISE was prioritising its own operations over what the SWA may have requested it look in to.

Similarly the Padania's offensive operations I picture as mostly being inside of Italy's borders. Don't get me wrong: there are certainly going to parts of the membership travelling the globe. Much of the leadership does after all seem to hail from the business community, so they'll be needing to travel for both legitimate and illegitimate purposes... probably both at the same time. That's sort of the point though: much of those involved in the Padania's operations outside of Italy, those that J+M are mainly dealing with, are likely to be the second and third tier "subbies and suppliers" as it were, perhaps the occasional subsidiary, none of whom are likely to be getting the full download. Even if the Padania are passing on what info and warnings the have, these people are not entrenched in the conflict, not living it day to day, have not seen the results of a cyborg raid, so the concern over/belief in such matters is going to be less front and centre in their minds... they're probably more concerned with keeping below AISE's radar, the more likely threat. For that matter, even if the travelling Padans are keeping an eye out for fratelli, I suspect they would be less alert to the risk when travelling internationally... for all the reasons stated above, and again, AISE and its ilk are probably going to be more their concern.

So long as the SWA doesn't undertake too many "cyborg" type events outside Italy's borders to dissuade the Padania from the idea it's avoiding the international spotlight, the above an probably reasonably hold. It's one of the reasons J+M work very hard to avoid leaning on Monty's cybernetic abilities. For that matter, their entire life is pretty much "not looking like a fratello", and since they work at maximum paranoia anyway... *shrugs*


tl;dr Yes, there will probably be some trickle down to effect J+M's work, and that of the SWA in general, outside of Italy's borders. It will however likely be minimal, and nothing compared to the issues the SWA will be facing domestically.



Cheers mate.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Vett on Wed 3 Sep 2014 - 8:05

So... this took a while even by my standards, so much so I'm going to have to re-read the chapter before I can engage in any useful dialogue, I suspect. Without delaying any further... chapter three.


Spoiler:
This chapter moves lot better than the last one. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but it kept me moving through it without my attention wandering, which it did at times in chapter two. Part of that, I think, is that I prefer the structure of this one. Chapter two basically started with Monty and Jethro looking for his old contact and ended with them having found him, without any real alternate focus or respite from it. This one has the twist about Rade and the cracking of the files, which I think helps it feel faster paced. There's much more of a sense of progress this time around.

Once again, this is light on useful crit, heavy on grammar quibbles.


Nice opening description. Normally I'd quibble over whether that sort of potted history makes sense in context, but I daresay Monty knew everything about the place five minutes after they knew they were going there. Intelligence or other state agents is one of the few places that sort of thing makes sense.


In the passenger seat, Monty sat quietly letting the satnav guide her handler

I don't think this sentence means quite what you think it means. You need a comma after quietly, or else you are saying that Monty is quietly letting the satnav guide her hander, instead of noisily allowing it to do so.


Wending their way south-west

Nice use of alliteration.


A heavyset and smiling girl, in the all black uniform of restaurants and cafes everywhere, came to greet the fratello, "Do you have a reservation?"

Grammar nitpick: it should be a full-stop after fratello.


Turning around she disappeared quickly into back of house and it wasn't long before the doors burst open to reveal Omurtak

Another nitpick: turning around is a subordinate clause, so needs to have a comma seperating it from the rest of the sentence.


Keeping the seats company was a squat table set between them and scarce little else; two more chairs, lifted from the restaurant floor, wedged in opposite corners, and a dark wood credenza with two bottles and some tumblers atop it.

The description of the room is good, particularly Monty's neat little aside. The semi-colon should be a colon - you can't form the second clause into a seperate sentence and it's a list regardless.


It was Monty however who spoke first, "You keep your records on paper?"

Feels that the Turk needs to get into the 21st century, or concerned that he's stupid enough to provide a paper trail for the police? Or just scoping out what they might need to steal later?


You Monique, though I have so far seen nothing to concern me, I have no personal experience with at all."

Missing a comma before Monique.

Jethro grinned, "Trade secrets there mate. We may not be locals but that doesn't mean we're devoid of contacts."

That's it: pretend you know, or prentend you don't know, but never tell them the truth either way. And it also makes Jethro seem more 'in the game'.


there was only so much a case of Deli Belly could explain away

I'm reasonably certain that there's an Istanbul equivilent here, but I can't remember what it is at the moment.

Glancing toward the door briefly he noticed a small black and white television set above the frame and smiled; displayed on it sat Monty and Omurtak

Nice detail. The semi-colon should be a colon: you're explaining why he smiled.


As soon as she got back to the hotel she would type it all out, before deciding what the Agency did and didn't need to know about, and what it should only be informed of with some appropriate spin attached. What she certainly didn't want was somebody jumping the gun and a couple of cyborg storm troopers being dropped on the head of a potential source of information. While Monty would admit the other cyborgs were deadly combatants, she considered them chainsaws to the scalpel of intelligence work, and would certainly be perfectly happy if none of them came anywhere near where she was operating.

Very Monty, and I can sympathise with the desire to keep the heavy mob away from a delicate situation, especially when you have no back-up... but does this not conflict with her programmed loyalty to the agency? She is, after all, an intelligence asset who has decided not to hand over the gathered intelligence to the agency. If I were Lorenzo, I'd find this a very disturbing development - just as well everyone will assume it's Jethro.


Jethro passed the binoculars back to Monty so she could get a better look, and motioned to the club's entrance, "There, just leaving now."

The cyborg took a moment to study the man exiting the Polo Club.
"Isn't that..."

"It's Rade."

Nice twist. I might think about adding a little description of Rade after "Polo Club." It gives the reader a chance to work it put along with the characters, and lengthening the link between the two bits of speech would create a noticable pause in the narrative, like (for example), someone studying a target through a pair of binoculars.


Jethro's ex-partner in crime and entrepreneur of all things winged and Russian

Neat description, and a nice turn of phrase.


"If he's just walked out of there I'd prefer if he didn't see us, but I doubt we'll be able to back up without drawing extra attention to ourselves right now; particularly as he's seen this car before."

The semi-colon should be a comma here.

Monty gave her own shrug in reply, "Makes sense… he's turning again."

There's no active talking verb in the narrative here: Monty shrugs, but there's no indicator that she's speaking e.g. said etc. That being the case, the comma probably ought to be a full-stop.


the supplier's weekly chess partner finally pulled up

I'm not entirely sure about weekly here. There's nothing intrinsicalyl wrong with it, but it just doesn't sit right when I read it.


in front of a small, two story warehouse

In UK English, story should be storey, but I'd assume that's correct Australian English, given your trade. What isn't, however, is that 'two storey' is being used as an adjective to describe the warehouse, which means that it's a compound adjective and so needs a hypen i.e. 'two-storey'.


the prow of a Franna style yard crane

And again with 'Franna style', there should be a hyphen joining the two.


Monty was out the passenger door almost before the car had come to a halt, and racing back to the corner with her camera.

The last clause needs to stop sitting on the fence and pick a tense. It can have "racing back to the corner..." or "and raced back to the corner...", but it can't mix and match.


Once there she leaned cautiously around and let off a burst of photos of the chess player letting himself into the warehouse

Apt description of Monty taking photos there, given that she's effectively military intelligence. Minor aside, 'Once there' needs a comma after it, as it's a subordinate clause.


two bit rent-a-cop.

I see this phrase a lot. What does 'two bit' actually mean in this context?


Perhaps at a later date, with more time to reconnoitre, checking out the yard would be a better proposition; but for now she needed to get back to her handler and have him get their vehicle clear.

The semi-colon should be a comma here.


Slinking to the car, Monty climbed inside and immediately Jethro pulled away, escaping back into the twilight.

For the rythym of the sentence, I'd probably write 'Jethro immediately'.


Jethro gave humourless chuckle, "The messenger God… Also God of boundaries and those who cross them, thieves, weights and measures and commerce in general; if they're mixed up with Omurtak that's surprisingly fitting."

More grammar quibbles:

1/ After an elipsis, you should never have a capital letter (unless, of course, you're going for effect).

2/ For clarity's sake, I'd probably put a comma after weights and measures, or else you have a god of the area of weights/measures/commerce, rather than weights/measures and commerce in general.


"Thank you," looking thoughtful for a second the girl continued. "Also, we'll be needing to make an early start tomorrow. Would it be best to organize checkout now or will there be someone on the desk in the morning?"

Slightly different quibble to the prior one: As there's no said etc. after thank you, you'd use a full-stop. But as there is one at the end of that narrative bit (i.e. continued), you'd use a comma rather than a full-stop.


The concierge smiled, "If you wish to check out now that is okay and hand the keys in before you leave, but the front desk is open 24 hours."

Apart from the comma/full-stop before speech issue, I'd probably put a comma after okay, as that way you have a pair of bracketting commas around 'and hand the keys in before you leave', as it's additional information for Monty i.e. you _can_ check out now, but, if you do, please hadn the key in at reception.


I know we had a devil of a time moving it around, needed a crane to unload off'f the truck.

Off'f isn't used in the UK: It would just be off.


Leaving the hotel, its lobby had been populated by few other early risers; only those with planes to catch or coaches to be on; and none of whom seemed particularly interested in two more unfortunate travellers awake at some ungodly hour.

Semi-colons again here.In this instance, I'd probably use a pair of bracketting commas, but replacing the first with a colon and the second with a comma would also work.


Motioning for her handler to pop the car's bonnet, the girl reached inside the engine bay as he started the vehicle. Placing the plastic casing against the alternator, she let the powerful magnets inside wipe the drive of data and scramble what was left into an unreadable mess.

Neat little trick.


That last was a calculated risk; if anyone was interested enough to go pulling HDD fragments out of the bin then it was a fair bet they were also aware the fratello was in Istanbul by now. The way Monty saw it; if that were the case then there was no reason to lay a trail any further than the city's limits.

Semi-colons again here. The first should be a colon as the second clause is explaining the first. The second should be a comma, as "The way Monty saw it" is not a complete sentence.


Then she wiggled into a slightly more comfortable position

Wriggled?


So... the airfield. You build up a good atmosphere to a deserted base, left to decay when there's no further use for it. I'm not entirely convinced that you could have a deserted airfield within such easy reach to Istanbul, however.
 

Monty shifted her gun to one hand and used the other to brush

I'm not quite sold on shifted. In this context, to me, it implies a transfer of the gun from one hand to another, whereas Monty's just taking one hand off the butt to sweep some dust away. On the other hand, you would say 'shifted stance', so... I don't really have a suggestion.


Though those shelves were bare, the airfield had apparently been abandoned in a hurry; on another bench near the far wall stood a bank of ancient radio gear deemed too heavy or too old to be worth moving out.

This feels more of an explanation of the abandoned airfield, so I'd use a colon here. Same goes for the spotters guide in the following paragraph.


Jethro put an arm around his girl, "That luv, is something which can be figured out later. For now I vote we get back to the car before we turn into human popsicles."

As a Briton, Jethro would call them ice-lollies rather than popsicles.


"So where to?" asked Monty as the fratello turned again toward the perimeter.

To me, it sounds better without the again or, if you do want to keep it, before turned.


"You know, I really don't like being lied too," mused the former spy as he carefully guided the car, still with its lights off, down the entrance track. "Well, not so much the being lied to, but the not picking it."

Nice touch of characterisation. I think you're missing an up from the end of the final sentence.

I like the image of Monty marshalling the Audi up the track in the windswept darkness. I think you could probably have made more of it, but it's a minor point in the context of the chapter, and not necessarily deserving of the extra detail.


Then he pulled the sleeping bag out of its compression sack and wiggled his way into it.

Those things are a nightmare to get back in the bag under normal circusmtances. I'd love to see how they manage it in a car.


"There'll be time enough to sleep once I'm dead."

"Which will be sooner rather than later if you're constantly run down," retorted her handler. "Now get some rest, I'll take over from here."

Stifling a yawn, Monty dropped her own chair back to a recumbent position and pulled her sleeping bag up to cover her chin.

"Six hours right?"

"Sure."

Contented that she would be woken in due course, the cyborg closed her eyes and finally allowed herself to succumb to the needs of her body.

The impression I'm taking away from this is that they both know she's going to get exactly the same treatment Jethro did, but they're both keeping up the pretence for the sake of form.It's a nice touch of familiarity.


"I know, you'd been driving all day, I decided you could use the extra."

I think a colon or a full-stop would work better here, rather than the initial comma.


Stuffing her sleeping bag back into its compression sack

What happened to show don't tell? I think this is something we need to see, not just have hand-waved. I thought writing was about learning things? Wink


The most important part of the coffee ritual now underway

The entire coffee/baked beans segment is a nice touch. I can't quite decide whether ritual is superflous or whether it's adding to the characterisation.


His cyborg considered the proposition briefly, "I'm sure waiting another day or two won't hurt her, and we're here already... Not to mention it'd be nice to have a bit more to send through."

And to filter out anything we might want to keep to ourselves, she added in the privacy of her own head.

I'm never quite sure about this aspect of Monty's character. Only trusting herself to do a proper job I can understand, but I'd also expect her to be aware that she only has a narrow perspective and her snippet of useless detail or too important to pass-on might be the one thing someone else needs to prevent an immediate crisis etc. On the other hand, this is, I'd expect, a learned behaviour from Jethro, so as it's handler authorised I could see it escaping the conditioning consequences.


Wallowing in the luxury of a proper work desk, Monty took a sip of her coffee and studied the outline of her slumbering partner in the bed.

A very telling piece of characterisation this.

Bundling up her and Jethro's findings so far from the Monaco hard disk, Monty dropped them into one of the online dead letterboxes and left her electronic chalk mark on an interior design humour blog. That task complete she started to roll through her mental "to do" list.

Couple of nit-picks. I'm not sure the so far is needed: it doesn't really convey any information - we know it's only what they've found to date, and if they continue to work on it, you'll show us later - and, personally, I find it disrupts the rhythm of the sentence. I'd probably write 'their online dead letterboxes'. I can't quite express why, just that it feels 'better'.

Lastly, as a subordinate clause, you need a coma after complete.


Knowing better than to attempt something silly like say; lifting the slumbering Monty up and carrying her to bed, her partner instead headed for a shower, shave and bladder emptying. The cyborgs could be edgy creatures at the best of times and, having rarely slept anywhere that could be properly deemed "secure", picking his particular girl up whilst asleep was likely to end in an injury.

Nice detail. Say is a filler word in the sentence, thus meeds a pair of bracketting commas around it rather than the semi-colon.


Passing the garments through the gap in the bathroom door, he leaned against the wall to continue the conversation whilst his girl dressed. "Sure they've been making money post-crash; but so have lots of people who grasped an opportunity and played their cards right."

The semi-colon should be a comma here, as should the one inteh paragraph about Hermes' strategic plan.


[/quote]"That said, something isn't quite sitting right; that was a lot of investment activity for a company to make on share capital alone. Feasibly they could have acquired a loan as well, but... in that environment? I don't know how many banks would have been willing to lend, particularly to the Greeks."[/quote]

Semi colon should be a colon here: you're explaining why something isn't sitting right.

"Fine, we'll extend our stay another night after breakfast," walking over he lifted his girl up from her sitting position. "C'mon, I'm starving."

It should be a full-stop after breakfast, then a comma after over. You've done the same thing with the comma rather than full-stop a few times in the preceeding bits of speech too.


[/quote]Silence reigned between the Blackers, both content to catch up on the news of the world. Though the papers rarely carried any genuinely "new" information on clandestine happenings, they did offer a broad overview of international events, and to the mostly self-guided fratello that could be just as useful as a bug in a war-room.[/quote]

I can't remember where I got the statistic, but apparently something like 90% of all intelligence utilised by a government is open source.


Her handler nodded at this; an RFI, or Request For Information, would have effectively put tracing of any paper trail back from Hermes, to Anagnos, to Marittima Italiana and to the Padania in the hands of the SWA's intelligence department. With government documentation and other domestic resources to draw on, it stood a good chance of speeding up the process of sifting through the inevitable string of shell corporations and trust funds greatly. However, the people who dealt with gathering the raw data in those situations were as often as not simple desk drones, their job to collect information, usually with little more than rudimentary attempts at subtly or keeping their tracks covered. The last thing either fratello member wanted was to tip a potential target or source off early. Besides, as Monty had pointed out: there had been quite enough correspondence flowing backwards and forwards between the SWA and Blacker fratello of late; the more contact they had, the greater the likelihood of some other party finding the link.

Most of this infodump is fine, but I don't see the need to clarify RFI: if you cna't work it out by context in the original mention, there's enough here for it to be clear; the explanation of a common term is basically a painful warning light screaming infodump, which is a shame given the way you've had a very light touch on all the Hermes information dumped on us thus far.

The need to limit contact lest they be traced is a good way of placing a plausible restriction on the two's access to support and a nice reminder of the 'domestic' problems following the two around.


"Besides," she continued, "I'm fourteen, putting me behind the wheel of a car would be ridiculous."

"You're sixteen, and you know as well as I that we spend plenty of time with you pretending to have at least two decades under your belt."

"But what I'm best at playing is your underage lover…"

She tailed off and Jethro opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came out to fill the suddenly awkward silence.

It was Monty who finally managed to break it "umm… or sister or daughter."

Interestingly Out Of Character moment for Monty here. I'm not entirely sure why she's choosing 14 to begin with, however.

I might eke out the last line more. As it is, there's not really a sensation of that awkward silence. Maybe something more along the lines of "Umm..." Monty looked down at her black shoes. "Or sister, or daughter."

Why go to the trouble of throwing up a smokescreen in the first place, or for that matter; working so hard to keep Anagnos and Hermes at arm's length?

Again,  the semi-colon should be a comma.


This entire sequence of code-breaking and data-gathering is good. It's quick enough it doesn' get dull, but you get a sense of the time it takes and false starts etc. The infodumps are well handled too.


Placing a hand on each one of his girl's shoulders, Jethro leaned over her so he could look her in the eye, "You've got a whole drive and boatride to do that, and whatever data we pick up in the ports to play with as well. Tonight, I think you should be getting a bit more sleep, because tomorrow we're back on the road."

The end to this chapter is a gentle one, but sets-up a decent sense of anticipation as to what their detective work might gain them in Cypress. While I'm eager to read on, however, I think the last sentence could probably be tweaked for a little more oomph.  Something more like Tonight I think you need to get a little more sleep. Tomorrow, we're back on the road perhaps? I think it's the long last sentence and because that saps the punch for me.

In summary, I think this was a much better chapter than the last one: you do a much better job of giving the story some forward momentum here. The pillaging of the hard-drive's data was well handled too.

See you for another installment in nine months time...

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Thu 4 Sep 2014 - 5:21

@Vett wrote:So... this took a while even by my standards...
Well, I've still not got around to reviewing your last chapter either so...  sweat 

Spoiler:

This chapter moves lot better than the last one. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but it kept me moving through it without my attention wandering...
Heh, oddly enough, I thought this was/it seems to have been read as, one of my duller chapters... guess it depends on what you're looking for.

Grammar quibbles are always appreciated as well, even if I don't get the chance to respond to all of them. I've been making a concerted effort in my more recent writing to iron those out, hopefully it's working.


I don't think this sentence means quite what you think it means. You need a comma after quietly, or else you are saying that Monty is quietly letting the satnav guide her hander, instead of noisily allowing it to do so.


Movie references, intended or otherwise, aside: the meaning you've described in this particular case is closer to what I was intending. Perhaps I take the meaning a bit differently but, to me, to "do something quietly" is another way to say one is doing it with a minimum of fuss and bother, not drawing attention one's actions and simply getting the job done. In this instance, the intent was to say that she was happy just to sit there and let the sat-nav do the work while the world rolls by.


Feels that the Turk needs to get into the 21st century, or concerned that he's stupid enough to provide a paper trail for the police? Or just scoping out what they might need to steal later?
Probably mostly the former, though I would say more a result of surprise he still keeps paper files and has not gone digital, rather than a feeling he needs to join the 21st Century. J+M are themselves, after all, somewhat analogue as well. Paper is, of course, relatively easy to destroy... and accidents in the kitchen can happen so easily.


Very Monty, and I can sympathise with the desire to keep the heavy mob away from a delicate situation, especially when you have no back-up... but does this not conflict with her programmed loyalty to the agency? She is, after all, an intelligence asset who has decided not to hand over the gathered intelligence to the agency. If I were Lorenzo, I'd find this a very disturbing development - just as well everyone will assume it's Jethro.
It might be a bit of how I picture the GsG universe, but I tend to view how a cyborg's conditioned responses manifest themselves as somewhat dependent on where the cyborg is mentally. In this case, I don't think Monty would consider with holding the information as disloyal. The way she sees it, the SWA has given her a job to do and, if making the judgement call to hold the information back for a period is the best way for her to do that job most effectively, then that that is the best way for her to serve the Agency.

The other side of that, and again it is a case of "your mileage may vary", is I see the cyborgs as having two primary loyalties: to the SWA and to their handler. Which has the most sway depends on the cyborg and her fratello's relationship. In Monty's case, loyalty to hander ekes out loyalty to the Agency, and not risking blowing their cover by their superiors jumping the gun probably comes under "protect my handler".

She's less "straight down the line" than other cyborgs, so I think she has a mental flexibility that helps circumvent some of her more strenuous programmed loyalties... at least insofar as I need them to do so for the story.  sweat 



I might think about adding a little description of Rade after "Polo Club." It gives the reader a chance to work it put along with the characters, and lengthening the link between the two bits of speech would create a noticable pause in the narrative, like (for example), someone studying a target through a pair of binoculars.
I think you're right actually on this one. Noted for later use.


In UK English, story should be storey, but I'd assume that's correct Australian English, given your trade.
Actually, it's "storey" here as well, we use the Queen's English, I had just not yet learned to ignore the spell-check yet. Again, more recently I've been making a more concerted effort to double check these things.

Hyphen use noted as well.


The last clause needs to stop sitting on the fence and pick a tense. It can have "racing back to the corner..." or "and raced back to the corner...", but it can't mix and match.
I think I missed removing the "and" during editing.  sweat 



I see this phrase a lot. What does 'two bit' actually mean in this context?
Probably another one which could have used a hyphen in light of your other comments.  sweat  To my understanding, it means something along the lines of cheap, of low quality, or a token gesture.


So... the airfield. You build up a good atmosphere to a deserted base, left to decay when there's no further use for it. I'm not entirely convinced that you could have a deserted airfield within such easy reach to Istanbul, however.
To be honest, neither am I. As a result, I spent a lot of time scouring Google Maps trying to find somewhere I could semi-feasibly place it.  sweat To be fair, it probably doesn't need to be completely deserted, just deserted enough. Looking back, it might have helped to add some signs of others having been there, kids larking around on the runway, etc.

And yes, I think "wriggled".


As a Briton, Jethro would call them ice-lollies rather than popsicles.
Now, this one I do remember well, because it started as "popsicles", then was changed to "ice-lollies", which didn't roll off the tongue so well, so it went back to "popsicles" and back and forward and back and forward until I finally settled on the one which flowed better. I think I justified it to myself at the time by deciding that, as a descriptor, "human popsicle" was common enough to remain outside the bounds of various takes on the English language.


I like the image of Monty marshalling the Audi up the track in the windswept darkness. I think you could probably have made more of it, but it's a minor point in the context of the chapter, and not necessarily deserving of the extra detail.
From memory, having Monty guide Jethro was more intended to help show that the pair are used to getting their Audi places it is not really meant to go, and are familiar with some of the standard practices of off-road driving.


The impression I'm taking away from this is that they both know she's going to get exactly the same treatment Jethro did, but they're both keeping up the pretence for the sake of form.
Pretty much.


What happened to show don't tell? I think this is something we need to see, not just have hand-waved. I thought writing was about learning things? 
I'm going to say "cyborg strength"... yeah, lets go with that.

To be honest, I don't have much experience with the compression sack style of sleeping bag, mine have always been quite old and of the bulky variety. Speaking of, I actually do need to go and renew some of that kit in the near future, though I'm seriously considering just getting a swag instead. At least then it could also do double duty as a spare bed if someone need to to crash, and save me the cost of a new tent to boot.


I'm never quite sure about this aspect of Monty's character. Only trusting herself to do a proper job I can understand, but I'd also expect her to be aware that she only has a narrow perspective and her snippet of useless detail or too important to pass-on might be the one thing someone else needs to prevent an immediate crisis etc. On the other hand, this is, I'd expect, a learned behaviour from Jethro, so as it's handler authorised I could see it escaping the conditioning consequences.
See previous comment... though I think it is probably something about the fratello as a whole that irks the SWA to an extent. Oddly, I have been typing up a dossier for a (now most likely defunct, as there were other aspects I've stopped being so hot on) "what would the SWA fix" intelligence fratello.


Couple of nit-picks. I'm not sure the so far is needed: it doesn't really convey any information - we know it's only what they've found to date, and if they continue to work on it, you'll show us later - and, personally, I find it disrupts the rhythm of the sentence. I'd probably write 'their online dead letterboxes'. I can't quite express why, just that it feels 'better'.
Re-reading, true on both counts.


I can't remember where I got the statistic, but apparently something like 90% of all intelligence utilised by a government is open source.
If it helps, I remember being previously told it by Professor Voodoo?


Interestingly Out Of Character moment for Monty here. I'm not entirely sure why she's choosing 14 to begin with, however.
I'm a member of the "cyborgs don't physically age" school of thought. Monty was 14 at conversion, and hence is stuck there in terms of looks. Since she's arguing appearances, she's reverting to that.

I think you're right about stringing out the conversation's pacing as well.

As always, thanks again for the comments. All of it is appreciated, even the nit-picks, they have been of great use trying to iron some of this stuff out in my later writing (at least, I hope it is getting ironed out).

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Vett on Thu 4 Sep 2014 - 8:29

@Alfisti wrote:Heh, oddly enough, I thought this was/it seems to have been read as, one of my duller chapters... guess it depends on what you're looking for.

In all honesty, it is. The last one was more dull, however. This chapter is a slow chapter that's begining the gradual climb toward the next peak: it's a pause for breath as things get set up. The previous one was much more... bland, I suppose. As I said, the plot moves and develops more in this one, whereas the previous one took a very long time to do something significant.

Some of it, I think, is chapter length. You absolutely can have a chapter were all that happens is a gentle stroll around a city, but if that chapter is 15k long, there needs to be pay-offs along the way for the reader - 15k is almost a fifth of a novel, and you'd expect at least a couple of plot (or sub-plot) developments along the way. That's effectively what a sub-plot is for - keeping the oomph up while you prepare the ground for the next peak of your main plot.

This chapter, you had that, which kept the interest up; The previous one chapter, you didn't.


@Alfisti wrote:In this instance, the intent was to say that she was happy just to sit there and let the sat-nav do the work while the world rolls by.

Yeah. This was a late entry this one. When I read the chapter it didn't even ping on my radar, but when I went back to crit it, the ambiguity got flagged. It's the 'Eats shoots and leaves' issue. No-one's going to get it wrong in context, but it's technically able to be interpreted incorrectly. And, mostly, the image of Monty sitting in her seat loudly letting a piece of machinery do it's job amused me.

(Translation: no sane person is going to care)


@Alfisti wrote:Paper is, of course, relatively easy to destroy... and accidents in the kitchen can happen so easily.

Only if you have time to destroy it. Otherwise you're doing your enemies' job for them.

 
@Alfisti wrote:It might be a bit of how I picture the GsG universe, but I tend to view how a cyborg's conditioned responses manifest themselves as somewhat dependent on where the cyborg is mentally.

That's pretty much where I see it too. They're fundamentally human - you can predispose, but you can't directly control e.g. Petra's throwing up in Vol 7/8/wherever it was. However... if I were the SWA, and I knew a cyborg was withholding information after being requested for it (there's no direct order, but Monty must know that when they want an update, they want an update - not some busy-work without the real meat), I'd start wondering what else they might be withholding. Similarly, I might wonder how loyal they really are...

Monty's really the SWA's only option currently, but I'd worry about what might happen were the SWA to acquire other intelligence assets.


@Alfisti wrote:Probably another one which could have used a hyphen in light of your other comments. To my understanding, it means something along the lines of cheap, of low quality, or a token gesture.

My work here is done.

Having now looked up the etymology, it's NA slang, dervied from two bits - a 25 cent coin.


To be fair, it probably doesn't need to be completely deserted, just deserted enough.

I'd suggest a little private airfield and some 'extra' cargo... except Candids don't fit in little private airfields without someone noticing.


it started as "popsicles", then was changed to "ice-lollies", which didn't roll off the tongue so well, so it went back to "popsicles"

I do this without conscious thought. If I'm writing something without being in-character, I've a tendency to go for words that make a pleasing rhythm. I've a tendency to use flashlight instead of torch, for example, usually because it alliterates with the adjective.


@Alfisti wrote:
What happened to show don't tell? I think this is something we need to see, not just have hand-waved. I thought writing was about learning things?
I'm going to say "cyborg strength"... yeah, lets go with that.

Yeah, this is another one of those 'the image amused me' points, except this one really, really doesn't need to be seen.

My sleeping bag is one of the compression sack ones. It's an absolute nightmare to get back in the (very,v ery thin) bag.


@Alfisti wrote:
I can't remember where I got the statistic, but apparently something like 90% of all intelligence utilised by a government is open source.
If it helps, I remember being previously told it by Professor Voodoo?

No, it was definately a reputable source, because I remember citing it in a university essay or, at least, making a note of it when making notes of something I cited in a university essay. It was probably something on ULTRA, but I've not got a clue.


@Alfisti wrote:
Interestingly Out Of Character moment for Monty here. I'm not entirely sure why she's choosing 14 to begin with, however.
I'm a member of the "cyborgs don't physically age" school of thought. Monty was 14 at conversion, and hence is stuck there in terms of looks. Since she's arguing appearances, she's reverting to that.

Oops. I'd forgotten she was fourteen. I took Jethro's sixteen to be her physical age rather than her chronological one.


@Alfisti wrote:All of it is appreciated, even the nit-picks, they have been of great use trying to iron some of this stuff out in my later writing (at least, I hope it is getting ironed out).

If you're still around in four years' time when I finally review chapter 14, I'll tell you Wink

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Fri 5 Sep 2014 - 10:39

@Vett wrote:Only if you have time to destroy it. Otherwise you're doing your enemies' job for them.
True that. Good idea or no though, Omurtak seems to be comfortable with the system... that doesn't necessarily make him correct in that comfort.  Wink 



@Vett wrote:However... if I were the SWA, and I knew a cyborg was withholding information after being requested for it (there's no direct order, but Monty must know that when they want an update, they want an update - not some busy-work without the real meat), I'd start wondering what else they might be withholding. Similarly, I might wonder how loyal they really are...

Monty's really the SWA's only option currently, but I'd worry about what might happen were the SWA to acquire other intelligence assets.
Frankly, if something was actually, explicitly, requested, she would probably have to send it but, if it's going out as part of her usual reporting, it's easy enough to fob a bit off, or delay the report... it's not like the fratello does not have plenty of reason to be off a regular reporting schedule. Again though, it probably comes down to what the SWA is, or what she believes it is, most interested in: the interim, or the long term goal (and yes, I'm well aware that management has this amazing ability to want both). On the Agency's end, it probably doesn't hurt that those most likely to make first contact with her information packets (Priscilla, Ferro, Genco) are counted among those friendly to the Blacker fratello/those who trust Monty's judgement, and are probably willing to give them a bit of leeway/cover.

Of course, if Monty started getting a bit too cute about what she holds back, if it became too frequent or things just didn't show up, it may become an issue.

As to the last: yes and no. I can't help but feel that some of those personality traits that make Monty such an amazing pain in the posterior for her superiors occasionally (paranoia, independence, tendency to keep her cards close to her chest), are also those which make her suited to her job. As it stands, and even if another asset became available, so long as the Blackers keep delivering they're probably safe.


@Vett wrote:No, it was definately a reputable source, because I remember citing it in a university essay or, at least, making a note of it when making notes of something I cited in a university essay. It was probably something on ULTRA, but I've not got a clue.
Yeah... the good Professor and the word "reputable" are probably not supposed to be mentioned in the same sentence.  Incoming! 

Remind me what it was you studied?

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Vett on Fri 5 Sep 2014 - 14:20

@Alfisti wrote:As to the last: yes and no. I can't help but feel that some of those personality traits that make Monty such an amazing pain in the posterior for her superiors occasionally (paranoia, independence, tendency to keep her cards close to her chest), are also those which make her suited to her job. As it stands, and even if another asset became available, so long as the Blackers keep delivering they're probably safe.

I'd agree with you on that score. On the other hand, all it takes is one screw-up...


@Alfisti wrote:Remind me what it was you studied?

Technically, my degree is in International Relations and Modern History. After my first year and its compulsory modules I steered clear of domestic politics, but my 'Modern History' degree is a pretty huge misnomer. My 'history' courses went from literally pre-history through to 1990 (though, to be fair, that was all in one module - landscape history). Generally, I was between 1800 and 1945, save one module on early-modern colonialism, which was convenient as the tail end overlapped with the start of some of my politics modules, letting me get double duty out of reading.

It wasn't intentional, but through essay options I basically specialised in guerrilla warfare, 1492 to present.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Sun 30 Nov 2014 - 0:23



And now, finally, Jethro+Monty's adventure continues in Six Degrees.


Anyway, here goes. Hopefully this should be a bit tighter than And the Adventure Continues was, though without losing J+M's general flavour. I'm aiming for about a five-week turnaround for each chapter, so we shall see how that goes.


For those interested, cover typefaces are Hitchcock and Pilsen Plakat, the latter of which has been the standard "Jethro+Monty title font" since their comic days.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Il Direttore on Sun 30 Nov 2014 - 8:43

Yessssssssssssss!

Jethro and Monty doing the thing again! I wonder if Monty's snark will be as powerful as before, or if tempering will have occurred/need to occur/will be occurring. Time to read and find out....

Also YES free typefaces! Whooooo!

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Six Degrees of Freedom makes for six ways for things to go wrong. With six major players in the Spook Pit these days, things are going to get hectic fast. As it turns out, Monty's snark-o-meter is going to be tested.

I find your choice of character interesting. You seem to have a penchant for making characters that feel generally unpleasant. Interestingly enough, Florentino's point isn't invalid, and it's mostly a case of the execution that's poor. It's true that, ideally, field agents would be in the field, but if things are shit, things are shit. I feel like I, as Lorenzo, would expect more out of my handlers, but at the same time I wonder if there's just a heavy limitation on what the SWA has available to them.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Thescarredman on Sun 30 Nov 2014 - 16:48

Also cc'ed from FFnet:


hm. Seems like Monty gets more acerbic as she gets older. She seems to have taken an instant dislike to the new handler and his girl. That remark about 'quality control' was pure acid (doesn't an organization usually tighten quality control after a product failure, rather than a success?) Being in Italy, and especially at the SWA compound, must get on her nerves.

Solid world-building with the Section Two layout (I'd give fifty bucks for an accurate plan of the place, truly). The physical details you give the compound, from the roadways to the elevators, tell us something of the organization that inhabits it - its priorities, capabilities and challenges.

The indoor range scene was fun. It was serendipitous that all three of your fratelli should be there at the same time, eh? And perfectly understandable that Danilo would want to practice as far from JM as he could get. I'd be interested to know why Jethro called the BMW x6 a 'taste failure.' Are we looking at Continental snobbery, since the vehicle was probably built in Russia? Or is there some other reason?

Your new cyborg Odile seems to be in over her head. Presumably that will change as she gets a clearer idea of her handler's expectations, and her handler get a more realistic idea of the Agency's.
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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Mon 1 Dec 2014 - 6:41

@Il Direttore wrote:Six Degrees of Freedom makes for six ways for things to go wrong. With six major players in the Spook Pit these days, things are going to get hectic fast. As it turns out, Monty's snark-o-meter is going to be tested.

I find your choice of character interesting. You seem to have a penchant for making characters that feel generally unpleasant. Interestingly enough, Florentino's point isn't invalid, and it's mostly a case of the execution that's poor. It's true that, ideally, field agents would be in the field, but if things are shit, things are shit. I feel like I, as Lorenzo, would expect more out of my handlers, but at the same time I wonder if there's just a heavy limitation on what the SWA has available to them.
Six Degrees of Freedom... Six Degrees of Separation... both have relevance here.

I must admit, I find unpleasant characters fun to write... perhaps not just the unpleasantness in and of itself, but trying to make them, sympathetic(?), human(?) at the same time... something a bit more than simply a character to be unpleasant at any rate. That said, Florentino is probably the closest thing I currently have planned to someone with no actual redeeming personal traits. Even Danilo, except when he completely snapped, was never purposely nasty.

That does not, however, as you noted, make him wrong.

Florentino's point is actually quite valid, though how valid it is I think depends on context. For J+M, who have to do their own assessment out in the field as well, it makes sense for them to be in helping with the analysis, as something which may not seem important now, may be important later, or something seemingly not important to one party may just solve a massive problem for the other... not to mention that just simply being in the same room as who you are working with, and having people to bounce off can be a huge boon as well. It's probably not such an issue for the domestic fratelli, as they are reporting smaller amounts of information more regularly, and likely talk amongst themselves anyway. However, for J+M, who may be out of contact for months at a time, it's helpful to be in the same room and go through things together.

Of course, both Jethro and Monty like to be involved through the whole process as well.

Florentino, on the other hand, is used to having his intelligence and background information for a mission handed to him in a dossier... he's a bit more of a Bond in terms of how he operates, and he's used to having a strong support team behind him with stronger delineation between roles. He's also used to being something of a golden child, so getting first pick of the help. That said, Lorenzo probably does actually expect more from his staff, particularly ones like Florentino who have been hand-picked...  as vexing as J+M may be at times, they've helped shape what is expected of people coming into a similar role. By the same token, having someone more reliant on the SWA for help may suit Lorenzo as well, as I suspect one of the "problems" with J+M the SWA may be trying to fix in this latest fratello, is their tendency to disappear off the face of the planet from time to time. Razz

That said, as was hinted at at the end of Meanwhile in Italy, Florentino is a bit of a poster child for why not to do your recruiting in a hurry.



@Thescarredman wrote:That remark about 'quality control' was pure acid (doesn't an organization usually tighten quality control after a product failure, rather than a success?)
Indeed it was, Odile is starting to annoy Monty by that stage, more so than her normal base-level grumpiness with the world. To be fair, by the point, the SWA has had a string of failures, if not necessarily with the Blackers, but as a whole... it's not a good time for the Agency. That said, Monty's remark was certainly hinting that the quality of the materials may not be up to scratch, a subtle hint that Odile may want to piss off and leave her alone now.


@Thescarredman wrote:Solid world-building with the Section Two layout (I'd give fifty bucks for an accurate plan of the place, truly).
To be honest, so would I... though, I've spent that long making up my own mental picture of it I probably wouldn't like being contradicted either by now  Razz . That said, I don't really have a set model of the place, just bits of it. The distances between things (the indoor range, medical wing, admin building, etc) are really just set to help define characters a bit more: do they walk or drive? Jethro+Monty tend to walk, Danilo, Florentino, and most others that I write, tend to drive.

That said, I do enjoy shaping the SWA's facilities, working out how to wedge a modern organisation into ancient buildings... and do so in a manner that pleases me.


@Thescarredman wrote:The indoor range scene was fun. It was serendipitous that all three of your fratelli should be there at the same time, eh? And perfectly understandable that Danilo would want to practice as far from JM as he could get. I'd be interested to know why Jethro called the BMW x6 a 'taste failure.' Are we looking at Continental snobbery, since the vehicle was probably built in Russia? Or is there some other reason?
It was serendipitous... though Danilo and Raych's presence was mostly because I figured I wouldn't get away without letting those who've read MiI know what they were up to at least once... and it's a bit of close out as well to show that they're settling into their roles.

As to the X6, well... that's probably some of my own bias showing through: it's a large, crass, expensive car, that serves no other purpose than to be large, crass and expensive. It's big, but there's minimal room inside (though even I'll admit it's a pretty nice inside... but so is a 5-series). It rides high, but is pretty much useless off-road, so on and so forth.


@Thescarredman wrote:Your new cyborg Odile seems to be in over her head. Presumably that will change as she gets a clearer idea of her handler's expectations, and her handler get a more realistic idea of the Agency's.
So far over her head. Odile, unfortunately, is a happy, bubbly, open, sociable and naturally friendly sort of person, so doesn't really have the personality to develop the levels of cynical paranoia required for the espionage game. The way I see it, she'll eventually be able to go through the motions to an extent, but will never really have any natural feel for the work like Monty does. She's a pretty good cyborg, but not a good spy.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Officer_Charon on Mon 1 Dec 2014 - 16:53

She's adorable! I'm wondering if she's going to be enough to get Monty to crack a neutral expres​sion(asking her to crack a smile would be asking too much, I think! Very Happy)

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by PSVT on Tue 2 Dec 2014 - 0:39

It's not the way I normally do reviews. I like to read a chapter or story completely through, and then through again, before arranging my thoughts on it. However, I'm trying something different for now; a more complete review will come at some point in the future. Thus, my initial impressions as I read so far:

Just with the prologue I'm really liking the sense of atmosphere you're building with Algy in Panama, and him having to deal with colleagues and bosses in the type of meeting where everyone has a say, everyone thinks they're right (and the others are wrong). At least the weather is on his side there. It would be terrible to be stuck having to deal with them while also battling muggy tropical air and/or a monsoon. Don't know what's going on halfway around the world, but I have a feeling Jethro and Monty won't be having a vacation in Hong Kong. (Then again, do they ever truly vacation at all?)

Also, it's nice to bring back Algy from AtAC as a mental reference point, given that we (should) remember him from back then.

Hmm.. Monty's actually in Rome, in SWA HQ no less. That can't possibly bode well for the others. And then I see why, a long-overdue physical for Jethro which threatens to make the pair late for their appointment. I really like the bit of banter between Ferro and Jethro, and it provides a bit of his back story without being heavy handed in putting it all in narration. Still, it also proves Jethro hasn't changed. Neither has Monty.

The description of the medical building was good. In not-so-many words you provide a fairly detailed atmosphere of both the high-tech and high-security floor and the not-so-important other section down below. Same with your description of the main building. Really excellent stuff, and something to think about as I write.

Another reference to AtAC and to MiI to remind us of the situation going on at home. Also providing more context to why Monty dislikes being there (beyond the usual).

Continuing to love the interactions between Monty and Jethro. Also, Monty is extremely paranoid, even at SWA headquarters. It makes sense though, since while it's home for all the other cyborgs, it isn't for her. And, Moscow Rules rule at all times. Oh, now I also see they just don't want to be spotted by the others--which also makes sense and is in character for them.

A nice update on the situation at hand, from the two stories previous, again without seeming ham-handed or forced in my opinion.

"...brush a few specks of imagined dust from spotless shoulders. 'Close enough.'" - Yeah, I'd say it's classic Monty; can't give an outright compliment, even to Jethro. Though, by her standards, that must actually be very high praise.

Now we get to see Florentino and Odile for the first time in the flesh (or in writing, actually, but still). Can immediately see the overconfidence from Florentino in his way-too-aggressive handshake; also, the uncertainty in Odile from the fact she had to look to Florentino first before doing something as simple as shaking the hand of a colleague. Also, her absolute lack of experience is blatant and even at this early stage appears to be a hindrance. Not to mention the fact Florentino is an ass is also obvious. He needs to realize that he's in a completely new and different environment. Of course, his failure to do so thus far provides quite a bit of intrigue and drama. It'd be boring otherwise.

Interesting how the more experienced ones didn't really speak until Florentino and Odile left the room. Monty's distrust I think is warranted, as Odile's inexperience is a supreme danger; though, the fact Monty questions if they were present alone with the data is also very telling.

Hmm... Monty's definitely not feeling happy at not being provided all the info at the time. Glad she's a very special case of a cyborg, else the end results would not be pretty.

Tiny typo (and makes me wish for FF.net having copy-paste again): "Odile should be keeping ... presuming she [has] aspirations toward keeping that attendance." Otherwise, classic Monty. Does make me question Odile's suitability to the job, with the obvious answer being she's not at all suitable.

Everything after the quoted sentence above: extra-salty Monty. Wow!

Yes... Florentino's surprise at seeing Monty in the handler dorm's and his assumption that she would be anywhere close to the cyborg dorms, let alone heading there, was both classic and well done. Jethro's dislike for Florentino is obvious, and they've practically only just met.

That "quality control" remark from Monty goes beyond mere salty (not sure even the Great Salt Lake has enough) to outright caustic and mean-spirited. Though, not surprising from Monty's point of view, given the work she does and the capabilities (or blatant lack thereof) of her new colleague. Then again, from Odile's POV, she is new after all, and it would take time to properly learn the ropes. Unfortunately it's time they don't have. Monty makes a salient point: Odile is not really special (and, by extension, neither is Florentino). More on topic, I liked the overall interaction between the two, and you definitely do a good job contrasting their personalities.

Glad to see Raych as well. I imagine she's still a bit iffy on the self-confidence side. It remains to be seen how the end of MiI fully changed her.

Very interesting at the end with the meeting with Hilshire. Potential involvement of an American, and the Blackers going to Paris. Should be good stuff. I'll probably want to refresh my mind on the intricacies of the case so far by scanning over the prior stories again, but nothing seems to have come completely from left field. It does make me wonder what's happening in Hong Kong as well, and how that's going to dovetail with the SWA's work.

All in all, very awesome work! Very Happy (Hopefully any of what I wrote made sense and was at least a tiny bit useful. sweat)

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Tue 2 Dec 2014 - 4:24

First up, before I forget: cheers for all the feedback chaps.

I'm going to throw a few responses to Taer's comments over on ff.net in here as well because, well, public airing.  Razz


@Officer_Charon wrote:She's adorable! I'm wondering if she's going to be enough to get Monty to crack a neutral expres​sion(asking her to crack a smile would be asking too much, I think! )
Unfortunately, I think Odile is having quite the opposite effect on Monty.  sweat 


@Taerkitty wrote:Wow, the usual LeCarre-like smorgasbord of leads and data here.
@PSVT wrote:I really like the bit of banter between Ferro and Jethro, and it provides a bit of his back story without being heavy handed in putting it all in narration.
@PSVT wrote:A nice update on the situation at hand, from the two stories previous, again without seeming ham-handed or forced in my opinion.
I'm glad this is apparently coming across. Ideally, though having read the two previous stories would help, someone should be able to jump into Six Degrees without needing to have done so. That's made this first chapter in particular something of a balancing act regards laying out the pertinent facts from stories past, without letting it degenerate into info-dumping or boring older readers to death. Hopefully it'll keep working out.

That, and I've been dying to hint a bit at how Jethro was recruited into the SWA. I've always liked the idea that his first contact with them was slightly comedic... and I'm quite happy actually with that little interaction.


@Taerkitty wrote:She has an ass of a handler, and she has my sympathy. I'd love to see more of her, but I fear I don't feel the same way for Signore Vitale...

...Vitale seems too opinionated and full of himself for anyone to consider him spy material, save perhaps as comedic comeuppance.
@PSVT wrote:Can immediately see the overconfidence from Florentino in his way-too-aggressive handshake; also, the uncertainty in Odile from the fact she had to look to Florentino first before doing something as simple as shaking the hand of a colleague...

...Not to mention the fact Florentino is an ass is also obvious. He needs to realize that he's in a completely new and different environment.
Yeah, Florentino's suffering from a) being used to having the position of "golden child" and b) being under the impression that the SWA wanted him specifically/having been told that he's the "expert" here to show everyone else how it's done. Now he's having to deal with J+M, the only people who, in his eyes, could be rivals, so he's out to play "Alpha Spy" from the get go... unfortunately, Jethro isn't playing.


I like to think Florentino is professional enough to temper his ego when actually in the field, he is actually relatively competent there, but we shall see how that pans out. I had originally intended for F&O's appearance to be mostly there to help background J+M for new readers, but I'm not considering continuing a separate, parallel, storyline around Hilshire's work on the Italian end, which they would fit in to. That of course, would require some significant additional planning.


@Taerkitty wrote:The Spook Pit has a good feel to it. I'm not surprised Genco had problems with his phone. Earth and stone are great for vibration listening devices, but nothing beats a Faraday cage for stopping unauthorized EMF radiation.
I'll admit it, of all the SWA sets I've either made up or expanded upon for my own writing, the Spook Pit is my favourite. It's an indulgence, a proper 60's spy den/villain's lair from which to plot world domination. If I could find some viable excuse to put Lorenzo in there with a white cat, I would.  sweat


@Taerkitty wrote:I love Monty's attitude, but her snapping at Priscilla seems a little much. While Priss is kind and understanding, I'm not sure I can see her just taking it without some sort of reaction.
True, and she probably would have at one time. The way I look at it however, Priss has been working with the Blackers in one capacity or another for the better part of two years now, so she's had a chance to get used to Monty being Monty. It doesn't hurt that Jethro's there, silently apologising (or, in this case, sharing a wry expression) for his girl. I can't remember who made the original comment, might have been Robert or Voodoo, but it was to the effect that Jethro probably spends quite a bit of time when on campus smoothing feathers his cyborg has ruffled, particularly for anyone who may not be familiar with her. I rather like that idea, so Jethro does tend to spend a fair bit of time doing exactly what he's doing here with Priss, or otherwise silently managing his partner/reminding her to "be nice".

Of course, some of it is also probably my own personal bias showing through in that competence buys a lot of forgiveness.


@PSVT wrote:It's not the way I normally do reviews. I like to read a chapter or story completely through, and then through again, before arranging my thoughts on it.
You and me both mate... though that's some in-depth first-thinking. I rarely get farther than "I read it, enjoyed it, here's something that jumped out at me, be back later"... if that.  sweat


@PSVT wrote:Also, it's nice to bring back Algy from AtAC as a mental reference point, given that we (should) remember him from back then...

I'll probably want to refresh my mind on the intricacies of the case so far by scanning over the prior stories again, but nothing seems to have come completely from left field. It does make me wonder what's happening in Hong Kong as well, and how that's going to dovetail with the SWA's work.
Glad that's the impression coming through. Without wanting to give too much away, my intention for Six Degrees is that there really shouldn't be anything absolutely new introduced in terms of major plot points, this is now starting to tie things together. That's the intention at least, we'll see how it goes.


@PSVT wrote:Also, Monty is extremely paranoid, even at SWA headquarters. It makes sense though, since while it's home for all the other cyborgs, it isn't for her. And, Moscow Rules rule at all times.
Monty probably doesn't really consider the SWA to be as safe/secure as some of the others might, and yes, part of that is very much because, to her, it's not "home", it's just another way point... which is also why she remains armed while on campus despite, cyborgs (at least, for my take) not being supposed to be whilst on campus. Of course, she's also Monty, and since no-one has specifically told her that rule for cyborgs also applies to her, she will continue to ignore it.


@PSVT wrote:"...brush a few specks of imagined dust from spotless shoulders. 'Close enough.'" - Yeah, I'd say it's classic Monty; can't give an outright compliment, even to Jethro. Though, by her standards, that must actually be very high praise.
I don't know if it's even praise really, not in this context. To me this is J+M falling into their standard "married-couple that isn't" relationship: Jethro doesn't need checking, he knows he looks fine, but he's asking his spouse anyway... and she's playing along. Intimate, but absolutely deniable. "You're not perfect, but I'll keep you anyway."


@PSVT wrote:Tiny typo (and makes me wish for FF.net having copy-paste again): "Odile should be keeping ... presuming she [has] aspirations toward keeping that attendance." 
God da... *sigh* Fixed. Thanks mate.

...as an aside, without wanting to sound like I'm soliciting for reviews, but if it makes life easier I could probably send you the world file.


@PSVT wrote:That "quality control" remark from Monty goes beyond mere salty (not sure even the Great Salt Lake has enough) to outright caustic and mean-spirited.
Monty's grumpy, but not naturally or intentionally nasty, not without provocation. If she's at the point making comments like that one, Odile (and Florentino) is really getting on her nerves. As an aside, I'm glad people are picking up on the "quality control" jab. It was intended as able to be taken two ways: either as a jab at Odile, or comment on the state of the SWA in general (because, Monty, and deniability is good), and I was a little concerned it would be missed.

Going to wrap these next few up together a bit:
@PSVT wrote:Though, not surprising from Monty's point of view, given the work she does and the capabilities (or blatant lack thereof) of her new colleague. Then again, from Odile's POV, she is new after all, and it would take time to properly learn the ropes. Unfortunately it's time they don't have. Monty makes a salient point: Odile is not really special (and, by extension, neither is Florentino)...

Monty's distrust I think is warranted, as Odile's inexperience is a supreme danger; though, the fact Monty questions if they were present alone with the data is also very telling.

Otherwise, classic Monty. Does make me question Odile's suitability to the job, with the obvious answer being she's not at all suitable.
Which is, of course, the other reason Monty is finding Odile particularly vexing. Not only is the girl getting in the way, but her lack of competence is a danger not only to her own fratello, but also a direct threat to J+M. The way I see it at least, one of Monty's greatest assets is that the rumours of super-powered cyborg teenagers and their chaperones probably are not as strong, or taken as seriously, outside of Italy. If Odile fouls up once she's on the international circuit, and word starts getting around that fratelli are now trotting around the globe, then a substantial portion of J+M's passive cover and safety net disappears up in smoke with it... and God forbid Odile should accidentally let slip something about J+M's work to someone who shouldn't be prithee to that information.

And no, Odile is not, sadly, well suited to the role of spy at all. As noted a bit to TSM: her personality is just not cut for it and, while she will probably eventually be able to go through the motions, she'll always be doing it by wrote, without the natural feel for the work Monty has. That said, she's actually a pretty good cyborg, just not a good spy.


@PSVT wrote:Glad to see Raych as well. I imagine she's still a bit iffy on the self-confidence side.
I figured I probably wasn't going to get away without showing what Raych was up to at least once.  Razz  That said, I suspect she's always going to have confidence issues, the matter is her and Danilo finding, if not a good relationship, then at least an understanding they can both work in to. The end of MiI was sort of the start of that process.


Thanks again for the comments, and it's always helpful, not to mention much appreciated.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Thescarredman on Wed 3 Dec 2014 - 19:02

As to the X6, well... that's probably some of my own bias showing through: it's a large, crass, expensive car, that serves no other purpose than to be large, crass and expensive. It's big, but there's minimal room inside (though even I'll admit it's a pretty nice inside... but so is a 5-series). It rides high, but is pretty much useless off-road, so on and so forth.

In other words, Florentino thinks it's just like Jethro's car, only better.
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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by taerKitty on Wed 3 Dec 2014 - 23:19

"Oh, he's your head spy?  Well, not anymore!"

I just wonder if he will prove to be worth his bravado and demands.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Thu 4 Dec 2014 - 6:17

@Thescarredman wrote:As to the X6, well... that's probably some of my own bias showing through: it's a large, crass, expensive car, that serves no other purpose than to be large, crass and expensive. It's big, but there's minimal room inside (though even I'll admit it's a pretty nice inside... but so is a 5-series). It rides high, but is pretty much useless off-road, so on and so forth.

In other words, Florentino thinks it's just like Jethro's car, only better.
I figure Florentino was probably given a few restrictions by the SWA when he was given his vehicle budget: must be AWD, must be diesel... from lessons learned out of the Blackers' operations. Other than that, he was free to do as he pleased. He bought something big and shiny and, in many ways, it's another way for him to remind others that he's being paid more than them.


@Taerkitty wrote:"Oh, he's your head spy?  Well, not anymore!"

I just wonder if he will prove to be worth his bravado and demands.
That remains to be seen...

As to hierarchy... while they still report to Jean, I've always figured J+M sort of sat "over there", as it were, rather than anywhere within whatever sort of semi-formal hierarchy may resolve itself amongst the rest of the fratelli. That said, I'm sure as far as Florentino is concerned he, Florentino, sits somewhere near the top.  Razz

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by taerKitty on Thu 4 Dec 2014 - 10:28

There are asses / employees / whathaveyou that require closer supervision than others.  I see J+M as 'flankers' - people trusted to work on their own with a minimum of management and oversight.  

It's a show of trust, primarily, not of power.  Of course with management's trust comes power, but it is often risky to use.  If power is exercised and not justified in hindsight, then the trust that engendered the power is lost.  Of course, should the cost be judged worthy then more trust, and with it, more power, will be afforded the operative.

Were I someone with the hands on the pursestrings, I'd 'trust' F with an open vehicle expense budget because those above me (Lorenzo?) said so, but I'd judge him based on what he did with it.

Not being an auto boffin, I'm just going by what I read here, but the X6 looks to be unsuitable for an intelligence asset because it's too distinctive, too showy.

If others ever got whiff that he was specifically trying to outdo the Blackers, that they were his measuring rod, then that may also do his reputation ill.  Friendly rivalries are fine, but discord and jealousy aren't a good idea when everyone has to know they can rely on everyone else, no matter what.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Fri 5 Dec 2014 - 8:29

@taerKitty wrote:Not being an auto boffin, I'm just going by what I read here, but the X6 looks to be unsuitable for an intelligence asset because it's too distinctive, too showy.

If others ever got whiff that he was specifically trying to outdo the Blackers, that they were his measuring rod, then that may also do his reputation ill.  Friendly rivalries are fine, but discord and jealousy aren't a good idea when everyone has to know they can rely on everyone else, no matter what.
Well, it's suitability probably depends on what part Florentino happens to be playing at any one time but, as a generality, no: the X6 is not entirely suitable as an intelligence asset. I suspect Florentino's thinking was perhaps quite heavily coloured by it's use to remind people that he is more important to the SWA than them. Yes, there are handlers with more expensive vehicles... but they tend to be paying for those out of their own pockets.

As an aside, it's probably worth noting that, resulting from the style of work he has been doing prior to joining the SWA, Florentino perhaps does not expect to spend as much time in one place as J+M do, or need to revisit as much. Remember he's used to having a strong team to support him, and being pointed more by his superiors and analytical department, than by his own nose. As such, he tends to expect to finish a job and move on, rather than what Jethro is used to of probably re-visiting his contacts or the same areas again at a later date.

I don't know if Florentino so much sees the Blackers as his measuring rod and someone he needs to out-do any more than he does so by any other fratello. Being the being the pair in a role closest to his own, they are certainly the pair he feels he needs to most publicly display dominance over... and no, there is nothing friendly about his urge to place himself at the top. Unfortunately, that's the sort of game Jethro tends to defeat by refusing to play in the first place. How others may view the man... who knows. Not well, apparently.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Sat 27 Dec 2014 - 2:25

Chapter02 of Six Degrees, The French Connection, is now available.

Special thanks to Officer_Charon for putting up with all my dumb, police-related, questions. Hopefully I've not got it too badly wrong. sweat

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Vett on Thu 8 Jan 2015 - 9:07

As I'm now several years after-the-fact and only falling further behind, here's the Prologue from Six Degrees of Freedom

Spoiler:

Very evocative first paragraph. If it were me, I'd probably incorporate it straight into the character's section rather than do the establishing shot/zoom into location sequence, but that's a matter of taste more than anything else.

@Alfisti wrote:"Feeling the air's cool touch, Sir Algernon Herbert shifted a red telephone handset to his other palm, chair swivelling to let it wash over him, wafting through tall French doors and into the darkened office, mixing with lazily turning fans in the gloom high above.
Again, wonderfully evocative image. I'd probably re-order the sentence, however, as the wafting bit doesn't quite sit right to me: Feeling the cool air brush past as it wafted through the tall french doors and into his darkened office, Sir Algernon Herbert shifted a red telephone handset to his other palm, swiviling his chair to let it wash over him before mixing with the lazily turning fans in the gloom high above.
However... secure comms... and an open window? Visible to telephoto lenses for later lip-reading, laser mics etc. etc.
Side note: I believe UK standard issue secure comms are some sort of dull beige/brown etc. but I can't remember my source. It might be an interview with Major about losing power or something on COBR.

@Alfisti wrote:fountain pen, engraved gold nib glinting under a desk lamp's warm glow.
A makes me assume there's two or more lamps, one of which is illuminating the desk. The would make me think there's one. Gramtically it's fine, but it occurs to me that what I'm assuming may not what you've intended.

@Alfisti wrote:And if wishes were horses then beggars would ride. Patience my lad, M will get there soon enough, once everyone has had a chance to vent.
I feel obliged to point out that M is technically known as C, but I suspect you know that Wink (And K for the head of the Security Service, but that's not as common.)

@Alfisti wrote:...especially as we were supposed to have given the place back to them"
I hope I'm still around to see the documents released about SIS, SS and GCHQ activity before the handover. If it's anything like the other de-colonisation events, the place was a hotbed of skullduggery.

@Alfisti wrote:Another puff of cool breeze, another whiff of jungle... the sounds of a city night starting to mix with those of nature carried on the wind, faint in the background. Taking a remote station posting had its perks, a certain autonomy and freedom to run things as one saw fit, which was why, perhaps, calls such as this tended to drag on so.
Nice little reminder of our location. Also, colon rather than comma after perks, or else you're adding autonomy and freedom to the list rather than explaining that they are the perks.

I like the one-sided conversation: it gives the impression that Algernon is totally unengaged and is letting them talk while his mind goes off on autopilot.
I would probably drop an italicised 'quite' into the final sentence, purely for the rhythm and little extra oomph.

As an opener, I think it works. It pulls you in and there's clear problem to drive the scene. The ending also presents a clear problem to hang over the protagonists' heads.
It's very low-key, but I think it's appropriately so given the pacing and intensity of the story that's coming. It also neatly sets up the suspense of when are they going to turn-up and screw-up Jethro's day.
My only caveat is that it's very much the ambiguous prologue where nothing really happens. If this wasn't a sequal it wouldn't be enough to get me to read further. As much as I like the detached air of Algernon, it might produce a more compelling scene to give us the argument, perhaps in a secure room on a videoconference.

In short: I like the scene, but it didn't really give me anything to latch onto. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure it's needed. It sets up the conflict and acts as a reminder to the reader, but at this point I don't really see anything in there that's vital to know before chapter one starts.
That said, I like it as a scene and generally dislike prologues, so I'd take the above with a grain of salt.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Fri 9 Jan 2015 - 3:51

Cheers for the review and crit mate. As always, it's hugely appreciated. As an aside though:

@Vett wrote:...here's the Prologue from Six Degrees of Freedom
The story is called Six Degrees, which was actually a shortening of Six Degrees of Separation, which is more in keeping with what I intend for the story, not "Freedom". Honestly, that it could be taken the other way had not even crossed my mind until ID mentioned it.  sweat 



@Vett wrote:However... secure comms... and an open window? Visible to telephoto lenses for later lip-reading, laser mics etc. etc.
Probably not the most secure setup, no. That said: Algy's office faces into the building courtyard, so the only lines of sight on it, or at least on him, would be from within the SIS's villa. I realise that's still taking a risk, but I tend to picture Algy as being old enough to take a more, I don't want to say "lazy" approach to his security, but perhaps a more relaxed/pragmatic one: if they're in the compound, they've probably bugged his office too, etc.

As you've probably guessed though, the prologue was more about setting atmosphere and introducing Algy than it was about being bang on for accuracy.

Noted on the phone as well. It'll probably remain red for the time being however as it's a quick and easy way of telling readers "hey, important stuff being said".


@Vett wrote:A makes me assume there's two or more lamps, one of which is illuminating the desk. The would make me think there's one. Gramtically it's fine, but it occurs to me that what I'm assuming may not what you've intended.
Yes it is just meant to be the one lamp, swapped the "a" for "the". At a guess I had probably decided there were too many "the"s in close proximity during editing, and was attempting to thin them out.


@Vett wrote:I feel obliged to point out that M is technically known as C, but I suspect you know that  (And K for the head of the Security Service, but that's not as common.)
Yeah, I am aware "M" is not actually the correct terminology. It is, however, the one that has been popularised and, like the red phone, it's an easy way to communicate to the reader that this is the head of MI6 being reffered to. If I used "C" I would then have to explain who that was to 95% of the audience, which is extra words that need to fit into the flow, and my sentences tend to drag on badly enough as it is.


@Vett wrote:Also, colon rather than comma after perks
Fixed.


@Vett wrote:I like the one-sided conversation: it gives the impression that Algernon is totally unengaged and is letting them talk while his mind goes off on autopilot.
There's actually two reasons Algy's conversation is one-sided. The first is pure laziness: I didn't want to have to make up the rest of what was going on. The second was I wanted to avoid introducing too many throwaway characters this early on. For new readers there are a lot of introductions coming up in Chapter01 and, to be honest, apart from getting a few key points across, the rest of the conversation didn't really matter and potentially breaks the feel of the scene. As hinted at a little above, what I wanted out of this one was mostly to set atmosphere, and introduce Algy to new readers so he, and the problem he was bringing, were not appearing out of thin air later on.

Which leads a little into:
@Vett wrote:As much as I like the detached air of Algernon, it might produce a more compelling scene to give us the argument, perhaps in a secure room on a videoconference.

In short: I like the scene, but it didn't really give me anything to latch onto. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure it's needed. It sets up the conflict and acts as a reminder to the reader, but at this point I don't really see anything in there that's vital to know before chapter one starts.
Unfortunately a video conference and secure room somewhere would be out of tone for Algy. Were I writing, say (the yet to be fully introduced) "Charlie", or even Florentino at the SWA, it would be fitting. Algy however comes from the same mould as Jethro+Monty (and then some) in terms of tone, so he gets a tropical breeze, phone and fountain pen... if that makes sense.

While nothing in the prologue is vital to know prior to chapter 01, for me at least, it is vital for chapter 02. Again this is probably mostly personal preference, but there's a very narrow window near the start of a story or story arc where, these days, I'm willing to let information appear out of thin air. Chapter 02 would have been too late for that to happen in what is, effectively, the continuation of an earlier arc. Also, I'm not really intending to show things from the SIS side again, so putting this at the start saves a single, solitary, jump to their perspective somewhere later. Feasibly, I guess, it could have gone at the end of Chapter 01 as well, but it might have been a case of "too many endings", plus I like the juxtaposition of Algy's spring environment to Monty's.

On that note, the passage was originally part of Chapter 01, but that was getting a tad long by the end, and I liked the extra beat given by splitting it out into its own section.


Anyway, thanks again for the crit. It's always useful, and tends to make me think a bit harder about why I'm doing things/why I should possibly not do them.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Vett on Fri 9 Jan 2015 - 18:22

@Alfisti wrote:Vett wrote:...here's the Prologue from Six Degrees of Freedom
The story is called Six Degrees

That's what you get for reading the preceeding posts immediately before hurriedly copy-pasting the actual crit. to get it posted before my lunchbreak is over. Still, it's only a title - they don't matter, right?

I swear I was paying more attention when reading it, honest.


@Alfisti wrote:Probably not the most secure setup, no. That said: Algy's office faces into the building courtyard

That makes more sense now, and fits the character I have in my head. Have I missed the fact that it's an internal window? And, yes, it was clear that you were really hammering the atmosphere button when posting.

Ultimately, the colour of the phone is neither here nor there, and red also fits the stylised world you've got going. It was thrown in without the expectation of it actually changing - just as a point of interest Wink


@Alfisti wrote:There's actually two reasons Algy's conversation is one-sided. The first is pure laziness: I didn't want to have to make up the rest of what was going on. The second was I wanted to avoid introducing too many throwaway characters this early on. For new readers there are a lot of introductions coming up in Chapter01 and, to be honest, apart from getting a few key points across, the rest of the conversation didn't really matter and potentially breaks the feel of the scene. As hinted at a little above, what I wanted out of this one was mostly to set atmosphere, and introduce Algy to new readers so he, and the problem he was bringing, were not appearing out of thin air later on.

These days I spend a lot of time planning my initial few scenes: I've a really bad habit of over-loading the reader at the start of a story, so I tend to work hard to introduce characters in a way that gives me good reasons to avoid multiple characters and information overload.

Now we're discussing this, it's occurred to me that you don't necessarily need everyone on the line. M, the Far-East Head of Station and Algernon (brought into the conversation due to past experience) would still be sufficient to have the conversation and add that little slice of conflict to carry the reader along.

Another option is not to have it at all. As you said, it's a surprise when Algernon appears later, but then isn't it one to Jethro? In that case, isn't it a good thing that the reader is also blindsided?

To be honest, I'm not sure which way I'd jump: all the options (including the one you took) are valid, and none's explicitly better than the others.

As far as prologue/not prologue goes, if it's the one and only jump into Algernon's head I can see why it's split out. Maybe making it longer and more substantial (relatively speaking) might help? Or a more explicit threat from the Chinese? If you look at the Bond (film) prologues, such as Goldeneye, there's usually a very clear threat.

As you can probably tell, there's pros and cons and I'm really not sure what I'd opt-for. I suppose it's all food for future thought.


@Alfisti wrote:...tends to make me think a bit harder about why I'm doing things/why I should possibly not do them.

That's half the reason I review - to be able to offer crit. I need to be able to explain why I like/don't like someone's writing and, hopefully, that carries over to my own writing.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Fri 9 Jan 2015 - 23:31

@Vett wrote:Have I missed the fact that it's an internal window?
There was a line to the effect that Algy's office faced into the courtyard, though it's more hinted at than explicitly stated. It was also described as such in AtAC, but that's a ways back.


@Vett wrote:Now we're discussing this, it's occurred to me that you don't necessarily need everyone on the line. M, the Far-East Head of Station and Algernon (brought into the conversation due to past experience) would still be sufficient to have the conversation and add that little slice of conflict to carry the reader along.

Another option is not to have it at all. As you said, it's a surprise when Algernon appears later, but then isn't it one to Jethro? In that case, isn't it a good thing that the reader is also blindsided?

To be honest, I'm not sure which way I'd jump: all the options (including the one you took) are valid, and none's explicitly better than the others.

As far as prologue/not prologue goes, if it's the one and only jump into Algernon's head I can see why it's split out. Maybe making it longer and more substantial (relatively speaking) might help? Or a more explicit threat from the Chinese? If you look at the Bond (film) prologues, such as Goldeneye, there's usually a very clear threat.

As you can probably tell, there's pros and cons and I'm really not sure what I'd opt-for.
I suspect, with that last line, you've described the writing process in general. Razz

For the purposes of the story it probably could have gotten away with just the three personalities on the line however, and it's probably not giving much away since I intend to get to some of it as part of the next chapter, there's a certain amount of history between Algy and Charlie. Upshot is the latter probably would not be happy to think the former was being brought in to tread all over his toes... and I like to think this universe's M is a somewhat better people manager than that. Going back to what was talked about before as well, and tying in somewhat into the second-last paragraph: too much talk ran the risk of detracting from the scene as a whole. I did actually try fleshing it out somewhat, but it descended into waffle, so cut it back again to leave it less as an entrée and more as an aperitif.

As to Algy's later appearance... feasibly it could work as a surprise to the reader as well as a surprise to Jethro; it's just not something I personally like doing. If something like that is going to happen later, particularly if it's going to lead into the major crux of the story, I'd like to give readers at least a hint of it earlier on. Not doing so, to me, just feels messy.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Thu 5 Feb 2015 - 7:09

Monty Blacker: spy, cyborg, part-time security blanket.

Chapter03 of Six Degrees, A Season for Orchids, is now up for you reading, and possibly even reading pleasure.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Thu 12 Mar 2015 - 5:13

Six Degrees Chapter04, Chasing Tails, now live.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Tue 7 Apr 2015 - 23:29

Six Degrees Chapter05, Be A Star, is now up.

Bit shorter this time around, for a change.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Tue 26 May 2015 - 2:57

Well, things have been somewhat disrupted of late but, at least story wise, normal service is resumed.

Six Degrees Chapter06, Zero-Day, is now up.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Kiskaloo on Tue 26 May 2015 - 11:31

@Alfisti wrote:Well, things have been somewhat disrupted of late but, at least story wise, normal service is resumed.

Six Degrees Chapter06, Zero-Day, is now up.

Kara: "And I thought having Claes with us when we work international was a chore. Knock on wood we don't get those two..."

Michele: "The Vitales or the Blackers?"

Kara: "Yes." Incoming!

(From across the compound) Claes: "I heard that!"



Seriously, glad to see you - and your OCs - back in action.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Tue 26 May 2015 - 23:14

@Kiskaloo wrote:Kara: "And I thought having Claes with us when we work international was a chore. Knock on wood we don't get those two..."

Michele: "The Vitales or the Blackers?"

Kara: "Yes." 
Monty: The feeling's mutual.


Cheers mate. Hopefully it stays as normal service from her on in. sweat

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Alfisti on Sat 20 Jun 2015 - 23:54

Six Degrees Chapter07, New Territories, is now up, in which...

We are on a boat.
Jethro goes for a swim.
And old faces bring new problems.

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by Kiskaloo on Tue 23 Jun 2015 - 9:49

Things look to be starting to get serious...

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Re: Alfisti's Ramblings

Post by PSVT on Tue 23 Jun 2015 - 18:43

Quite interesting indeed where this most recent chapter takes events, with both Monty and Jethro facing similar difficulties and problems with communication. Dramatic indeed. Things are heating up, so to say, and not just on that side of the planet, though I'm sure J+M are facing more dire straits at the moment than Hilshire and Triela (and Florentino and Odile, for that matter).

Nevertheless, still loving it. Very Happy I hope to provide a more thorough review in the future, though.

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