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Friday, July 12, 2013

Hope You Had A Nice Holiday

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I know I did. Lots of lake and sun. Minimal work. Who doesn't like holidays?

I did get back to the routine this week, though work has been super busy. I don't have a whole lot to say about the latest piece. It actually was pretty rough and I spent a good amount of time editing it and adding a bit to it. It's a bit longer than my last few excerpts, too.

Did I make Damian awkward enough? Generally dialog is supposed to be a fictional representation of "real speak." That is, when writing dialog, I try to avoid a lot of the verbal foibles we're all prone to. The um's, the ah's, the awkward pauses.

There are a lot of those here. I'm hoping it's not too annoying. I was shooting for awkwardly cute.

I also break up the dialog with a lot of tags, again playing up the awkward. Except for the rambling part. That's all mashed together. Does it stick out?

That's all for this week. Hope you have a great weekend!
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A Healthy Glow

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The glow around Genny seemed to diminish when her dark eyes lit upon Damian.

Glow? his mind questioned, but Damian shrugged it off. He was still jittery from his recent encounter, and needed to calm the hell down. The transition from dark hotel room to bright hallway was causing him to squint. He rubbed at his eyes, begging them to adjust, and considered what else to say.

Don't let her in, Inigo reminded.

Duh, Damian answered. But why is she here?

As if in compensation for the fading brilliance, Genny’s smile put in an appearance.  “Am I interrupting?” she asked.

“Ah...” Damian fumbled. “I was just…” –he pulled his head back in and looked at the bloody mess– “… working.”

Genny raised an eyebrow. Then, she glanced to the side.

Do not let her leave, Inigo pounced. She must have come to see you! “But I could use a break,” Damian added. Then, he slithered out of the room and held the door cracked behind his back.

Genny backed up to allow him space in the narrow hallway. “You sure?” She seemed uncertain and uncomfortable.

Damian nodded. “Yeah, I was thinking about, um, getting some dinner.” As soon as it was out, he remembered the cancelled date. It was supposed to be this evening. Dinner.

He had cancelled, hadn’t he? Hopefully she wasn’t upset. It’s not like he had much of a choice.

Perhaps she thinks you are a popular man and have chosen another, Inigo said. Do not underestimate the wrath of a spurned woman!

You’re not helping, Inigo.

“Alone,” Damian said. “By myself.” –Duh– “I mean… they sent me to this work thing.  Last second notice. You know how it is. Or do you? I don't know. Probably wouldn't happen where you work. I mean the bar is a nice place and all, I like it, but I doubt they send you out to customers. Mostly they'd come in, I think. It’s probably illegal the other way. Did you get my message?”

Damian came up short of breath, and paused. In the silence, he realized he was dressed poorly. He had on the same T-shirt from the drive in. The shirt had a picture of the Kool-Aid man on it and read: Oh Yeah! He hadn’t been thinking. He’d grabbed the first thing he could find. Please God let there be no blood on this, too.

Damian looked down and found only Kool-Aid. He returned a thanks for that. And for pants. His jeans were still clean, and –more importantly– on.

Genny giggled. “You look fine.” She took a step forward and laid warm hand on Damian’s shoulder. A jolt of paralyzing electricity skittered through him. “And, yes, I got your message,” she added.

He let his tingling brain process that. “Then, why are you here?” he blurted. He slapped a hand to his mouth.

She giggled again, bless her!

Looks like she is as crazy as you are, Inigo chimed in. If she had any sense, she would be running. Not laughing.

Shut up, Inigo.

Genny shifted her feet and Damian’s heart fell with her eyes. “I'm sorry, Damian,” she said. “I just thought… maybe we could still have dinner? If not, I completely understand. It was sort of a crazy impulse, you know? And I wouldn't normally do something like this, but just thought that, well, it'd be nice.”

Damian stared. She was the one rambling now. To him. Could he be making her feel uncomfortable?

Big, brown eyes rose to meet Damian’s. In them, he saw what his mind refused to process. Vulnerability.

How could I say no?

He forced himself to start breathing again. Normally. In and out.

“Dinner. Sure. Of course. I didn't even think– I certainly didn't mean to– I mean…”

You’d love to, Inigo helped.

“I'd love to.”

The door clicked behind him as he closed it the rest of the way.
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Friday, June 28, 2013

A Light In The Attic

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Damian glanced down. His clothing looked like a bad piece of modern art. He didn’t recall getting spattered with blood, but there it was.

It would not do to receive a lady so attired, Inigo chimed in.

Damian sent the voice a metaphysical eye-roll and began scrambling around the room. Dancing around the bodies and blood, he stripped off his speckled clothing and tossed it in the vague direction of the trash can. He’d take care of it later. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed that his face had escaped the art show, miraculously. There was only a small crimson line on his neck from the knife.

Damian scrubbed anyway. He felt dirty. Really, really dirty. Like he’d run a marathon on a sweltering day. Through mud. While wearing a sweater and chewing gum retrieved from the bottom of a park bench.

I’ll brush my teeth while I’m at it, he reasoned.

Hoping for a kiss? Inigo asked.

The surprising thought drove Damian’s knee into the bathroom counter. He cursed. Then, he threw a hand over his mouth and stared at his own reflection, wide-eyed. What must this all sound like outside in the hallway?

He leaned warily out of the bathroom and eyed door. A ray of light filtered through the peep-hole. Damian followed it to where it terminated on the back of a dead henchman’s skull. Like a sniper’s dot. Or the Staff of Ra showing Indy where the Ark is hidden.

“Damian?” Genny’s voice called.

Damian flinched. After a brief paused for a deep breath, he stepped up to the door. Turning the knob slowly, he cracked it and poked his head out.

Radiant and resplendent, Genny hovered just beyond the door, a concerned look furrowing her dark eyebrows. Damian wanted to reach out and smooth them. She shouldn’t worry about him. He was Master of Lamps!

Oh, ho! Perhaps you’d like to use some of your newfound confidence to speak to the lady? Inigo prompted

“Uh, hi?” Damian tried.
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The Dog Was Supposed To Be Named Indiana

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This section is mostly new. I needed a bridge between the original two scenes so it was a bit more fluid when put together in book format. So I whipped this up yesterday. Had a little fun with it. It's not every day you get to allude to the Staff of Ra. (Yes. I love Indiana Jones. Perhaps too much.)

I had a little fun with the dirty part too. Park bench gum is totally gross. And I imagine that fighting two henchmen with burning eyes in your room would make you a little sweaty. Plus it's Damian's first time killing anyone. I doubt he looks as dirty as he feels, but you'll have that.

(Side note: I was proud of myself. I scheduled this ahead of time since I anticipated being busy Friday. Go me.)
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Friday, June 21, 2013

I'm Back

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Missed a couple Fridays, I know. I went to Disney World with my family. It was pretty fun. But I'm back now, so I need to keep this up.

We left Damian for dead last time... but wait a minute! He's not. Duh. Wouldn't be much of a story if I killed off the protagonist so early. Unless I'm channeling George RR Martin, I guess.

Note the completely different outcome from a thrown knife this time. It is actually pretty difficult to throw a knife and kill someone, despite what the movies say. Not that I've tried a whole lot on real (possibly inhuman) targets. I imagine Damian hasn't, either.

Nothing quite so indecent as two dead bodies on the floor, eh? Genny has impeccable timing.
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Knock, Knock.

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Damian burst out of his body and hovered above it. Well, not quite. His eyes were still closed. He could still feel the big man on top of him. He just… wasn't himself. He felt detached. Like when the doctors had instructed him to take “happy pills” as a child.

I'm dead, he reasoned. His voice seemed to echo as if from a distance. Where's the light? I know there’s supposed to be a light. I want to go toward it!

Except Damian wasn't dead. His body was still resisting. The knife had stopped alongside his throat, pressing hard but drawing no blood. He could still feel it. It was just... blurry. Could a feeling be blurry?

“Help me,” his mouth growled. It was Inigo's voice that came out, not Damian’s.

What? How? Damian asked, but the response he got was incongruous to the question asked.

“Push.”

Tossing aside his metaphysical concerns for a moment, Damian zeroed in on the command. He couldn't feel any arms and legs. How could he push? Dutifully, he focused on the concept of pushing. Muscle against muscle. Mind over matter.

Righty's knife slipped back an inch, as if the henchman’s strength was suddenly lessened.

Or if my strength has increased? Damian's eyes opened. The rage on Righty’s face had been replaced by something else. Fear?

“Push,” Inigo reminded him.

He renewed his focus. The knife retreated another small bit. Righty ground his teeth. The bigger man was losing. Suddenly, he rolled off of Damian. That quickly, the threat of death was gone. Righty thumped onto the floor. He scrambled to his feet, and made for the door.

He's fleeing? Damian leaped off the bed and retrieved his knife. He casually flipped it around so that his fingers rested gingerly along the blade. Without hesitation, he flung it. It found the space between Righty's shoulder blades a scant two steps before the big man reached the door. Righty toppled forward with a thump.

Silence crashed in. Damian stood, dumbfounded, and settled back into his own body. His limbs tingled as if blood was resuming its circulation. He shook out the pins and needles.

There were two dead bodies on the floor.

Knock, knock.

It took Damian a moment to realize that the knocks weren't in his head. By that time, they'd sounded again. He crept toward the door. A strong voice called from the other side.

“Damian?”

Damian froze. It was a female voice.

“Genny?” he called out.

A quick glance through the peephole confirmed his guess. He jumped back. How did she find me?

“Are you all right in there?” came the concerned voice from the hallway. “I heard a thump.”

“Yeah... uh... just a moment. Let me get... ah... decent,” he answered.

He turned around.

There were two dead bodies on the floor.
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Friday, May 31, 2013

Laughing in the Face of Death

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One of the things I've tried to do with Damian as a POV character is to let loose his oddities on our narration. The way his brain works isn't too far from my own (what with the voices and all), and I enjoy word-nerdy things like alliteration, puns, and pithy sarcasm. Generally speaking, if you have a straight-laced POV character and then throw in the crap that I'm throwing in, it would stick out and be thematically incorrect. I'm hoping that by letting Damian be Damian, I'm also allowing myself to have a little fun with the prose without jarring the reader out of the story.

This scene is a perfect example of that. Fights are serious business. Right? And yet, I have some random metaphors and groan-worthy alliteration thrown in. I think it's fun. A literary stickler would probably lambaste me. I subscribe to the "write what you would want to read" theory, and these are tiny little jokes that make me cackle. Even in the middle of a serious fight.

Jim Butcher is, in my opinion, a master of this. I love his Harry Dresden novels, wherein the main POV character's peculiarities are completely embraced and provide for some hilarious jokes within jokes. Emulation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I'm definitely trying to channel my inner Butcher here. (And it has nothing to do with fine meats.)

Damian is no Dresden, but I like to think they'd get along if they ever met in person. Harry would be dry. Damian shy. But how often do you get to meet a wizard?!
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What Death Sounds Like

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Righty stepped back and coiled his arm to strike again. Damian's feet danced away. Damian leveled out his weapon and balanced on the balls of his feet, ready for any dish to be served in this deadly feast. Righty delivered a ripe, overhand thrust, aiming the blade down at Damian's face. The oaf had apparently eaten his fill of finesse and was hungry for a main laden with brute strength.

Panic took control. Damian saw the knife in his hand and pictured dozens of movies he'd seen. As Righty came charging, he emulated them and threw the knife, end over end. It spun through the air, time slowing and light glinting off the sharp blade. The camera pivoted one-eighty on the blade as it hit the big man in the chest.

With the hilt. Which, of course, did not stick in like an assassin’s airborne offering, but instead bounced off harmlessly and clanged to the floor. Righty kept right on coming.

Damian caught a meaty wrist with both hands and they toppled onto the bed. The big man was on top, leveraging his weapon down. It would be over soon. This was not the movies. That knife swung down far faster than it should.

Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God, Damian prayed.

Do I have to do everything? Inigo whined. Clear your mind!

What?

Just do it.

Damian closed his eyes and tried not to focus on the blade bearing down on him. Mere seconds and it would be over. Over! He would be murdered in a hotel room. He could feel the cold steel on his chin, the blade sliding along as it went after the soft flesh of his throat. What's the use? Damian gave up.

He heard a pop.

So that's what death sounds like...
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Focus

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As the day winds down, I struggled to get this part out. I actually wrote some new stuff this week, but wanted to stick to this scene. Originally, there was a bit more which I'll post next week. Just didn't get to it today.

Fight scenes generally fly out of my fingers and then need a good deal of editing. There tends to be a lot of little, stylistic annoyances. Like redundant words. I also tried to tighten things up a bit. One of the tricks to good fight scene tension (any tension really) is to keep your sentences short and almost choppy. Not so much that it's annoy, just enough that the reader is pushed from one idea to the next. It can add a "frantic" feel when done right, which is entirely appropriate for a fight.

I remember when this scene first came to mind, I had reached a point in the story where I was like "now what?" When in doubt... fight scene! It's not totally gratuitous. There is a reason these baddies are tracking Damian. And there's always reason to kill when you're an evil henchman, am I right?

More next week! I'm trying to get back into things!
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Focus!

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Dark eyes drank Damian  in from across the room, feeding what they saw to the tiny flames and stoking their unnatural fire. Righty stalked to the foot of the bed, shoulders rippling as he prepared to pounce. Damian felt his hand tighten around the hilt of the large knife he'd taken from Righty's twin. Lefty's carcass lay between them, pool of blood percolating outward.

What now? Damian's panicked brain asked. He had no idea of how he'd managed to slay his first assailant, yet here he was with the man's knife, facing the second–are these even men? Damian backed away.

“I didn't particularly like him,” Righty said, giving the body a quick glance as he stepped over, “but I like you even less.”

Well, that's comforting, Damian thought.

Be quiet and let me focus, Inigo responded.

Focus? I'm the one in danger here!

Be quiet!

Damian resisted the urge to prod. If the voice in his head wanted quiet, Damian would comply. It wasn't like he didn't have more pressing uses for his brain.

“Yeah, well,” Damian responded, “you should leave now if you don't... if you don't want to... to... die or whatever.”

The threat sounded hollow to his own ears. Righty grunted. And kept coming.

From somewhere inside of his black sport coat, Righty produced a switchblade. He flicked it open and whirled it around, perhaps hoping to intimidate his foe. It worked. Damian tried to swallow, but even the smallest drop of spit couldn't find its way down his constricted throat. He coughed loudly, sputtering.

Righty saw the weakness and leapt. The switchblade flashed out toward Damian’s neck, slicing the air. Damian once more trusted instinct.

Reflex pulled him down while his knife hand shot up. It deflected the swipe away from Damian’s body. Righty regrouped, and aimed another sweeping slash at Damian's midsection. The hilt of Damian's blade caught that one. The move pulled Damian face to face with his assailant. Inhuman black eyes stared back, the tiny flames flickering wildly.
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Lefty For Dead

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Lefty, despite the obvious threat of the lamp, hazarded another step. It put the man within striking distance, so Damian swung. Unfortunately, in his haste, Damian had forgotten to unplug the weapon from the wall. As the weighted base arced toward his assailant's head, the lamp’s cord went taut. Then, just as suddenly, it snapped free from the wall, flinging Damian forward.

The lamp clanged harmlessly against the bed’s frame, and a jolt shot up Damian's arm as he toppled. Some part of him must have been expecting the fall, for he felt himself tuck into a roll. One with the momentum, he let it carry him back to his feet. With a start, he realized his attackers were behind him.

Damian spun, lamp-weapon in hand. Or, rather, what was left of it. The base had snapped off and rolled away. It clunked into the baseboard, causing Damian to flinch. His eyes went to Lefty, who was still standing a step away. The man appeared even more menacing than before. Damian wasn't sure how that was even possible, but it likely had something to do with the two fresh cuts across the man's cheek.

The plug, Damian reasoned. It must have grazed him.

Lefty didn't acknowledge the injury, but Damian was sure it had to hurt. It was bleeding, after all.

“Sorry, I- ah... yeah,” Damian stammered.

To his surprise, Left grinned, though it fit about as well as a dragon in a dollhouse.

Damian didn't have time to marvel at the expression, however strange, because with the smile came a step and a grasping hand. Damian ducked with speed that surprised him. Even more surprising, he thrust the top of the lamp out in front of him like a spear. It jabbed into Lefty's gut, pushing him back slightly.

The man grabbed the weapon, trapping it and crushing the shade. For one awful moment, Damian was staring directly into the man's burning eyes, eerie darkness with a dash of flame. The perfect recipe for an arduous death.

Damian allowed instinct to control him again. This time it yanked his arms away from the suited stranger. Damian didn't expect the weapon to budge, but the crumpled shade ripped free. Lefty glanced at the remains.

What happened next, Damian would someday find even harder to explain. He had a great view of the events, perched–as it seemed–high in his own head, viewing everything from a distance. He was the audience for his own action film.

With the removal of the various parts of the lamp, all that remained was the long, skinny midsection with a naked bulb in the socket on top. Damian’s hand gripped the implement at the bottom and hefted it, judging the balance. Then, his arm brought it up in a circle even as Lefty was raising his eyes back to his prey.

The bulb caught the man flush to the side of the head and popped. A bit of white powder puffed. Glass speckled the suit. Lefty raised his knife, but whatever controlled Damian was quicker. Even as the shards of glass were bouncing of the man's wide, muscular shoulders, the lamp whizzed back around.

It raked across the man's face from brow to chin, tearing the skin. Blood oozed out of the cut and down into Lefty's right eye, partially blinding him. He swung with his knife where he thought Damian should be, but Damian's body had already vacated the spot, swirling to the left.

The dance ended when Lefty stumbled forward and Damian brought the broken bulb up under the man’s jaw. Damian rammed it home and the tiny fires were snuffed out. A red flood burst from Lefty's mouth. As the man fell back to the floor at the foot of the bed, Damian's hand darted out to grab the knife. It parted easily from lifeless fingers.

New weapon in hand, Damian turned to face Righty. The man wasn't laughing anymore.
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Rock, Paper, Lamp?

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This scene jumps back to where we were prior to last week. There are two goons in the room and Damian has no idea what is about to happen. As they say, animals are most dangerous when they're backed into a corner.

This is the first scene where we see a strong hint that maybe there is more to Damian than his mundane exterior might suggest. Certainly the skill with which he moves in this fight is not native to your average cubicle dweller. I, for one, am pretty sure I would have a dreadful time surviving if I brought a lamp to a knife fight...
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Make it Personal

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I made a post over on my gaming blog that I thought was also applicable to post here. It's not going to be an exact copy, but I'm going to use large chunks and frame them slightly better for this blog. The basic musing came from my thoughts about "tortured" protagonists in fiction.

The class I used to play when I was heavily into World of Warcraft was a Warlock. These fellows consort with demons and are generally shady characters. I wrote some in-character RP back in the day, and it was always fun trying to make an evil, selfish character sympathetic. I like to think it made for some very interesting reading.

Last weekend, I went to see Iron Man 3 and really enjoyed the movie. I had the crazy notion just this morning that, you know, Tony Stark might be similar to my Warlock character. He's not evil, nor does he consort with demons, but he definitely has that selfish thing down. Let's just say: He's no Captain America.

The cool part about that movie, to me, was the cleverness with which the story was pulled off. In the Avengers movie, the very fabric of the world was in jeopardy what with the alien invasion and Norse gods and all. It was the epitome of a "save the world" plot. How, then, do you create a movie in the same universe, with the same character, and have it retain a high stakes feel? It's like... well, we just saved the world, now what? Sequels in general struggle often with this problem. The stakes were so high in a previous movie and any subsequent plot will fall a bit flat.

There is a neat little trick that I think IM3 nailed. Instead of putting the whole wide world in jeopardy, you need only put the main character's world in jeopardy. If you do your job and make a sympathetic character, then threatening things that are important to them can really raise the stakes without needing to resort to threats of a more global variety.

As a former Warlock, I appreciate this. Saving the world doesn't always appeal to me. Sometimes, well... let 'em burn, right? Yet, threaten what I love and... it's on! A game like World of Warcraft has a hard time using this trick, since everyone is a protagonist. Global threats are the only ones that seem to work , which perhaps is why I feel it gets a bit overdone there. They have some good story threads, but my favorite by far was the Lich King. Fitting, then, that it may be perhaps the most personal of the story-lines in that universe.

With Damian's story, I'm trying to use what I learned from my time as a Warlock. Tortured, somewhat ambiguous characters are loads of fun to write (and hopefully read). Just... don't forget to make it personal!
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Friday, May 3, 2013

I Bet He'd Kick A Puppy, Too

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“…and that’s why I hate orphans. It’s not their fault, I know. Product of their environment and all that bullcrap, but that is exactly the problem. We abdicate responsibility so easily these days, you know?”

Not really. Damian wiped at burning eyes. “I–”

Sonny rolled right on over him. “Of course you do. Listen, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. Made the flight almost pleasant for once.”

It was the first not-explicitly-hateful thing Damian had heard the man say. Even so, when Sonny reached into his pocket, Damian felt himself flinch. It didn’t help that the clunk of the cabin door opening timed up perfectly.

“Whoa, whoa buddy! Do you see a beard?” Sonny threw his head back in laughter, pulling out a piece of paper. “I just wanted to give you my card. Call me once you get settled into your hotel. Where did you say you were staying again? Let’s do drinks.”

Sonny pressed the card into Damian’s hand and, without waiting for a reply, strode down the aisle. Damian watched the man shoulder through several people in his quest to be the first off the plane.

What a strange and unpleasant fellow, Inigo said.
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Jumping Ahead

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I know, I just went back to the thread last week. Now, I'm jumping ahead. I wrote a very small but brand-spanking-new chunk this week. It tacks right on to the end of where I left off prior to my little life event. I'll be honest, it's probably the first cohesive bit I've written in like 6 months, so I'm sharing it. My mind seems to be getting back into gear.

The story left off with our hero trapped on a trans-Atlantic flight next to a very rude fellow named Sonny. This takes us to touch-down in Vienna, and straight into our next setting. I think my transitions are a bit jarring when reading sequentially (perhaps less so in the episodic nature of blog posts), but I'm rolling with it for this story. I think the benefit is that it cuts out a lot of unnecessary meandering. I'm trying to give you just the essentials. That's not always a bad thing.

Anyway, here 'tis...
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