Saturday, January 26, 2019

Playing Favorites? A Few Characters Come to Mind

This week’s topic is who is my favorite character from all my own books…given that I have well over 25 published works, each with quite a cast of characters, that’s a tall order, to pick just one. I’m in agreement with what someone said earlier this week – the book I’m writing at the moment is my favorite and therefore I guess it would follow that the people in those pages are also my favorites.

But that makes for a very short post! The general wisdom when asked a test-like question is to go with the first answer that comes to mind and so I’ll share with you that Johnny Danver from Mission to Mahjundar and Hostage to the Stars immediately showed up. He was the secondary character in Mission, the intrepid and loyal Special Forces sergeant accompanying the hero on a mission to a primitive planet to search for survivors of a crash in a remote mountain area. Mike the hero, who is also Johnny’s cousin, gets himself entangled in all kinds of adventure and problems, after falling in love with a princess on her way to an arranged marriage…and Johnny is there guarding his six (watching his back) through all of it. Saving his bacon a few times…

Readers had been asking me for Johnny’s story for a long time and I wanted to give him a chance to be front and center but had to wait for just the right story to come along. Then I got inspired by some research I was doing on how our present day Special Forces conduct rescues of hostages and there was the perfect framework. So Johnny gets pulled from a well-deserved retirement back on his home world (he volunteers in order to keep his cousin Mike at home with his pregnant bride) and rushed off to be an advisor for a hostage rescue…and nothing goes smoothly after that.

Turns out the alien warlord had more than one hostage from the Sectors but the team of soldiers he’s with only cares about the one woman they were sent in to retrieve. Johnny’s not having that.

Here’s the pivotal moment:
     “Just fyi, I’m goin’ for the other woman,” Johnny said. “You have a nice flight home to base. Don’t forget to tell them I’m here. Good luck to you, Ms. Immer.”
     “Who the hell do you think you are, sergeant?” The captain’s voice was tense and angry. “You don’t get to change mission parameters to suit yourself. I don’t care if you’re in the goddamn Special Forces or not, I gave you a direct order. We’re not going after any other civilians this trip.”
     “No, you’re not, I see that.” Johnny couldn’t keep the contempt out of his voice. “In my branch of the service, we don’t leave people behind. In case it’s escaped your notice, I’m not under your command. Special Forces operates independently.”
     Holding his pulse rifle where it could conveniently be considered a threat by Captain Scortun if he was feeling paranoid, Johnny backed away. None of the other soldiers wanted to challenge him.
     “We’re not waiting for you,” Scortun yelled. “When our shuttle lands, we’re gone.”
     “Good riddance,” he said under his breath, as he faded into the underbrush and slipped away down the steep hillside.

I’m also quite fond of Mara Lyrae, a tough no-nonsense business woman in Wreck of the Nebula Dream, who refuses to get off the ship in one of the few lifeboats because there are children trapped in debris and she won’t leave them to die. She and Nick the hero set off to rescue them and the adventure spirals from there. Mara, an agent for the interstellar Loxton company, is full of surprises all through the novel.

Here’s one such moment: Nick opened his pack, literally throwing his spare uniforms and few personal possessions onto the deck, coming up with his blasters. Cradling one awkwardly in the crook of his arm, he buckled the belt and holster on.
     “What will you do with the spare?” Khevan worked to buckle his own gun belt on, slamming the ominously red, ornate blaster in place in the holster with a satisfied smile.
     Nick considered for a minute. “Thinking I’ll give it to Mara.”
    “She has a level head,” was Khevan’s approving assessment. “I believe she’d use it effectively.”
     “Use what effectively?” Mara rejoined them. “Oh, the blaster?” Reaching out, she took the weapon from Nick, expertly checking it over, noting the charge level, flicking the safety off. She hefted it, taking a bead on a particularly garish tote bag across the hold. In a blur of motion, she fired a quick, low-level shot right through the center of the bag.
     Mouth hanging open, Nick gaped at her. “Fast learner?”
    “Loxton agents take training on the civilian version of this.” She chuckled at his expression. “Didn’t you know? We’re licensed to carry concealed weapons all the way up to the civilian Mark Fifteen. This kicks harder, but it’s basically the same, yes?”

One of my favorites from my ancient Egyptian paranormal novels is Tyema, high priestess of Sobek in a remote province, who ends up going to Pharaoh’s court in Thebes at the god’s command. Tyema has crippling anxiety as a result of a childhood trauma, yet overcomes the challenges to carry out the mission from Sobek and resolve her relationship with the dashing Sahure, a high ranking noble who teaches her to drive a chariot. I really enjoyed the many aspects of writing this story and depicting Tyema’s personal growth over the course of the novel. Plus of course I always enjoy writing novels set in ancient Egypt.
Here’s a moment where Tyema demonstrates her inner strength:
     Tyema sat back in her chair as the men discussed the arrangements for the procession. The city officials were also silent for the most part, apparently in the meeting to receive instructions, not to make suggestions. She had no opinion about the parade, the local Sobek priests knew their own city and how to organize things here. Perhaps she would have put the second troupe of dancing girls before the sacred image of Sobek, not after as they were going to do, but Tyema had no feeling it mattered to the Crocodile God, so she only nodded when Pharaoh courteously asked her opinion.
     The high priest continued his rundown of the sequence of events. “And when we arrive at the temple, I’ll greet you with the hymn of the seventh hour—”
     “After I’ve sung the hymn of the Abundant Nile,” Tyema said. She felt a tightening in her gut, sure now they would be in opposition. He’d rather I played no part in the day’s ceremonies. He probably wishes I’d just sent the crocodile with only old Hotepre for escort. Well, for that matter, so do I, but the Great One wanted it otherwise.
     The older priest cleared his throat for a moment, blinking. Clearly he wasn’t used to being interrupted. “No need for you to exert yourself, I’m sure. It’s one of the older, less well known hymns after all.  You can sing a brief blessing on the bask at the end of the ceremonies, if you wish. Now then, as I was saying—”
     "The Great One Sobek particularly enjoys the ‘Abundant Nile’, since it praises his efforts to keep the life giving waters flowing freely,” Tyema said, cutting across his words, her voice clear. “As he is sending his crocodile to you, personally selected by him, we need to thank him appropriately.”
        The men from the Theban temple gawked at her. Color becoming even hotter in his gaunt cheeks, the high priest blew out a breath. “My dear girl, we’re duly conscious of the honor the Great One does us here at Thebes. I merely see no need to slow the tempo of the ceremony with additional music. The crowd will naturally wish to see the crocodile installed in the pond as soon as possible.”
       “As High Priestess, it’s my responsibility to conduct the crocodile to your temple and to make the official transfer in proper order,” she said, not at all abashed by his dismissive manner. When it came to anything regarding her duty to Sobek, Tyema felt as if some measure of his strength ran in her veins, and no condescending old man from Thebes could silence her. “I’ll sing ‘Abundant Nile,’ after which you can sing whatever you feel is most appropriate to accept the gift of Sobek and then we’ll proceed to the pond. Whether our audience is one person or ten thousand people, we must honor the Great One Sobek properly.”
        "Well,” Pharaoh said, his voice solemn but his eyes twinkling, “The list of songs is decided then.”