Archive for November, 2009
by Jessa Slade on November 16th, 2009
Currently working on: Replotting Book 3
Mood: Annoyed (who plotted Book 3 the first time ’round?)
I love a good story. I am less enthused about “real life.” Real life is too often poorly plotted, with slow pacing, wimpy motivation and murky conflict. And a lot of times there are too many coincidences. And not enough sex.
For those reasons, I don’t read a lot of biographies. They just aren’t as engaging to me as a well-crafted, entirely fictional story. The parts I like of the “based on the true story” movies are the not-true parts. Although I make a few exceptions.
The movie GRIZZLY MAN is one of those exceptions. Not only is Werner Herzog an intriguing storyteller, his subject — an obsessed man and the unrelenting power of nature — was too engrossing to need fictionalizing.
But as anyone who has tried to convince a 9-year-0ld why he has to do his American history homework can tell you, history poorly told can be dry, disconnected and booooring. So I don’t usually feature a lot of real-life historical events or people in my stories.
Which was a bit of a problem when I decided to have immortal heroes in my Marked Souls series, many of whom were born in long-gone eras.
Even in a contemporary story, characters are influenced by historical events, whether from their own personal history or the times through which they lived. Having characters who have existed for a couple hundred years — experiencing times outside my personal knowledge and, really, my interest — was daunting.
And kind of fascinating. I started poking around in past events, looking for times when circumstances might have been such that the demons of my storyworld — repentant and otherwise — would have found plenty of vulnerable souls to possess.
Ferris Archer, the hero of SEDUCED BY SHADOWS (October 2009), was merely a farmer’s son — but a Southern farmer during the Civil War. One of the heartbreaking aspects of that particular war was the way it pitted brother against brother. Obviously, when better to rebirth a man pitted against himself?
In Book 2 of the series, FORGED OF SHADOWS (June 2010), Liam Niall’s soul was winnowed down to rotting pulp during the Irish Potato Famine. Though he has honed himself to a fighting edge when we meet him, that hunger is still inside and makes him vulnerable not just to the demon that took him but — decades later — to his heroine.
All through history, we’ve had times when men were challenged… and found wanting. I like this oppportunity to give them a second chance in my stories. Not that it’ll be easy, of course. It never is. And that’s true of fiction and real life both.
Which time period in history do you think created the most lost souls?
by Sharon Ashwood on November 12th, 2009
Accused by Booklist of writing “prose so steamy that it fogs one’s reading glasses,” Diane Whiteside is one of the reigning queens of hot romance. Her books—historical and paranormal—are also really great adventures: the wild west, river boat gamblers, and vampires! And who doesn’t love a book where an event at a SciFi convention can end the world? The lady’s bookshelf is nothing if not versatile.
Diane has kindly agreed to do an interview for us and S&S, and she’d like to give away one copy of CAPTIVE DESIRES and CAPTIVE DREAMS to a commenter. This contest will stay open until November 19.
PS, her website has a lot of wonderful book trailers. Do check it out.
Hi, Sharon! Thank you for inviting me to join you and your friends here at Silk and Shadows.
1. Tell us about your various series.
My Texas vampire series centers on Don Rafael, a 700 year old vampire, who was once a medieval Spanish knight and now leads all vampires in Texas and Oklahoma. A bitter war, rooted in centuries old betrayal, breaks out between him and Madame Hélène, the New Orleans vampire ruler. Into this walks Grania O’Malley, a very mortal veterinarian who shocks Don Rafael by possessing a two-way psychic link with him. She’s either his doom or his salvation – and he’s terrified to find out. Whatever happens to them will also affect the lives and happiness of every other vampire in his realm.
There are three books in the core trilogy – BOND OF BLOOD, BOND OF FIRE, and BOND OF DARKNESS. Each one has a core romance centering on a different couple. But the contemporary timeframe, which focuses on the present-day war, overlaps between the different books.
There’s also THE HUNTER’S PREY, a collection of short stories, which [mostly] occur before BOND OF BLOOD, “Red Skies at Night” (a standalone novella in the anthology UNLEASHED), and “Crimson Kisses” (a standalone short story in the anthology MAMMOTH BOOK OF VAMPIRE ROMANCE 2).
My Torhtremer series is based on two different books, CAPTIVE DREAMS and CAPTIVE DESIRES. (Some people call them the CAPTIVE books.) Two authors each find out that the heroes they thought only lived between the pages of epic fantasy novels are actually very real when they arrive on Earth. Torhtremer is based on Silk Road countries and is full of magic, dragons, and ancient kingdoms.
Mykhayl, CAPTIVE DREAMS’ hero, became Torhtremer’s High King after a long and bloody civil war. Only Corinne, the author who “created” the six Torhtremer novels, can cure the sterility she caused by having an ice serpent bite him during the final battle and give him the son he needs to stop his great enemy from returning. Unfortunately, his great enemy isn’t about to wait that long.
The Devils are a purely historical series, centered on an Irish-American family and the freighting empire they and their friends build amid the dangerous worlds of 1870’s America and 1900 Europe. THE IRISH DEVIL, the first book, is about William Donovan, the dynasty founder, who fights a corrupt silver mine owner for his true love during the Apache Wars’ worst days. THE RIVER DEVIL is a Missouri River steamboat pilot who must protect a young riverboat gambler (actually a runaway heiress) from her greedy fiancé and his past’s worst nightmares. THE SOUTHERN DEVIL follows two former lovers, who make a temporary alliance while racing to find buried Spanish treasure in the high Colorado Rockies. THE NORTHERN DEVIL sees a transcontinental railroad race in the dead of winter to save one man’s life, while a man who’d tear his arm off to protect his wife fights to save his unborn child’s life without destroying his wife’s love. KISSES LIKE A DEVIL pits a female student radical in 1900 Europe, who trusts no man and no country’s laws, against a handsome young American veteran, with the world’s most valuable secret weapon at stake.
2. Where does your current release, Captive Desires, fit in?
CAPTIVE DESIRES is the sequel to CAPTIVE DREAMS and the second in my Torhtremer series. It’s about Alekhsiy, the younger brother of Mykhayl, CAPTIVE DREAMS’ hero. He comes to one of Earth’s SF conventions to stop a new warrior from crossing the void to destroy Torhtremer. He doesn’t realize that Danae, the young dancer who saved his life dozens of times, is the only sorceress who can open the gate back to Torhtremer for his enemy – or him.
Alekhsiy has spent his life fighting far too many battles and making far too many bitter decisions. Danae was the only sure source of joy in his world. Must he make the most bitter choice of all and kill her, in order to save his world?
3. You have both very strong heroes and heroines. How do you balance their strengths so that one doesn’t overwhelm the other?
The hero almost always comes to me first, when I build a story. I like alpha males and I like to torture them. (So sue me.)
My acid test for the heroine is whether she is the hero’s nightmare – and his salvation. That makes her his equal, strength-wise. She can also be seen as his antagonist in some ways, for plotting purposes.
4. What do you feel makes your worlds unique?
I believe in making my stories’ worlds as realistic as possible and I love to do research. It’s easy for me, even fun, to do the work to make that happen, whether it’s pulling together tons of research or figuring out all the delicate little details of writing craft to sneak the worldbuilding into the story.
I also like to put in tactile details about the world. What does it smell like? Taste like? What do the surfaces feel like? There’s so much more to a new world than sight and sound.
5. What makes an interesting antagonist? Tell us about the best one you’ve written.
I’m usually not much interested in an antagonist who can be redeemed. I also believe he must be more powerful than the hero (and heroine combined, if this is a romance). It takes a lot of threat to sustain conflict throughout a book and my bad guys generally need both of these factors to pull that off. On the other hand, I believe the villain is always the hero of his own story. I may not be very interested in reading all of his book, which is why I don’t always characterize the antagonist as well as I might. But the villain should always have strong motivation and behave logically. Snidely Whiplashes need not apply for this job.
The best antagonist I’ve written is probably Hélène in the Texas vampire trilogy (BOND OF BLOOD, BOND OF FIRE, and BOND OF DARKNESS). All of the trilogy’s antagonists are motivated by love gone totally wrong. I understand them; I can even grieve for what happened to set their feet on these dark paths.
But Hélène? I contentedly loathed that vicious vampire queen when I wrote BOND OF BLOOD. But by the time I finished BOND OF FIRE and truly understood what she’d gone through…Well, I like to think I wouldn’t have made the same choices but I’m no longer quite as sure. Anybody who loves that strongly and then loses their beloved that violently and that suddenly might be entitled to a little mad grief.
Hélène scared me because I was no longer safely separate from my villains. I could no longer predict what kind of blackguards I’d write.
6. What do you have planned next? Are we going to see more of the Texas vampires?
My next book is THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS, the next volume in the Devil series, which will be published in June 2010. Gareth Lowell and Portia Townsend, the hero and heroine, finally get their story after being separately introduced in previous books and meeting each other in THE NORTHERN DEVIL. In 1887 Constantinople, only Gareth, a man who destroyed all of her childhood dreams, can help Portia save an empire – and stay alive.
I have a proposal to continue the Texas vampire series sitting on my editor’s desk. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she accepts it and lets me write more about them.
7. If you were to spend an afternoon with any of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
I would enjoy a very leisurely, sensual, Latin style afternoon with Don Rafael, exploring the delights of the siesta. There would be beautiful guitar music, some of it provided by him, of course! Some tango dancing with him, during which my skill level would miraculously increase. And need I mention the lovemaking, or would that be too much information?
I’d like to invite everyone to visit me at my website. They can find out more about my books, read lots of excerpts, or sign up for my newsletter where I chat about my latest news and send out special, members-only excerpts.
Thanks again for having me here –
by Annette McCleave on November 10th, 2009
…full of alpha males to conquer evil. At least, that’s the way it works in most paranormal romance series. I would have to say it’s true of my Soul Gatherer series—although, not all of the guys appear to be alphas to begin with. Some of them are masquerading as humorous sidekicks.
But let’s face it, to be worthy of a book of his own, the paranormal hero must be larger-than-life and the perfect match for our erstwhile heroine. He cannot be a milquetoast. He can’t talk his way out of trouble, at least not as standard operating procedure. The action can’t happen to him, he needs to step out to meet it, and bust his, uh, chops defeating the bad guy.
I know, I know. I like laid-back guys with a sense of humor, too. I really do. In fact, I started a story with one as the hero…
A back road in Derbyshire, 1467
“Stand and deliver!”
The coach rocked to a halt on the bumpy carriage trail. Inside, Ronald le Fou smiled reassuringly at his three female companions. “Fear not, ladies. ‘Tis only a midnight highwayman in search of a few pennies. I will see to the knave.”
He opened the door and leapt to the ground, brushing the wrinkles out of his travel-stained velvet jacket. Nodding to the frightened coachman, he walked to the front of the stranded carriage, smiling at the man who stood in the road, blocking their path.
“Look here, my good man. I’ve a purse full of silver deniers. Take them and be on your way.”
The shadowy figure draped head-to-toe in flowing black robes planted his boarhead staff in the mud. “I do not want your money. I’ve come for the girl.”
Ronald stared at the glistening drops of spittle that had landed on his jacket. “What girl?”
“The one known as the Lock.”
“The Lock? Don’t you mean the Key?”
“No, no. I have the Key. I need the Lock.”
“Is she a pretty blonde with skin like pearls and eyes like sapphires?” Ronald asked.
“A brunette with a radiant inner beauty and eyes the color of a spring meadow?”
“No.” The mysterious stranger shook his staff and a lightning bolt hit a tree behind the carriage. The tree toppled to the ground with a resounding crash, blocking their exit and startling the horses. “The redhead, you fool. Everyone knows a woman with mystical qualities must be a redhead.”
Ronald frowned. “But the redhead is my sister.”
“Give her to me now, or face an eternity in a demon dimension.”
“Hmmm.” Ronald let his tongue glide over the fangs in his mouth. “Since I’m already a demon, I’m not sure that threat delivers the impact you were looking for.”
The dark mage stepped forward, a snarl of rage distorting his pox-scarred face. “Give her to me.”
“You know,” Ronald said pleasantly. “If I give her to you, she’ll just break free at your first soliloquy and summon her boyfriend—that rather annoying immortal crusader with the huge Celtic tattoo on his shoulders. He’ll cut off your head with his sword, and it will all end badly. Are you sure you don’t want the purse of silver deniers?”
Raising both arms, chanting in a heretofore-unheard-of language, the mage called down another bolt of lightning.
It struck Ronald smartly and fried him into a big pile of dust.
The mage then…
See the problem? Nice guys don’t finish last in paranormal romances—they don’t finish at all. All those other arrogant, rough-around-the-edges immortals wandering through the story haven’t got the patience to deal with them. At least, that’s my theory.
Got a different theory? Step right up with your staff and share it.
by Jessa Slade on November 9th, 2009
Don’t forget: Jocelynn Drake is giving away a complete collection of her books. Comment through Thursday for a chance to win!
Currently working on: Google mapping a booksigning tour of Chicago
Mood: By the numbers
I read a funny rant about a imaginary series written around a group of Regency heroes, all friends – and all dukes, naturally — who despite being all alpha males somehow never suffered even a momentary burst of testosterone-induced aggression amongst themselves. And while intellectually I thought, well, yes, there’d probably be friction in such a group, I also thought, heck, I’d totally read that.
I love the ‘band of brothers’ trope. From Navy SEALs to vampiric cabals, I like when the manly heroes work together, support each other, yes, even love each other in a back-slapping sort of way. In reality, of course, we know they’d go all LORD OF THE FLIES on one another and there’d be no sequels.
But for the sake of romance, I think having our heroes start with the training wheels of a bromance teaches them some important life lessons:
1. Girls make better roommates.
Nothing ultimately prepares a man for commitment to a woman like living with other men. Sure, he’ll whine about the vast array of toiletries in the medicine cabinet and the lingerie hanging over the shower curtain rod, but he’ll choose that hands down over tightie-whities in the hall and his buddy using his toothbrush to augur out his Sig.
2. Girls make you grow a pair.
And I don’t just mean in a lustful way. While he’s living with his bros, a man is always given unspoken permission to never get over the mental and emotional wounds that prevent him from becoming a Hero. As Aristotle said of bromances (well, not really of bromances but of close friendships between men): ”It is those who desire the good of their friends for the friends’ sake that are most truly friends, because each loves the other for what he is, and not for any incidental quality.” That translates among the band as a “don’t ask, don’t tell… about anything” policy which is, no doubt, quite comfortable for them. And sadly limiting. Not that the heroine would ever put up with that.
3. Girls smell nice.
It’s been noted before that heroes — particularly paranormal heroes — have preternaturally keen senses of smell when it comes to their women. Doesn’t get mentioned so much when they’re talking about their brothers, which — considering the fragrance of a typical locker room — leads me to believe that living a bromance first improves tact and diplomacy.
Most of all though, life with his band of brothers teaches the hero:
4. Even lone wolves get lonely.
So who writes your favorite band of brothers stories? I call JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, although there’re enough of them to share even if I double up
by Sharon Ashwood on November 5th, 2009
There are authors that are sneak attack artists.
The first book of the Dark Days series came to me in a conference book bag at the WorldCon in Calgary last year. As sometimes happens under these circumstances, Nightwalker languished in the TBR pile until one day I grabbed it as I was heading out the door for an appointment and needed something to kill time. Well, it turned out to be one of those can’t-put-it-down, go-away-and-let-me-read experiences. I became instantly hooked on Mira and Danaus (this couple redefines mutual attraction and conflict) and have never thought about nature spirits in quite the same way since.
We’re honoured to have Jocelynn Drake join us, and she’s offering a complete collection of her books and stories to one commenter. This fabulous prize includes the Unbound anthology, Nightwalker, Dayhunter, and Dawnbreaker. This contest closes Thursday, November 12.
Keeper of Her Domain
Within the Dark Days series, one of the main characters is a nightwalker by the name of Mira. She’s like most nightwalkers her age (which is more than 600 years old). She’s cocky and over-confident and at times, more than a little reclusive. Yet the one thing that she does take seriously is the protection of her domain. Within the series, a domain is a swath of area that a nightwalker claims as his or her own. It usually encompasses a city, but in some cases, it can encompass an entire county or countries. The ruler of this domain is called the Keeper.
A Keeper’s main duty is to keep the peace, which in truth translates into making sure that their secret does not get out to the humans. Mira is forced to hunt down any nightwalker who steps out of line and threatens to reveal the secret. In addition, it is her task to clean up any messes, such as dead nightwalker bodies that fall into the hands of the humans. As a result, she had formed a friendship not only with the county coroner, but also with one of the local homicide detectives as well.
Mira takes her job very seriously, and not just because her life is on the line should she fail. She loves her home of Savannah, Georgia. She loves its massive Live Oak trees and old homes. She loves the scattering of squares throughout the historic district and the nightlife the lines River Street. This is one of the few places during the long existence that she had been willing to call home and she will do whatever it takes to protect its inhabitants, and that includes protecting the humans from her own kind.
As the series opens, Mira is content to limit her attention to her own domain and not give a care as to what is happening within the rest of the nightwalker nation. It is all beyond her notice as she keeps her attention solely focused on the protection of Savannah. However, the arrival of a vampire hunter by the name of Danaus heralds dark news that a long-caged race called the naturi are attempting to break free so that they could resume their ultimate goal of destroying all of mankind in their efforts to protect the earth.
Mira was among those that stopped the naturi from escaping five centuries ago and she knows that she is capable of stopping them again. The naturi threaten more than her domain, but all nightwalkers and their way of life. As Mira and Danaus join together to fight the naturi, Mira finds herself being drawn deeper and deeper into the politics of her own people until she is forced to take on a new role in an effort to protect her own kind from not only the threat of the naturi, but the threat of some of those in leadership roles.
Mira would have been content to spend the rest of her existence as the Keeper of her domain, but her sense of duty and responsibility keeps her from turning a blind eye to those in need. And right now, her people need her.
by Sharon Ashwood on November 4th, 2009
Congratulations to Raelena, the winner of Lori Devoti’s prize last week. Also, happy reading to our winners from our chat last Thursday: Natasha, Donna, Lee, Adrian and Stacy!
Stay tuned for our next contest on Thursday, when Jocelynn Drake joins us to talk about her fabulous urban fantasy vampire series. Be sure to stop by and comment – she’s giving away the complete set.
by Sharon Ashwood on November 4th, 2009
I’m always fascinated by the traditional idea that all vampires are rich. Presumably this is a function of two things:
One: they have a castle or two somewhere in Eastern Europe stuffed with valuable heirlooms and
Two: they all get rich because they live forever.
These are of course fallacies. Castles are expensive to run–which undoubtedly explains the mandatory tropes of cobwebs, skeletons and other signs of residential neglect. Housekeepers are expensive. Plus, it’s a good thing Vlad’s a corpse, because heating the old family pile costs a small fortune all on its own. Flogging the family silver on eBay is only going to net so much cash. Nope, he’s better off in a condo.
As far as amassing a fortune over time goes, that would depend on one’s business sense. Just because somebody’s Undead, that doesn’t mean she or he’s good with investments. I don’t care how long I linger on this planet, I’m never going to fully understand derivatives.
I figure the number of financial whiz kids in the supernatural community is about the same as in the human population. They exist, but they’re in the minority. Some will, with luck and experience, have a nest egg for those days when it rains angry villagers with pitchforks—but that wouldn’t cover the day to day necessities of black leather and styling gel. So, at least some of my characters work. Some even like the satisfaction of a job well done.
What occupations they have depends on their talents and skills. Mac, the hero of SCORCHED, was a cop before his luck ran out and after that he remains, more or less, a kind of cop. He’s the type of guy who identifies with his career. My werewolf is a computer science professor, my werecougar a journalist, and my witch had to go back to school because she couldn’t figure out the business side of ghostbusting. What they do is a big part of who they are and how they fit into society. When I say the werewolf is the first of his family to pursue an academic career, to escape the family construction business and strike out on his own, we learn a fair amount about who he is before we even get to the business of being furry. He’s an educator, a dreamer, and a solver of puzzles, and that all comes together in his classroom.
Who we are is a complex bundle of factors that includes the daily grind. Because a lot of my stories revolve around how non-humans fit in a human world, the work world is a goldmine for humour and character quirks. It’s also a great source of conflict.
After all, who hasn’t had at least one co-worker who was a good candidate for a flesh-eating monster in disguise?
by Annette McCleave on November 3rd, 2009
I enjoy torturing my characters. I get a kick out of making them face impossible challenges, battle sinuous evil, and survive harrowing events that threaten to rip away everything important to them.
Which is why I force many of them to have day jobs.
Admit it, didn’t I just describe your average day at the office? From what I’ve observed, sinuous evil takes many forms: Bag lunches disappearing from the communal fridge; photocopiers that jam just when you’ve got a hundred reports to produce; brown-nosing co-workers who always manage to snag the free tickets to the baseball game. Not that I’m pointing fingers.
As Jessa mentioned yesterday, being an immortal demon slayer has a save-the-universe urgency that can’t be contained to pre- and post-work hours. But the world of Drawn into Darkness is a lot like the world we live in, and people are all too eager to tell the tabloids about that weird guy who lives next door. Thus, even immortals need to LOOK normal.
Some of my characters stick to standard job fare, like my heroine Rachel in Drawn into Darkness, who works a 9 to 5 job (Ha! I really mean 8 to 6 with homework) at a local high tech firm. She has a boss who—as Rachel puts it—“stalked the halls like a lion, pouncing on the slightest pause in activity”. Rachel’s job causes her a lot of extra conflict when she’s forced to take on a powerful demon to save her daughter. Let’s face it, even after the demon’s dead, you still need to pay the rent. Poor Rachel, tortured by her author.
Other characters, especially the ones who used to have jobs as sword-wielding knights, have fake jobs, just for appearances. Lachlan MacGregor, the hero of Drawn into Darkness, disguises himself as a priest. He’s got a couple of reasons why he chose that profession, but dressing the way he does certainly simplifies his explanations when he’s caught hovering around a dead body. Which, as a Soul Gatherer, is a daily risk.
Brian Webster, the male lead from the second Soul Gatherer book, Bound by Darkness, used to be a stockbroker (back when he was alive). Now, he uses his investment skills to keep himself in designer suits. Conveniently, investing is not a job that requires regular office hours, so he can pause to battle evil whenever and where ever it pops up.
The heroine in Bound is a thief. Lena steals ancient artifacts and sells them on the black market. She’s got her reasons, which I won’t reveal here. Problem is, being a thief isn’t a job you take on to ‘fit in’. In fact, she doesn’t mention her little hobby to her neighbors—the business card she hands around at block parties labels her an antiquities dealer.
Personally, I love imagining people’s alter-egos. Got anyone at work who you’re certain moonlights as a vampire? Can you imagine the woman in the next cubby with a lab in her basement worthy of Dr. Horrible? A mild-mannered co-worker who might be save the world in his spare time? No need to name names. Just tell us what you think their secret persona is…good or evil.
by Jessa Slade on November 2nd, 2009
Currently working on: A dreadful synopsis
I read a post on a writing site awhile ago wondering why so many paranormal heroes don’t have real jobs. What? Like saving the world doesn’t count?! Sheesh.
When I was imagining the world of the Marked Souls, I thought about giving my immortal demon-possessed heroes day jobs. I’ve read vampire rock stars and werewolf business men, fairy mechanics and superhero reporters; certainly there was something gainful for my heroes to do when they weren’t obliterating evil. After all, they’d had jobs before their possession. Ferris Archer, in SEDUCED BY SHADOWS, grew up thinking he’d be a farmer like his father before him; then the Civil War and a demon got him. Liam Niall, in FORGED OF SHADOWS, was a blacksmith before he half starved during the Irish Potato Famine and started pounding the hell — literally — out of demons.
But the logistics of applying for employment in today’s world got a bit harried.
For one thing, my heroes are immortal. Which drives the Human Resources department nuts. The immortal bit negates the demand for health insurance, but how do you set up a 401K with employer matching when the employee will be around forever? Unless of course he’s brutally slaughtered one night during his second job which puts an unnecessary burden on his co-workers.
Speaking of second jobs, my league of talyan — warriors possessed by repentant demons — roam the streets of Chicago all night, draining the malevolent, chaotic energies from demons of the nonrepenting kind. So they’d have to take the day shift. But when would they sleep? Presumably, as immortals with the strength and speed of their inner demons, they could get their jobs done and still catch a few hours of sleep, but then when would they find time for love scenes?
Nope, a real job just wasn’t working out. They’d have to be content with battling evil and saving the world.
Secretly, I suspect the reason many paranormal romance authors don’t give their heroes real jobs is because we don’t want day jobs either. It’s as much work for us to throw obstacles in our characters’ paths as it is for them to overcome. It’d be a joy to stay home at my computer and confound them all day. But until that particular dream comes true, I’ll just have to envy them their vocations. With the exception of the brutally slaughtered part, of course.
If you were a heroine in your personal storyworld, would your day job get in the way, or would it help you preserve your cover? Which skills would serve you in both lives?