Friday, 4 December 2015

Who is who in the Knight Agency

Hello again! After my last post about the Knight Agency, here’s the promised one about the main characters. I promise to do my best not to spoil anything here. I’m also mainly going to list the team and Jane’s friends from her ‘official life.’

Jane Browne: She’s the main and viewpoint character. Jane is twenty-five and has been working as an active agent for Branch Two for five years now. She started training for her job at ten - which is pretty regular for her branch. Her specialities (specific abilities not everyone in her branch has) are breaking and entering and assassination. She already earned her nickname (not all agents gain one, it’s given to them by their peers) and is known as the Ice Queen, because of her cold-blooded and ruthless character. Jane’s official life is that of a rich heiress living apart from her father (she doesn’t really have one, she’s an orphan), she’s situated in London.

Steven Quinn: He’s Jane’s mentor, handler (meaning: general assistance), and father figure. Steven is sixty-eight and a former agent of Branch Two. He spent twenty-three years of his life teaching the future agents about assassination techniques and retired from his post as instructor when Jane went into active service, so he could become her handler. His specialities are assassination and piloting - as Jane says once: you get something airborne, he can fly it. He has a nickname which has already become legendary: the Reaper, because he killed over a thousand enemies during his active service. Steven officially lives as a retired businessman in a suburb of London.

Zackary Brock: He’s a Branch One agent, an exemplary soldier and leader. Brock is twenty-eight and proved himself in the army  before becoming a Knight Agent. His path first crossed with Jane’s during a stakeout mission. Later on he became part of a team investigating an internal threat to the Agency and has become a partner Jane can thoroughly rely on during any kind of mission. He’s also a trained and certified bodyguard. Brock has earned his nickname as well, his colleagues call him the White Knight, because he’s a born protector and always fights for what is right. Like all Branch One agents, he lives directly in the compound.

Frank Lucas: He’s a Branch Three agent with the ability to get everything everywhere (as his superior puts it once). Frank is twenty-six and worked in several companies before being recruited by the Agency. His path crossed Jane’s at the same time as Brock’s (and Liam’s), during the same stakeout mission. He was also part of the same team later on. Frank can get his hands on everything which might be needed and has a lot of contacts on the black market. He lives in the compound as well, mostly for practical reasons.

Liam Fawkes: He’s a Branch Four agents, an excellent engineer and prolific inventor. Liam is twenty-four and was recruited right out of university (which he attended early). Liam was part of the same stakeout and investigation team. He invented several useful objects for Jane already and will continue to do so, as you can’t leave him in a room with a box of trash without him making something useful out of it. He is shy towards most people, but very loyal to friends. He lives in the compound as well, mostly because he spends most of his waking hours in the R&D department anyway.

Edith Grand: She’s a Branch One agent as well, a very good and level-headed soldier. Grand is twenty-six and was recruited around the same time around which she was overlooked again as member for a special squad. She accompanied Jane on an investigation mission after Brock was injured, standing in for her colleague, and became a regular member of the team. She is an extremely good driver and can handle the large troop transports of Branch One (and every other vehicle) with unparalleled ease. She’s unusually tall and strong for a woman. Like Brock, she’s a trained and certified bodyguard. Like every Branch One agent, she lives in the compound.

Sir Frederic Powell: He’s Jane’s and Steven’s superior, head of Branch Two. Sir Frederic is sixty-eight and started training in the same year as Steven, they also went through some missions together in the past. He is not a born leader (according to Sir Howard), but leads the branch very well. Even though Jane’s briefing and debriefing usually goes through Steven, there have been many cases in which he has briefed her or the team himself - more often than not together with Sir Leonard. He lives outside London, but often spends several days completely in the compound.

Sir Leonard Adams: He’s Brock’s and Grand’s superior, head of Branch One. Sir Leonard is seventy and a highly respected former agent of his branch. He has a tight grip on his agents and soldiers and doesn’t accept any misbehaviour. He also has a weak spot for both Jane and Steven, who earned his respect the hard way. He has recently started to ‘borrow’ Jane from Sir Frederic for rescue missions or other missions which include scouting and/or ‘removing of obstacles’ (the latter usually happens with a knife). He lives in the outskirts of London, not far from the compound.

Sir Howard Blythe: He’s the current head of the Knight Agency. Sir Howard is eighty-one and a former agent himself (so far, the branch he belonged to has not been disclosed). He considers the world his chessboard and his agents the chess pieces. He is a highly accomplished chess player and an extremely experienced interrogation specialist. He considers Jane his most powerful piece on the board, because she is very versatile. As a result of this, he often gives her missions slightly outside her realm of experience to extend her abilities. He has also taken to teach both Jane and Brock chess, in order to make them more accomplished and dangerous agents. He lives in Blythe Manor right above the compound.

Cynthia Wilmington: She is Jane’s best friend and closest confidante outside the Agency. Cynthia is twenty-five and from a noble family. She is usually a very happy and hyper person with a big heart and hidden steel in her personality. Since the death of her mother, she has little contact with her father. She is in the process of taking over her mother’s company and strives to become an accomplished businesswoman. She has recently moved out of her apartment and now lives in a house she has inherited from her mother, where she employs Martin, the butler her mother hired shortly before she died. Cynthia and Martin are among the very few people outside the Agency who know Jane’s true identity.

Stacy McIntyre: She’s another of Jane’s close friends. Stacy is twenty-three and comes from ‘old money.’ She is a very flirty girl, but has started a long-term relationship recently. Even though she usually takes things day by day, she’s not as superficial as she might seem to others. She lives in her own apartment in London and is usually happy with spending her days doing whatever she fancies at that time.

Myra Featherstone (née Hooper): She’s the third of Jane’s close friends. Myra is twenty-six and considered nouveau riche by London’s high society. She’s a rather relaxed girl who likes driving fast, vegetarian food, and her steady boyfriend Aaron. Recently, she married him, but it didn’t happen without drama. Myra and Aaron now share a nice apartment in London and are building up their life together.

Rush: Agent Rush from Branch One is a steady thorn in Jane’s, Brock’s, and Grand’s collective side. He’s an arrogant and sexist agent who considers women beneath him, but also is healthily afraid of Jane - who has killed him in several messy ways in her mind over time.

These are all recurring characters (including Aaron Featherstone, who doesn’t have his own paragraph, since he’s usually a proxy to Myra), but far from the only people you will meet in the novels. I have also left out characters which not yet play their own important role in the story (although I’m pretty sure Sir Abraham and Lady Maria are going to do so soon).

If you wonder about Jane’s love interests - as she says: they don’t count. Why? You’ll have to find out about that yourself…

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Knight Agency: Introduction

I added a third story to the Knight Agency series last month, writing almost 78,000 words in 18 days this time. “Crime Pays Sometimes” will make a nice addition to “Secret Keeper” and “Key Pieces.” I even have ideas for two more stories in my mind - though one would be an ‘alternate reality’ story based on something Jane and Steven make up in the third novel. Since this series definitely is here to stay, I have decided to do a little introduction to the Knight Agency and the main characters of my books here. This post is about the Knight Agency, a post with the characters will follow later.

So what is the Knight Agency?

It’s an international secret organisation financing itself through several fronts and the connection to other companies. Founded around 1000 A.D. by a group of knights set on protecting their realm, it protects mankind from internal and external threats alike.

How is it organized?

The Knight Agency currently is composed of four ‘branches’ which each specialize in another area. Branch One is Battle, made up once of knights, now of soldiers recruited from armies all over the world. Branch Two is Infiltration, made up of those who do the dishonourable work, its agents are orphans, recruited as children. Branch Three is support, made up of businesspeople, administrators, and politicians, recruited for their abilities. Branch Four, the youngest branch and barely thirty years old, is Technology and made up of hackers, engineers, and other technicians, recruited directly from colleges and universities.
The knights forming Branch One quickly realized they needed someone to do all the dishonourable work: stealing, betraying, spying, assassinating. They started to take in orphans who could completely disappear from society. Branch Two was born. Later, both branches realized they needed someone for supplies, for tools and weapons. Branch Three came to life, also taking over the more and more complex administration of the Agency. Recently, Branch Four was split off from Branch Three to deal with technology in any form.
There is a certain enmity between Branch One and Branch Two, many soldiers seeing the infiltration specialists as cowards, whereas quite some Branch Two agents consider the soldiers to be fools for their obsession over honour - which is something an infiltration specialist can’t afford to have. However, recent events have created a friendship between the heads of Branch One and Branch Two and thus curbed the enmity quite a bit.
Each branch has a head and the whole Knight Agency has a head above those four. The current leaders are Sir Leonard Adams, Branch One, Sir Frederic Powell, Branch Two, Sir Robert Logan, Branch Three, and Sir Charles Evans, Branch Four. Above them stands Sir Howard Blythe as head of the Agency.

What does it do?

The Knight Agency considers itself ‘the thin red line which separates order from chaos.’ It’s the first line of their internal code of conduct. In essence, the Knight Agency keeps watch over mankind, identifying and neutralizing threats. It does matter little whether the threat is against all mankind or just against one person or one family.

What places do they have?

The headquarter, referred to as the ‘compound,’ is situated outside London beneath the venerable Blythe Manor, which is always occupied by the current Sir Blythe. It stretches over a large area and several levels and has grown into a subterranean town over the centuries.
In addition, the Agency has outlying bases all over the world (two bases in Ireland and Scotland being the latest additions) and several safe-houses for hiding and protecting those who need protection.
Branch Two agents, who are set up with identities to suit the needs of the Agency, usually also live in houses or apartments owned by the Agency.

This is a short overview over the Knight Agency, merely the basics. More is to come, once I introduce the main characters, most of which are working there…

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Enter the Agent

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I have been writing a spy story - now it’s two. Currently, I plan to rename “Secret Keepers” to “Secret Keeper” and I will rename the second novel “Key Pieces.” And, yes, they are novels. After adding two half-chapters to properly round up story one, it’s only about 400 words short of 60,000 (and requirements for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words, anyway). The second one almost reaches 65,000 words and is definitely over the limit.

After looking through my bullet journal (which I’ve kept for over a year now) and tracing the days on which I really wrote (I put the story and the amount of words written in there every day), I found out I needed 13 days (12 originally and yesterday when I added the two half-chapters) for the first novel and 17 days for the second one. Both are still in first draft, there will be changes for both of them, especially the first where I was still finding my feet in the world of the Knight Agency and Agent Browne. Yet, I have written more in October than I have written before. I have kept writing day by day, have written at least one chapter per day, have never stopped before I had written at least a full chapter. Why? Because it was fun, because the stories kept evolving in my head. Because I wanted to see where it would go.

I still have a lot of work to do with those stories - I need to edit them properly, I need to find an artist to do the cover art for me, I need to publish them on Amazon. Because this time, I will play for keeps. This time I will self-publish and see if anyone likes them.

And then? There’s already stuff for a third story going through my mind. Spy stories might be a great place for me to play and work, because they’re adventure stories and because I like putting my characters in strange situations and get them out of them again. Jane is very good at thinking on her feet, so I can throw at her whatever I wish. If she can’t handle it, she has friends to help, lots of them: Steven, Brock, Frank, Liam, Edith, Cynthia, Martin, Stacy, Myra, Aaron, and the heads of the Knight Agency for a start. Others will come, I’m sure.

The Knight Agency has already survived for a thousand years … may it also survive a lot of stories in the future.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Amazing Ride on the Muse's Horse

Thirteen days ago, on the 29th of September, I started up a new story from a little idea. I had just watched “Kingsman - the Secret Service” (a great spy movie, in my humble opinion) and thought about writing a little story about a female version of James Bond - a strong, independent female agent. As usually, it didn’t go according to plan.

Why do I give a date here? Because in thirteen days, I wrote over 56,000 words, an average of little under two chapters of about 3,000 words each a day. That’s about twice the length of anything I’ve successfully written so far. The muse grabbed me by the scruff of my neck, threw me over her horse, and galloped who-knew-where.

In the beginning, Jane complied well enough. For a very short time, she even was Jane Bond in my head, but then I decided that would be too obvious and changed her last name to Browne. Steven Quinn came in as replacement for ‘Q’ - hence his last name. But Steven complied less than Jane and she decided to go along with his lead. They handed me their own life stories, they handed me their abilities, they handed me their emotions. And the story turned. A little heist for the beginning, just to warm up. An agent specialised on breaking and entering with a front as rich heiress and a handler who did research and plotting in the background. A girl disappearing from foster care at the age of ten, after going through twenty foster homes in the course of seven years. A man who, albeit old by now, once rightfully earned the nickname ‘Reaper’ from his peers in secret service. An old villain, created long ago, waved her hand, bangles clinking, and demanded to be put on stage. Buried ideas for the story around her came along as well.

I forgot about James Bond, because Jane became a person of her own right. A woman who definitely didn’t fit the mould of female leads in the world of Hollywood. A woman who wouldn’t cry over a broken heart, but spread the ex-boyfriend’s brain generously over a nearby wall. A woman with a hidden power which was both a little super and a lot terrifying. Not ‘shaken, not stirred,’ but never broken, never bent. No waif, but an athletic woman keeping fit with kickboxing and parcours. No long waves of hair, but a practical pixie cut. Good for her interest in sports and an advantage in close-quarter fighting. No high heels, but sneakers, unless heels are a necessary part of the whole package.

Everyone else had to keep up with that. The handler who also is mentor and father figure to her, yet a man who can still scare people with a glare, if he desires. The organisation which is so secret even the MI6 doesn’t know about it. The fellow agents, especially the elite soldier. And, most of all, the enemy. I played that card carefully, as not to over-expose her. I gave her an army of henchmen, I gave her confidantes to act in her name.

Ideas and scenes flooded my mind and I started putting them in order. One heist, a second heist, a first meeting with the villain, some hard action, a little time lying low, more action - the story unravelled faster than I could write. It kept me working deep into the night, then pushed me out of bed again early in the morning. The moment my mind was awake enough to think about the story, it continued to write itself, reworking scenes I had not yet written, adding new scenes to the mix. My outline of 8 chapters (estimated at 2,500 words each) was completely eradicated. I kept adding chapters, pushing back scenes to make part for other stuff I absolutely needed. Chapters more often scraped 3,000 words than staying around 2,500. Agents designed as helpmates for one heist became a team for later in the game.

It was glorious and horrifying at the same time. I wrote a story more than twice as long as my usual work. Now I have to prepare it and to send it out into the world. And I think reading it again will be just as breathtaking as writing it was.