Jo from the cover of Do You Believe in Legend?Eight days and no progress on either bar. I’ve been busy behind the scenes, though.  Had some computer projects to take care of, but also several major brain dumping sessions with my main character Jo.  During them, I learned about her history of undercover operations. I still don’t know the details of every one, but I now at least know how and why Jo does things, both as herself and other people.

The why and hows of Jo’s creation

In 1986, when I first created Jo, I wanted a smart and strong female lead. At the time, there weren’t that many on television or in the movies.  There had been glimpses in Wonder Woman and The Secrets of Isis (1975) and The Bionic Woman (1976), but those required some sort of superhero gimmick. Captain Katherine Janeway, of Star Trek: Voyager and Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess (1995), Samantha Carter of Stargate: SG 1 and Buffy Summers in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (1997), Sydney Bristow of Alias (2001), Dr. Helen Magnus of Sanctuary (2007), and the female doctors in ER and Grey’s Anatomy (1994 and 2005, respectively) were more real and relatable.

Jo was always going to be a tough, no-nonsense character struggling to overcome her fear of horses when we first met her. Flaws, like having a son out of wedlock and having a problem with alcohol, happened because I wanted the character to be believable and identifiable. The development of Honeywell, her shadow, came because I needed to beef up Spirit‘s storyline, especially during the middle of part when even I didn’t know what happened to her.

The modifications

My fascination with people not being who they seem drives my approach to my characters.  The Incredible HulkMission: Impossible, the Wonder Twins in Superfriends, and stories and legends of werewolves, shape-shifters, undercover operatives, and the Phoenix have all intrigued me. I also want to fight the shallowness of predictable and superficial characters any way I can.

A few years back, I jotted down the idea of a story called Jim, where Jo’s twin went undercover to vindicate one of their brothers.  The op went wrong and Jim ended up tortured and transformed into this creature who killed at the mention of his siblings’ name. Jo finds out where he is, orders a rescue, goes ballistic when no one wants to help her,  and ends on the run with him, fighting both the USMB and the cartel who changed Jim.  The story is still part of the series, but under a different title and with events that reflect the evolution of series.

Reworking Spirit before its publication brought about quite these few changes. For example, Bill, Command Security and Casper Nolan. All three were part of the series, but in a more mild way. In the original version of the book, Casper was simply seeking revenge for losing command of USMBLA to Jo. Command Security was a specialized unit used to protect valuable assets and personnel.  Bill was a quiet giant who used his strength and intelligence to protect Jo. Now, we have a clan war between the Masons and Nolans, a unit of emotionless assassins, and a doctor who suppresses his emotions and has a propensity for violence when his sister’s threatened or he’s pushed too far.  Changing all three has added more facets and story lines to the series as well as giving me a chance to take a few characters into some dark places. I’m sure not dark enough for some people, but then I’m more comfortable with the Jedi side of the Force, instead of the Sith.

Past history and future plans

Jim’s stint as a Hound actually inspired the transformation of the CSG unit and Jo’s past history as one of the unit’s faceless members. Me wanting to know if Jo had done anymore undercover work triggered the brain dump.  As a result of everything I learned, the series now has twenty-six books in its core and for good reason. I can’t go through the details of all of Jo’s undercover ops without creating yet another series, or at least several more books in SOH. The new book is my compromise with myself.

In Spirit, we learn that Jo’s cousin Jeff isn’t her real cousin, but someone from the future who replaced him.  During the trip back in time, the crew was exposed to alternative timelines. A few went insane. Since Jo was on the same trip and carrying some heavy mental baggage, it seems logical that she would need a check up afterwards. Lost Souls is that check up and gives me a chance to delve into some of Jo’s more interesting characters.  Even with the main plot line of the check up tying everything together,  the story will be written more like an anthology with each chapter involving an undercover persona being self-contained.

More Progress

Look for progress in Legend‘s bar this week… I have only four months until the end of 2016 and all my social media banners have the year on the cover, so I must deliver. I’m also in the process of developing a new website. The website is called Meet the Indies and it’s going to a sister site to Right the Writer. With around thirty books and authors on RTW, I figured it was time to open up an affiliate bookstore to make it easier for people to find the authors and me to make a little money.