Monday, September 6, 2010

Fatal Upon Contact

From Lisabet Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) to Corky and Violet (Bound), tough female characters fascinate me. Dangerous dames who get away with their actions are much more satisfying than the ones who ultimately pay the price, such as the Marquise de Murtueil (Dangerous Liaisons), Thelma and Louise, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Maltese Falcon). There’s more to the attraction than simply getting away with it though. I admire quick wit. I like the way these women use gender roles to their advantage. Even when she’s a woman I’d never want to tangle with in real life, such as Linda Fiorentino’s character in The Last Seduction, I’m drawn to her.

Many of the female characters I write have a hard edge. It’s not bitterness. These aren’t wounded hearts lashing out. At their core, my female characters are about calculated practicality. In stories, the stakes are always higher than they are in real life. There are fewer options. That means that only the tough survive. Either the woman clings to the square-jawed hero and whimpers through to the end, or, like Princess Leia from Star Wars, Sarah Conner in Terminator, or Ripley in Alien, she picks up the gun and takes care of business herself. I know which kind of woman I find sexier. Personally, I think the whimpering miss who won’t contribute to her own survival should be killed just on principle. Kick ass or die, bitch.

From The Devil’s Concubine, a work in progress

Kyam, a spy in disgrace, is sent to the insignificant harbor town of Levor where he’s expected to fade into obscurity. A military blockade of the only other trade route suddenly turns Levor into a boomtown, and gives Kyam a chance at redemption. As foreign agents descend on the town, he realizes that his best bet is to make a pact with the Devil – Levor’s mysterious king of crime. But the only way to negotiate with the Devil is through the Devil’s Concubine, a woman Kyam desires and despises.

Kyam’s introduction to Levor, and the Devil’s Concubine:

Kyam unclenched his arms and lowered them from his head. One of his eyes wouldn’t open. The grit in his mouth was bitter and sweet, a mixture of red Levor dust and blood. He listened, but the men who attacked him seemed to be gone, along with his trunk.

Mindful of his cover, he didn’t give chase. Instead, he writhed on the ground. “Help! Police!” He didn’t have to fake the agony in his voice. Those bastards went right for his weak points and kicked them until he curled into a ball.

Shoppers in the market, some human, others not, ignored him as they haggled at the seller’s stalls beside the wharf, as if a man bleeding in the middle of the street were an everyday sight. From his briefing on Levor, he suspected it was. He’d expected primitive conditions. He’d expected lawlessness. But this…

Like a pipe vision, a woman walked down the center of the street toward Kyam. The people in the market drew back as she passed, as if the hem of her dress contained a virulent poison. A tight smile drew the corners of her lips into a satisfied curve.

While sepia tones coated the town and its people, intense colors saturated woman’s dark hair and clothes. Kyam blinked. Her military style bodice was the latest fashion in the northern cities. Even her hat with half veil was the height of haberdashery. It was as if some cruel god had plucked her from an afternoon stroll in Eisendon’s lush central park and dropped her on the rim of hell.
She didn’t veer in her path as she neared, nor did she seem particularly concerned that Kyam was in her way. For a moment, he wondered if he was invisible to her too, but she stopped inches from him.

Kyam lifted a hand to shield his eyes from the sun. “I was attacked. Call for the police.”

“Police, Mr. Uvers? You are a fresh.” She lifted her skirts to step over him, revealing tiny feet in black laced-up boots that shone as if even the dust of the city didn’t dare touch her.

Kyam winced as he rolled over to watch her walk away. He blamed the shock of her appearance for his delayed reaction to her quiet scorn. No one had called him by his birth name in years. Experts had erased any connection between him and his true identity. She had to be an agent, but how bold of her to toss down a gauntlet in the front of so many witnesses. “My name is Hadre Zul.”

The woman paused. She turned her head enough that he could see her profile, although she didn’t look at him. From her chin to her ears, every feature of her face came to a point. Still, she looked human enough, until he saw her eyes. The thin, bright ring of yellow between her ovoid pupils and her dark iris gave away her race.

“The Oracle is never wrong, Mr. Uvers,” she said. The train of her dress slithered through the dust as she sauntered away.

Is she dangerous? Oh, yes. Wicked? In Levor, today’s enemy is tomorrow’s ally, but don’t turn your back to anyone. The game shifts when you least expect it.


  1. Kathleen,

    A work in progress? Damn. Let us know when it's released. The story looks like fun and the Devil's Concubine looks like a remarkable character.


  2. Ash - it's in the novel queue. Temptress that she is, she keeps whispering in my ear that she'll be much more fun to write than the rewrite on my current novel.

  3. Hi Kathleen!

    You have a thing for scary intriguing ladies. I was thinking of the werewolf story and also this woman. They shine.


  4. Garce - thanks. I'm drawn to them, so writing them isn't difficult.

  5. Oh, Kathleen,

    I really can't wait for this one.

    Want a beta reader?

    Speaking of wicked, kick-ass women, have you seen Gena Davis in "The Long Kiss Goodnight"? Classic!


  6. Lisabet - I have a confession. I barely watch TV, and I'm even worse with movies. I see maybe two movies a year. That puts me way behind the pop culture curve. But maybe I'll go see Salt.


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