Mary Sue does it… um, doggy style
Writers try damned hard not to write characters like that. Personally, I like my people flawed. So there really is no excuse for the humongous Mary Sue inhabiting The Jackal’s House.
It came about like this.
I’d got to the part in Chapter Three where Rafe Lancaster’s lover, Ned, arrives at Rafe’s coffee house, his son in tow. Rafe’s always known that Ned is the father of two boys, but has never met them. At least, not until that chapter, when it became clear to me that young Harry Winter was destined to play a large part in the story.
I don’t say that the Deputy Editor’s eyes were soulful and beseeching because, well, cliché or what? Besides, dogs seem to get special training somewhere in the ruthless use of soulful gazes. Not to mention lessons in how to put their paw on their human’s knee, and, for extra points in the cuteness stakes, tilting their heads to one side as they listen to you read your immortal prose aloud for their opinion. The Deputy Editor knows all those tricks and uses them without compunction.
Me, though… I fall for them every time.
So young Harry Winter acquired a dog, a middle-sized brown dog with curly hair and a great fluffy tail that waves like a flag. A friendly dog who loves humans and greets them with an extravagant lithe wriggle of her hindquarters and who can’t get enough petting in life. She certainly can’t get enough dog treats, because ‘enough’ in that context can’t physically exist. And because Harry’s dog is an undoubted Mary Sue, the Deputy Editor graciously permitted the use of her name as well as her looks. Harry’s Molly guards him, comforts him, protects him; and is his way of expressing his feelings. You can be pretty sure that when Harry says “Molly likes that!” he’s not really talking about the dog’s preferences. Harry’s Molly is the faithful, loving domestic counterpoint to the great black dog-headed Anubis who’s stalking the desert near Abydos, apparently outraged at the infidels excavating the tombs and temples in what was once his own place, the Jackal’s House.
And like every Mary Sue ever, the other characters adore her.
Personally, I don’t blame them. She is adorable.
Who’s the canine (or feline!) keeper of your heart? Post your pictures in the comments, and share!
About The Series
Lancaster’s Luck is set in a steampunk world where, at the turn of the 20th century, the eight powerful Convocation Houses are the de facto rulers of the Britannic Imperium. In this world of politics and assassins, a world powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston and where aeroships fill the skies, Captain Rafe Lancaster, late of Her Majestyís Imperial Aero Corps, buys a coffee house in one of the little streets near the Britannic Museum in Bloomsbury.
So begins the romantic steampunk adventures which have Rafe, a member of Minor House Stravaigor, scrambling over Londiniumís rooftops on a sultry summer night or facing dire peril in the pitch dark of an Aegyptian night. And all the while, sharing the danger is the man he loves: Ned Winter, First Heir of Convocation House Gallowglass, the most powerful House in the entire Imperium.
Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy.
Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol – just in case.
Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if theyíre facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed. What begins as tricks and pranks escalates to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dogóthe jackal-headed god, Anubis, ruler of death – casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?
My mouth was dry. All the moisture in me was in my hands. I had to take my hand away from the control yoke—the joystick—to wipe sweaty palms against my trouser leg.
She moved slowly under her own power down the access road to the aerostrip itself. Once at the end of the strip, I halted her, keeping the engine revs high. Haines tapped the gauge showing engine power. “She’s much heavier and bigger than your old aerofighter. You’ll need to be heavier on the throttle, push her hard until the power level hits the gold line, then pull her up sharp but smooth. Ready?”
Why did people always ask you that just before you did something massively unwise? Still, onward for Queen and country. I took a rather shaky but deep breath and started her down the runway, listening to Haines’s instructions. Throttle in hard, watch the speedometer, feet on the rudder bar to control her yaw and keep her straight, keep the paddles at the right angle to catch the headwind’s lift and keep the airflow silky and fluid, listen to the quiet roar of the aether/petroleum engine at the stern, feel the shuddering of the frame in every atom of my body… and now! Now. The gold line on the power level monitor gleamed and glinted, and I pulled back on the joystick…. Keep it smooth! Keep it smooth… and up she went, whispering into the sky with the gentle fluidity of thick cream sliding over plate glass.
Beside me, Haines kept up an unflustered monologue of encouragement. “Ease her back a trifle, let the wind catch her… good, good. Feel the turbos kicking in? That will give you all the throttle power you need. Five hundred feet… level her out now. Throttle back… bring her around to port… excellent, Lancaster. Well done. Very smooth.”
I glanced down as the edges of Londinium slid away under us and we headed northwest, out toward St. Albans. Before us were the rising Chiltern hills and the browning quilt patch of Buckinghamshire’s rich farmlands basking in the mild sun of a clear late-autumn day. Behind us and to the left squatted the great black bulk of Londinium, huddled under its usual pall of smokes and steams. The air there was so thick with vapor that the buildings were little more than a dark mass in the murky brume. But here, out over the fields, we were far enough outside the city for the air to be cleaner and clear.
The sky curved above us, a bright blue overhead fading to something yellower at the horizon, streaked with thin white clouds. The sun was climbing up toward noon a little to our left and to our stern, sending our shadow sliding and slithering diagonally up the hillsides. Beneath us, the engines throbbed, the heart of the ship beating out a gentle, monotonous thrum of mechanical life. When I touched the controls, she responded with all the eager energy of a thoroughbred in a race. The earth beneath me rolled away—remote, beautiful, an exquisitely detailed toy landscape of field and wood and little villages made by some great mechanic.
The green-brown of hills and fields blurred for a moment, and I had to blink, every limb light and every sense sharp and clear, riding out the surge of joy that had me glowing as if the sun had taken refuge under my ribs.
The skies were mine again. Icarus was reborn, thrusting aloft on wings of gold.
And just for a moment, I was a god, striding through the heavens like a Colossus.
Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.