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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dan Jolley Guest Post: Top Five facts about Gray Widow's suit.

Top Five facts about Gray Widow's suit.

When I was nineteen, I was part of a Dungeons & Dragons group that included a guy in his mid-twenties named Dan Shepherd. We all called him “Snake” to keep from confusing him with me (I never found out where that nickname came from). Snake was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, with a dust-dry sense of humor and deadpan delivery that rivals Stephen Wright’s. He was the DM, and he led us on the hands-down craziest D&D campaigns I’ve ever experienced or even heard of. During the course of our adventures, we wandered into the Forest of Giant Insects and Monster Trucks…we fought fantasy versions of both the Predator and Jason Voorhees…and we attended a concert given by a minor nobleman called Umlaut F, who spent the whole evening doing Paul McCartney covers.

Insanity aside, Snake made an observation about superhero comics at one point that really, profoundly stuck with me. He said, “Why create a character so powerful that you have to give him a stupid weakness? I’d rather see someone who could be killed by, y’know, bullets.”

That was a revelation to my comics-reading, dumbass nineteen-year-old self. Why indeed? Why give your protagonist such a great advantage that their weakness turns out to be arbitrary, such as some sort of alien mineral, or the color yellow?

The protagonist of the Gray Widow Trilogy, Janey Sinclair, can already do some pretty remarkable things. She’s about as strong as three very fit adult men combined; she can see in total darkness; and, most significantly, she can teleport from one patch of darkness to another. That’s where her “Augmentations” end, though. She’s not super-fast, she doesn’t have any kind of super-healing ability, and she is by no means invulnerable to harm. Because of that, and because in the course of the story she decides go out and try to correct some injustices on the streets of Atlanta (not to mention confronting the aliens who eventually show up), I decided Janey had probably better get her hands on some sort of personal protection.

Being able to teleport makes it incredibly easy to be a thief. Janey is not a thief by nature, but when she infiltrates a military weapons research facility and finds a suit of gray body armor several times more effective than Kevlar—finds it sitting in a vault, collecting dust, no less—she doesn’t feel a bit bad about making off with it. The suit, composed of a material called Vylar, has done its job of keeping Janey alive prettty well so far.


Here are five characteristics of it that make it perfect not only for Janey’s purposes, but also for my taste in superhumanly-augmented protagonists.

1. It stops higher-caliber bullets better than traditional body armor.

Janey’s primary reason for wearing the suit at all is that she doesn’t want to get shot and killed. Ordinary body armor is great against handguns, but won’t do much against, say, an AK-47. The Vylar suit will protect her against larger-arms fire, but even then, she does her absolute best not to get shot in the first place. The suit won’t let bullets penetrate, but she’ll still get swatted down and covered with nasty, painful bruises nonetheless.

2. It covers her face.

This one’s pretty superhero-tropey, but most tropes exist because they work in one way or another. If you’re engaging in any kind of behavior outside the law, it’s in your best interests not to let anyone know who you are. Janey hovers right above the poverty line, thanks to making her living as a fine artist, and really doesn’t want to have to come up with bail money.

3. She has to wash it out every night.

Not exactly an advantage, I know—okay, not an advantage at all, but something that’s always bothered me about characters who wear outfits that have to be hot as blazes. Janey sweats just like anybody else, and by the time she’s done prowling through the Atlanta streets from dusk till dawn (or dealing with extraterrestrials who view humans as raw material), particularly in the summer, the Vylar suit is absolutely drenched. Janey’s developed a routine that includes hosing the suit down in the shower and hanging it up to air-dry before she takes the time to bathe herself.

4. It takes paint well.

At first, Janey isn’t even aware that, thanks to a pronouncement made by a colorful street preacher within earshot of a reporter, the press has dubbed her “the Gray Widow.” She doesn’t intend to announce herself, or even give herself a name at all; she just wants to find crimes being committed and shut them down harshly. But once it’s clear that the Gray Widow moniker is going to stick, Janey decides to run with it, and uses her painting skills to decorate the suit with some spider-ish patterns, including eight black eye-spots on the helmet. That also inspires her to start putting the same eye-spot pattern (“The Eyes of the Widow”) around the city, along with a public message: If you can see this, I can see you.

5. Its protection only goes so far.

In the second book of the trilogy, Gray Widow’s Web, Janey encounters another Augmented individual, a young woman who calls herself Aphrodite Lupo. Aphrodite’s Augmentations are very different from Janey’s, and involve both shape-shifting and massively enhanced strength. Thanks to those characteristics, and Aphrodite’s desire to murder Janey right in her face, Janey finds out the limits to which the suit can be pushed—resulting in a bunch of holes in the suit in really inconvenient places.

I hope you’ll join Janey as she continues trying to exorcise her personal demons, attempting to keep the Earth safe from outside threats, and inadvertently following DARPA-inspired fashion cues.

316 pages
JANEY SINCLAIR never knew how or why she gained her ability to teleport. She never wanted it, and for years tried her best to ignore it. But when horrible violence shattered her world, she vowed to use her mysterious talent to protect the citizens of Atlanta, in an effort to prevent anyone else from suffering the kind of agony she had. Wearing a suit of stolen military body armor, Janey became known to the public as the GRAY WIDOW.

But now the extraterrestrial source of her “Augmentation” is about to reveal itself, in an event that will profoundly impact Janey’s life and the lives of those closest to her—

TIM KAPOOR, who barely survived the assault of twisted, bloodthirsty shapeshifter Simon Grove and still struggles to pull himself together, both physically and mentally.

NATHAN PITTMAN, the teenager who got shot trying to imitate Janey’s vigilante tactics, and has since become obsessed with the Gray Widow.

SHA’DAE WILKERSON, Janey’s neighbor and newfound best friend, whose instant chemistry with Janey may have roots that neither of them fully understand.
And Janey’s going to need all the help she can get, because one of the other Augments has her sights set on the Gray Widow. The terrifying abomination known as APHRODITE LUPO is more powerful and lethal than anyone or anything Janey has ever faced. And Aphrodite is determined to recruit Janey to her twisted cause…or take her off the field for good.

Unrelenting ghosts of the past clash with the vicious threats of the future. Janey’s destiny bursts from the shadows into the light in GRAY WIDOW’S WEB, leaving the course of humanity itself forever changed.

About the author:
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Dan Jolley started writing professionally at age nineteen. Beginning in comic books, he soon branched out into original novels, licensed-property novels, children’s books, and video games. His twenty-six-year career includes the YA sci-fi/espionage trilogy Alex Unlimited; the award-winning comic book mini-series Obergeist; the Eisner Award-nominated comic book mini-series JSA: The Liberty Files; and the Transformers video games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron. Dan was co-writer of the world-wide-bestselling zombie/parkour game Dying Light, and is the author of the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy novel series Five Elements. Dan lives somewhere in the northwest Georgia foothills with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert cats.

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