The Gaijin and the Butterfly

I’m working on a short story for a project. In an alternate history Tokyo, Yakuza first in power, and largely unchecked. A gaijin’s daughter is kidnapped from her private school, and he is in search of her. I present my excerpt:

He made it to the darkened storefront of Jimmy Fong’s Authentic Chinese Emporium. The glass of the storefront barely contained the gaudy baubles stacked in tall, thin rows. It looked as though the store wanted to forcibly eject the tackiness onto unsuspecting passerby, pulling them in and digesting them into yet more effigies of cheap plastic promises. Paul knew better. He reached out and pulled on the door, which squirmed like a friendly dog trying to wheedle more pets from a stranger. It was the easiest thing in the world to pull the door just that much farther, feeling the locks give way to the kitsch.
“Excuse me! Excuse me, we’re closed..” Jimmy Fong’s round face fell when he saw who he was interrupting. His small, pearl handed pistol was quickly secreted behind his back when he recognized his client. “Paul Bitaendo. I should have known. My shop has a soft spot for you.”
“Nice place.” Paul said quietly.
“It’s retarded, do you hear me? Fucking retarded! It should never have let you in here.” The Chinese man growled and shook his pistol at the wall. “You hear me! Some help you are.”
“If you don’t mind, I’d feel much better if you stopped waving that antique security device around.” He knew Jimmy wouldn’t actually try to shoot him, but he had no faith that the gun wouldn’t go off by mistake.
“You’re fucked, Paul, and you brought it on me now.” Jimmy scowled. “You can’t cross the Itchy Gitchy clan, they are Big Medicine around here. If they took your girl, your girl is theirs now.”
“I won’t let that stand.” His words were measured carefully, and distributed thoughtfully. “I can’t.”
“Dammit man, you are looking to get yourself killed. I know your wife’s death make you crazy, but you have daughter still. If you take on the Itchy Gitchy’s to steal her back, they kill you, they kill her, they kill Jimmy.. we all smears on pavement.”
“Better free in death than the slavery they’ll put her in.” He looked down when he heard the snap. A little porcelain figure he didn’t realize he’d palmed lie in two pieces. The little kitten’s head snapped clean off.
“I put it on your tab.” Jimmy said dismissively. “I have no more information. I give you what I had. I’m sorry, Paul. They run drugs through here, not girls.”
“You led me there. The bartender was going to talk.” Paul couldn’t keep the frustration from rising in his voice.
“There is a wisdom here, if you only look hard enough.” Jimmy said wisely.
“Fuck you, Fortune Cookie. I need information.”

slowgoing

Learning process

It is safe to say that I’m doing it wrong.

I can’t tell you the number of happy, unemployed writers who are writing up a storm, who are spending hours a day on their efforts and treating it like a real job. I see them schedule signings and market new books. They post word count that makes me nauseas from jealousy.

I hear about product funnels and how to make a mint by posting serials, and I continue to labor on my second novel.

I have a full time job, a seven year old son, and a husband. Most people might consider that to be three full time jobs.

Unfortunately, I have a powerful need to eat sometime this month. I also like to talk to friends, although unfortunately most of the time I bore them with the same thing I’m writing about here – my life and how my writing fits into it.

Still, I see how my other friends live. Two of them stay at home and manage their domiciles. One of them writes, and I am terrifically jealous of the “free time” she seems like she has. In her perspective though, she chooses to spend this “free time” helping out her brother and sister, both who have several children. She’s doing Very Important Things. And it’s easy for me to say what I’d do with that time, but I’m not in her shoes. My other friend is an artist and a mother. When she does get free time, she has multiple hobbies, which she seems to switch in and out of.

Several other of my writing friends do what I do – work to make money, and write on the side to get started. They’re mothers, they’re wives, and they’re exhausted, like me. And our word counts suck. And our writing groups are tiny, and barely held together by the invisible force of the Internet. Hell, I’ve only had a writing group since March.

But I’m doing it anyway. I’m writing, I’m editing, I’m taking classes, and I’m reading articles. I tweet, post, and network. I try to minimize the Internet stuff, as it eats into my all-important writing and editing time.

I have by no means become rich off my first book. The good news is, I wasn’t expecting to. I really do have high hopes for Bento. Hell, I want it to be a zeitgeist, and I’m in love with it. On the other hand, I’m a novice, with only one book under my belt. I still have so much to learn about marketing and all the things. If Bento becomes my golden goose, so be it. But even if I never made a dollar writing, I would still do it.

I love writing. I’m passionate about getting stories out. And despite the obstacles I’ve mentioned previously, I still make time to write. I go out with my girlfriends and talk plot. I hop onto Hangouts and learn about the publishing world. I listen to podcasts about how to improve my writing skills. And I write.

Maybe in five years there will be articles about me. Maybe my name will sit on the shelf with authors I adore: Gaiman, de Lint, Martin. And maybe there won’t. There are few guarantees in this world, but there are lots of stories.

And maybe, I’m not doing it so wrong after all.

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Exploring New Worlds

I’m worldbuilding.

I’m in no way done with my previous novel, edits being what they are. However, I decided I’m going to take a break from editing in November for Nanowrimo. Then I decided I’d start writing a story that’s been bouncing through my head since 2009. Lately it’s been surfacing more, like a whale breaching from the depths of the ocean.

The trouble is, this story has real teeth. The beauty of The Corsican lies in its simplicity. The characters were in a space ship. There were only so many square feet they could interact with, and all of the background was bland and boring. The ship was blocky, square and utilitarian, and that allowed me to focus on the characters. It was a cheat for a first time novelist, and not one I recognized until recently. That doesn’t mean it was bad – a space story should have a space ship, after all – it just means the backdrop is just a backdrop in that story.

Bento shows a lot more personality from beginning to end. It has a living background, full of different slices of urban life in 2291. The story is based in the far future, but it’s still the far future of Earth, so a lot of it is recognizable, though distorted.

This next story, not yet titled, takes place out in space, on an Earth-type world. I’m not looking to do a huge examination of an alien society, but the fact that it’s not Earth means that the backdrop will be all consuming and fabulously important. I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to that level of intensity, but my stories seem to not care about what I want.

Just after making this decision, I was invited on a picnic with my family out onto our local mountain. It’s a drive, but it’s a pretty drive, and when we got up to the familiar ear-popping sensation of altitude, I couldn’t help but look at the world like a visitor to the planet. Rocks, undergrowth, flowers, ponds, even the odd whistling sound of the marmots made me wonder, how would a world be different? How would the world be the same?

This leaves me with a lot of ideas that have to be created and be consistent prior to my word-dump in November. History, geology, culture, biology, how humans interact with the system, how the system reacts to the humans. In fact, I should probably be working on that instead of this.

I just like to check in once in a while, you see.

 

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Tensegrity

The career is the goal. The way to get to the career is through the work. It doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you can move forward. Money is the consequence of the work, it is energy. Money flows from hand to hand, helping people communicate. It is a medium, a concept, and should not be the focus or the goal.

The career is the goal. There are benefits of having the career. Not all careers offer the same benefits, and the benefits can sometimes be intangible. Having more time, enjoying what you do, knowing your family is taken care of are benefits.

Leave enough room to think. Leave enough room to breathe. Remember how powerful you are when you’re alone, uninterrupted, and allowed to chase down “idle” thoughts.

Growing hurts, but it’s meant to stretch you out of old thought processes and adopt new ones. Abandon approval seeking – you already either have it, or you don’t, and you don’t have to swing the fence-sitters. That’s energy better spent elsewhere.

Find a voice. You don’t have to wait until you’re so angry that your inner Hulk shows up.

Don’t obsess about how others are going to feel. You can’t predict or control their inner Hulk, but if it shows up, maybe they weren’t your friends to begin with.

On that note, letting go of those “friends” is like ripping off a Band-aid – worst at first.

When you’re working, set everything else aside. When you’re not working, don’t work.

It’s okay to be sick, or hurt, or just not want to. You’ll get the momentum back.

Time is not the enemy. Time is your friend.

Money is not the enemy. Money is a tool.

Balance isn’t permanent, in three dimensional space it’s tensegrity.

Return

Sunrise

Well, I’m back.

First, thank you for all of you who enjoyed my microfiction experiment. I’m definitely doing more microfiction in the future. However, it takes a lot even to create a little fiction short like I was, and coming up with many tiny ideas proved to be a lot more work than expected. It’s kind of like getting a kitten. No one ever imagines how much energy and time a tiny warm ball of fuzz is going to take up, until you get one.

And I was getting a kitten a week.

Finally I had to accept that if I was going to put out bigger pieces of fiction, I had to set aside my diversion. It would be nice to say that I could just turn 180 degrees from a short piece to a long piece, but each piece takes up a slice of consciousness, and they all dig in equally as hard. That’s why I haven’t been blogging for weeks now. I just could not bring myself to produce.

Wonderful things have been happening beyond the blogosphere, however. I have found myself in a small, elite cadre of women writers, and we are critiquing each other’s work. Having found an echo chamber, let me tell you how priceless it is. I have been in four local writer’s groups, and each one was more dismal than the last. One almost seemed like a fit, but at the end of the day, I am an elitist snob and they weren’t up to my unreasonable standards.

Now, I’m surrounded by like minded, brutal, hungry writers, and I’m loving it. They challenge me, they provide me with awesome, useful feedback, and we all share what we’ve learned about the industry.

The most validating moment for this month happened after this month’s writing group meeting. A gentleman came out for a cigarette. The space we’d overtaken was apparently the smoke break area for several nearby restaurants. We tried to give him space while still enjoying the last lingering moments of our group session. When we started our goodbyes, the guy introduced himself as Sam Hill. We all had our laughs, which he was good-natured about. He then admitted he was a writer too. He told us he thought we had some really great ideas that he found helpful even as he eavesdropped. Our group had it’s first follower. It was magic.

I’ve also been duel wielding a novel and a serial, which would work better if I had more time. I’m laying fresh word count for Tin Can Sailors, and editing my rough draft of Bento Box. It’s hard to sharecrop two incredible stories, but one is for a publisher who wants my stuff done by this winter, and the other is getting bumped because it is deadline free.

I now understand how it takes George R.R. Martin so long to get a frigging book out. Of course, if I had a TV deal, I’d have more excuses to be so late, but the year isn’t over yet.

Misbegotten Butterfly

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She couldn’t believe she’d never noticed them before. On her walks, while she passed by the fences and overgrown lots, she’d never looked. She saw her first one in the corner of one of the fences, this tiny, white, web-like growth that clung like a barnacle to the security of the fence. It looked as old as a mummy, and she had no intention of touching it with her bare hands. She looked around and found an old, dry stick to poke at the mummified cocoon.

She wasn’t as gentle as she thought she was. The cocoon ripped, and dust blew out of the shell of it. She was horrified. So much dust! The cocoon should have been empty, evacuated by the occupant at the beginning of the summer. Instead, the cocoon was full of the dessicated remains of a misbegotten butterfly.

The image haunted her for the length of her walk, but then it fled into the recesses of her subconscious, to sit like a gargoyle in the back of her mind, brooding and silent.

The next day when she took her walk, she decided to walk the trail in the opposite direction of her normal travels. She wandered, contemplating nothing. As she reached the fence line, she noticed a ghostly shape out of the corner of her eye. Another cocoon. She wanted to walk past it, to walk beyond, but some driving force inside of her made her stop. She felt as though she was drawn to it. She stepped closer, noticing details she hadn’t noticed the first time. The cocoon, musty and covered in webbing, seemed plump. She felt a shudder of disbelief. Finding two cocoons in two days was odd enough to warrant coincidence, but finding two unhatched cocoons on the same length of fence made her stomach churn.

Did they know? She wondered. Did they know there was a chance they could die, rather than becoming what they were truly meant to be?

She continued forward, and her eyes caught no less than twenty little mummified cocoons along the fence. She broke into a run, and when she finally turned the corner, the fence turned too, but there was a culvert distancing them, and she couldn’t see up into the hidden corners. She kept running, just to leave the vision of unborn butterflies behind her.

Her lunch break over, she walked into the building where she worked. She walked down the familiar hallway, and into the room peppered in cubicles where her coworkers sat. The place was silent, eerily so, with just the hum of machinery to be heard. She didn’t hear any conversation at all.

Wondering where her coworkers were, she walked to her seat. As she walked past the first cubicle, her eyes caught a ghostly shape. There, within the office chair, a white, mummified cocoon the size of a man sat in place of where her coworker Bobby should be.

She didn’t look any further, but turned and ran.

Microfiction, renewed

Hello! I apologize for being away for so long, I was on vacation. But I’m back, and noodling on a work that I am developing when I need a break from my other projects. Enjoy!

irishprison

The logic seemed obvious.

Han was younger then, but he’d seen the truth of it even so. The prophecy, uttered by a blind old fool, was a wagonload of horse shit. A psychological tactic, the last act of a man who understood that words were weapons. The prophecy sparked hope that ripped through the common people like wildfire through dry grass.

Han was a squire for Master Kindoshi when the prophecy was made. He kept his thoughts to himself. He knew better than to speak out of turn. Instead, he waited. He watched the lesser people fight back, watched them try to overthrow his masters, watched them fail and be pushed back into complacency.

Thirteen years later, Han was a grown man, a Master in his own right. He’d been asked to speak in front of Masters Masuki, Jentai, and Lin, discussing the trade routes from outside Taredo Yama. As he spoke, a young boy slipped into the room, silently. He made his way to Master Masuki. Han continued as though nothing happened, and was unsurprised when two other young pages slipped over to their masters. The three masters said nothing, but each looked like they’d bitten an unripe persimmon.

Han guessed what had them all so shaken. He concluded the meeting quickly and let the preoccupied masters disperse. His appetites would take him elsewhere.

Kenoi was not available, but Han would not be shaken off so easily. After three days he was admitted into Kenoi’s office.

“The baby is born,” Han began without preamble, “and the Masters want it killed.”

“And you have the solution?” Kenoi sighed. “I expected more from you, Han. There are a thousand ways to kill an infant.”

“More. However, if you kill the child, you’ll martyr him, and enrage the people. There is no safe way to kill an infant – no matter how accidental it appears, the hearts and minds of the people will imagine assassins behind the death. In fact, even if the child should die accidentally, it will now be laid at our feet.”

“I’m listening.” Kenoi’s voice was resonant and powerful, as well as deeply impatient.

“The family of the child is terrified. They’re imagining us around every corner. We already know from the prophecy that they are not people of means. We go to their door, and offer a solution. To keep the Chosen One safe until he comes of age, we offer them a place with us, in Laterre. We can give them a small boon, paper titles, even a plot of land for the child to play on. He grows up under our watch, under our care, and in no way interested in overthrowing us when he comes of age.”

“Taking the serpent to our bosom, so to speak?” Kenoi sounded unconvinced.

“Not a serpent, a child. A child that will be raised under our care and guidance. We have an opportunity to make him loyal from the start, and all without shedding a drop of blood.”