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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.”

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“Sir.” Tayaka walked in without knocking. “It’s time.”

The older man looked up. His hair was as white as a dove’s wing, thick and soft and styled perfectly. The noise he made hearing the announcement seemed frozen between derision and disbelief. “What do you mean?”

He speared Tayaka with a look indicating that anything less than the birth of the Eraba Rata would be rewarded with execution.

Today, Tayaka would live. “Mantambie delivered him in the village.”

A snowy eyebrow arched. “You’re certain?”

Tayaka was no fool. “Sir, I verified the pedigree.”

Kenoi nodded approvingly. “Wait a week before making the offer. Let the difficulty of their position hit home. The process will flow more smoothly.”

Tayaka nodded. He did not bother to mention that the paperwork was ready, and that the offer had been designed by Kenoi over six years ago. Preparation was key, and there was nothing more powerful than paper, save the pen that would sign it.

A week later, Tayaka found himself in the slums of Laterre, a village filled with noise and dirt and desperation. The people flowed together, too busy with their personal complaints to notice that they were rubbing shoulders with different colors, different creeds. Everything receded to the needs demanding to be met. Food, clothing, clean water, everyone required them, but only those who deserved them would earn them.

Tayaka knocked on the door, flanked by two large men whose names he mistook.

The bolt slid back, allowing those inside to see who knocked. “Hello?”

Tayaka spoke. “Mr. and Mrs. Daisuke?”

“We can’t talk. We have a new child, and…” Mr. Daisuke spoke with the voice filled with exhaustion and excuse.

“That is exactly what I am here about.” Tayaka said, with his perfect hair and salesman smile. “I would like to make you an offer that no other can have.”

Mr. Daisuke was too tired to consider the problems with his approach. He opened the door and blinked in surprise when he saw not one, but three Hideaki standing on his doorstep.

“What is happening?” Mrs. Daisuke asked, warily, from the other room. She held a sleeping child to her bosom.

“Please, allow me to explain.” Tayaka said, briskly. “See, it seems you have given birth to Eraba Rata, the Chosen One.”

The look Mrs. Daisuke gave her son was pure delight mixed with hope, but Mr. Daisuke looked terrified and sad. A practical man.

“You understand, the Eraba Rata is such an important resource..” Tayaka trailed off dramatically. “I can’t leave him here, when we can offer him such a better life.”

Mr. Daisuke looked relieved, but Mrs. Daisuke looked horrified. She blurted, “He is meant to stop the likes of you!”

Tayaka wore a hurt expression. “We are offering you a chance to save your son, Mrs. Daisuke. We know where you live. Do you think it would be better for us to see your son as an asset, or as a threat?”

Microfiction

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She woke up feeling like a new person.

Concepts she hadn’t considered before rolled through her mind at speeds she didn’t know she could think at. A word problem that had bothered her since high school opened up before her and showed her all of its mathematical components, leaving her speechless.

Even her hair seemed different. Usually she woke up to a bedraggled mess of unruly snarls, but today her hair was a tousled twist of sassy style. Her makeup sat, waiting to line up and be called upon, and when she applied it, despite it being the same product it was yesterday, it somehow looked elegant today, and she felt beautiful.

The feeling carried on into her work day. Normally she would hunker down in her cubicle, hoping no one would notice that she was there. Today, she volunteered when her co-workers needed her expertise. She wasn’t the go-to person for problem solving before.

The moment that clinched it was seeing her boss in the hallway. He was a short man, trim, with graying hair and a fashionable goatee. Mr. Kettinger intimidated her, although not physically. He was so much smarter than her, she didn’t feel like she could ever have a conversation with him.

He nodded to her in the break room, in his perfunctory way. She nodded back.

“Great post,” he said.

She knew what post he referred to. Secretly, she was quite proud of it. She’d detailed problems the company faced and the solutions to counter the problems.

“Thank you.” She said.

It was nothing, it was a four word conversation, but something shifted, and she realized, she wasn’t intimidated by him. Before he spoke, she hadn’t felt that thrill of terror that preceded each interaction.

What changed?

While sitting at dinner, outside in the warm sun with her friend, a car accident nearly occurred. She heard the screech of tires, the blare of a horn, and the shouts of startled drivers. Then she felt it. A wave of emotion rolled over her. Fear, confusion, anger, it all mingled together. The most startling fact of all, however, was that none of it was hers.

She could feel the anger and confusion of those in the vehicles, just across the block. She could feel the echoing feelings of those who watched the near miss. For a moment, she felt overwhelmed, as the feelings flowed over her, through her, and into her mind.

“Are you okay?” Her friend looked concerned.

She should have been terrified. She remembered those feelings from when she was a child. Knowing what other people felt, within her line of sight. She’d tucked that away, in a portion of her mind that was locked by glowing blue eyes and shivery fear.

“I’m fine.” She smiled, reassuring her friend.

Before she went to bed that night, she drew a bath. She slipped into the warm water and let the day sluice away her confusion, but the answers wouldn’t come. What was happening to her?