Reflections

It’s hard to reflect on the situation when you’re in the middle of it. I have been trying to write a blog post for months, but have been coming up short. Some of it is the sheer amount of writing I’ve been doing this quarter. Fiction and creative non-fiction, which are demanding in different ways. I like both of my professors for their strengths. I have also had good luck with the groups I’ve been assigned for writing critiques.

I’ve had no small amount of challenges this quarter. Taking two writing intensive classes was a good way to set myself up for insanity, and then I threw in a debate class, which is a realm to which I do not belong. Despite my obstacle course, I have made headway in all three classes. I even got an A on my first debate, which is the highest grade I’ve made in that class thus far.

I realized something, which is that I’m not letting these classes make very deep impressions upon me. In my fiction class, my teacher has been assigning stories that are well outside the range of what I read on my own. The stories are challenging, upsetting, or worse, pointless and boring. Those are by far the worst, where I can’t figure out why a college professor would assign it as reading. But that’s the thing. I’m just dismissing those writings as useless and stupid. And maybe, maybe they are. However, I do tend to think my professor is good enough to determine a poorly-written story from a challenging story to make me think. I just haven’t figured out how.

What is it about the human mind that writes off situations it doesn’t understand as stupid, trivial, or in some way minimized? Why can’t we admit our weakness and accept that this is something we don’t understand, and needs more thought? The brain budget for new thoughts tends to have deeper reserves than we want to admit to, but it takes time to convince it to pay out.

My stories have been developing. I posted a couple of flash fictions that I turned in as assignments in class. It’s harder to post longer pieces here, but I can post excerpts of other things I’m working on. I used to do post flash fiction all the time, but it’s amazing how much concentration it takes to churn out a work, even a short one.

I published my third novel, Typhon Inc. I have been meaning to post it here, but that’s just how busy it’s been. I hope that people take a peek; it’s an improvement on Bento Box. I figure the difference between book sequels and movie sequels is that authors are continually learning their craft, and movie sequels tend to try to extend a story that wasn’t intended to be.

And now to take on the end of the quarter.

 

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Original Bento Box – Flash Fiction!

Okay, fans, this was the piece that launched a novel. Almost none of this made it into the book, but that’s what inspiration does. It takes you where you don’t expect.

***

The emergency induction port funneled strawberry ice cream shake into her mouth and chilled her tongue. It was too sweet. She longed for a Tequila Sunrise, but the body she wore had an abysmal fake id. Younger bodies were by far more flexible, which she preferred. Carnelia hated being treated like a child; it was the tradeoff she made.  To keep up appearances, she couldn’t turn down the generosity of the older woman with the voice that sounded like cigarettes and whisky. So, here she sat, infusing herself with sugar and waiting.

A trilling noise incited no interest. Everyone in the small diner had a cell phone. She slipped a peek at her locator tracker. The LT showed a red dot, slowly approaching a blue dot. A smile touched her lips as she clicked the LT shut. She did the math and estimated that he would arrive in six minutes.

She stuffed her hand into her purse. It brushed past sharp objects, dangerous items, ammunition, a lipstick, and finally the grip of her LazrGn™. It was sized perfectly for smaller hands and had the benefit of looking like a toy.

The door to the tiny diner swung in, setting a bell set above the door in motion. The tiny chimes drew people’s attention. The figure stepping through the door held it. He filled the door frame at seven foot two. His hair was shaved on the sides, and a noxious green Mohawk flared upwards. His heavy black coat swirled around his ankles. He held a bento box, and had a wonton halfway to his mouth when he barged through the door. He flashed a toothy grin to the horrified folk inside.

She pulled out her LazrGn™ and aimed it beneath the bar. She whispered in her throat mike. “Orochi confirmed.”

Orochi seemed to be enjoying the horrified looks on everyone’s face. He popped the wonton in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully, his gaze strolling over their mingled fear and growing concern.

“Got any soy sauce?” He asked the nearest waitress.

The older woman appeared unimpressed. “You get outta here, son. You got trouble in you and I don’t want it in here.”

“I just want some soy sauce. Is that really so much to ask?” He gave her a wounded look. Then he drew a BFG 300 from his side holster, concealed by the big leather coat. He aimed his gun at the ceiling and shot it, deafening the closest patrons and causing panic to erupt.

Carnelia dived under the table, taking cover behind a booth. She aimed, but a panicked civilian ran for the door and right in front of her path.  The civilian was rewarded with a BFG 300 clipping him in the temple. The civilian crumpled at Orochi’s boots.

The big gun went off again. “Shut up!” Orochi yelled.

At the sight of one of their number going down, the civilians had found cover. They huddled in small groups in the booths.

Carnelia had an idea. She slipped her gun into the waistband of her panties and hid the bulge as best she could under a hoodie. She grabbed her Hello Kitty backpack and peeked at Orochi over the booth top. Her blonde and pink hair stuck up like two antenna.

Orochi saw her and smiled. “What’s your name?”

“Carnelia.” She pushed herself up, leaned over the booth. “What’s yours?”

“Call me Orochi.” He looked down. “My bento box broke.”

Book Launch Express

I had my first book launch this past weekend. We were in a comic book shop that graciously ignored the fact that I had no pictures in my book and let me set up an event anyway. We had the back corner of the shop, which is how it should be – there was no cause to interrupt their flow in traffic. My business partner Allie was dressed to the nines. I felt a bit silly in my Avengers tee and denim capris, but hey. I know my audience. They go to con, they read comic books, and they wear shirts with pithy sayings. Either that, or colorful depictions of Deadpool draping himself over Skeletor. I was among my people, and I was comfy.

Which was important, because inside I was a mess. I hadn’t done any public speaking for years, and I was out of the habit. As people gathered in their seats, I kept having those undermining thoughts. Are these people really here to see me? To hear me read? From my book? Are they crazy?

I managed to push past the huge case of nerves. After launching into my chapter I remembered to take a few deep breaths. I’d practiced, so I didn’t stumble too often or too badly. My audience was there for me, really there, in a way I hadn’t experienced before. They were small business owners, artists, poets and musicians. People who knew how important supporting the arts is.

We handed out prizes, and that was fun. My son read the ticket stub numbers and did a great job.

There was a Q&A session that felt like it was scripted, it went so well. The interest in my work and Allie’s & my business was there, real and solid. We felt so proud and so humbled all at the same time, and everyone there was just great.

During Q&A, the original short story for Bento Box came up in conversation. I promised that I would post it on my blog for people to see. It will not be edited, because at this point the idea of editing anything to do with Bento is beyond comprehension. I wooed, I won, I’m done. So, keep in mind this was written 2 ½ years ago or so, and it was inspiration for Bento, not slavish devotion.

I’m going to post it on a separate post, possibly broken into 2 for size. I hope you enjoy it!

Whirlwind

So, I wrote a book. 

Then, I started a Kickstarter for my dad’s photography. 

I’m also enrolled in a class for learning accounting. (Yuck, I know, but if I’m going to run a booming business, I need to document the boom.)

I’m going to school in the fall. (Full time, not a free online course kind of thing.)

There’s a podcast in the works, although I’m going to be a minor contributor.

My ten-year anniversary is coming up, and my husband has the details under lock and key. Which left me a little flat footed when I reminded him my writer’s group was on Sunday, and he looked shocked and dismayed. So, a little scheduling snafu there. Fortunately my writers group is forgiving.

I’m still trying to find work, but the reason I can’t find work is the reason I’m going back to school. Everyone in this town is better educated than I am. Want to find someone with a four-year degree? Throw a rock. If you hit someone who doesn’t have one, chances are because they’re in school to get one.

My son is learning how to swim. He spent years terrified of the water, and this year he decided he was over it, and he’s in the pool every day. I wish adult brains worked that way.

For his birthday, my son got enrolled in a Legos robotics class. Robotic Legos? Man, I would have killed for a set when I was a kid. He took to it like a duck to water, and had the best time.

It was nice having a little quiet time in the house, for my online class and my writing. I’m working on a short story. I’ve been working on my sequel but the beauty of short stories is that they’re not as time consuming.

So, there it is. The quick and dirty update. More projects than a dystopian urban sprawl, punctuated with doing fun things with my kid. See you next post!

Flash Fiction 5 – Rascati

Concept art by Caleb Brown, ©2014

“You’re kidding. She’s not old enough to be legally working yet.” Rascati stared incredulously at his superior officer. Dennis was a large man whose appearance suggested bodyguarding or bouncing, some rough and tumble occupation. Rascati knew that Dennis was getting up in years, and knew that kind of work gave out not long after the knees did.

“Talking about me like I’m not in the room might make you feel more powerful, but all it does is make you look like an asshole.” The young woman in question glared at him. She had enormous green eyes that currently bored into him.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Dennis said, stepping between them in such a way as to look unplanned. “You asked for the best of the best. I brought you the best of what SPD can afford.”

“And I feel a price hike coming on.” She folded her arms under her breasts.

Rascati did the gentlemanly thing and hid a smile. “If you’re half as good as your attitude, then you’re good enough.”

“Her name’s Baerlin, by the way.” Dennis added, satisfied that blood would not be shed.

“Rascati.” He said reflexively, offering his hand.

She glared at it. “I was warned.”

Several hours later, Rascati brought some coffee and donuts into the lab as a peace offering. He had a way of putting women on edge. Fair was fair. They did the same to him.

She didn’t look up from the computer screens. Three were open, each with graphs, notes and numbers in attendance.

Baerlin accepted the offerings as her due, and bit into a bearclaw. She glared at the computer screens. Rascati relaxed a little. Apparently fierce was a full time gig.

“Look at this.” She said, pointing at a tiny dip in a rising curve of a graphed line. “Everyone’s brain activity is unique, but most brains are consistent. Patterns, we’re slaves to pattern. But here’s a pattern that is consistent among the different graphs you’re asking me to review. That dip isn’t there any other night, but it shows up in each of the four subjects, just on different dates. Not consecutive, so there’s definitely a random element, which is what made it so hard to catch. It’s within tolerance of abnormal brain activity while sleeping.”

What Rascati felt most was surprise. He’d analyzed that data at least a hundred times, and she found the abnormality in a few paltry hours. Dennis was right. She was good.

“What caused it?” He asked casually, sipping from his coffee.

She turned on him then, wide green eyes fixing him to the spot like twin spotlights. “I have no idea.”

It was an unfair question. Rascati didn’t press. Instead, he sat down on the stool next to her. “I had hopes, but I didn’t expect you to know. It’s a problem that I’ve been tracking down for months.”

“I might be able to hazard a guess if you gave me the context. These graphs are all numerical, there’s nothing to indicate what the data measures.” She said, taking her own sip.

“Sanitized for your protection, I’m afraid.” Rascati shrugged. “You’re not officially a part of this investigation.”

Her expression shifted from the open interest of a scientist to something slightly darker in nature. “I could be.”

Rascati chuckled. “Not at your rates, I’m afraid.”

She quirked an eyebrow. “Are you really all business, all the time?”

Belatedly he realized that she was flirting with him. “Yes.”

“Shame.” She said. She stood and stretched. “Thanks for the coffee. I’ll send you my bill tomorrow.”

***

This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available for preorder and will be released June 30th, so you don’t have long to wait!

Flash Fiction 4 – Too Close for Comfort

Concept art by Caleb Brown, ©2014

With a languid stretch, Carnelia rolled on her side, enjoying the warm, sleepy liquidity of her body. He put his arm around her, drawing her close in his sleep. His touch reminded her of their earlier gymnastics. She allowed herself a moment to luxuriate, but even in her sleepy thoughts she felt the beginning of self-recrimination. She’d crossed a line. She’d done what Lizbet and Daign did regularly and shamelessly.

Her client was a lucky lady, and her boyfriend was a handsome, fit man. Trying to get out of the situation without arousing suspicion would have been difficult. She didn’t regret her decision. That was the problem.

Sneaking out of bed was easy. She knew the route to the C-pod. She moved as quietly as possible, hoping not to wake her lover. He’d never know that he’d cheated on his girlfriend. She’d never know either. There would be no consequences for her actions.

As she flipped switches and prepared her client’s C-pod, she caught her reflection in the glass. Blonde, blue-eyed, pale skin and a dusting of freckles. This wasn’t the face she’d wake up to. She would never see this face again.

I’m just like them. Carnelia knew that if she was in her body, she’d be shaking. This body had no reason to feel a fear reaction, so she didn’t. She caressed the palm lock and watched the diodes.

“Samantha, come back to bed.” His voice echoed through the house. “You promised no work when I was over.”

Shit. She pulled the wires for hooking up into the pod, and fastened them into their docks just behind her client’s ears. She didn’t want to face him again. She didn’t want to admit she’d screwed up.

“Samantha!” He sounded cross. It was too poorly lit to see his face, she’d left the lights dim on purpose. “Get out of there this instant!”

If he became more insistent, if he jerked her wires, Carnelia could be in very big trouble. She’d be trapped in this body, Parris would be pissed, and there’d be no telling when she’d get another chance to jump.

“Answer me!” He strode into the C-pod room, a statue given life, all sculpted abs and proud jaw.

Nope. Still not sorry.

The HUD popped up, allowing Carnelia to select her options. It didn’t take long to open the menu…

…his hand was on her shoulder. “Samantha…”

Carnelia opened her eyes and gasped like a swimmer who’d been under a little too long. Her skin was the correct shade again, her fingernails rosy pink at the tips of golden brown fingers. She looked around the C-pod. Stephen was nowhere in sight. Instead, Dr. Yeldez performed standard checks.

“A little close, my dear?” He asked, a skim of disdain floating across his words.

She caught her reflection in the C-pod window. Big, brown eyes, slightly canted at the edges. She saw herself, and shame crashed down on her in a wave. I’m just like the others, now.

“It wasn’t a bad run.” Carnelia said in her defense. “It just got a little close for comfort.”

“Your patterns all check out. You’re free to go.” Dr. Yeldez said briskly.

Carnelia gathered her things and kept her mouth shut. Free to go was as much a lie as the one she’d told. She needed to get out, and fast. She’d seen her brother’s losing fight with drugs, and didn’t think this was much different. In her room, she picked out some clothes for the day. The rest of it would be hers, now that the mission was over.

She looked into her full length mirror, catching another look at her real self. She grinned. She had an idea.

***

This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available for preorder and will be released June 30th, so you don’t have long to wait!

Flash Fiction 3 – Lizbet

She was a walking provocation, sex in plastic film. She never failed to draw in a crowd. Aggressive men with lowered inhibitions swarmed like sharks in a feeding frenzy. It was possible some nice guys hung at the edges of the fray, but someone else could fuck them. If they weren’t going to take her, they weren’t going to get her.

Someone grabbed the back of her head and jerked her back. A thin blade caressed her throat, enough to draw a thin trickle of blood.

That’s new, she thought.

“You’re dead, bitch!” The hoarse voice rasping in her ear suggested this was more than mere foreplay. “My brother is in jail because of you!”

No one came to mind. It wasn’t someone she knew well, in any case. If they’d known anything about her, they’d known she was fond of wigs.

Pink hair peeled free as Lizbet kicked a foot back and up hard between the two pillars of her attacker’s legs. Connection was made, confirmed both by the clatter of the knife to the floor and by the explosive breath exhaled in response to the pain. The knife scraped her throat with the edge of the blade, abrading her pale skin but otherwise leaving her unharmed.

Lizbet grinned.

The knife was hers, and so was his throat now that he was on his knees. Lizbet wasn’t sure how he’d gotten in the club. This grubby mongrel of a street person shouldn’t be allowed in the doors. She’d almost be impressed that he’d managed to touch her save for the fact that she had the strong desire to bathe now. She angled his knife at his throat, reluctantly grasping his hair as he’d grasped her wig, still dangling from his hand.

“Touch me again and I’ll pour your blood all over this dance floor and ride your body across it like a hoverboard, vagrant.” Touching him was already unfortunate enough. “I don’t care who your brother is, he can rot for all his years.”

Time had frozen. Aggro men were staring now, trying to absorb the freshly blonde object of their desire, one fist full of hair, the other gripping a knife. She knew she turned them on. She flicked the blade, drawing a line of blood to match what he’d drawn.

She pushed him to sprawl at her feet. She tossed the knife to an Aggro watching the tableau. She wiped her hands dramatically against each other, careful not to touch her outfit. She winked at the Aggro. He’d made the knife evaporate. She liked a man who handled business. She kicked the vagrant in the face, but her eyes were all for Aggro. He approved.

The vagrant groaned, the fight taken out of him. Two bouncers appeared through the crowd, and they swept up the vagrant like so much garbage. One of them held up the wig, still tangled in the defeated man’s fingers.

“Burn it.” She said.

The Aggro behind her chuckled.

“You’re going to buy me a drink, aren’t you?” Lizbet asked, turning her back to the dancefloor.

“No.” The Aggro grinned. “I own the bar, I don’t have to.”

Lizbet’s breath caught. If this was Bobby Parris, she’d finally met her match.

***

This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available for preorder and will be released June 30th, so you don’t have long to wait!