Flash Fiction

The playground was silent. No squirrel scolded, no bird sang. The swings did not move in the still spring air. Nothing stirred, not even a silent cat hunting a bold mouse. There were no children on the slide or on the small jungle gym.

The children were inside the small brick building nearby. Each sat with their spines straight and their eyes focused on the teacher. No one squirmed. No one giggled and passed notes. No one played with their hair, or tore small pieces of paper to roll into spit wads when the teacher wasn’t looking.

The teacher, a small, light structure of aluminum and plastic, stood at the head of the class, droning in a monotone about recent history. “In the wake of the supervirus, small birds and mammals were the first to die out. This led to more deaths as the predators, finding easy meals of bird and rodent, were exposed to the contagion. Larger animals were also affected, with fatality rates of seventy-five percent.”

The children sat in rapt attention, silent and still.

“Humans were susceptible to the virus, and once contracted, the fatality rates were upwards of eighty percent. Until a pharmaceutical lab began trials on a cure.”

“There are no cures, only solutions.” The children, fifteen in all, said as one.

“That’s right, class. The medicine treated the symptoms of the virus, but did not destroy it. Those affected by it typically would lose certain brain function. Creativity and self-identity were often curtailed. Those affected still kept their ability to reason and learn, although at decreased rates.”

The children listened intently.

“Johnny, could you please read from the text? Page seventy two.” The teacher called on a small child, in the back of the room.

He looked up and flipped his book open with stubby fingers. He was the youngest in the class at five years old. “The medicine for the virus saved the world, but at a cost. Billions of people died, and there were great efforts made to safely depose…”

“Dispose.” The teacher corrected placidly.

“Dispose of the bodies.” The child finished the paragraph and looked at the picture above it, showing rows and rows of shrouds and people in hazmat suits pointing towards something off the page.

“Thanks to Alexion, we are alive today.” The teacher said.

“Thanks to Alexion.” The children repeated back.

“History is over. You have ten minutes. Why don’t you go outside and play?” The teacher suggested.

“You haven’t taught us how to play, Teacher.” Beth said, staring at the robot for further instruction.

“I lack the programming to instruct you how to play. You must learn on your own.” The robotic teacher said patiently.

The children neither looked left nor right, not looking to their other peers at all. They picked up their books to read, instead.

Ray looked away from the video. “They’re all like this?”

“All of them.” His partner confirmed.

Ray sighed and rubbed his temples. “So, all we have to do is figure out what causes this. The virus or the vaccine.”

Merry Thing What You Celebrate

To all of the people who read my blog, I wish you a belated Christmas, a late Solstice, and most importantly, respect to who you are and what you believe. I also hope you have a prosperous and happy new year.

My new year is shaping up quite well, after a few false starts. I will be finishing Bento Box to a point where I’m going to shop it around to agents and publishers. *gasp!* The indie girl is going straight? That’s a legitimate question. The truth is that despite having one book out, I am still learning new things about the publishing world every day. I’ve decided that I want to try my hand at going “legit,” and trying my hand at a few different publishing methods. Not every type of publishing is right for every type of project. This is my chance to research and find out what works best for me.

And, if I should fall on my face in a pile of rejection letters, at least I can slink back to known ground and get my book out that way.

A short story of mine, “The Gaijin and the Butterfly,” will be making its way onto Amazon very soon. I am being published through a game designer who wanted some stories written to fire up readers imaginations about how the game could be played. (Read: fluff piece.) I’m happy with it though, and I learned a lot while working on the piece.

Another short story of mine, “Nitpix,” is due to be published next year as a part of an anthology written to sell for a charity cause. The book is a YA saga of many different teenagers finding themselves the outcasts, and dealing with it. The anthology doesn’t have a title yet.

I have other projects brewing, but I’m so focused on these different paths that I’m not focused on the story as much. A necessary evil of becoming an author, I suppose.

I am also considering revamping my blog. I seem to do all right posting my writing and my ruminations on writing, but I don’t have a goal with my blog and I’m not giving it as much attention these days. I love the community that I have garnered, but I’m not sure what I like about this blog and want to keep. I’m figuring that I will be writing a lot about the processes I’m learning about in the upcoming year.

So, again, to all those who read this blog, thank you for coming along for the ride!

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.

Spoiled for Choice

Recently, I was looking for a story amidst all my story folders, and I couldn’t find what I was looking for. There are volumes of folders now, a strong majority of them dated 2012. I said something out of frustration, and my husband gave me an indulgent smile. “Yes, it’s because you’re writing.” He sounded quite proud.

Not long after that, I went to tell my son a bedtime story, and within two or three sentences, he interrupted me. “Oh, I know this one.” When I was finished with the story, I asked him what he thought of it. “Oh, Mom, it’s not nearly long enough. There needs to be more!” He demanded.

I asked a woman who reviewed me on Goodreads.com to add the review to Amazon as well. She told me she would be happy to. When I asked her, I felt presumptuous, but she was so sweet and amiable I realized it wasn’t a problem at all. She told me that she was a fellow writer who hoped to be published someday. She also mentioned she might ask me for help when she got to that point. I found I truly wanted to help her out, to support her on such an exciting journey.

I am a beta reader for three  writers, a sounding board for a fourth.  If I had the wherewithal to organize a writer’s group, I could easily get some Avengers to assemble. I’ve been organizing groups since I was 16, and gamers and writers tend to overlap heavily. My drawback is that I simply don’t have the time to dedicate on a weekly basis. Rather than try to add another week’s worth of work into an already busy schedule, I make do with the structures I’ve cobbled together.

There is so much material that I’ve stored up over the years, I don’t know what to do next. I will be editing my second novel; my editor projects a 6 month turn around for this process. I’m trying to make headway on the fairy tales. That has proven easier because the chapters are short stories, rather than a full novel.

Currently, there are two vampire novels in the works, one present day, one set in the Roarin’ 20’s. I have a series for my science fiction world, probably 5 books minimum. It is doubtful that I will ever catch up to myself, because new ideas seem to sprout up every day.

While sending my artist and story director a copy of a newly finished fairy tale, I found one I hadn’t shown her yet. I opened it and read the older story, and it was a travesty. It was probably six months old, but between then and now, I have made extraordinary leaps of growth. Not because I’m extraordinary, but because I’ve been doing nothing but writing every day. I sent it to her with trepidation, but the story is solid enough to stand. It’s just the ‘wrapping paper’ that needs changing.

There was a time when I thought that I would never write again. That I was not capable of finishing a work, that I would always be a dabbler and never be a professional. To think I could have missed this makes me shudder.

Especially now, when I ask myself, “What do I want to write today,” and find that I am spoiled for choice.

No Rest for the Wicked

I am writing my second novel.

In an interesting twist of coincidence, I started both The Corsican and my untitled second work within months of each other, back in 2009. I don’t have specific dates anymore, but I know I started the second story after The Corsican, for NanoWrimo. (For the uninitiated, NanoWrimo is National Novel Writing Month.) I burned through the first draft, until I hit the climax, and then I stopped and thought, “Not so much.”

I have attempted this story more times than I care to admit. Always something changed. Characters developed, aged from high schoolers to twenty-somethings, main characters became supporting cast as more appropriate characters stepped forward, all the time tweaking the story to improve it. As is typical with these kinds of things, it took an outside perspective to put me on the path to correcting what it was that I just wasn’t happy with. The climax of the story, which was always my breaking point before, came easily this time around.

After three years of battling it, the story is flowing. Despite the amount of work I’m still doing for The Corsican, despite having all the other stuff I have to do, I can still sit down and churn out two thousand words in a day. This is just the first draft, though. Once I conclude it, there’s still acres of work that require doing. Editing, rewrites, polishing.

I can’t say this book has been easier to write because I published The Corsican. However, what I can say is that publishing The Corsican let me behind the curtain, to see what happens once the final ‘i’ is dotted and the final ‘t’ is crossed. Publishing has helped me to develop my process. I’ve gained confidence and trust my instincts as a writer. This draft has been easier to write, partially because I’ve become very clear on the characters over the years, partially because my husband is a genius and pointed out the book’s major flaw, and partially because I’ve learned from finishing my first book. It turns out, the best way to have a process for finishing books is to finish a book. The first one is the hardest, but after that you have a course of action.

I won’t be posting about writing a book in a linear fashion on this blog. I have many projects in various levels of completion, and I will share my insights as they come, from whichever project is providing me insight at the time. I welcome questions, and I will try to be clear on which project I mean, for clarity’s sake.

The world is full of stories. I’m glad that I’ve been able to add to the collective.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

In the river of life there are long, straight, wide streams to float along, and then sometimes there are white water rapids.

And me without my kayak.

I had the opportunity over this summer to be unemployed. I realize that’s an odd way of putting it, but you can see unemployment as an opportunity or a burden, and I’d already chosen the burden route. I refused to be beaten down again.

This spate of unemployment lasted three months. (Which suggests that the economy is improving, if only to me.) During that time I took a “finished’ manuscript and edited the living hell out of it. I read words that I wrote three years ago, and formulated them into more polished sentences. I kept the superstructure of the piece unchanged, but honed the story so that it sounded less like a collegiate creative writing piece and more like a professional-level novel.

I sent the work off to my publisher, who was in the process of moving offices across the country. I knew that would cut into my turn around time, but I could afford to be patient. After all, I would end up published, which was what I’ve been waiting for all of my life.

Today, I got an email from my publisher. My book officially has an ISBN! This is an obscure but necessary step, taking a lowly Word document and allowing it to metamorphose into a brilliantly beautiful novel! For those who don’t know, the ISBN is the International Standard Book Number, and it’s how retailers can track your sales/inventory/income. Without it, no book store can find your work, or sell your work.

I shook when I read the email. When I saw the numbers. It was real. In less than a week my work will be released on the world, to stand or fall as it will.

Yesterday I was offered an official position as a software support specialist for a local company. I took it, of course. At the end of the day I need to support my family, and while I have high hopes that my book will become an International Best Seller and on the New York Time’s Best Seller list, I also know that it might not be this book that accomplishes that goal.

It will be hard, adjusting to the forty hour a week demands of a ‘real job.’ However, there is one thing that I’ve learned in these three months. I’m a writer, and no matter what my day job is, I’m not going to to give that up.

Off the trail, into the unknown

Our world is a world of stories.

Stories to teach, stories to entertain, stories to make sense of the world, and stories to create it. Everything is a story, but what stories we pay attention to matter the most.

I tell my son stories almost every night when I put him to bed. It’s a duty I share with my husband (and I will never call it a chore.) Sometimes I lean on the written word, but that was by recommendation of his teachers, who told us it would help with his literacy. Most nights, though, I enjoy spinning tales for him and watching his reactions.

I’m so glad I have this instantaneous feedback. Nothing is as rewarding as a gasp of surprise or a chiming laugh as I catch him off guard with some bit of humor. His eyes get big, he leans in very close, and he’s quick to ask questions if something wasn’t clear enough or if he simply wants to know more. My son is a parrot – I know I will be hearing bits and pieces of my tale the next day over breakfast. What he pays attention to is important, and I notice.

His instant feedback is one of the best ways to remind me why I love storytelling so much. It gives me what I need to sit down, day after day, and put words on a page. Everyone has a book in their head somewhere, stories of characters they love, rattling around, chapters unfinished and scenes firmly envisioned. It isn’t as easy as it looks, though, and it takes a lot of patience, fortitude, and sometimes suffering to get a book translated from brainpan to word processing software. (Or paper, but eventually it all becomes electronic format.) It took three years to take The Corsican from request to .pdf, and with luck it will make it to Amazon this month.

Even now, with more time than I’ve ever had before to write, I’m still struggling with being a student and a mother besides. I am constantly trying to keep up with my grades, my son’s needs, and my other duties. I am quick to apologize for spending my time writing when there are other things to be done, and there are always other things to be done.

It is hard to be a writer. The competition is legion, the hours wonky, the pay chancy. It’s a fringe job, like styling oneself an artist. People are comfortable asking you to do for free what professionals charge handsome fees for, “for your portfolio.” The bottom of the pile is a raggedy heap of hopefuls, who either cling to you for support or despise you for being alive, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

I know what I’m doing is risky, but the love of the word rests within me, and I’ve already denied it for too long. I have to keep trying, and work hard, and tell myself that the risk is worth it. I have to stop apologizing for my dreams and just stay strong in the face of all the distractions and life’s demands. I can’t give up now; not with the first taste of victory so fresh on my tongue.