Friday, May 13, 2011

Big News

Hey, all.

I totally meant to update yesterday.  I even got online at 11:45, ready to update, but Blogger was down.  So, whoops.

The news is, I'm going on a two-week hiatus.  The reason is, I'm going to Europe!  My Mom and I are going on a trip together, for our birthdays.  We're going to Rome and Paris.  I'm getting more and more excited as time goes on, especially because my wonderful, amazing fiancĂ© gave me a journal for my birthday last night that he doodl  ed in.  The plan is to copy what he did on our cruise last year, where he wrote a comic every hour (!!!).  I would like to fill up one page of my journal every hour I'm on this trip (and awake).  One page of writing.  Every hour.  It's a small journal, but I still plan to write big and make doodles.


(Preemptively ended and posted. Hijack'd! -G)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Holiday Prompt

From the writing prompt found here, because it's too many words to post there...  This serves as a caution that this is kinda long.  There will be a regular post here in several hours, so check back!


In the air around me there were screams, mostly ones of pleasure. With each breath I took in lungfuls of the smoky red air, and the oppressive heat of the place had me sweating inside my ill-chosen clothing. I felt like I had stepped off the plane into a war zone, and not the holiday my companion assured me it was.

“What's the brouhaha about, again?” I asked her, as she walked beside me, carefully matching my steps. I only coughed twice getting the question out, but she seemed unaffected.

“Fertility festival, senhor,” she said, and the carefully crafted look in her eyes was one I easily recognized. Little minx! I hadn't looked carefully before, but now that I did, I was liking what I was seeing. A small thing, petite but not childlike, with long black hair and skin of a color that wouldn't look out of place lounging on a beach somewhere. I mentally thanked the Bureau. They probably didn't mean to land so many beautiful women into my bed, but they did, bless them!

We were walking to our hotel, through what looked like it should have been an open air market. Our bags, the woman beside me explained, had already been taken there, to await our arrival. The streets were filled with people, dark, like her, in varying states of dress and undress, and most of them covered with red and orange paint. There was a hunger on their faces that I hadn't seen before in the civilized society I was coming from, and neither the men nor the women seemed at all embarrassed by their condition as we passed them. Red tarps were thrown over ramshackle stalls that I imagined would normally house fruit or fish, and with the heat in the air and the sweat tickling down my neck and fusing my shirt to the small of my back, it was getting to be a little uncomfortable.

“Does this happen... often?” I asked. The noise was loud, almost too loud, and I had to raise my voice to be heard. I wished that I had been paying closer attention earlier when she had given me her name.

“Once a year. We pray to the Gods for a sign, that the crops will be good, and that our children will be healthy. Each spring, on the solstice.” She licked her lips as she spoke, and I gave her a smarmy smile in return. I was a little surprised by her open want, but who was I to turn down a lady? Even more than her desire, I was distracted by the pagan nature of this 'festival'. Scantily clad natives dancing in the streets? And already I was a little skeptical of the exact nature of those screams I had been hearing, coming from the alleys disconnected to the main street.

“I thought you people were civilized,” I said, speaking more to myself than the woman beside me, but her sweet laugh told me that she had overheard.

“Oh, we are civilized, senhor. We are.” She paused, letting the flow of bodies go past us, the two of becoming rocks in the stream of people, and then she tugged on my arm. “This way.”

I resisted. “Are you sure? The pilot told us to go straight from the landing strip to the hotel. We should be able to see it... and I thought, maybe you wanted something?”

“Oh, I do. Trust me.” The tug on my arm was this time accompanied by another sultry look, so I allowed myself to be led.

Off the main street, the voices got much less distant and much more immediate, as if any corner I looked down would have their owners, engrossed in whatever activities were making them so vocal. The red haze was thicker here, and coming from some unknown source. A smoke machine? And why was it so damned hot? At some point my guide decided that I was doing too much thinking and not enough walking, so she pushed herself ahead of me and took my hand. I followed readily enough. My clothes were getting soaked through with my own sweat, so I stopped once, to take off my jacket and drape it over my arm. The look she gave me when she saw what I was doing convinced me that I was doing the right thing.

Finally, we got to a building. It wasn't our hotel, I could see that clearly, but she was intent on entering it. I stopped outside, letting her tug on my hand, as I assessed the exterior.

“Is this it?” I asked, knowing full well the answer.

“It's better,” she said. I tried to give her a look of disapproval, but she gave me a smile that told me she was more confident that I could ever be. I love dominant women. “Don't you want to hear more about the festival?” she asked, and she dropped my hand.

“The fertility festival?”

She nodded, a sparkle of saliva winking at me from between her parted lips. “Yes.” I'd never heard so sensual an affirmation. She took several steps forward, toward the building, and I followed. It was like I couldn't help it. Like I was transfixed by her dark, mysterious eyes. There were promises in them that I intended to see kept.

“I'll tell you.” We were at the doorway, and she was whispering in my ear. Her breath was almost cool on my overheated face. As soon as I entered the building the sounds of outside melted away. There were no more moans, or screams, and the lighting was dark and subdued – no longer the passionate red I was already sick of.

“The festival... is ancient.” We are walking down a hallway. There are shapes moving through open doors, but they are dark and only half seen. The illusion of movement, and nothing more. “It celebrates live, the beginning of new...” We are at a doorway. She enters, and I follow. “And the end of old.” She sits down on a mattress, filthy and probably as old as the festival she is talking about. I don't care. I am entranced. I sit beside her, and she reaches out, almost tenderly, to unbutton my shirt. “Lie down,” she tells me, “and close your eyes.” I do so. She continues to touch me, and I am so gone that I do not care when I hear other footsteps entering the room, or the sounds of their ragged breathing.

“Wait,” I say, opening my eyes. “What was that last part?” That is the only reason I see the knife that brings swift death with it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Search for Truth

I'm about halfway through a comic that my fiancĂ© borrowed from a friend.  It's called Logicomics: An Epic Search for Truth, and it's following the life of the logician Bertrand Russel as he is trying to recreate mathematics from the ground up as something provable, something concretely True from the foundations up.  So far it's very good, and I'm enjoying it very much.  In his early life, Russel was exposed to proving things as true and seized upon it, dedicating his life to logic.  In this story, logic and madness are inexplicably linked, and there is a dance between the two.  Quite fascinating, really.

I just finished a section of the story where Bertrand and a close friend, a mathematician named Whitehead, have written a volume about logic.  It took them ten years, and they restarted the book from the very beginning four times.  Bertrand is looking for the Truth, for something provable, whereas Whitehead is looking for the truth, and to publish.  I don't know how much of this is historically grounded, but that's the story as I read it.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Because it should.  As writers, we are looking, always, for the Truth.  If we know it or not, we are the ones who look at our fellow man and make judgments upon them, and commit those judgments to the ages in the form of the written word.  We look for the meaning of life, the meaning of love, the meaning of death, the meaning of the universe... and while our arguments may not be logically 'provable', they are, uniquely, human.  Everything you write has some part of the Truth in it.  The one with a capital T.  Every sentence, every page, every emotion that you pluck from your own life and let live on the page is another chance to answer every Why that has ever been asked.

This is also the reason that it takes so much effort and so much time and so much damned courage to give our work away.  Writing, good writing, is hard.  It's painful.  To write with the emotion that will capture your readers, you need to feel that same emotion yourself, and sometimes those emotions come from times that you would rather not relive.  But writers, someone has to.  Our craft isn't logic.  It's far too emotional, too close to our innermost selves.  And there isn't just one Truth out there.  Each time you write, you're writing something that's your truth - and if you search your heart deeply enough, you might just find something that resonates with every other person on Earth.  We're all human, after all.  We all have similar experiences, similar thoughts, similar emotions.  Let yours free!  

Saturday, May 7, 2011

On Rough Drafts

New layout for the blog, if anyone noticed.  Since I've been posting some fiction on here I figured it'd be nice to have a bigger space to read it.  Iz nize, yes?

Also been working on my Machine of Death entry.  I'm leaving the country next week, so I'm just realizing that I need to get this thing done.  It's kinda a rush, I haven't written anything for my novel for a while, and my rough draft of this is absolutely terrible.

  Which leads us to this post.  I sat down and started writing this with a protagonist that I loathed, and someone who didn't fit the story at all.  Whiny, obsessive, a character that just crawled out of the woodwork to hijack my pretty cool idea.  He lasted for a few hundred words, and then I had to scrap the whole thing.  Not what I was looking for and I have no idea how he got there.  So now I'm going, in fits and starts, and I still don't like it.  There's nothing overtly wrong with it, now, no obviously pathetic main character, but it's missing something vital.  I really, really like my idea for this.  There's a lot going on, and if I do it right it will be very good.  But if I don't get all of the elements perfect, it won't be.  And there's the scary part - I need it to be perfect.

Do you ever realize that, in the middle of writing something?  I'm not used to writing for deadlines, and maybe it's something I need to get used to.  I only have until June 15th... wait a sec.  Checking website... July.  JULY 15th.  Oh, man.  That changes everything!  Whew!  Well, that makes a big difference.  I was gonna ask for some tips on how to avoid stressing on how to make something perfect in a limited time frame, but it looks like I have longer than I thought.

Still applicable, though.  When submitting to anything, there's gotta be a point when you think, "well, good enough."  When is that?  I'll keep asking this question, I think, as I get closer and closer to the actual submission of my story.  But I have enough time to do as many rewrites as I need to to get it closer to the perfection I seek.

P.S.  I've been talking a lot about my daily writing prompts, and I think I'm going to continue to share them here, if no one minds.  They're pretty short, and some of them are pretty good.  This one is in response to this prompt.  It went okay.

 I watch them, out of my window. So high that all of the people on the streets below were nothing but formless shapes, and if they looked up I would be nothing but a speck of a head, sticking out of an open window. This was my only interaction with humanity, with the world outside, and I loved it. I would pause in my work sometimes, gaze out of the window and pick one of the numerous dots at random.
“Pew,” I would say, making my forefinger and thumb into a crude weapon. “Pew, pew. Enjoy your dreamless life. And you!” Pointing to another. “Have fun moping around your one bedroom apartment for the rest of your miserable days.”

I'm a little bit of a sadist. I'll admit it, openly. I don't have anything to hide. Except myself, cloistered away in this room I've made into a laboratory. Except my work, the project that got me kicked out of school and made to live this bleak existence. Except my Magical Dream Killing Machine.

It isn't done yet. I'm within a year, I'm certain, but the MDKM needs certain elements that are not readily available to outcast civilians like myself. At this point, I halfway expected someone from a shadowy government organization (or the Russians) to take an interest, maybe offer me funding, or the materials I need, if I work for them. But that hasn't happened. I don't know how to get in contact with secret organizations. Wherever these people are, whatever they're doing, I can tell you that they're not paying attention to me.

Which is fine. Really, it is. In fact, I prefer it that way. Sour grapes? Maybe. It's not like I'm very vocal about my project. None of my former colleagues even know that it still exists, and when I was at the University it wasn't like any of them knew what the Machine was for anyway. But I'll tell you.

As might be readily apparent at the name, my Machine kills dreams. Every hope, every aspiration, every ounce of wishful thinking that you may have, it destroys. It's basically a reality machine, even though I like my name better. Pew! You're never going to win the lottery. Pew! You are forever going to be working minimum wage, a cog in the machine. Pew! You are never going to actually use your degree in Art History.

And all of those hopeful chumps down there are going to realize exactly what they are, and exactly what they will never become. This is my dream, and it's going to be the only one that survives the coming storm.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Flash Fiction

Hey, guys.

So I've been doing a daily writing prompt over at - /r/promptoftheday, if you're interested in following along.  And what I've been noticing is that instead of following the prompt, that is, instead of writing just a paragraph, or a description, I've been writing scenes.  They're not stories, because they're so short, just snippets, really, but they're usually not things that I care to work on any further.  I have enough distractions as it is.  I can't keep doing this, abandoning projects to work on the newer ideas.  So I have these little snippets, 300-1000 words, of ideas that I liked enough to write about but not enough to revisit them and turn them into longer works.

And this morning, I started to think a little about that.  I wrote a prompt today, for the 'describe the object of your obsession'.  I'm no good at writing prompts, I'm going to be perfectly honest with you.  I don't follow them.  If it says, 'describe this', I will instead start writing a story.  Beginning, check.  Middle, check.  End, also check.  And what I just realized about ten minutes ago that what I'm doing is writing flash fiction.

 I’ve never really been a fan of flash fiction, but that was before I realized that there could be a market for these little stories I’ve been working on.  I really like the one I worked on today – the prompt was ‘obsession’, so I wrote about a man obsessed with death.  Why not?  I’m pretty preoccupied with death myself, lately, and they say to write what you know. It's too big to post on reddit, so I'm putting it here. This is just what I wrote and copy/pasted into the 'new post' window, so don't look for greatness or anything.


I walked in through the door, not knowing quite what to expect. Henry’s letter had been vague, to say the least, and he was already an eccentric man. As the door creaked closed behind me, I heard a cheerful voice call me inside. I walked further, hanging my coat and hat in the foyer, and with no small amount of trepidation I found myself in the kitchen, where Henry waited for me.

You’ve come,” he said, and his eyes were gleaming.

I almost took a step back at his expression. There was more than an air of madness about him; less an aura than a pollution. I knew that Henry had been occupied of late, running his homegrown ‘experiments’, but I hadn’t thought that his preoccupation had gotten this far. “Of course. Your letter was very convincing.”

Good. I knew you’d come. The others declined me, claiming other engagements. But you’re a true friend.” He leaned forward and steepled his fingers, looking into my eyes intently. “Do you know why you’re here?”

No, I… You invited others? But the letter said-”

Sorry to deceive you. I truly am. But…” He smiled. “But I need to know. I need to know.”

I felt like I had stepped onto the stage of a bad play. “Need to know what? For God’s sake, Henry. What are you talking about?”

My friend stood up slowly, taking his time to adjust his clothing, patting a crease out of place and putting his hands into his jacket pockets. “I’m talking about death, William.”

I walked over to the table and sat down heavily across the table from him. “Dear Lord. I didn’t know. I’m so sorry. What is it?”

Henry snorted. “I knew you’d respond that way. You’re so sentimental. Does it matter what? I’m dying. And you’re dying. Everything on this planet, every living thing, is dying.” His hand moved inside of his pocket. “And I just can’t take it.”

I sat back. “I don’t understand,” I settled on saying. It felt safe enough. But his eyes still glistened as he considered me, standing above me like a dark angel of judgment.

Then he sat back down across from me. “There are two things that every being on this earth experiences. Birth, and death. We don’t remember birth. Our brains aren’t capable of it. But death? The moment of death? It’s been… a fixation, I do confess it. Once I started to think about it, I couldn’t stop. There is a moment that we each experience. The one moment when we realize that we are not going to live through this, that on the other side of that dark curtain is an experience that we cannot fathom, and that we can never return from.”

Henry,” I said, slowly, “why am I here?”

He sighed, and removed his hand from his jacket. Attached to his hand was a pistol. “I knew you’d ask that question. I’m going to kill you, Will. Slowly. And then, while you’re dying, bleeding out, you’re going to tell me what it’s like.”

I stood up, my chair crashing, unheeded, to the ground. “You’re insane. Kill me? You think I’m going to let you kill me?”

Sit down.” He gestured with his gun. I ignored him. “How is that going to help you? My death won’t do anything except end my life. You’re still going to die. Damn it, you’re still going to die. Wait your turn! If you’re curious, turn that gun on yourself, instead of killing me!”

For a second, he faltered. The tip of the gun drooped toward the table, and I prepared myself to run. “No,” he said then, and smiled, and the smile was the most frightening thing I had ever seen.

He was right, though, in a way. Having never been truly in fear for my life, it was terrifying. And not just some random, nightmarish horror. Terror. My heart was beating so hard I could feel it echo through my whole body, and my hands shook uncontrollably. Was I viewing the end of my life? The real end of everything that I knew as existence? Were these my last moments to gulp the stale air of a madman’s kitchen, to glut my eyes on all the sights I had taken for granted in my too-short years?

Then the gun fired, and I was shot. There was pain. My chest was on fire, burning. I looked down, and saw the blood. Then there was a short period of darkness, and when I opened my eyes I was on the ground. Henry was sitting next to me, and there was blood on his shirt. His jacket was off, and I could feel a wad of cloth propping my head up. I tried to say something to Henry, but I had no voice. Nothing came out of my mouth but a harsh gurgle, and a trickle of blood that Henry wiped away.

I missed,” Henry said, and then I understood the sadness in his eyes. “Can you tell me what you’re feeling?”

I gurgled again, and tried to breathe, but no air went into my lungs. I tried again. Nothing. Like a weight was on my chest. The pain was starting to fade, a little.

Damn it, damn it!” He took my hand, caressed it. “Look at me. Tell me! Tell me what it’s like!”

He took hold of my face and turned it toward him. I felt his fingers, vaguely. My eyes were going dark. I was suffocating, my brain was starving for oxygen. ‘I’ was getting hazy, fuzzy. Dark. I didn’t realize that my eyes were closed until Henry pried them open, giving me my last sight on Earth. His grim, lined face, his eyes searching mine for answers. I didn’t have any. I tried to speak one last time – what I was trying to say, I had no idea. But he held on to my hand like a drowning man, leaning close, as if my words held the secrets of the ages. Then I felt my heart stop beating.

No. No! You didn’t give me my answers. Do not go gentle into that good night, William!” And his high pitched laugh followed me into darkness.

P.S.  Probably going to keep the font in TNR.  Courier is great, but I think I like Times better for casual use.  Not that it makes a huge difference, I know.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Oh no, my willpower

I am so easily distracted, it isn't funny.  I'm working from project to project to project all the time - I'm notorious for it - but this time I think it's justified.  Just kidding.  I always think that.

Machine of Death is coming out with a second anthology.  If you haven't read the first one, I highly recommend it.  It has stories and artwork by some of your favorite web cartoonists, all generated around a simple theme - there's a machine that can tell you how you'll die.  I know, right?  Doesn't that make you want to abandon whatever you're working for for a while?  Added to that, you can submit up to three stories.  Insult to injury!  Not only are you going to make me slow working on my novel (still editing, don't worry), but you're going to open your contest to three stories per person?  Sign me up!  I'll write you 100 stories!  I'll write you as novel!  Just sign me up!

Whew.  Got a little excited there.  In other news, editing is slow, and I'm still trying to find that sweet spot of figuring out what the hell I'm doing.  I think I'm getting closer, though.  I started with a mess of novel, and I've got some pretty big changes in mind that require re-tweaking of the plot and moving some scenes around.  I think that's supposed to be a good sign.

As a little bonus today, I'll even throw in what I have written so far for my first story - only the first paragraph or so.  If anyone reads this far, consider letting me know what you think.  

It was the largest hospital room Brian Kepler, senior reporter for the Galveston Times, had ever been in. Even bigger than the one the last guy had been in. What had his name been? Williams? Rayes? Couldn't even keep 'em straight anymore. He nodded to his cameraman, across the room, and saw a familiar face. It was a junior reporter he had worked with on the last Deathwatch. Had gotten himself a promotion, too, from the look of it. Good for him. Brian sighed. Gonna be a long night. He hardly glanced at the thin form lying on the bed in the middle of the room, barely gave a thought to the camera pointing at the dying man, whose every breath was being monitored and broadcast on televisions worldwide.