Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Back to work

Russ left about noon yesterday after a wonderful 3.5 days of fun. We went places! Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge the first day, down to Lincoln and our favorite used bookstore on the second day, to Omaha on the third day -- I spent a few hours at the zoo while Russ visited with people -- and then we stopped at the De Soto Wildlife Refuge on the way home. Before he left on Tuesday, we went to the local nature center and Stone Park.

So I had a very busy few days, and yes I am having trouble even tracking what day it is and what I'm supposed to be doing. I need to get the DAZ newsletter done for this week, and I got a good start on it today. I did make certain I got writing done each day while Russ was here, and we talked about some writing as well -- something I really miss. In fact, I've had far fewer story ideas since he left, and the ones I have for novels are just sitting there, staring at me. I need to find a way to talk about them and get them moving. Otherwise, it's going to be pretty difficult when I need one!

On the other hand, the rewriting of older material was long overdue. I'm still working on Badlands, and at the midway point, I'm starting to think that maybe I need a drastic change in the story structure. I'm not sure, though, so I'm going to continue with it in this style and then look again when I'm done. I've been struck with the 'oh this would be much better!' ideas in the middle of projects before, and found that it wasn't better, only different. Quite often, I end up going back to the original plan. So I'll get this done and then see if I can work up the 'different' idea in notes and see where it goes. If I like it, I'll pull this one out again and write an outline based on it, and then do the drastic changes in characters and culture that I am considering.

In the meantime, here is a snippet of Badlands as it is now:

They had one last challenge before they were away from the area, but getting past the port tower proved easier than Carmen expected. The Altos expected an attack, so they weren't looking for a small group slipping past half a kilometer away and heading into the desert. Her group reached a strip of wild, uninhabited land barely ninety meters across where sandwood grew in knee-high tangles, a maze of prickly limbs that made uncomfortably loud noises when they broke. Tasha took the lead and found an obscure path that he must have known by heart. They never backtracked to find a way through, though they did cross occasional patches of readleaf -- a plant that was more an annoyance than an obstacle or danger. The vines clutched at sandwood, tiny suction cups holding on with a tenacity that sucked the little moisture from the larger plant, and Carmen had to stop twice to cut vines from her legs and from Marcu's.

People in the Pueblo rooted it out wherever they found it in the Pueblo itself, and out here they harvested the older vines. The fibers made a tough fabric, and the only native material from which cloth could be manufactured. They mostly made it to use rugs.

And if Carmen had just been content to stay in the shop and weave with her mother, she wouldn't have been in this trouble now. She would have, however, been far more frustrated by having no power to do anything at all. Sometimes it was good to look at both sides of the 'what if' question to remember the full side of the changes.

They finally reached the edge of Carmen's known world. She had cone come this far on a school outing and remembered how the other children stayed back, terrified by the wide expanse of white desert, lit only by the moon, and stretching far beyond the cliffs. Now she stood on the edge of the slowly deteriorating cliff and looked to the desert for salvation. She suddenly thought of all the crazy and foolish people who had lost their lives out by heading out there and trying to prove ... something.

"It's easy to get down, but harder to get back up," Marcu said softly. He knelt down on one knee, peering over the edge. "The wind blows toward us, east to west. At this point the wind deposits a slope of sand, adding to the talus of the cliff. See?"

She looked down, wondering what the hell he was talking about and why he chose now to teach her something this unimportant. She saw a slope of white sand beginning about two meters below the top of the cliff. It stretched a long ways out into La Tierra Blanca.

"We slide down the slope," Tasha said. He sat down, legs dangling over the edge while he pulled his pack around front, cradling it in his arms. "Just push off the edge here, lean back, and let gravity do the rest. You'll feel a slight jolt when you hit the sand, but you'll slide the rest of the way."

"And Angel, don't try to stop yourself at the bottom," Marcu added. "The farther you slide, the less you have to walk."

"Watch," Tasha said.

And he pushed himself off the edge of the cliff. Carmen saw her demented brother hit the sand with a slight puff of dust. He kept sliding. The dust obscured most of the movement, but she saw him arrive at the bottom. Speed and momentum carried him out into the desert. Then he stood and waved, a faint shadowy figure in the white below.

Angel carefully sat down. He gave Carmen one skeptical look -- but he slipped over the edge without a single word of protest. Carmen watched while he slid a few meters and then lost him in the dust. She glanced once at Marcu as she sat down.

Taking a deep breath, Carmen threw herself over the side of the cliff.

Why not? She'd done crazier things today.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

A bit late....

This is going to be late -- unless the cable company comes through and gets the Internet working again within the next three hours. Since I haven't had Internet for two days, I don't think I can count on that happening. They did say it would be soon, though.

Having no Internet is an interesting experience. I've learned what I count on it for -- other than actual, paying work. For instance weather. It looks as though a storm may be sweeping in, but I don't know. No cable and no internet. I don't think there is a radio in the house, either. Not that I could listen to one, unless it was weather radio. I hate listening to people trying to sound cool and sounding like idiots instead. I hate commercials.

And that's what's great about the Internet. Except for some occasionally annoying commercials on the start of videos on CNN, you pretty much don't have to see or hear anything you don't want to. Go straight to the news, the weather, whatever. It's a far different world from the one in which I grew up, and I like it.

I want my internet back. Right now.

No, that didn't work.

Anyway, I'm getting a few things done. No more than I would have if the Internet were on, I'm afraid. I had hoped that not having the Internet would take me away from the computer. No, not that I noticed.

It will be nice when things just settle down again. Not that I really expect that to happen, or if it does, that it will last for long.

And here we are on Thursday. I have Internet back. I'm working like mad to get caught up -- and Russ is going to be home tomorrow night! Yay!

Here is a little section from Draw the Line. Etinon is a Kasa alien -- human-like in many ways, but not human. Among things, the structure of the face and mouth keeps them from saying the letters m, b, and p. (Though sometimes I forget to cut them out. I'll be doing a lot of that in the edit!)

"You live in honor," Etinon said. He stood as well, though he seemed a little more reluctant. He looked at the box that had been placed in the room earlier and finally reached down and opened the top.

He drew out a long sword -- only not a sword, because both ends had long, blades, sharp all along the edges. From tip to tip, it was at least for foot long, with a grooved handle -- wood -like -- in the middle. Etinon held it in his hand, twisting it a little right and left as though to get the feel. He seemed pleased and drew a harness from the box, slipping it over his left arm and neck. The blades folded inward, like swiss knife, and slid easily into an embroidered pocket.

Etinon looked back at him. "Your own people do not 'rotect you. I am now your guard."

That was not the words he expected to hear and the shock left him momentarily speechless. "I don't think --"

"No, you do not, at least not at ti'es when you should carefully consider your o'tions. And I know hu'ans are given to argue at all ti'es. You cannot now. It is decided."

"But --"

Etinon turned fully to him, left hand resting on the pocket and the weapon. He stood there, saying nothing, and Rafe, with a growing sense of panic, knew he could not argue the Kasa out of his new found position.

"You don't want to do this. I know you don't," he said.

"It is decided. Is it a dishonor to have a Kasa as a guard?"

"No!" he said, and then regretted the quick answer. He might have been able to talk the Kasa out of this madness if he had been thinking.

Etinon had him right there. He didn't think things through too often. And he knew he had no choice now. The room had grown noticeably cooler, and the Displaced looked agitated.

"Let's go."

"I ex'ect that if I say you should do so'thing, you will do it. This is a rule when one has a guard. You do not know the way in which such things are done, so this is the only rule that I will ex'ect you to o'ey without question. If you do not, it will likely get us 'oth killed."

He wanted to argue. He didn't have time. They would have to discuss this later.

"I will obey you to the best of my ability," he answered.

Etinon bowed his head in agreement. "Let us go 'efore 'atters get worse."

As far as Rafe could tell, they couldn't get any worse. But he headed out, Etinon falling in at his back and keeping pace with him.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Speaking of Aliens....

The picture is a common, or cotton-eared, marmoset. Cute little creature!

I've been getting quite a bit of short story writing done. I have two and a half finished for this month, which -- considering how badly things started -- is far better than I had hoped to do. I think I can finish the third one today. It's something playing with a couple older characters, and really not all that great, but kind of fun to do.

Badlands is moving along at an unusually slow pace, but that might pick up after May and the short stories are done. I'm not in any particular hurry for it, though, so that's all right.

Probably the biggest news (such as it is) for the week is that I've started uploading pictures to the zoo site again. I still have to do the Index stuff, but I'm thinking of expanding that a bit with some info anyway, so that might take a little longer. Actually, I'm thinking about doing an 'Animals for Writers' series of articles or maybe even a book or two. That might be a fun project, as long as I don't let it overwhelm me. Maybe just choose an animal from my pictures at random and see what I can write up about it.

You know... I kind of like this idea. I have a huge amount of reference material here at home, including the lovely Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Smithsonian Intuition's Animal, several versions of the Encyclopedia Britannica ... and websites like the Animal Diversity Website.

Yeah. I like this idea. Who knows how far I'll actually get on it... but I think it might be fun to work with. And I always get great story ideas when I start reading about animals again.

So, off to work for me. I have things to consider now!

Draw the Line:

Then he noticed that the docks, unlike those on any other station he'd visited, were not bitterly cold. That pleased him as much as the taste of the air. The gravity was no problem. The Blue Star had been adjusting the gravity to match Xenation's since they left the last port, so at least he felt comfortable walking here.

Lights hung on tall poles illuminated the area, but still left the ceiling lost in shadows. Spots glowed on the walls, in both bright and muted colors so that it looked like a rainbow had spattered itself across the area. Self-sustaining bacteria, he reminded himself. Some of it glowed in spectrums humans can't see.

Just bacteria. Just light. But damn, it looked like art to him; and like many others who had stepped into the station, he felt a whisper of kinship between humans and the long-gone aliens who had built Xenation. It made him feel oddly comfortable.

Something squeaked and bounded past -- a round, furry ball that he recognized as one of the Click's nuisance pets, which he had read were often loose on the station. This one was slightly larger than a beach ball, and he could see a couple short, thin limbs as it grabbed a nearby pole and rushed upward. About midway to the top it leapt off into the shadows and he couldn't see where it went.

A moment later it dropped, perhaps a fall of two floors or more, and landed a few yards from him -- and scrambled back to its feet and darted away, apparently no worse for the landing.

It was his first encounter with anything alien. He watched it disappear into an area off to the right, darting between two poles where a lit sign saying 'Market' hung between them. In a moment, it disappeared amid the makeshift booths.

He watched the market for a moment, but he couldn't clearly see the people moving there. The market had sprung up between the human and Kasa areas, both of them being trading people. The Kasa -- and the Norishi -- looked human enough that he couldn't have told one from the other at this distance and in the poor light.

Closer at hand on the left he found something far more familiar -- a dockside work yard, with various pieces of equipment torn apart and laid out. It looked like the most normal part of the station so far, and he watched the five people there, enjoying the normality of it -- until one of the Click Pets bounded through. A woman with wild orange and pink hair dropped a wrench and dived at the animal, catching it by the fur and lifting it off the ground.

"Give it back," she said, the word and tone clear even at this distance. She gave the creature a little shake. "Give it back now."

Limbs appeared again, and something square dropped into her outstretched hand. She set the pet back on the ground and gave it the kind of friendly pat you would give a not-so-well-trained puppy.

The little creature gave one slight bounce, spun and started away. She watched it for a moment, shoved the stolen box into her pocket and unexpectedly gave three quick claps.

The pet spun and bounded back to her.

"This is for you," she said. She pulled what looked like a wrench out of her pocket. The pet looked like it almost quivered with excitement as it stretched upward. She put the wrench into the creature's hands. It bounced three times. She clapped once and the creature squeaked and flipped before it darted away.

Odd thing to give to an animal, but he could see the others at the work station all nodded and looked pleased. One slapped her on the shoulder. "Well done, Felice! Let's see if it turns up I the right place!"

She smiled, noticed him for the first time and gave a little nod, then turned back to work.
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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Better than I was...

I've been ill for a good part of this last week. When I started feeling better, I slept and slept, and I think I would still be sleeping now if there wasn't so much that I need to get done. The one thing that has really fallen by the wayside is the one thing I really wanted to do -- take part in the FM short story dare. I did start one (and I'll put a bit of it below) but I haven't even finished it, let alone move on to the next one.

I did finish Vita's Vengeance, and it came out well. I'm working on Badlands. I still don't like the opening and I've redone it again ... but it's just not quite getting where I want it. I am rethinking the start, and getting a little closer, I think. Now that I've moved away from the start, I see more of the character coming through for my POV person. That's what I need back at the start. I know it. I just can't seem to put my finger on how to get it, though.

So, even though I've been ill, I've kept working on stuff. It's going pretty well, but I do hope that something clicks with the short stories and I can really move on them again!

Opening to first short story:

He had spent four years on the border, fighting skirmishes with ogres on a weekly basis and even helping to beat back an invasion of demon dogs. He'd taken three serious wounds and even survived an assassination attempt. However, it wasn't until Prince Taj came home that he found himself immersed in the real war.

He rode up to the lower gate with three other soldiers who had insisted on seeing him safely home. They'd been together as a team for over two years now, and he felt both grateful for their company, and embarrassed when the man at the gate didn't recognize the third son of the king.

"Oh, for the love of the Gods," he finally said, swinging off the horse and taking a step closer to the guard. The man brought down his spear.

Taj's friends were off their horses, too, and hands on their swords.

"Hold it! All of you hold it right there!" Taj shouted and waved his hands toward his friends. Then he looked back at the guard. "And if you nudge me with that spear again, you're going to be eating it for dinner. Where is Captain Massin?"

"He's at his meal," the man said, eyes narrow.

"He's at his meal, sir," Kylis said, stepping forward. "This is Prince Taj, you fool."

"Prince Taj is on the border --" The man began. Then he seemed to notice the uniform of the border guard. His face paled a little. The spear did snap back up into place. He looked frantically to the right. "Tenos! Go get Captain Massin right now!"

Someone took off at a run. Taj put a hand on Kyl's shoulder, wishing his friend calm. This was not a good way to go into the royal grounds, and he needed to get his companions calm or send them off. He didn't, though. He wanted that bit of normality that he had in their company for a little while longer. And he owed them at least a few days of luxury. These three had stood at his back for a long time, and he would have been dead without them.

He could see Massin coming and he looked annoyed, but then Massin had always looked annoyed. The older man was all the way to the gate before he saw the four of them standing on the other side. Taj had the pleasure of seeing the man look surprised, which he didn't think had happened before in his lifetime.

"Well hell. You came back home, did you?" Massin said. It was not the way a person normally greeted a returning prince, but it was Massin's way with him. He was, after all, the third son and fifth child -- so the royalty part got a bit diluted along the way. "Well, let him and his companions in. And good luck to the lot of them."

That didn't sound good at all....

By the time they reached the stables, word had somehow got ahead of them. The stable boys raced out and took their horses, looking nervously from one face to another, doubtlessly wondering which one of them was the prince, and forced to be extra polite to all of them for that reason. It amused Taj.

By the time they started toward the huge double doors of the castle, Kyl, Dru and Bosin had begun looking worried. He supposed both the size of the building and the frantic rush of everyone around them did look intimidating to someone who hadn't been born and raised here. Even he felt a little trepidation -- the walls seemed too high, the windows too small. His years out in the wilds were not going to help make him better settled here, and the Gods knew he hadn't been well settled before he left, barely 17 years old and pretty wild already.
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