Friday, June 23, 2017

Flash Friday #256: Dusty and Friends/1



The breeze woke Destiny as the familiar scent of the desert drifted into the castle tower where she and her cousins slept. Dawn light showed a trio of birds watching over her from the windowsill.  She smiled and shooed them away to the oasis below.  One of the castle cats had found his way to her bed, too.  Not a surprise since one usually slept with her.

The others were already dressing.  Usually, she woke first. Her cousins sounded excited.  Why --

Then she remembered!  Today everyone in her age group who lived in the castle, royal or not, would make a presentation to the queen to say what they wanted to do in life.  If they choose wisely, this would be the first step to adulthood.  Destiny desperately wanted that step forward.  Sharing a set of rooms with her four cousins had become increasingly difficult.

Her own fault, she suspected.  Destiny just couldn't fit in with the others.

"Destiny must still be asleep!" Carina laughed from out in the main room.

"I'm not!" she shouted back and leapt from the bed in case they looked. She grabbed the clothing she'd put by the bed.  How could she have overslept?  Last night it seemed as though she wouldn't sleep at all!

Destiny didn't like to wear fancy dresses, but she had no choice today.  At least the pale green looked lovely on her. She spent more time in the sun than most of her royal cousins, male or female, and her skin had grown darker and her hair bleached almost golden by the sunlight. She did not look like the other princesses, which she counted as good.  Destiny had never pursued having fashionably tawny skin and dark hair.  Her cousins hid in the castle away from the sunlight -- and away from any sort of freedom.

Today her cousins spent far more time than usual preparing, so she wasn't the last one ready to go down to breakfast. She tried not to sneeze at the perfumes, and she'd given up doing anything fancy with her hair.

Destiny wasn't hungry, but she didn't want the others to know how worried she felt about today's presentation.   Everyone mumbled and laughed about the next step.  There seemed to be an awful lot of them this year.

"Hey Dusty!  Come sit with us!" Alitia shouted from across the room.

Destiny headed that way. People had called her Dusty for as long as she could remember, and the name suited her since she'd always been a tomboy and gotten into messy situations.  She liked the name better than Destiny, but it was a child's name.  She ought to start thinking about adult things since she'd turned twelve.  If today somehow went well....

Alita, Geren, and Odesa were not royals, but they'd always been friends.  They didn't appear as happy about the day as she had expected and even Geren picked at his cinnamon bread and barely sipped his tea.  Master Stuart, the instructor who had taught them for the last four years, seemed to watch their table more than the other ones.  It was like he knew --

The bell rang.  Master Stuart went to the archway and looked back.  "Come along. Don't dawdle.  The Queen has other work to do!"

They lined up.  As usual, a group of the boys took the lead, but mostly because they intended to go into the guard and had been training for it already, so this was not such a big step for them. The others, though --

Alita started to back away, but Dusty caught her arm.  "You'll do fine."

"I won't, I won't," Alita whispered, her voice trembling.  She stared with terror at the doors as Master Stuart took the first group through.   Alita acted as though she'd never been to the Royal Hall or ever met the queen.  "Oh, I never do anything right, and I so want to be a healer and help those who are ill and injured."

"You'll be wonderful at the work," Dusty reassured her. 

"Do you really think so?"

"Yes, absolutely," Dusty said.  Alita had an excellent touch for healing magic, and she'd proved it several times already.  "You just tell the Queen about how you cared for the young owl and the old fox I brought to you.  She'll understand."

"Oh. I can talk about what I've done.  Yes!  She'll know then that I have thought about this very hard!" Teresa marched right up to the door beside Donid and Kratis, and they looked surprised to see her so proud and happy.  They even let her go in next when Master Stuart opened the door.

Good, because that little surge of hope wouldn't hold for long if Alita had to wait and fret, like Geren who paced back and forth from one side of the hall to the other.  He'd always been high strung but now he looked likely to explode with the tension.

"What should I tell her?  Royals don't usually go to work in the kitchens, but even Cook Nisie says I have the touch for it.  But how to I explain about cooking bread?  It sounds boring even to me, Dusty.  I think I'm doomed to join the army --"

"Tell her how much the children loved the cookies you baked at solstice and how you helped Cook Nisie when she broke her foot.  You are already doing the work.  You won't shock her."

He nodded, though he looked less assured than Alita.  Still, she had the feeling that things would go well for him.  She even encouraged a few others and saw them go through the door.  They all would leave by the far door at the other end of the Royal Hall, ready to begin their new lives.

Finally, in the end, only she remained  Master Stuart opened the door and escorted Dusty inside to see the Queen.

A shame she still had no idea what she wanted to do with her life.

To Be Continued....
994 words

Monday, June 19, 2017

More of the same


I had hoped to go to the mountains this last weekend, but things did not work out.  I had expected that to happen, but I always kind of hope for some little surprise at the end.   I haven't been to Rocky Mountain National Park for fourteen years now.  The mountains, the desert, the ocean -- those are three things I love, but here I am in Nebraska pretty much far from any of them.  Nebraska is not a bad place to be.  I love the seasons and the storms -- but I still miss the other things.  I haven't seen the ocean in a long, long time.  The desert?  Maybe 1997?  The mountains were at least this century. 

I hope that year fifteen will be the one when we get a chance to go.  You never know -- it could happen.  I might even make a few sales and be able to afford something as extravagant as one night away from home!  LOL.  Two nights?  Nah.  My books won't ever sell that well!

So what did I do this weekend instead?  Well, we had an interesting storm on Friday.  Lots and lots of pictures.  Great clouds.  Saturday was much cooler and quieter, which was nice.  Didn't do much at all since Russ had company.  Sunday we had a nice ride out to a local state park, and I got a few pictures, and then we took some dirt roads and headed towards home.  I also spent some time cleaning up some shelves in the living room and hoping that I can get the area cleaned up enough to sometimes set up my photo studio equipment.  I can't even say what I really want to do for pictures, but it would be fun to have the opportunity.

Oh yes, I did write.  I am closing in on the last of part four for Tales of Grey Station 9.  This one should be the final really major rewrite out of the group of ten parts.  I might have everything done by mid-July, which would be nice.  This will be my next Wattpad entry -- though I think I might drop a couple shorter pieces in there as well.  I just thought of a fun new cover art project for Author Vs. Character.  People enjoy that story, and since it's free on Smashwords (and part of NaNo for the New and the Insane), I might as well put it up on Wattpad as well.  Oh, and do a quick edit, too.

So there are my projects.  Must keep moving.  Something might come of it yet!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Flash Fiction # 255 -- Wilder Places



One day Kimberly walked away.

She hadn't planned to escape, but she'd had one too many snide emails from fellow office workers and far too many demands  for something Right Now from higher up the chain.  The last  had been an entire contradiction to the type of report the boss had demanded an hour before.

She'd read the note, considered mayhem, and then took her purse and walked out.  This was not the first time she'd made such a choice at a job.  Kimberly had walked out on pretentious professors who acted as though she hadn't a brain, to an obnoxious restaurant manager at peak time.

This had not been a conscious decision -- just something took over and kept her from screaming, throwing the computer off the desk, and maybe throwing a few things at others.  Martha, who had the desk by the door, saw her heading out and gave a slight nod and a sigh.  She'd probably seen such escapes before.  No one could be happy working for the ill-named Better Life Company.

An hour later Kimberly walked through a shaded street.  The older maples and oak trees formed a canopy over her head, blocking out the harsh light and at least giving the pretense of cooling the world around them.  Summer in the city did not appeal to her.

I could shed my clothing, shed this human skin ... shed my assignment?  Give up my wings?

Someday I'll fly away.

This wasn't the first time she'd said those words to herself, either.   She held up her human hand and tried to remember it furred and clawed, a weapon to use against those that would intrude on a griffin's territory.

If only the humans had been content with their own place.  If only they believed in magic.  If only....

The trees did help. They reminded her of the far wild places -- there were still a few -- where her kind, and a few other shape-shifters still roamed.  Those places were already marginal, though.  They needed to be able to survive living with humans.  She knew her work was important.  So far, she'd been one of the few who could stand to be around humans for any length of time.

She even liked them when they were not being pretentious, over-bearing monsters with delusions of grandeur.

Jonathon met her at the door.  She hadn't expected him to be home, too.

"I could sense you for about the last mile," he said with an unexpectedly bright smile.  "I take it work did not go well?"

"I need to send an email resignation so they don't start looking for me like the last job," she said.  "We don't want that mess again."

"True," Jonathon said and smiled again.

"You quit your job as well?" she asked.

"Oh yes.  I have welded my last weld.  I also told the boss what he could do with his welder."

"You have spent far too much time with humans."

"Maybe so, but tell me you didn't at least think something along the same line," he said as they headed into the kitchen.

"Maybe I'll put it in the email," she said.  The idea appealed to her.  She got a soda -- had taken a liking to those the last few years, along with the caffeine -- and sat at the table.  Jonathon grabbed one as well.  He still smiled.  "You look far too happy considering we just failed again."

"Maybe so," he admitted.  Then he shrugged.  "We've been approaching this the wrong way, Kim.  We've tried to be human in human places."

"I thought that was the idea."

"Yeah, but I think we need to make an adjustment and try for only half the equation."

"Not be humans in human places?" she said with a snort.

"Ha.  As much as I'd like to go wild ... no.  I have a better idea.  How about if we go human in wild places instead?"

Jonathon pushed a paper over that had been sitting on the edge of the table.  She hadn't noticed that it must have been reading it before now.  It made no sense to her, though.  She didn't know enough about human culture to see the chance he was offering.

"We can volunteer at one of the National Parks, Kim," he said with a touch of his hand on hers.  Human contact still bothered her sometimes, and this one shocked her.  "Their wild places, my friend."

"Volunteer?  We don't get paid?"

"You have been spending far too much time in the human world.  We don't need money.  We can get what we want with magic.  We can get the positions we want with magic, too -- just like we have been before now.  We go to the wild areas, Kimberly.  We go to where we can be ourselves, at least part of the time."

She had never seen such longing in him before and she let his emotions wash over her.  Wild places.  "Yes, let's do it."

A year later, she was still at the job. She even enjoyed helping humans and answering questions about the forest and mountain area she'd come to love and know so well.  Others of their kind worked at various parks.  They'd even used enough magic so that they didn't take jobs from the humans who deserved a chance to enjoy these places as well.

One day she saw a man and woman -- and the woman recognized her.  "Kimberly!  Look at you!  I am so glad to see you are doing alright!"

Martha, who had sat at the desk by the door, hugged her like a long lost sister.

"You look good, too," Kimberly said.  "Did you leave?"

"A week after you.  And a month later the place closed down and two of the bosses are still in court over irregularities in their paperwork.  I'm surprised no one contacted you.  Though maybe they couldn't find you out here in this wilderness!"

"Maybe," she said and then smiled brighter.  "Let me show you my world."


1000 Words

Monday, June 12, 2017

This is what prolific looks like


It is almost half way through the year.  I keep thinking that I need to pick up my writing pace now, but the truth is that I really don't.  I'm not certain why I think I've dropped way behind on anything.   I'm sitting at 443,810 words for the year so far.  I might manage to write another 56,190 words and reach the 500k mark before July 1, but I'm not actively pushing for it.  I've published three novels and almost completed one WattPad novel (I should post the last of it before the end of the week). I rewrote and edited four older novels, wrote one new first draft with the start of a second, wrote and posted about 25 flash fiction pieces, and worked on four outlines for the upcoming November NaNo.  Those last have a long ways to go.

I've taken several more courses from the Great Courses group: History of Ancient Egypt, The Night Sky, Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, and I am part way through Oceanography.  The hieroglyphs one has lead to more books and more study, too.

I am perpetually busy. 

And I am never bored.  Sitting somewhere outside my house with nothing to do?  It doesn't happen often I keep notepads in my purse and I write notes about the current story or practice hieroglyphs.  Often I have my Nook and I'll read and sometimes write on it as well.  I've only read 18 books so far, so not quite one a week.  Still, with everything else ... not bad.

I never leave the house without at least one of the cameras.  Going for a short ride can net me a hundred pictures.  I bring them home, load them into my computer, tag them, sort out the bad ones and work with one or two to post, and generally have a good time.  I put one up every day for the picture of the day blog.  I taken 6365 pictures, all nicely tagged in Lightroom, and did at least 152 pieces of art, mostly based on the photos.

What don't you see on this list?

Television.

Games.

There has to be a trade off somewhere, because there simply isn't enough time to do everything.  I find writing more entertaining than most shows.  I do on occasion binge on some series or movie I have on DVD, but those times are rare. 

Except for some time on line, I am not a sociable person, either.  Most of the time, I would rather be writing.

I worked out the problem for myself years ago:   If I wanted to write, I had to make the time.  If I wanted to write a lot, I needed to make a lot of time.  No matter how fast you write, and how well you edit, creating a story takes time.  Creating several a year takes as much determination as it does time.    It also takes mental flexibility to easily move from one story to another.  That takes practice.  I am able to write something new in a first draft and switch over to editing something else.  The stories are not the same and the process for each of those steps is entirely different.

Focus, too.  Oh yes, if you can't ignore the outside world (and many of you don't have a choice -- you have to listen), then creating writing time becomes more difficult.  At worst, my distractions are a group of cats all of whom seem to want to learn how to type.  Zaphod is the most persistent.  I sometimes leave his 'messages' in my first drafts and mark them with his name.  Other times, I kick everyone out of the office and close the door.

And then I write some more.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Flash Fiction # 254 -- Space Cowboy




"An infestation!" LaxLix screamed, her skin turning an alarming shade of moss green as she leaned my way.  "YalYix, Are you saying we have an infestation of humans?"

I lifted all four hands in a warding gesture and hoped she thought I meant it for the humans and not for her.  She backed up anyway, her silver eyes blazing.

"They've only managed one small settlement."  I waved two hands to the map I had drawn on the sand board.

She snarled curses that I politely ignored.  If the Sleeping Council had listened to me at the last Long Dark meeting, this wouldn't have happened.  I'd tracked the humans and knew they were coming our way.

I didn't remind her of my warnings, nor did I saw that I was thrilled to finally get a chance to see one face-to-face. I had studied their culture, as much history as I could pry from the scattered tidbits of information we'd gathered, first from audio and later from video and text signals. 

I timed my meeting for late at night, since I had studied the rite.  I knew one did not interrupt work, but that this nebulous business ended somewhere around sunset.  I waited for both suns to go down, just to be safe.

They were not what I expected.

And I don't think they expected me at all.

When I walked into their camp, several people screamed.  This was not a cultural tradition I was familiar with, but I didn't want to insult them, so I screamed as well.  Five of them screamed louder.  I did my best to top them, though I had to compete alone.  A few began waving their arms.  I did as well.

They screamed louder.

Eventually, everyone quieted.  This, finally, was the moment.

I stepped forward.  "Klaatu Barada Nikto."

"He knows his science fiction," someone said.

"My favorite genre," I replied and surprised them again.

I sat at the table with one.  He said his name was Tom.  I said mine was Uncle Martin.  Others spoke, some of them quite excited now, though at least they'd given up the Rite of Screams.

"No sign of intelligent life forms," Tom said.  He still looked stunned.  "Not when the scout went by and not when we landed.  But now --"  He waved a mechanical device in front of me.   They'd come a long way since Star Trek. 

I explained about The Dark and the Long Sleep, about our quarters underground and how they were not likely to see many of my kind -- and no, they did not want to go looking for them.  LaxLix was already unhappy, and she had a lot of followers.

I, on the other hand, liked humans.  Loved their imagination. 

We talked a great deal about classic science fiction.  I noted that a few of the others studied me, some with devices and others taking notes.  The majority of the group, though, had begun to pack up all the items they'd brought out and scattered around.

"You aren't leaving!" I cried out in dismay and caught Tom with three hands, the fourth waving towards the others.

"We can't set up a colony here," Tom explained.  "It's against the rules.  Besides, you don't want a hundred thousand humans descending on you in the next year or so."

"Infestation," I mumbled.

"I imagine it would seem like one," he agreed.  "But don't worry.  We will put a post here. We'll want to keep in contact."

"Wonderful!" I said and let go of him.  I'm not sure if I really had meant to drag him away and keep him safe or not.  I noted that Tom had not said he would be here, which I would regret.  He seemed like a good Space Cadet.

"Come on.  I'll show you the ship," he said.

My breath caught.  This was a gift beyond all expectations.  I folded all my arms carefully across my chest. 

"I shall touch nothing," I promised.  "I have heeded the warnings and seen what happens to those who do not obey."

"Wiser than some of my crew," Tom mumbled.

So we went within the craft, and a wondrous vehicle it was, too.  Oh, not the Enterprise.  I thought more of a Firefly -- a friendly little home out in the stars.  In Tom's office, he reached into his desk and pulled out a device with a screen and held it out to me.

"This holds all the classic sci-fi that I own," Tom said.  "I want you to have it."

I was so shocked that all four of my arms moved in different directions, one waving in the air, one reaching, one folding to my chest, and the last grabbing the arm that almost took the device.

"I cannot," I said.  "It is too great a gift.  I am not worthy --"

"I have a complete backup," Tom reassured me.  "There are hours and hours of shows there, plus at least a thousand of the best books.  You can read standard?"

"Oh yes.  Learned from texts," I mumbled and let my fingers touch the device.

"You open the menu here," he said and showed me.  I committed the Rite to memory.  "If the battery goes low, it will chime and put up a text message.  This is solar powered.  Set it out in the sun for a couple hours, and it'll be good to go for another few months."

I would guard the gift, standing over it during the dangerous hours of the sun and sleep with it in the dark.  But I had no gift to return as we left the ship.  I could tell they would be gone before the dawn.

"I wish you well on your journey to where no human has gone before," I said.  "I cannot give you any gift but a warning.  Whatever you do, do not go to Z'ha'dum."

Tom nodded solemnly and bade me farewell.  I watched the ship lift.
"Until we meet again, Space Cowboy."



1000 Words





Monday, June 05, 2017

A break -- with photos!



I had a wonderful trip down to the Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari on Sunday.  Except for a couple incidents with heat, it was a wonderful day.  The Safari has animals that are indigenous to the area, like wolves, bears, bison, elk -- I did not walk up to the bear and wolves because it was already too hot.  They have a number of birds, too: sandhill cranes, American pelicans, ducks, geese, etc.  It's just a nice little ride through the area and a great place for photos.
So today you get a few photos instead of seeing me rant about writing.  (It's going fine, by the way!)

















Friday, June 02, 2017

Flash Fiction #253 -- Words



I haven't had any exploding clocks since I took over the position of personal liaison at  Permia's Fine Clothing for Men and Women a couple months ago.  I liked my job a lot better than the previous one, but it was still maddening.  Today I had four events to worry about coordinating.  Tomorrow I would deal with a mother of a sweet sixteen girl who appeared intent on driving me crazy before the big party in four days.

But that wasn't the problem.  I forgot about something.

Words have power.  You don't have to be magical to know that the right words can heal or wound a soul. With fae, they can also heal or wound the body to some degree and depending on the power and natural inclinations of the person speaking.  I knew this, of course.

But I had spent a lot of time with humans.  Humans say things they don't mean literally -- or at least they don't have the power to enforce them.

"Hey, Nita," someone said from the door to my office.  I looked up trying not to scowl.  "How's it going?  Need anything?"

"No thanks, Mark." This was the fourth time he'd come to chat today.  "I don't want to see you until I say so, okay?  I've got a mess to clean up here."

"A -- yeah," Mark replied.  He hurried away so quickly it took me by surprise -- but good.  I got through a lot of work that afternoon, mostly by saying the same thing to some other people.

I filed reports, sent off emails, and no one even tried to waylay me at lunch.  I had a plethora of emails from people who would otherwise have come to my office.  I got more work done.  By the end of the day, I had almost entirely caught up.

It wasn't until I was leaving the building that I realized something was wrong.  I stepped out into the main showroom -- and people I worked with scattered.  What kind of game -- no, not a game.  I felt the magic in the air, darting around like a wild thing.  Someone had used magic on my people!

I lifted my hand and vowed that when I found out who --

Oh.

My magic.  What the hell?  Why would --

Snippets of my day ran through my mind.

Oh.

Well, this was easy to fix.  "So how is business today?" I asked to no one in particular and to everyone in general.  Faces appeared, some of them looking surprised that they had gone somewhere else.  Lucky the doors had already been locked, or we might have had some odd rumors spread by 4reeeeeeeeeeeeeee (this is Zaphod the cat's contribution to the story) by customers.   It only took a couple moments for the others to get back to normal.  Good.

As I headed home, I thought about having unconsciously used magic that way.  Not something I would normally do.  I had let my fae guard down because I was so caught up in my human work.   I'd been trying to save my magic, build up enough to get back home -- and it scared me that I could use it so easily without even thinking.

Not that it had been much.  I'd only influenced the humans a little.  If anyone had needed to see me, that person might have felt uncomfortable coming to the door, but the moment we started to speak, all would be well.  So good there.

And....

I thought about how that power might come in handy.  Not overuse it like today -- well, not often since I really did get work done -- but there might be other ways I could apply a hint of magic to make life easier for a lot of people.

I couldn't wait to get back to work. There was a whole new feeling for me.

I spread a little cheer through the store, though not too much.   Cheer, I knew, would spread on its own once it got a toehold.  Then I went to my office and waited for my 10 am meeting with Mrs. Vanderjune and her sixteen-year-old daughter.  I'd never been given her name.  She was nothing more than an accessory, much like some women carried around yapping little lap dogs covered in diamonds and cashmere.

The girl sat in the chair by her mother, gave a slight sigh, and looked as though she would endure a hurricane without moving or uttering a word.

For the next half hour, her mother went over details we'd checked a dozen times already.  I had laid down the law that she could not change colors this late in the game, but right then if she'd said she wanted matching purple and pink ball gowns trimmed in real gold, I probably would have conjured them just to send her on her way.

Daughter said nothing.  Daughter would endure the party, which probably had never been her idea of fun anyway --

I looked at her and caught her attention, which seemed to surprise the girl.  "I don't know your name," I said.

Her mother sputtered to a stop and frowned.

"Anne," the girl said.  Of course.  It was her mother's name as well.

"Anne is there something you'd like to add or change."  And then I added a little bit of magic. "After all, this is your party, not your mother's."

Mrs. Vanderjune's breath caught.  And then she began crying.  I had not expected that reaction at all, but she blubbered and apologized to her stunned daughter.  We spent the next three hours making a few changes.  Not many, actually.  Anne the younger was much like her mother.

Maybe I was starting to take this Fairy Godmother routine too far, but you know -- it feels good to help out others.  I found myself thinking more about the future of my job and less about going back to the world of the fae -- and that didn't seem so bad after all.

Word Count -- 997