Saturday, June 29, 2013

Also, editing.

Posted a short story earlier on tumblr. Have now edited it a good half-dozen times. Some of that is because it's a reworking of an older story, most that I've written it in two chunks (and switched tenses while doing so). Most is that I do weird things with tenses when writing. I'll switch from 'said' to 'says' within paragraphs, to make something more immediate, and have to fix it later, shove present and past together into a hodge-podge blender.

When I write magical realism (to the extent that I do at all) it seems to be somewhat an attempt TO justify this and try and make whatever flow the story has fit with that. It seldom works and I am always and often torn between writing a first-person story in says and said, bandying both back and forth until I find out which one fits the story best.

The end result is often an editing nightmare, mind. I suspect a better story comes from it, mostly because I hope it does.

Flash Fiction Friday: Alarums

And again, another prompt from the Monkey. (I wrote one up yesterday on the way home from work, but the end result didn't fit the prompt -- and the character wouldn't have an alarm clock, so is that.)

When the alarm clock shrieks each morning, my first conscious thought is always the same question.

When did I get an alarm clock?

I don't even know anymore. It rings, I stagger out of bed and hunt the corners of the building. No alarm clock. No cell phone. No computer. Just a wide and empty old house I'm renting in which to write a novel. I asked the owner about hauntings, odd noises. Got jokes about wanting to steal material.

But every morning, without fail, the alarm clock rings like the ones in movies with two bells on the top like eyes or ears. I wonder if it is somehow my typewriting typing without me, the sound of the carriage return woven into guilt-dreams. I make coffee, mark another day off on the calendar.

My editor is going to find me soon, to demand to know where the finished story is, and all I can think about is buying an alarm clock. Maybe that would stop it from ringing. Maybe everything would start to make sense, then.

I sit instead and begin to type chapter seven.

The alarm clock rings.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I was trying to find a story....

I wrote a series of chess/magic-themed stories back in 2007. I've been able to find 2 of them (to revise and fix) and in the process of hunting down files found stories and fragments I'd entirely forgot I'd wrote. Dinosaur Jesus and the Emerald Sword was definitely a good one to forget. I'm still missing one of the stories, but in the process found out I'd written a Pokemon story at some point in 2008.


The old man sat in the room, sunlight sliding in through cracks in the grimy window, and waited. There was cheering outside, joy and laughter; the sounds of children learning adult games of war, dominance - but hush, he told himself. It was never like that, when you were young. It was only a game, not a tool. Only a game.

He stood slowly, joints letting him know he was alive with the occasional twinge of too-familiar pain. The children had stopped coming, for lessons or for stories. Time had moved on; other heroes, other legends: some of them went out to make their own. He could see it in their eyes, remembered the hunger in his own.

“The price is having to be the best,” he’d told them, desperate and sad and yearning. Nothing remains: you grow old, lose, try again. Then you are too old and there is nothing left but a pale mockery fighting the same old fight.

He turned on the lamp beside the bed, electric light filling the room, and stared at the ball in it, whispering: “I choose you,” and remembering his youth.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


                 For Jesse on his Birthday

I imagine you walking,
air like candy flowing into parched lungs
that think they never breathed before.
Stranger's eyes look at you from beside Coke machines.
Stranger in a land perhaps
not strange enough,
filled with jarring echoes of home.

I imagine the lands you travel through
as one who sees them on TV:
picturesque landscapes, Kodak moments
frozen in time, insects embraced in amber.
Each day is a new moment.
Something new to see - and be?

Not a week passes when I do not see something
I wish I could show to you
or something is said you'd love to discuss.
Half a world separates us yet sometimes
I feel you are closer than you seem,
like an object seen in a rear view mirror.

When our roads meet again
we will have much to say to each other,
knowledge to share, to learn, to remember.
Wisdom, perhaps, to express.
And we'll know if time has made us wiser
and if air can taste of candy.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

flash fiction friday: savage times we live in

And this Friday's prompt from the monkey (though in this case I did it today because no idea came to me last night).

"It was just after lunch when the monkeys attacked."

"Sweet Jesus," Chester said, rightly horrified, though perhaps not quite enough to justify taking the name of the Lord in vain.

"I know. Monkeys! Can you believe it?" Lady Swindon would have swooned, but the jungles of grimiest Africa lacked swooning couches suitable for any lady even in the primitive lodgings they had been offered.

"I trust you managed to fight them off?"

"My son Richard fired off his gun and they scattered away like savages always do."

"Savages, good lady?"

"But of course." Lady Swindon let out a well-bred huff. "Spears are no match for guns, my good sir. Why, the very Empire would fall apart if that were true!"

"Oh, I say." Though no peer of the realm, Chester was kin to several and much interested in the natural sciences, so felt able to vouchsafe a mighty cough. "We cannot call the natives monkeys any more, Lady Swindon. It is simply not done."

"Well, however shall I tell my friends in London about this dastardly turn of events then?"


How to begin Draft 2 ...

If you are me, you figure the opening can be used again, and do two treatments of it. Then realize you can skip most of that and start it at a different point. Only your brain decides to inform you that on day two of feeling utterly sick and crappy.

At midnight.

And won't shut up.

On the plus side, I did figure out a little more plot stuff and added a new character into the story. On the other side, I've deleted 3 times the amount I've written on this draft so far.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On revision

One of my goals in writing the first draft of Ghoulish Trappings had been to have two  ongoing plots not connected with each other save in superficial ways, which is harder to do when one plot centres about one character, the other a different one and the entire story is from the first character's POV. There was also a lot of magicians, each with stories and goals of their own and the result was too cluttered a mess to make sense, with the motive force behind the entire story drowned out under everything else.

Noise overwhelmed signal.

So this version stripped out over two-third of the characters. One of the major plots had been banished, several characters no longer exist so minor ones are gone as well. I don't need more plot or more characters to make the story stand up: it just needs to focus on a small core and build on that. At least, that is my hope and desire this time around. We shall see how it goes.

And for the record, this entire draft is the fault of a certain prompt making me reconsider scrapping this entire section of the character's lives. Without it, Cam won't exist and that isn't fair at all. So ... it needs to be small. It needs mundane things. It needs to strain the weird relationship Bryce and Wray have and see how well it holds together.

It will also have an appendectomy in it now.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Spectacle of Distraction

It seems that bear-bating in Elizabethan England could be seen as their version of Roman gladiators. It would be interesting to try and find some equivalence (if one expected) for most other eras of history. One can make arguments for soccer and reality TV in the modern era (or TV in general, I suspect), but the visceral thrill of watching people be executed or hanged at the gallows seems to have been resigned to the past. On a basic level, every society needs values to let pressure escape from them, some being obvious and others much less so.

Religion counts as well, since one can argue that its primary purpose is social control/conformity. That's not to say it is what religion is about, but effectively what it becomes as a tool to maintain social order. If you want to avoid a revolt, you make sure people can't even conceive of it or convince them that they will be vindicated in some future time (via heaven/reincarnation/the dead all being equal and so forth).

The more obvious and gruesome spectacles to distract people also serve as warnings, much as being called a witch did in times gone by -- they told people that this is what happens if you screw up and warned them against stepping too far out of social norms. That betting on them is also the norm and can allow one some measure of wealth and perceived control over their lives is definitely an important factor in such events, but the fact that they become necessary for a society could be considered to imply a breakdown or at least symptomatic of a massive change in said society.

Elizabethan England was having the Protestant/Catholic wars straining ideas of what it meant to be of one faith or the other, and the price of conversion vs. that of souls, whether the nation could be considered godly and so forth, while the Roman empire was bursting with slaves and falling apart at the seams. I suspect that a society with less discrepancy between the rich and the poor in terms of wealth would require less overt or obvious means of social control, but it is likely a difficult theory to study.

Friday, June 14, 2013

flash fiction friday: stopping death

Another prompt from the monkey, that being: The smell was worse than surströmming

The smell was worse than surströmming. Even people who didn't know what surströmming was knew that the moment the corpse of the god washed ashore. We didn't know it was a god, not then, but we all knew what it smelled of: imagine the worst thing you can smell. No, worse than that.

Imagine what the despair of hope smells like, then the sour smell -- more a taste of a body days dead -- that bypasses the olfactory entirely to lodge in the liver. An apotheosis of plague.

The god was scarcely bigger than a man, and by the time we'd begun to understand it was almost too late. New York had been contaminated by one, ground turned sour, the air a bruise.

We burned it, using napalm and curses. It took children in the end to get the fire going but the god did not infect the land and that was enough for us.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

flash fiction friday: Ghoulish Incidents

A prompt from the monkey, as follows: Even though the waiting room was empty, she sat right next to me. Limit of 500 words.

Even though the waiting room was empty, she sat right next to me.

I was sitting on the cheap metal and plastic chair, fingers having dug grooves  into the metal. I didn't trust myself to get up. Wasn't sure what I'd do if I moved.

"You shouldn't be here." I didn't look over. My voice was flat and cold, even to my ears. It was long past visiting hours; security had decided no one was paid enough to try and get me to leave. I look human. I'm not, and didn't hide it from them.

"Wray." She didn't reach over, didn't touch.

I turned my head. "Ghosts don't belong here."

Cam flinched, as if the words were an exorcism. "I'm your friend."

"You're not Bryce's."

"He'll be fine. They're just removing his appendix."

"He's a magician. He can bend the world. This shouldn't have --."

"That doesn't make him perfect," Cam said, even softer.

I could have made a joke, then. Didn't. Nothing came out. I eat corpses, never bothered me at all, but right now my stomach is twisted up in knots, the air thick with the smells of chemicals and death.

This is a place people go to die. I don't say it out loud. At least, I don't think so, but Cam reads my face and raises a hand. Drops it. She's made of magic, like all ghosts: touching me might destroy her, but I can see she wants to.

It pulls me out of the fear. A little bit. "Why are you here?"

"Three weeks before I died, my best friend downed pills. I took her to emerg, sat in the waiting room. Didn't call her family, because they would have blamed her. Didn't call mine because they would have said I shouldn't have made low-class friends in the first place. I sat. I waited. No one should wait alone, Wray."

"He's alone. In the room. With the doctors."

"I know. But I don't think they'd do their best work with you watching them?" she said.

I blinked. She didn't flicker, didn't vanish to some other place, but looked as if she wanted to. I snickered, forced myself to let go of the chair. "Okay. Good. Good point." I ran my fingers over my face, trying to pull words together. "Fuck."

It wasn't "I'm scared."  It wasn't "Thank you." But she seemed to get it anyway.

I looked at the clock. I waited.

Monday, June 03, 2013

on writing poetry again (a ramble)

I haven't written poems in years, not really. Oh, small scraps here and there, but mostly stories and novels in the past six years or so. At present, however, I am reaching my nadir period, wherein I don't write much for a month or two. It happens every year: I figure the brain needs to recharge.

I'll continue with Boy& Fox, at the slow pace I'm doing now, let other stuff marinate. And in defiance of that, slowly write more poems. I don't consider myself good at it -- I wouldn't subject the world to a book of them, for example (chapbook or otherwise) but it's a nice pov to throw my brain into, to tease out pure economy from words.

Also to dig up old stuff and revise it, which is always an interesting experiment.  Shall see how the next month goes.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Flash fiction Friday: Occam was an idiot

Because the monkey prompted me, and I am a sucker for prompts ...

In this case, it would be incorrect to assume Occam’s Razor. Mostly cuz Occam used to it to justify God as the simplest solution to near anything, when the Devil fits better. Thing is, see, if you have a problem the simplest solution is to no longer have a problem. And if you don't think it's easy to kill yourself, you've never given the matter much thought.

I had. It passed away some afternoons. A few evenings. TV shows helped: the amount of sick ways to off yourself shown on TV has to be some kind of suicidee paradise. Thing was, you know, I had other solutions to my missing phone. E-mailed a friend, told them to call me, found it. I didn't tell them they'd saved my life, because that sounds damn stupid.

But I had a game of Angry Birds to play, and Occam could go screw himself as far as I was concerned.