Category Archives: Fiction

WisCon Writing Contest

On my first day at WisCon I discovered that the person who organized the Odyssey Con spontaneous writing contest also set one up for WisCon. So, of course, I had to at least attempt to participate. Since I hadn’t seen the e-mail before the con I knew I had little chance of actually being a part of it, but I thought it would be worth it to at least show up and see what happened.

To make a long story short, I got in. I decided that I didn’t care whether I won or not, so I would just treat it as a writing exercise. They provided six lines of dialogue and I decided to use them all as the start of my story and just go on from there. I also decided not to name the characters or use any kind of attribution. I was thinking about a writer’s podcast I had heard last year that spoke about how the reader should be able to tell the speaker by the dialogue if it is written correctly, so I tried to write each speaker with their own voice. I’m not sure how well I did, but I’ll let you judge for yourself. Below is my entry.

Mission Control

 “Picking anything up yet?”

“Nothing human. Coupla cats.”

“How do you know they’re cats?”

“How do you know they’re cats? If it looks like a cat and meows like a cat, it’s a cat. These guys think like cats.”

“And different from dogs, yeah?”

“Just like the difference between red and blue. Besides, they’re both normally like, uh, I dunno, a soft glow … until something lights ’em up. But it takes different things to do it. Cats light up when they see some kind of small critter they can chase, but dogs only do it for people. In f…. Oh, wait! What’s that now?”

“What? Let me see!”

“Don’t get your panties in a twist. Give me a second to focus in.”

“Is it them?”

“Not sure. Could be. Here, take a look.”

“They’re big enough to be human. But how can we tell if they’re the guys we’re looking for?”

“Let’s see what happens when they see the bait. If they light up, we’ve got ‘em.”

“What are you using for bait?”

“Like I said, they think like cats, so they’re looking for something small that they can hunt. But they’re bigger than cats, so they’re gonna want something a little bigger. Hang on, I think they spotted it.”

“That? Oh my god, what did you – you didn’t!”

“I told you, they needed something to hunt.”

“But it’s a child! How could you?”

“Don’t worry, we won’t let them hurt it. Besides, they like to play with their food first.”

“They play with it? That’s sick!”

“That’s why we’re here. We’ll get ‘em before they hurt the kid.”

“We better.”

“You worry too much.”

“I can’t help it. I’d like to have kids myself someday, you know.”

“You? Yeah, right! That’s rich. Carlos, they’re on the move. Get your team into position.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just that I have never thought of you as the parenting type. You’re always focused on the job. I bet you don’t even date, do you? Well?”

“All right! I admit it. I haven’t made a lot of time for myself recently, but that doesn’t mean –“

“When’s the last time you went out on a date?”

“That’s none of your business.”

“Come on. You can tell me. I promise it won’t leave this room. Get ready, Carlos, they’re almost at your position.”

“Well… fine. The last time I was out on a date was right after I graduated from the Academy.”

“After… Holy crap, that was, like, eight years ago! No wonder you’re wound up so tight.”

“I am not!”

“Oh, please! You walk around like you’ve got a broomstick rammed up your ass. Ramrod straight and ready to snap.”

“… I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Where are our targets?”

“Don’t worry about them. Carlos took them down ten seconds ago. And look. There’s the kid, safe and sound.”

“So is it them?”

“Just a sec. Scan results are coming in now. DNA…Kirlian…Psychotron…. Yep, we’ve got ‘em!”

“Finally!”

“How long have you been after these guys?”

“Three years.”

“Wow. Must be a relief for it to be over.”

“You have no idea.”

“So what are you going to do now?”

“I’m not sure. Whatever the Director wants, I guess.”

“Can I make a suggestion?”

“Sure.”

“Take some time off. It doesn’t have to be long, but it wouldn’t kill you to take a vacation.”

“I don’t know…”

“Just think about it. I usually take a couple weeks off between gigs myself. I’m planning on taking my boat out for a tour of the islands.”

“That sounds nice.”

“Damn straight. Nothing but the wind and the waves for two whole weeks. If that doesn’t recharge your batteries, nothing will. So what do you say?”

“Are you inviting me to come with you?”

“Sure, why not?”

“Because we work together, that’s why!”

“That’s the worst excuse I’ve ever heard. You know damn well that interpersonal relationships are allowed. And besides, I think we work well together, don’t you?”

“Well, yeah.”

“So think of it as a team-building exercise. There’s nothing like sailing to get people more in sync with each other.”

“…”

“Come on! It’ll be fun!”

“All right! It’s a date.”

“Okay! You won’t regret it.”

“I had better not. Now let’s get this mission wrapped up. I’ve got to go shopping for a swimsuit.”

“Yes sir!”

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Filed under Conventions, Fiction, The Writing Experience

Finished Early, Posted Late

I just finished Dirty Little Freaks story number ten (at 8:00 PM on Wednesday night). And as I wrapped it up I also realized that I hadn’t posted my Wednesday update yet. So here we go.

I told you on Sunday that I was going to try something funny this week. I’m not sure how successful I have been with that goal. I tried to write in a humorous voice, and the story is kind of silly, but it isn’t really something that I would laugh at.

The tale is about a woman who goes to work for a lab and ends up being the object of experimentation simply because she refuses to go out with the lab techs. First they turn her into the incredible fifty foot woman, and then they make her into a petite anime schoolgirl. At the end, she finds out that she also got psychic powers that allow her to control other people with her mind, which makes it all worth it.

So it’s a silly story of almost 1,000 words. The character is kind of interesting, and may be someone we will see again. I’m not sure about keeping her powers though. At the very least I would probably cut them back a bit to make them less powerful.

That’s all I’ve got for you tonight. I’ll be meeting with my writing group tomorrow for the first time in a few months. We’re all trying to get back on track, and I’ll be sharing some of my stories with them for critique. I’m not sure which ones yet, but at least I’ve got something.

I’ll be back on Sunday with another update. I’ll be spending the rest of the week trying to figure out what I’ll be writing next. Any suggestions?

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Filed under Fiction, The Writing Experience

And Now, For My Next Trick….

Going along with my theme from last week, I’m going to try to write a little bit of classic fantasy this week. Probably something with goblins in it. I’m not sure exactly what the story is, but I did have an interesting dream this morning that might be appropriate.

As for last week’s story, the best thing I can say about it is that it is finished. To be brutally honest, I think it sucks. But as we have all heard, it’s okay to suck. While the story itself is awful, it does contain within it the seeds of something better. Maybe even this year’s NaNoWriMo project, if I don’t come up with something better before November rolls around.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. I’ll be back on Wednesday to let you know how it is going.

Now go write!

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Knowing When To Stop

I had an epiphany last week while I was working on my story. I started late, and wasn’t writing much on a daily basis, but I thought I knew where I was going with it until I wrote a single line. With that line, everything changed.

I was done.

All of my thoughts on what was going to happen next were irrelevant. The story was finished and it was good. It didn’t need anything else. I could just stop right where I was and it was okay.

“Always leave them wanting more.” – P.T. Barnum

Sometimes it’s better to leave the readers hanging. When you leave the reader the task of answering the questions that are left hanging, believe me, they will do it. And they’ll think the story is better that way.

So I ended up with a short story of 568 words. One of the shortest I have ever written. But I think it works. And to show you what I mean, I’m going to share it with you here. (It’s just a first draft, so don’t expect greatness.)

The only thing left in the box was an old, dirty penny. Sam picked it up and peered at it, trying to make out the date through the grime. 1916. It was older than his grandpa. Might be worth something if he cleaned it up and took it to a coin shop.

He jerked his head up at a noise from the entrance to the alley. Four large boys sauntered along, eager for trouble. “Whatcha got there, runt?” the largest one called out, swinging his baseball bat against a garbage bag, tearing it open and scattering the contents across the alley in a wave of refuse. His posse hooted at the resulting mess.

Sam stood up, putting his hands on his hips and slipping the coin into his back pocket. “Nothin’,” he said. “There ain’t but trash up here. I’s jus’ leavin’.” He walked towards the others, but they closed in, trapping him on the wrong side of escape.

“No need to rush,” Joe said, wrapping his beefy arm around Sam’s shoulder. “Why don’t you stick around a bit so we can have some fun?” He wiped his bat on Sam’s shirt, leaving a greasy stain slanting across his chest.

Sam squirmed out of the larger boy’s grasp and backed away. “Cain’t do that, man,” he said. “I’s gotta get somewheres.”

“That so?” Joe asked. “And where is it that you gotta get to so quick?” He put the bat up on one shoulder, holding it loosely. He looked relaxed, but Sam knew that he could whip it down and start a beating in one quick second.

Sam thought fast. Things weren’t looking very good. He was just starting to get used to this town, but it wasn’t looking like he was going to be able to stick around much longer.

It was the same thing everywhere he went. He tried to stay out of trouble, under the radar. But it didn’t take long before someone cornered him, just like this, and forcing him to act. Then people would start looking at him funny, calling him a freak, and he would have to leave.

The longest he had managed to stay in one place was for a glorious three months in the mountains of Oregon. He had found a cave that summer, and was living off the wild, with only occasional trips into town to scavenge for supplies and remind himself that he wasn’t the only one left alive. That idyllic time had ended with a group of boys, just like Joe and his gang, cornering him in an alley.

And now here he was, thousands of miles away, once again about to fight for his life. No matter how far he ran, the people were always the same. They all had their idea of how the world worked, and it didn’t include him.

Screw it. He didn’t need this crap. And he certainly didn’t need a beating from these jerks. Sam was sick of living on the fringes of society, running from place to place and living off of garbage. It was time to do something about it, and there was no reason not to start right now.

A smile spread slowly across Sam’s face. Joe’s own grin wavered when he saw it, and his hand tightened on the handle of the bat. Sam didn’t care. It wouldn’t make any difference.

This was going to be fun.

See what I mean? I introduced you to a character, gave you a little of his history, and gave you a hint of what might come next. You’re dying to know how Sam is going to get out of his predicament, but since I didn’t provide the answers, you get to answer those questions yourself.

Go ahead and leave me a comment about what you think about the story. Remember that it’s just a first draft, so try not to get all caught up in the fine details. Just let me know if you think it works.

That’s it for today. It’s time for me to start thinking about my next installment for the Dirty Little Freaks collection. I’ll check in again on Wednesday with another update. See you then!

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You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

I was thinking about posting about my latest short story, but instead I think I’ll take this time for a bit of shameless self-promotion. Or maybe it’s self-indulgence. Either way,

IT”S MY BIRTHDAY!!!

That’s right, kiddies, January 16 is the day I decided to bless the world with my presence. Some people tried to convince me to come earlier, others tried to get me to wait a few more days, but there was just no way I could miss this day. After all, January 16 was the day that:

  • General Siyaj K’ak’ conquered Tikal, enlarging the domain of King Spearthrower Owl of Teotihuacán. (Is it just me or does he sound like he might have been a Klingon?)
  • The first grammar of the Spanish language was presented to Queen Isabella I. (Maybe that’s why I like words so much.)
  • The first edition of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (Book One of Don Quixote) by Miguel de Cervantes was published in Madrid, Spain. (I’m a lover, not a fighter!)
  • Ernest Shackleton’s expedition found the magnetic South Pole. (I love to explore strange new worlds!)
  • Adolf Hitler moved into his underground bunker, the so-called Führerbunker. (I have been known to hide myself away sometimes.)
  • The Space Shuttle Columbia took off for mission STS-107 which would be its final one. Columbia disintegrated 16 days later on re-entry. (I like to shoot for the stars, even if I occasionally crash and burn.)

It’s also the day that other great people were born, like Frank Zamboni, Ethel Merman, Ronnie Milsap, John Carpenter, and Kate Moss.

So give me some lovin’ already!

Seriously, though, I took the day off of work to spend some time with my wife and be lazy. We went out to eat for all of our meals today (which totally blew my diet, but that’s okay!), and I spent the time in between watching movies and reading. I haven’t done any writing yet today (except for this blog), but I may get around to doing some before I hit the sack tonight.

Speaking of which, in spite of my recent post about keeping it clean, this story is anything but. It is straight-out erotica. I also didn’t use a ‘working draft’. The idea for the story and the style came to me right away, and I just got out of the way and let the words flow straight onto the page.

It’s a bit of an experiment for me. Firstly, because it’s erotica. And secondly, because I am telling it as a dialogue. Every sentence is someone talking. I’m picturing it as a session in a psychiatrists office, with the patient (the man) telling the doctor (a woman) about his fantasies. There is nothing but a back and forth dialogue between the two.

The story also has multiple levels. There’s the actual fantasy, and then there’s the way the doctor is reacting to hearing about the fantasy. As you can guess, it starts getting her hot and bothered, and I’m thinking that by the end of the story she will be having serious problems with keeping her hands off her patient.

I don’t know if I will ever be brave enough to publish the story, but who knows? If nothing else, it is quite an interesting learning experience.

That’s it for tonight. Big Bang Theory is about to start. I’ll be back with another update on Sunday.

And before we go, all together now, let’s hear you sing!

Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You!…

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What Was I Thinking?

All right, I admit it.

I’ve got nothing.

I thought that my “Dirty Little Freaks” idea was a good one, and I did get some positive feedback from people. It still could be a great project. I’m just not sure that it is one that I am ready for right now.

The only thing I have written so far is an “introduction” that actually limits the project, and which I already think will need to be scrapped. There’s nothing wrong with the character, just the idea that he is the narrator of the series. Making each story something that he has encountered or heard about in his travels would mean that the stories would be limited to something in his time and world.

Not a good idea. I want the option of throwing in some fantasy stories, and maybe some science fiction as well. So if I do decide to continue with this project I am going to have to toss out my beginning and start from scratch.

Of course, that depends on whether or not I want to start over. First, I have to come up with some more ideas. And nothing is coming.

One of my friends gave me the idea of riffing on the seven dwarves of Snow White fame. I thought that was probably a good idea, but when it comes down to getting words on the page, nothing is coming to mind. It’s hard to write a decent story without a starting point.

Maybe, what I really need to do is forget about the seven dwarves and just start writing something. Anything. And if the opportunity presents itself I can thrown in one of my dirty little freaks and call it done. If not, at least I will have a story, which is the main point of this exercise. I don’t have to have a coherent theme in these stories, it just was a nice idea. The important thing is to get some work done. Some art in my portfolio. Some horses in my stable.

I promised myself I would get one story done a week. Even though I think I will be tossing out what I already wrote, technically it was a story while it lasted, so it counts. I may try to replace it with another one if something comes to mind, but meanwhile I will just work on getting something on the page by Saturday.

I’ll check in again on Sunday to let you know how it went. See you then!

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Dirty Little Freaks

Welcome to 2013!

One of my goals for this year is to write a short story every week. I thought I might make them all in the same theme, and the idea that came to mind was “Dirty Little Freaks.”

Take that however you will. Mutant midgets, perverted monsters, inbred cousins from the hill country. Maybe a combination of all of the above. Fiction, possibly erotica. One of my friends mentioned Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I could do a whole series on those guys.

If you have any ideas for stories in this vein, leave a comment and I will take up the challenge. Or, if this post has inspired you, feel free to write your own and tell me about it.

What are your goals for this year?

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Back in the Saddle Again

That’s right, I’m back! Today marked my first day writing in almost six months. The last time I wrote any significant amount was in January when I tacked on a lame ending to my last NaNoWriMo project. I thought it sucked, but it kind of wrapped up the story and I was getting tired of writing. I needed a break.

So the most I have been doing for the last several months was editing. I was tearing into the first draft of that project and I ended up editing the first seven chapters. By the time I got that far, though, I was feeling like the whole thing was going to need to be rewritten, and I just didn’t feel like working on it anymore. So I decided to stop editing too.

Of course, that meant I needed a new project. If I didn’t, I would feel like a waste of space at our weekly writer’s group. It was getting to be pretty pathetic telling my friends that I still didn’t have anything new to bring to the group. So I decided to buckle down and start working on something new. But I was also getting sick of getting a half-baked idea and running with it. It just wasn’t working out for me. So I had to do something about that as well.

Enter the outline! I decided that I was going to take the month of June to outline my next book. I still was going into it with a half-baked idea, but I thought that if I tried to use some of the outlining tips from the writing books on my shelf I might just be able to turn that glimmer of an inkling of a possibility of a story into a real, honest to goodness, viable plot. And lo and behold… it worked!

It didn’t quite turn out the way I planned. I had thought that I would follow the step by step plan for outlining that was laid out in one of my books, but by the end of the first week I found out that the author’s plan just wasn’t going to work for me. I needed to come up with something different. I’m not sure if my process is going to work for me in the future, but it seemed to pan out for me for this book, so I’ll probably try it again. I have been blogging about my efforts over the last month, so feel free to read back a few posts if you are interested in what it was that I did.

The end result, of course, is that I have a several short character sketches and a basic outline that will take me from the beginning of my book all the way through to the end. It just covers the main plot, and only gives me a general idea of what each scene will be, but I think that should be enough. The sparse nature of the outline will let me expand on anything that comes to me as I write, while still giving me a defined course along the way. The limited character sketches will also let me get to know the main characters (all four of them) as I go, and somewhere in there I’ll figure out how they can grow and learn by the end of the book.

I started writing today, July 1, and I wrote 733 words on my first day. I am participating in ROW80 again, and I am going to try to have the book finished by the end of the round. I’m not setting a daily goal for myself, just that I want to finish my first draft by the end of September. I’m looking forward to writing this book, and if I like how it turns out I may actually send it off to an editor when I’m done.

So I guess the moral for this post, kiddies, is that it’s okay to take a break once in a while. Just as long as you make sure to start writing again when the break is over!

Thanks for sticking with me, and I’ll see you later!

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December 19 – Getting Stuck

I don’t know what to do. So I’m not doing anything. 😦

Goal 1: I will work on my writing every day.

I missed Saturday. And Sunday. And so far I haven’t written anything today. Not good.

I could make excuses by saying that I haven’t been feeling well. I woke up on Friday with a sore throat. Not a great way to end my last week of work before my vacation. I felt a little better by Sunday, at least enough to go to church and a family Christmas dinner, but right now I feel awful. I’m going to try to get some more writing done tonight, but to be honest, I’m not looking forward to it.

Goal 2: I will participate in NaNoWriMo in November.

My word count is now 54,317. Not a lot done since last time. As a matter of fact, the last time I wrote anything (on Friday) I only added 56 words.

The reason I haven’t written anything is because I think I’m stuck.

I know. On my last post I said I was fine with doing fight scenes. And yet, I don’t know where I’m going with this one.

I think the main problem is that I tried to get in some conversation before the weapons came out. It’s a lot different writing a battle when there is a reason for the fighting.

When I was writing the fights in my first story, it was easy. One side was a bunch of demons whose only motivation was death and destruction. The other side was the heroes trying mainly to survive. My second story was another Valkyrie story, but the fights were also pretty simple. She was fighting against a werebear, whose main motivation was simply to kill her and her friends.

So now I have a fight with a Valkyrie and a giant sea serpent, but the monster isn’t just out to kill her. It has a secret plan, and it also has the added advantage of knowing that she has the restrictions of law and order to keep her from simply attacking it, even when she knows it is guilty. So I have to somehow make her either lose control and attack first, or make the villain do something to provoke her into attacking him.

The thing I wanted to use for the provocation is the death of her new husband. The trouble is I don’t really know how to get him involved. He is on the boat, but he isn’t on the deck with her. And with the size of the monster I really doubt he would be stupid enough to attack it on his own.

So until I figure out how to bring him in I really don’t know how to go any farther.

Anybody have any ideas?

Goal 3: Diet and exercise to lose at least 10 pounds by the end of this round.

The scale was not my friend again this morning.

I usually only weigh myself once a week, but I’m tempted to try again on Thursday morning, before my next post. Maybe if I am careful and get on my exercise bike (another thing I haven’t done today) I might be able to have some good news on that front by then.

I know this is my vacation, but I swore I was going to be doing some writing during these two weeks off, so I really need to stop screwing around and get my butt in the chair! I’ll let you know how it goes in a few days.

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December 15 – Fight Scenes

I’m fighting to keep going on my book.

Goal 1: I will work on my writing every day.

I missed another day. Last night I planned on doing some writing after our weekly Dungeons & Dragons game. The game was actually cancelled, so I got home early. And what did I do? I picked up a book instead of sat down to write. I thought I would read for just a little while, then do my writing.

Then I fell asleep on the couch.

By the time I woke up, it was past my bed time. I could have done a little writing before bed, but I was so beat the thought didn’t even cross my mind. So no new words last night.

Goal 2: I will participate in NaNoWriMo in November.

Despite my failure last night, I have managed to write on the other days, so my word count is now 53,743. The fight scene is right around the corner, and I think I’m ready for it. The last thing I wrote was that the villain (a giant sea serpent) is hovering over our heroine, dripping water everywhere.

I have written several fight scenes in the past, and I never had much problem with them. My NaNoWriMo story last year had at least three major battles in it, and I used to like writing them. As a matter of fact, it got to the point where if I wanted to boost my word count I would throw in a battle, which would practically guarantee an easy thousand or so words.

I don’t know why the fight scenes are so easy for me. Maybe it’s because I can visualize each move of the battle. Maybe it’s because it’s mostly action and reaction. One thing leads directly to another. The hero punches the villain, he punches back. In this case, the villain drips on the heroine, she pulls out her spear.

But jumping straight into combat isn’t what I’m doing here. This needs to be a little more than just a fight to the death. This is, after all, the finale.

What I’m looking to do here is start a conversation between our two combatants before they start trying to kill each other. She is supposed to be a police officer in the normal world, and in my mind the main job of the Valkyrie is to keep order in the supernatural world. So even though this monster killed her father, she has a duty to negotiate with it before resorting to violence. So my main concern now is showing that internal conflict before I get to the external one.

Don’t worry, there will be blood. And death. And lots of pain. But the pain needs to be both physical and mental, or it won’t be a strong enough scene.

How do you feel about fight scenes? Have you ever written one? Was it easy for you, or hard?

Goal 3: Diet and exercise to lose at least 10 pounds by the end of this round.

The potluck was everything I expected it to be. Tons of food, a lot of which ended up on my plates.

Yes, that was plural. I had way too much to eat. Stuffed to the gills and crying for mercy.

I tried to make up for it by not eating breakfast before it started. I also skipped dinner afterwards. And breakfast the following day. I’m not sure how effective that was, but I’m hoping to at least stay even when I get on the scale next Monday. I do have a family dinner to go to on Sunday, but those usually aren’t quite as bad as the potlucks at work.

I’ll be back with another update on Monday. The first day of my vacation! Woohoo!

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