Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Writing excuses season 10 master class Ep 4

Episode 4 Q&A on ideas

There was no homework for episode 3… I swear there wasn’t.
But for episode 4 it is: Audition five different characters for one of your story ideas.

Change the sex, age, jobs, ethnicity, or have different levels of experience.
Find some way that they can fit in your story.

Hmmm… I am going to choose the role of the detective in the widow time travel case.

1. older and experienced man of colour

All I can think of is the movie se7en, or Lethal Weapon, so my older, world weary detective is Morgan Freeman - he’s an older man of colour, well read, and he has weeks before he retires. But he trusts his instincts and this case has him smelling a rat. He is open to ideas of time travel because he has always had a cheap scifi paperback in the pocket of his trench coat. As a result of his reading, he has absorbed a few rules of science and quantum mechanics. He has Internet friends at university labs that he chats to online and can ask ‘hypothetical’ questions.
So… he actually believes the widow and knows that her husband's murder can’t be written up as solved, but he wants to travel through time. Maybe it’s on his bucket list?
Does his time trip change the case somehow? Does he solve the case and then retire in the past? Or the future? Does the widow want the time machine? Or would she give it away?

2. young and inexperienced

And female? Such a massive chip on her shoulder to prove that she is as good as the other detectives, but they have deliberately given her the freaky weird, rich guy case thinking that it will be too difficult and destroy her, or that she will bring down a legal case against the department from the widow, or have Internal Affairs all up in her business, or that she will fail so badly she will go back to uniform. They will take any of these options. And they have made themselves scarce to leave her to her fate.
She, on the other hand, more than needs to solve it. She HAS to solve it. Her own self-worth is pegged to this case. It’s a rookie mistake but she’s a rookie. She gets emotional about the kids and the widow, gets protective of the widow against the insurance company, angry with the widow’s lover; gah this girl’s got issues… lol.
How does that spin it when the case looks like being unsolvable? Is there a way she can get a result? If so, how? Does her emotions help solve the case?
Who is her partner? Are they on sick leave or something that leaves her alone all the time. Who is the murderer? And what is their motive?

3. male, geeky, young CSI dude

He’s not supposed to investigate the case but just try and stop him when those weird lab results come in. He keeps going out to the house to redo tests. He feels sorry for the kids / widow, and pushes the investigation. Does the tests the detectives haven’t even ordered. Generally gets too involved in the case. 
Sticks his hacker nose into bank account records. Checks up on the widow’s lover.
Or does he start with the odd blood tests from the victim? He can’t get it to add up - the rare illness, the symptoms/residue (whatever time travel does to your blood) and the way he was murdered. He may discover that the kids are not the victim’s children and when the widow tells him she was encouraged to find other fathers for them, he gets dragged into it.
Does he invent some techie machine that reads temporal residue or chromatic particles or whatever (makes it out of cast off lab equipment) and it goes crazy at the house. He finds and identifies the time travel device himself.
Maybe he has anxiety issues similar to the victim’s fear of the dark?

4. shady antique dealer

Imagine if a crooked antique dealer got hold of a time machine? You like Hepplewhite chairs? I can get a set of eight for you … but it will cost.
No, wait - that’s a whole new story.

5. MacGyver /Jim Rockford detective

Or Michael Weston of Burn Notice for the modern viewers.
He’s a rule breaker detective, never does his filing or types up his own reports. He flirts with the widow, cuts corners, knows all the shady types but has a heart of gold and takes the hopeless cases and solves them in his own way. Has legion of people he has helped before who can assist. They follow the lover and the insurance investigator.
He hates guns.
Make him a different ethnicity; Spanish or Italian or North African. Maybe he has family connections that he uses all the time, too.
What MacGyver would do with a time machine is another whole novel as well… bwahaha.

But the big issue is working out the why and whodunit of the murder, before I go crazy on the detective options. Or, do I do a Christie and have several options, any of whom could be the murderer and decide at the last minute.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Personal update

I am not so good with New Year resolutions. I usually don’t make any and then there is nothing to break. *grins* But I am trying to get a handle on my own self-doubt, or the anxiety troll that lives inside my head and tells me I'm rubbish. I really want to get some major works out this year.
I have followed an artist, Melissa Dinwiddie, who aims to help all creative types. One of her ideas was to look at why you have this troll and what it is aiming to do. She suggested writing a letter to it from an outside perspective. Sounds odd, I know, but what I realised when I was doing this, is that my anxiety troll is just worried about me. It is so worried about me that it is trying to stop me sticking my head out in case I get kicked … again.
My troll is Marvin, Nemo’s father, who never wanted anything to happen to his son.
Imagine, for a second, a life where nothing happens to you?
Ugh… boring, eh?
This morning I read a blog post from Chuck Wendig. ARTING HARD LIKE AN ARTFUL MOTHERF***ER: 25 WAYS TO BE A BAD-ASS MAKER WHO MAKES BAD-ASS STUFF. Chuck shouts… a lot. He tags his blog as NSFL= not safe for life…
Rule 1 of this manifesto was:
Repeat After Me: “F*** It, I’m Doing It Anyway”
Huh… okay.
Rule 2 was: learn to care less.
It makes sense; I know it makes sense. Chuck also suggests not getting so upset about bad reviews; look at what they are actually saying.
I also followed another writer and authorprenuer this month, Nick Stephenson. I had seen him on a couple of podcasts and video interviews. He has great advice about selling books and marketing.
All these people want to help writers and creatives, and they all give things away. Melissa makes her art shareable, Nick’s first book is perma-free on Amazon and he will give you the second book if you sign up on his website, and Chuck gives great advice all the time. I recently bought a bundle of all seven of his writing advice ebooks directly from him for a small amount of money.
Watching one of Nick’s videos, I was on the Kobo page following what he was doing. And when the video had finished I remembered that some of my short stories are on Kobo through the Smashwords site. I hadn't looked them up in ages.
Alejandro & Maela has 11 reviews. It averages four stars.
I sat there and I blinked and then I took a deep breath and read some of the lower rated reviews. And they all pretty much mark it down, not because they hate it, or it was badly produced, but because there wasn’t enough of it.
Yes, people marked down my short story because it was… well… short. So to follow chuck’s advice, my negative reviews are saying that they wanted more.
Terrible minds

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Magic city of vane

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

Picture Source: 

The city of Vane. He had been told it was a city of magic but he had misunderstood. Or perhaps it was just outside of his experience; he had never been to a place like this before. He stood on an external balcony of one of the higher buildings. And here height was determined by actual elevation of the building, not the number of levels in a building.
But one floated above all the others. It wasn’t as large or as fancy as some of the others. It intrigued him. They had literally separated their floating platform from the rest of the city. It hovered so far above the rest of the city that it resembled a water lily, striking out of the pond altogether to a new plane. Was it arrogance? Or did they have some other reason?
“You ready?” his host asked.
He looked at the man, dressed in an elaborate cloak with a matching high collar that covered all of his neck. Under the gown he was naked to the waist, the latest fashion, his legs in close fitted leggings and boots to just below the knee. It looked like an outfit for a horseman but such things didn’t exist in this world. Nor did the concept of physical work; at least for the upper ranks. Their powers relieved them from doing physical work. He was surprised that his host, Brax, had a body as muscular as he did.
Looking with his deeper vision, his ribbed abdomen was now flat and the chest more sunken. Ah. Brax used magic for glamour. Brax must be powerful to have the excess mana to waste, or narcissistic enough not to care. He had worked for his muscles.
“Which family owns that building?” he asked, as he pointed at the highest floating island.
A flash of irritation crossed his face, before Brax cleared his throat. “That sad little habitation belongs to the Hockets although there are only two remaining.”
When Kayseri did not reply, he continued, “Look at it... no domes, no glass or spires... just sad little conical roofs like we used to build centuries ago... they should be forced to update it.”
“It doesn’t fit with the rest of the city.” He huffed out a breath and folded his cloak over his chest. He acted as if it was personally insulting. “It’s a relic.”
So rank was also demonstrated by the decoration of your home? Perhaps they did not have the funds, or would not waste the mana. Or perhaps they just didn’t like to associate with everyone else?
“I quite like it,” Kayseri said.
“You would.” He spun with enough force to make the cloak hem flare. “We have a meeting.”
Kayseri tried to keep track of the route they took to the central dome but it was too complicated. they waited at the back of a crowd of people until the meeting reached a point where matters not listed on the agenda could be raised. Brax had to introduce his distant cousin; he should not be in the city without permission.
Kayseri was ordered forward to stand in front of a rank of senior mages.
“Who’s this?” an ancient man asked.
“Kayseri of the Kudal clan,” he introduced himself.
“Is there a problem, Lord Hocket?” the chair asked.
A croaky chuckle. “He’s here... I told you he was coming.”
This statement caused a major ruckus.
As everybody talked over the top of each other and made it impossible to hear whatever the old man was saying, a young woman stepped forward and stood right in front of him.
He tilted his head to scan her. She was magically powerful; it radiated from her if you knew how to see it.
She didn’t greet him. She didn’t speak. She didn’t shake his hand. She flung her arms around his neck as if he was a long lost lover and she kissed him full on the lips. The reaction from his body was immediate.
He kissed her back and it felt familiar although he did not know how it could. They had never met. His arms wound around her back and held her flush against him.
His mana flared and it set off a similar reaction in her. Waves of magic streamed off them both.
When his head drew back they were both breathing heavily.
“Aphenia Hocket,” she said.
“Hello.” He almost crooned it.
“Can I call you Kay?” She pressed her groin into his and he bowed her back to push it further against him.
She laughed. “Kayseri it is, then.”
“Who, or what am I?” he asked her.
“You are my life partner.”
“I gathered that.” Plenty of women had been in his life but none had sparked that mana reaction before. And Lord Hocket had clearly had some kind of premonition; a rare magic indeed.
“And you are our saviour,” she added.
“I’m too selfish to be a saviour.”
“To put it another way, your appearance will herald a new era of magic.” She brushed some hair back from his forehead.
“One where people don’t waste mana on better abs?” he whispered. It had the added bonus of placing his lips near her neck so he kissed it.
She let out a delighted laugh. “Exactly.”
He decided her laugh was its own kind of magic. He looked up to realise the entire room had fallen silent and was watching them.
As he glanced across the crowd, they all sank to the floor in a low bow. Brax was one of the last to do so. He would remember that.

He was very glad that he had taken notice of the persistent dream telling him to go to the city of Vane. Things were about to get very interesting.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The village

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

The man approached the small town. He was tired and needed a room for the night and he assumed the town would provide one.
But when he got to the centre of town (marked by a circular garden with a sign post in the centre of it) he noticed something very unusual. The sign had been raked  by an animal with four claws. A very tall animal. One that could both reach the sign, mark it and do it with such control that it didn't knock it over.
And then, after that, it had torn the door off one house. And left it in the centre of the path. The house on the right fared no better. It sported an enormous hole in the roof and a broken window. The front door was open or missing as well, and he saw that it was actually a shop; not a home.
He stuck his head inside. “Hello?”
An older man, looking harried and stressed, stood up from a crouch. He held a dustpan and broom in his hand. He made the kind of small groan that someone with back trouble makes when they stand up.
“Sorry,” the stranger apologised. “I was just looking for a room for the night.”
“Do you mind sleeping on the floor?”
“I’ll pay you to sleep here.”
“Pay me?” he queried.
“Why not? You look like a strong young man.”
A roof over his head, and coin in his pocket? He was thinking about it and in the meantime, the man spoke again, “I’m so tired. And I’m too old for this.”
“And your back hurts.”
He got an odd look for that.
“You’ll do it?” the shopkeeper checked.
“Throw in a plate of that stew I can smell and I’ll do it.”
“Done.” The shopkeeper handed him the dustpan and broom.
By the time he had finished making sure the floor was glass free, dinner was on the table. He ate with gusto but he was going to earn it. It was a brave man who kept watch against whatever it was that had attacked the town and had claws that large.
Turning all the lights out, the owner headed off to his own room out the back and his impromptu guard bedded down on the floor. Pity the shopkeeper didn’t see him; he turned around three times before he curled up in a neat bundle and went to sleep. His hearing was good enough to notice an intruder.
But there wouldn’t be one, he was thinking that this had worked so well, he might be able to milk it for a few days and then try it in the next town.

Monday, 19 January 2015

How many times am I going to dig you out of this grave?

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
“How many times am I going to dig you out of this grave?” he asked.
“It’s not the same grave,” she argued as she brushed soil from her shoulders.
“It is. Or close enough to it. Maybe they all look the same from your side.” He reached down a hand for her to grab.
“Who’s idea was this scam, anyway?” She paused. “Oh... yeah.”
“It’s a good scam. You are already dead so it’s not as if you have to die again.”
He brushed some soil from her cheek.
“Thanks. I think.” She was dead; undead. She had been for a very long time. “He didn’t have to stab me. That hurt.”
“Strangling is so much cleaner, too.”
She had ‘died’ a half dozen times so far. ”Let’s go scare my latest murderer to death.”
“I love this part,” he said. “And then you show up and claim his estate.”
She grabbed his arm. “Wait up... the same grave! Are you sure?”
“Yes.” He looked affronted that she would doubt him.
“How could he know?”
“Oh.” And then as he understood, “Ooh. The only way he would know is if he helped Barnaby bury a body here before.” He had been one of her previous husbands.
“Exactly. If this was the same grave Barnaby chose.”
He gave her a look. “He’s the only one who wasn’t there when you went back.”
“Yeah. I reckon we need to find him.”
He nodded. “I reckon he and Jones knew each other.” He touched her face again. “Did he suggest Ben to you somehow?” The guy who had just murdered her.
“I don’t remember how I got Ben’s name.”
“We can ask him,” he suggested.
“And then kill him.”
“Sounds like a plan.”

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cute cat

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

Picture Source: 
“Cute cat you’ve got there,” said the delivery guy as he carried her box of fruit and vegetables to the kitchen.
“It’s not my cat.”
“Really?” He glanced at the window and back at the girl.
“That’s next door’s window and next door’s cat.”
“Oh. I see. The apartments go around the corner.”
“You must see a lot of your neighbour.”
“Oddly, I don’t.”
“I reckon it has adopted you.”
She glared at the cat and showed the man back to the door.
Bustling around, putting it all away, the cat kept watching her. “No,” she told it. “You can’t come over.”
It’s eyes seemed to get bigger.
“I said, NO. How would I even fetch you?”
“I don’t even know your owner,” she protested. “I met him once at the mail box... Cain? I think.” He was in his mid thirties and she often saw him as he headed out to run..
More staring.
She shut the curtains so she didn't have to see it.
Later when she was making coffee, she noticed the lights were still on in the apartment. She peered through the curtain and could see the cat. It was now stalking back and forth in front of the window, meowing plaintively The owner had a blind, but it wasn't shut. And the light was still on. That was odd.
She tried to peer into the apartment and the cat saw her. If she had to describe how it looked, she would have said desperate.
“All right,” she said.
Putting on her dressing gown, she went over to the front door of the neighbour's apartment. No answer when she rang but she could hear the cat; it sounded quite frantic now.
“Mr Cain?” she shouted through the door.
Still no answer. She tried the handle. She rationalized that she would just make sure the cat had food and water, and then she’d leave.
She found him on the sofa. He tried to talk and couldn’t.
Before she had even thought about it, she had phoned emergency and asked for an ambulance. “I think he’s had a heart attack.”
That phrase made them move very quickly. She gave them all the details.
She let them in; scooped up the cat so it didn’t run and watched them work on him, and then load him into an ambulance.
“You are a clever cat,” she told it before taking it back to her apartment.
After a couple of days she went to visit him at the hospital. “Thank you,” he said.
“It was your cat.”
“Is that his name?”
He nodded.
“Are you going to be all right?” she asked.
“It was a heart attack. I just felt really tired and drained. Couldn’t even get up to feed the cat.”
“It’s probably the jogging,” she quipped.
He gave her a rueful smile. “They said it was lucky I was as fit as I was or it might have been fatal.”
“You should have gone to the doctor.”
“I did. He told me to come back in a few days and then I was too exhausted to do it..”
She winced.
“How did you guess that’s what it was?”
“I read some pamphlet the other day when I was waiting for something. Heart attacks can be more than just a shooting pain in the left arm.”
“Thank you.”
“And Thursby.” She smiled at him. “I'll look after him until you can get home.”

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Monster raid

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

The pirate town of Lobo de Mar was a place of sanctuary. They all needed to fence their goods, sell items off, buy supplies, and then spend their hard earned coin on women and drink. And of course, some coin on repairs, new sails and supplies. It only worked if everyone kept the peace.
And everyone did.
Until... there was a new guy. He was brash, arrogant, and too sure of his abilities given his age. Most pirates learned the hardest way. His crew were equally young and inexperienced. But he had a few lucky breaks and once he had some prizes, a few other crew members with greater experience came on board and they helped him get greater prizes.
So his recklessness made him attack an old Danish ship. and he took something he should not have, a small carved emblem of a cephalopod. He was young and he didn’t believe in ancient sea creatures.
When he threw the bag of stolen jewellery onto the fence’s table, the fence sorted through it chatting as he did so. Then he stopped talking.
“What?” Young Mitch asked.
“Oh no, son. You should not have taken this.” He held up the emblem.
He looked momentarily unnerved. “Pfft. You don’t believe that rubbish, do you?”
“How long have you held this?”
He shrugged. “I dunno... a week... maybe ten days.”
“You fool. Why can you not listen to your elders?”
“Because they are stupid old men full of the ridiculous stories of the past.”
The fence’s house was built close to the quay front. It was about four storeys tall with a large storeroom at the back. Close to the harbour and the dock was convenient for ships, not so good for bad weather. But the harbour was protected from most weather events that was why the pirates used it.
The fence threw the emblem in his face. “Get rid of it!”
“Get on a quick ship and get out of here as fast as you can.”
Mitch looked flummoxed and then he laughed. “You don’t believe that-”
The alarm bells went off before he finished the sentence.
The fence ran to the window and looked out. Nothing was there yet, but it was coming. He spun to face the pirate captain. “You have killed us all.”
Mitch paled.
“The kraken,” whispered the fence.
“No! It doesn’t exist.”
“It does.”
Mitch looked at the emblem in his hand, and then he threw it at the other man. “Take it!”
“It’s already here. You idiot. Didn’t anyone tell you not to steal that?”
“One of the old guys - but he didn’t make any sense!”
“You just didn’t believe him.”
Some of the cannier pirates were abandoning the town for the ships but they were running out of time. The freak wave crested in the harbour entrance where the water started to shallow out. Others were running for the higher ground. Out of range.
Reaching out of the water, the gigantic tentacle wrapped around the first ship. It dipped but bobbed back up before the tentacle slithered further around it and then started to tighten. The woodwork groaned, almost screamed as the ship was compressed and then torn apart. Shards of wood exploded out; tearing through the sides of other ships, or striking into the buildings around the docks.
“It c-can’t be,” said Mitch. “The kraken is a myth.”
The enormous body lifted out of the water as three of its tentacles reached past the ships and towards the watchtower.
Mitch grabbed the emblem and ran. He ran towards the creature.
If the fence was right, then this attracted it, or controlled it. He was hoping it was the latter. He had brought it here and he was responsible for all the damage and the deaths it caused.
Not that he even knew how to control it, but he had to try. They were all dead if he didn’t.
Shoving through hysterical people, he tried to get closer to the water. He clenched his fingers around the emblem and he shouted, “Stop!” It couldn’t hear him but it seemed to turn towards him.
Maybe it only understood Danish? But the word for stop was close enough in both languages.
It stopped.
He almost didn’t believe it. He pointed back out the harbour entrance. “Forlade!” (leave)
It didn’t want to. It gripped tighter to the ship it was wound around, snapping it in half.
“Ikke. Forlade. Vente.” (no. leave. wait.)
It went. But the damage it left behind was immense.
People looked at him in horror. They were frightened of him.
He smiled.
It was not a pretty smile.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Writing excuses season 10 master class Ep 2

Episode 2 I have an idea what now?

Part two of my writing excuses podcast homework. Part one is here

Writing Prompt: Using last week's five story ideas (or five new ones):
  • Take two of them and combine them into one story.
  • Take one and change the genre underneath it.
  • Take one and change the ages and genders of everybody you had in mind for it
  • Take the last one and have a character make the opposite choice.
Okay… let me think… what were my ideas?
Tassie tiger shape shifters, murdered rich conman with Seasonal Affected Disorder leaves widow, woman having existential moment in car, location centric time traveller and guy journeys to find what he had at home.

Take two of them and combine them into one story.

I am going to combine the murdered rich conman with Seasonal Affected Disorder who leaves his widow to investigate, and the location centric time traveller.
The reason why he had this odd light loving disorder is that it is a side effect of time travel. The underwater ballroom hides a secret. It is now underwater because land levels have changed since the time-pinned item was put there. It cannot move obviously. Now the item might be larger; a stone or a statue - or something ON the stone or statue. Roman statues were painted and decorated in their time. If the widow is forced to sell, she loses access to the item. That gives her more reason to keep the insurance money and the house.
Ooh… what if, his murderer came through time??? The police will never be able to solve this mystery in the present (story present is actual past for us). Does the widow take the detective back in time to show him even though he can’t tell the truth in his present? She needs him to falsify the records for her.
It has to be back in time now, because I assume that forward in time would have easier ways to murder people OR we hit the old can’t travel forward in time rule.

Take one and change the genre underneath it.

Existential crisis isn’t about her husband trying to kill her… She’s in a car, so I can’t change it to a western, for example. It’s about… hmmm… thriller? She has discovered some information at work and needs to run; to protect her husband and family. But she doesn’t have the first clue how. She met a spy at the opera years ago and he gave her his card. She never called him, but now she needs help.

Or horror… she has found bodies buried in the back yard when she went to bury her dead chicken. Human bodies. And they have teeth marks on the bones. Is it a matter for paleo or police? Could still use old friend idea… she/he is an archaeologist, not a spy. Her house is built on a sacrificial site. (Too poltergeist-y?). And the spirits are angry at being disturbed.
Now she needs a priest or an exorcist.

Take one and change the ages and genders of everybody you had in mind for it

Young person journeying to find what he had at home is now old. Fits with the song; god’s ears might be listening harder if you are older. What if he is gay/bisexual but has hidden it his entire life? He goes on the holiday and has a revelation. Once out of his own little suburb, he sees things differently and he sees the rainbow flag fly everywhere.
The search for meaning becomes a search for his own truth. The deep down truth of the song is the one he has hidden inside himself. He goes home determined to change more than just himself. He needs to work on his community.

Take the last one and have a character make the opposite choice

The woman who found the Tassie tiger shape shifters isn’t going to help them fight environmental change; she just wants to hunt them. And she plays up the romance angle on a young male to gain his trust. Betrayal. Heartbreak. Death.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Hut

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

Most grandmothers lived in little houses with neat gardens, or in those homes where people dumped them when they didn’t know what to do with them anymore and then never visited them. But her grandmother was different. Different to other grandmothers but there were other houses like hers on the topmost crests of nearby hills. All built by people like her grandmother.
They had to be magic for the houses to hold together. They were built in a ramshackle style with odd, overhanging bits and crooked pillars holding up the upper levels. Gran's hut had maybe more than seven levels.
She stood, staring at the house and dreading the moment when she had to be honest.
The door opened before she got there and the cat came out to greet her. He stood and looked at her expectantly.
“Hello, Mervyn.” He walked back to the door and then back to her when she didn’t follow him. “She knew I was coming, didn’t she?”
A miaow she took for yes.
She took a deep breath and adjusted her bag on her shoulder.
The cat looked at her again and yowled.
“Fine,” she huffed.
She hung her bag on the rack in the coatroom and then walked through to the next room; the kitchen. The large teapot, covered in its homemade cosy was already sitting on the table, steam rising from its spout. Two cups and saucers waited next to it. She had known she was coming.
“Where is he?” Cracked and old but still familiar. Gran.
The girl pulled a large toad from her bag and put him on the kitchen table. He looked disgruntled, if it was possible for an amphibian to show emotions.
“Oh, he’s a beauty. Look at you,” Gran crooned as she stroked the top of its head with the tip of her finger.
“He was a pretty boy as well,” she confessed. “He was just a...” she paused.
“A dick?” checked Gran.
“Yep. And that was the problem, I called him a toad and before I knew what had happened...” She pointed at the animal.
“I see.”
“You knew.”
“I felt you come into your power.” She patted her hand. “Don’t worry, my love, when it first comes in it can be unpredictable.”
“So I should probably be excused from school.”
An eyebrow raise. “Good try, but no.”
She rolled her eyes. “My life will be hell. He will make it hell.”
“It might be easier if we get this boy back in his normal form.”
“Do we have to? He was very annoying.”
“Yes, and you have to do it. I cannot reverse your spell for you.”
“Ugh.” She smacked her head on the table and the teacup made a chiming rattle noise.
“There’s more.”
“It will take me a long time?” she asked hopefully. He deserved to be a toad for a long time.
Gran laughed. “I doubt it, my love. You have a natural ability.”
She looked intrigued.
“This young man-,” she pointed at the toad, “-is going to be close to you for the rest of your life.”
“What? How is that fair?”
“It’s not about fairness. It’s obvious from the fact that he turned so easily.”
She frowned. “He wanted to be a toad?”
“He wanted to please you.”
“Oh bless me. He likes me?” She sounded incredulous. “Why was he so horrible, then?”
“Men.” The old lady huffed. “They are very odd creatures.” She eyed off the toad, “but we can’t leave him like that, no matter how much you would like to.” She poured the tea. “Now drink this and we will get to it.”
It took some hours but eventually a rather shocked looking young man sat at the kitchen table.
It was meal time by then and they all ate together. Magic took it out of her and she was starving. Jerome was very quiet, but he did eat with them. He could have just run out of the hut but he didn’t. Perhaps her Gran was right. Perhaps it was the heavy weight of Mervyn on his lap. It was a brave person who threw that cat off.
She and Gran made arrangements. She would need to train with her every afternoon, every weekend and every holiday. The rest of her life would have to wait. She was a witch and there was nothing she could do about it. And it was a gift; not everyone had the power.
When she kissed Gran goodnight, the old woman whispered something in her ear. She nodded and went to the door to walk home with Jerome.
At the bottom of the hill, he stopped her. “I’m sorry, I have been a dick.”
“You heard us?”
“Yes. If you want me to come with you when you come for lessons, I will.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to.”
She nodded. “I’ll meet you here tomorrow.”
“Okay. Good night.”
She watched him walk away and she remembered what her gran had said when she turned him back relatively easily. “He became a boy again, because that is what you want.”
She started to wonder if Mervyn really was a cat or just a man who liked being a cat. She caught herself thinking that she would have to tell Jerome her theory tomorrow. “I could have picked something fluffy and cute,” she snarked to herself. “A toad.” She shook her head and went home.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Can you augment your heart?

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.

Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!
Picture Source: agrbrod.deviantart.com 
sci-fi - with old style leanings
Shobal Nenni
Andriel Sear
Tikva Dymond

He didn’t need the epaulettes on his shoulders to demonstrate his rank. It was obvious from both the way he held himself and the way everyone else in the room seemed too aware of him. He was the hub and they wheeled around him; trapped, held in his orbit. Unable or unwilling to break away.
The security team entered with the dishevelled woman held securely between them. Her hair covered her face and she refused to look up. She had walked here but only because she knew they were quite capable of dragging her and that would have hurt.
He heard them enter but took no notice. She watched him carefully and surreptitiously as he leaned over the strategy table. He looked the same as he did when he was a young man.
The man standing with him, his second in command, cleared his throat. A quick glance over his shoulder turned into a longer look and then he straightened up and took a step towards the group. He stood, hip pushed out, head tilted a touch and he scanned from her feet to the top of her head. Actually scanned her with the piece attached to his right eye. “Face,” he ordered.
It wasn’t said to her and she would not have given him the pleasure. One guard pulled her hair back hard enough to lift her chin. She tried to close her eyes.
A clap from him opened them again. He made a noise of delight. “Shobal,” he said, “I knew you would not forget my birthday.”
Shobal, the deputy, blinked. “And here was me thinking it was in October,” he deadpanned. He gave the woman a second look. Recognition dawned. He nodded his head in a small bow at her. “Ah. Thank the stars the guards recognised her.”
They hadn’t. They had a short argument about tossing her out the airlock before the one not holding her hair won. She knew it, they knew it. She wondered if they would turn on each other or wait for her to tell him. One pulled her hair harder as a warning, and she grunted.
Andriel noticed. He never missed anything, especially where it related to her. “Tik?” he asked. The guard flinched as he said her name. He didn’t let go of her hair and he probably should have.
She lifted her bound hands to point left. “This one wanted to space me.” Now to the right. “This one won the argument.”
He didn’t seem to react. At least until he moved, too quickly, and his arm shot out to grab the guard holding her hair. His hand closed around the man’s throat. He crushed his windpipe before he had a chance to say anything in his defense.
No one else moved.
Andriel had been scary before the augmentation; now, he was terrifying.
A hand under her chin forced her to look at him. “I missed you,” he breathed at her.
“I hate you,” she spat back.
“Things change.”
“Don’t call yourself a thing.” No one spoke to him like she did.
He laughed. That was almost more terrifying than the murder he had just committed.
“You recognised her?” Andriel asked the remaining guard.
“No, sir.”
“Huh.” His honesty was unexpected. “You did, didn’t you, Shobal?”
“She’s lost weight,” he suggested, with a glance at the guard.
Attention back on the man still holding her by the top of the arm, Andriel asked, “But you didn’t want her spaced?”
“Had a... feeling, sir.”
“A feeling,” he repeated. “Good. Take her to my quarters. And then report to the lab.”
“Yes, sir.”
“The lab,” she muttered as he marched her along the hallway. “He’ll find out what makes you different and he’ll change you. You’ll be like him.”
“Ugh.” She had tried, thinking he cared about her fate. He didn’t. Merely concerned with his own. Augmentation was expensive. They didn’t waste it on talentless candidates.
He locked her in.
Shobal knew his leader’s attention was not on the display. He was almost twitching. Too aware of the woman’s presence.
“She has lost weight,” Andriel said as he studied the strategy maps. “Perhaps I should look after her for a day or so.”
“She will blossom under your attention.” Or bleed, Shobal didn’t say. There were good reasons why he was his second. “You might be able to discover why she is here ... and now?”
“True.” He spun on his heel, his coat hem flared and he strode out of the room.
After a longish pause, another officer checked, “Sir, who is she?”
“Tikva Dymond. With a ‘y’. I’d advise you to memorise her face.”
“Yes, Sir.” The junior started checking his handheld for her file.
Another pause. “He still loves her,” Shobal added to no one in particular. “Has since they were teenagers.” These days, you could change almost anything about yourself if you had the funds. Shobal wondered if Andriel would ever find the way to change his heart. He hated her because he couldn’t stop loving her. And she hated him because he literally wasn’t the man she loved but looked enough like him for it to hurt.
“She’s part of AA.” The anti-augmentation group.
“Why is she here?”
“He’ll find out.”
The officer looked pale.
She explored; her hands held awkwardly in front of her. Minutes, might be all she got alone. Her clothes were still there. Everything was still there. As if she had just stepped out for a day. Any thoughts of searching went out of her head and she collapsed on the floor in front of her perfectly preserved dressing room.
The door clicked open and he walked in.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Writing excuses season 10 master class

I listen to a podcast called Writing Excuses done by Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson and Howard Tayler. It is worth a listen and it is only fifteen minutes long, as their spiel says. This season they are doing it as a writing master class.
This is my homework for this week’s episode. Mary’s work is here:

Episode 1 where do you get ideas?

Writing Prompt: Write down five different story ideas in 150 words or less. Generate these ideas from these five sources:
From an interview or conversation you've had
From research you've done (reading science news, military history, etc)
From observation (go for a walk!)
From a piece of media (watch a movie)
From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)
This exercise might not generate the very best ideas you've ever had, but it will definitely flex your idea muscles in new ways.   

From an interview or conversation you've had

Someone suggested years ago that there could be Aussie shape-shifters. Today I saw a video of the last Tasmanian tiger or Thylacine. Unbelievably, it died when someone forgot to let it out of the caged area in the zoo and into shelter from the summer heat.
Tasmanian tigers didn’t go extinct. They are really shape-shifters. There is nothing like them anywhere else in the world. Being hunted, they stayed in their human form and infiltrated society. They refuse to leave Tasmania, but became environmentalists and anti-logging campaigners. Their secret is strained when… a person discovers them? A tiger saves her from drowning in the Franklin River and he falls in love with her; a non-shifter. Why her? Is there a reason?

From research you've done (reading science news, military history, etc)

Underwater ballroom built by crooked businessman - saw post on tumblr and looked it up.
A folly with a difference… oh, now I had an idea for a story set in a folly. They are such a peculiarly English thing. It was a murder mystery - but why?

This is the house. He clearly had a thing for light - look at all those glass roofs and he was buried in a glass hearse - why? Terror of the dark? Why? What is in the dark? Is he haunted? Driven? Why? Parental abuse? Locked in the dark - he takes his revenge on all people - his finance victims are all of a type - careless men who do not look after their children. Body chemistry? Needs more light than others? The opposite of a vampire? Is there an illness that matches?
So the owner is killed by cyanide poisoning (as in RL). Someone suspects murder. His very young wife - married at 17. He was a big man - did she have a lover?  Did they kill him, or the lover who hoped to marry her afterwards did it, and then finds there is nothing left in the bank accounts. He was about to be charged with fraud; was it really suicide?
She has 2 children but they were not his and he did not care. He didn't want them to inherit his illness so she was ‘playing away’ with permission like Lady Chatterley.
Then someone else dies? Who? Why? Etc.
Who is the detective and why are they called in on this case? Or does the wife try to find out by herself? She was on a good thing, even if he was a conman. He loved his kids. Plus if it was suicide, insurance won’t pay out. They will for murder. She HAS to prove it, to support her kids in the future. Creditors can’t take the insurance money.
Does she hire a PI and they become friends/partners. Marple Junior?

From observation (go for a walk!)

Today driving along the highway there was a car waiting to pull out. Left indicator on and the three lanes of road to their left were completely empty. We were stopped by traffic and watched her, but she just sat there. Kid 1 quipped that she was having an existential moment.
What was she doing & why? Paralysed by guilt? She saw something and has just processed what she saw. Wait a second… he did take that necklace/kill his mother/replace the rat poison/ whatever. He does have a lover - he IS trying to kill me! Should I go on that diving holiday with him? He did just increase my life insurance.
What does she do about it? Where is she going? Are there consequences because she is late? She has sat there for ten minutes thinking. Doesn't snap out of it until a car beeps behind her. Who does she talk to? An old friend? What do they do? How do they protect her? And prove what he is doing?

From a piece of media (watch a movie)

Watched a bit of Labyrinth (TV movie of 2 women in different times linked by same place) today - reminded me of The Gauntlet - the children’s book - time travel by item - it’s a trope but… I’m doing my homework. *pouts*
A ring, a sword, a bowl - something functional and ubiquitous; not fancy or out of place in either time? A book mark - marks your place - boom boom? Candle stick? Letter opener?
OR does she go ahead in time? If so, why? Why her? Why now? What happens In the future that she can use in the past.
Who is the link? And why?

From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)

Hit random shuffle on itunes - got The The -deep down truth

Your bed at night
Awake, uptight
Your hopes, your fears
Your lips, God's ears
Days come and go
Beauty dissolves into skull
Time keeps spinning round
History thunders down
Every step of the climb
Led you to this place and time
There's no more power in darkness than in light
There's no more truth above you than inside
The deep down truth, the deep down truth
Your heart, your mind
Uncoiled, unblind
Ego undressed
All the time compressed
Into that shadow on the wall
From the raindrop waterfall
Crawling down the misting glass
To the future from the past
Every step you take
Leads you from this time and place
There's no more strength in hatred than in love
There's no more truth beneath you than above
There's no more truth in sadness than in joy
There's no more tenderness in girls than in boys
The deep down truth
There's no more truth in hope than in grief
There's no more truth in a saint than a thief
There's no more truth in fate than in chance
There's no more truth in your mind than your heart
There's no more justice in peace than in war
There's no more time behind us than before
The deep down truth, the deep down truth
The deep down truth, the deep down truth
The deep down truth, the deep down truth
The deep down truth
Matt Johnson
Sounds like a romance - or a search for meaning -
Guy goes on long mind expanding trip. Home is boring and his old lover is boring and he doesn’t want to be like everyone else. He goes to India (swims in the Ganges) or Thailand (gets one of those cool tattoos - sakyat?) and attends a Balinese ceremony of blessing or something. Climbs Borobudur and finds… nothing. There are no answers - there is NO deep down truth.
Goes home - sick at heart, sick in body - old lover nurses him - understands that a journey with another is the best kind of trip. Fate and chance have led him home and home is literally where his heart is.
Not sure if any of these ideas have legs or what next week's homework will be. But it has been fun.