Friday, April 29, 2011

A quick rant

Two people at work made comments about the fairy tale nature of this latest royal wedding, to which I responded, “Fairy tale? Well, I guess you’ve got Camilla, the evil stepmother, but where’s the death, where’s the dismemberment? Where are the people trapped in animal bodies? What you really mean is this royal wedding is totally Disney.”

I really don’t feel the need to expand on that.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spygoose

The challenge was a story in three sentences. I'm not entirely satisfied with this yet, but it's due now. For someone who professes to hate the wretched geese that live at my office, I sure get a lot of stories out of them.

The gander's attention was almost fully on the powerpoint through the boardroom window, and it was only in his background circuitry that he heard Dan the maintenance guy (was power-washing the leavings of the other geese from the parking lot ) say “There’s something weird about that goose.”

Even Dan, who knew nothing about whatever widgets the company made, could tell what the gander was seeing was confidential and extremely proprietary, so he entered the specially marked-off protected goose breeding zone to try to shoo the gander away.

Fortunately, one of the goslings chose that moment to tug on the gander's primary feathers and led him away, making him look like a normal goose after all, as he transmitted the corporate espionage he'd gleaned to that other widget company down the street.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ian's Dad's Ashes


The challenge was this. I’d written the name Circe on a scrap of paper, wanting to use it in the story ever since I saw a commercial for the movie “Hanna” (my brain went on a long digression of trying to guess how the lead actress’s name is pronounced). And one of my karate buddies mentioned in passing something about carrying his dad around in a box, so someone else said “you should write a novel about that.” Well, there wasn’t really a novel in the story. But whatever.


Circe couldn't have been her real name. Probably the staff at the grocery store made their own name tags. She showed up around dusk.

He hadn't told her he was going to do it tonight. He didn't remember telling anyone else either.

She came to his home; he didn't really know she'd known where it was. She was all gothed up, dark nail polish and lipstick, a black wig, and a long black shift that hid her figure.

"Where are they?" she asked she pushed her way in.

He didn't know what she was talking about.

But it didn't matter, because she honed in on the box on the coffee table, like a vulture on roadkill. There was no way she could have seen it from the doorway. She slid down onto the floor beside it. "Can I look inside?"

"No," Ian said.

"I thought they gave you like an urn or something," Circe said. She might have been flirting with him, the tone she used.

"Only if you're keeping the ashes," said Ian. "You have to pay for it."

"Don't you want something to remember him by?" He couldn't see what her right hand was doing.

"I have plenty of memories," Ian said.

"You won't even have a plaque?" said Circe.

"It's not what he wanted," said Ian.

"He's dead," said Circe. "It's not about what he wants anymore."

"I know that," said Ian. His brothers hadn't wanted the ashes either, and honestly his family couldn't wait for him to be rid of them.

"I'll keep them for you, if you want," said Circe.

That seemed like a really bad idea. In fact, now he thought about it, her fondling the box seemed not so good either. He could imagine her trying to slip her hand inside, feel around for lumpy bits (finger bones? Gold fillings?) and slip them into her pocket.

"We should go." He took a firm hold on the box as she passed. The tape on the end seemed loose, as if it had been pulled open and then closed again.

"I'm going out to deal with Dad," he shouted downstairs, where his kids played video games, and upstairs, where his wife might be reading or doing her nails.

There were no sidewalks out here in the suburbs. They walked on the side of the street that didn’t have streetlights.

"Tell me about your dad," said Circe.

"You met him," said Ian. The box wasn't heavy, but it was awkward to carry. He shifted it to his other arm, his other hip.

"I checked out his groceries," said Circe. "It's not a time for meaningful conversations."

The subdivision ended in a ravine. The paved paths down were not maintained in winter, or at nighttime either.

"If he knew you were down here with me this late at night, what would he have said?" Circe asked. "Do it in his voice, as if he's saying it from the box."

That seemed weird, but Ian played along. "Don't stay out too late. Make sure you're properly equipped. Remember to keep your mobile phone on."

"Your dad was old," Circe agreed.

"He was senile," said Ian. "He'd still be alive, if we'd put him in a home." It was a grisly way to die, falling, breaking his hip and bleeding out for two days. The cantankerous old bastard had refused to carry a cell phone, or have meals on wheels or an alarm bracelet.

"What are we going to do with him now?" At the bottom of the ravine, another path ran along the waterway. Trees loomed over the path blacker than the sky.

"Strew his ashes in the river, I think," Ian said.

A dog walker walked by.

"Did he like the river?" Circe asked.

"Did he like anything?" Ian answered.

"Chunky peanut butter and 12-grain bread," said Circe. "Bananas and many flavours of canned soup."

The path ran close to the river's edge here. A breeze rustled willow branches over the surface of the water.

"Now we're here, I feel like I should have prepared a speech or something."

"I could say a few words," Circe said.

"I'd prefer that you didn't," said Ian.

She spoke anyway, and not in English.

He should have stopped right then, but having the ashes around the house was giving everyone the willies.

He pulled a plastic-wrapped pouch out of the box and fumbled around. Finally he got his thumbnail in a pinprick and ripped it open. At least he hadn't had to resort to his teeth.

Her voice rose. She raised her arms to salute the new moon.

He dumped the ashes out. There was barely enough light to see them hit the surface. It would have been better to have chosen a more neutral day in the lunar cycle.

The ashes didn't sink.

Behind Ian, Circe laughed.

The ashes swirled around an eddy in the current. Then, as a whole, the grayish mass lifted like the opposite of a collapsing bridge, one end first, out of the water. The vague form of a body was there. One shoulder clung to the head as if the body parts had melded in the crematorium.

"Reconstitutes itself, just add water." Circe probably didn't hear him say it.

"Doctor Watson, I command you!" Circe moved forward, to the edge of the water, leaned over the water, stretched her arm out to the -- what was it, a ghost?

She didn't overbalance. Ian's father's ashes pushed her. With a thunk, not a splash,

Circe was in the water. As she fell, she hit the thing that was Ian's father. It disintegrated.

Her heavy boots must have dragged her down. If Ian had dived after her, he couldn't see where she was. The current was fast. He heard her struggle for a moment, and then she was gone.

Ian walked back up the path, through the subdivision, wondering if any of his neighbours had seen them walk this way earlier.

Friday, April 15, 2011

In which I leave the house!

Last weekend was Ad Astra, what I think of as my “home CON” since it’s the first one I ever went to, and I can ride my bike to it. Though to get there Saturday morning I rode through Charles Sauriol Park, and the hill at the south end coming out to Winford Drive is killer, and I wouldn’t want to do it in the rain. It’s paved like a real road, but not maintained, and extremely steep. I was worried about losing traction the whole way up, a feeling not improved by the pine needles strewn about in patches. I didn’t ride back the same way, because I’m chicken and didn’t want to go down that hill.

Anyway, I went to three panels on Friday (weapons check guy, Where do ideas come from, and How will you survive the apocalypse). I was surprised how unprotective the ideas people were -- they talked about ideas they were still working on that they hadn’t managed to get to work yet, that they still wanted to use. But I guess ideas really are a dime a dozen, and it’s what you do with them that counts.

Saturday I went to Surviving your first con, Editing anthologies, and Marketing and self-promotion, then I went home and got the boy and we toured the dealer room (I hate the dealer rooms, and I hate saying that, but it’s really stressful for me when people try to make me buy their stuff) and the art show, and then a show about fighting in the middle ages, which was great. Then we went to something about the history of SF that the boy found incredibly boring, that ended with five minutes of crazy about peak oil. Then we went to our usual Saturday evening restaurant. I took Ed and the boy home, but the hydro was out so I couldn’t get my car in the parking garage, so I went back and wandered into the Chizine book release party, which turned out to actually be fun. I saw Peter Watts’ leg. (I must actually thank the anonymous person who, when I said “Oh my god, it’s Peter Watts! He can walk around” basically pushed me in Peter’s direction and said “Let me introduce you to him. Peter, this is a fan” and then disappeared. I saw the awesome flesh wound and told him the boy says “Starfish” should be “Sea Star”.) I bought some books. I wandered into SFContario’s party and looked at InterWeave Knits Spring 2011 with someone who was doing a really nice counterpane tunic from that, and then I went home. The hydro was on again so I could get in the parking garage. Yay!

Sunday I listened to people talk about why professionalism is important, then how to sell your first novel, then Ellen Datlow, Stephen Jones and Don Hutchinson riffing in a freeform manner, then editing a novel.

And that was what I did last weekend.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

In Process -- March 2011

First Draft

Limering. Page-a-day, 4000 words, finished 29 Mar.

One Degree. I mentioned last month someone’s process on OWW, where they had blocks of exposition and action and dialog splines, and I wanted to try that. But first I needed an outline and some character descriptions. So this is maybe 100 words of notes.

Pause. Page-a-day, just started. Seems to be about geese, to some extent.

Editing

"The Rabbits". Tried to read it, couldn’t.

“Bezoar”. I thought I was almost done, and was just being lame and sitting on the story. I’d read the feedback (again) that I got on OWW last year, and then when I sat down for a “final read-through, clean up and send out,” things did not go as planned. I wound up rewriting the beginning and the ending, leaving the middle pretty much intact. I need at least one more draft again, mostly to look at the ending, which I think I’ve cut too since I moved two pages against each other.

Apophis. Fourth draft done. Watched a documentary about asteroids and realized they don’t run into each other that often, so I had to rewrite the beginning. That was the fifth draft, and whene the story found some structure. I read it again and found myself just making formatting changes and the like, so it has to move on. I need to get it on OWW, maybe tonight.

Ignoring

“Succubus”.
Troll.
Pampelmouse.
“Imp Face”.
Needs to be typed.
“Karate Zombies”.
“Dowsing”.


Being reviewed

Apophis, extremely soon, I hope. And then Rabbits. I need to learn to let go. And take risks. What’s the worst that will happen – people will say it’s crap?

Knitting

Morrigan. Still ignoring. Bought the matching “leather” jacket to go with it, which is problematic. That was supposed to be my reward when I finished it, or sold a novel. Oops. Perhaps I am a “cookies, and then I’ll have to work” person, rather than a “I can have a cookie after I work” person after all.

Doubleknit Fair Isle shawl. One day I decided I wanted to start Cormorant (below), and went looking for my US8 straights. They were stuck in this, so I did one row to put the shawl on the circ where it needed to go. And wow, that let me lay the thing out, and it looked awesome. That weekend I did 21 more rows. Now, one side is done and I have 61 rows on the other, then all the danglers and it’s done.

Convertible-a-Go-Go Socks. Needed something small and portable to take to band practice. Barely started.

Cormorant. Needed something mindless for when watching documentaries about asteroids. Also, if I finish three large projects, all the yarn in boxes on the floor will be used up, and that’s a good goal. (My other goal is to get the five cones off the bookshelf, and my stretch goal is to use up the massive bag of sock yarn.) Back and fronts done, first sleeve started.

Avalon armwarmers. I’d taken Avalon (a hooded shrug and matching tank) apart last year, since I’d never worn it and was never going to. But I hadn’t finished unraveling the yarn, because unraveling fair isle is unpleasant. The “leather” jacket I bought (see above) has ¾ sleeves, and I thought I should make some armwarmers to go with it. Since my theme this year is dark green, I picked up what was left of Avalon’s sleeves and started knitting them into these.