Friday, September 30, 2011

In process -- September 2011

First Draft


“Fairfax”. Started month with about 22,000 I think. Now I have about 28,000. I also have most of an outline of how the rest of it will flow together, including an ending! I’m so looking forward to it!



3 Chuck Wendig things you can find if you poke around a bit here.

Editing


“Cats”. Did one last draft after receiving the three crits, and then sent it away.

Knitting

Morrigan (No Sheep for You/Frangipani). Finished the knitting over Labour Day weekend. Seamed it the following weekend, tied in the loose ends and blocked it. She is done, and took three weeks less than two years. Ugh.

Chasing Snakes socks (knitty/some divine merino in a color called Lead). Second done.

Loppem (Norah Gaughan). This is my anti-Morrigan, knit in fluffy white yarn on big needles. Two balls done.

Fair Isle Argyle socks. First started – KPPPM and some regia silk I had lying around.

Double Heelix socks. First started. I needed something small and simple, and after the heel is done, this meets that criteria.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge: One of the Ways I must have Died

The challenge (100 words max, and the story has to contain three of five words provided) is here. I found this one particularly tough, I don't know why.

Another vamp swung down from the ivy covering Bishop's tomb. I threw my weight at her like I'd learned in self-defense class.

It was the wrong move. I was within arm's reach now. She easily dodged my fists.

Her fingers wrapped around my throat. She tilted it sideways to press her teeth, her vampire enzymes, into my jugular.

A berserker rage came onto me. I kneed her in the groin. I elbowed her jaw.

She fell.

My shoe heel made a passable stake.

Because of the hands around my neck. Last life, that must have been how I died.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Distiller's Daughter

Because "The Alchemist's Daughter" was taken, repeatedly. The challenge was here (it was a picture, you should go look). I'm clearly influenced by the book I'm reading about prohibition right now.

We burned the still with lots of people around. This way, it would be a story in itself, how it went up in a bonfire with all the eight families watching. On a hill above town, we'd spent the day making the pyre, and benches, and racks for casks, and torches to lead the way up.

Will's family showed up before the sun was properly down. None of them had even started drinking. They were here to drink ours, to keep their own for emergencies.

"What are you going to do, after?" I asked, handing him a mason jar with one of my father's exotic blends. They were brewed with rituals and herbs or animal bones, and I sometimes wondered how much he kept track of which family got what. I'd hoped he'd leave Will's family out of the experiments, so they wouldn't be as mad as everybody else. But Dad had a pretty strong use-and-them mentality, and no matter how much I liked him, Will was "them".

We sat down on a bench facing the fire my mother was lighting. The still loomed over it, malignant, too high to touch, shining bluish on a platform all its own.

"Probably go away," said Will. "School, or something." Something would be a job in the mines, enough to pay room and board and a little left over, to spend on liquor. It wouldn't be the same, though. No one could match Dad's interesting effects.

"You could come back to school here," I said. "You've probably not even lost the year."

Kegs were set up so anyone could serve themselves, and I figured none of them were pure, because Dad would be keeping the safe stuff for himself. The more rowdy things got, the more epic, the better the stories that would be told about the night.

Will slid closer on the bench and put his arm around me. He looked at me in the eyes like he used to, and his breath smelled just a little fruity. I knew he hadn't drank that much of my Dad's more questionable stock, because his teeth weren't rimmed in blue like his brothers', or ground down to the guns, like his father's. "Your father still has a stockpile," he said.

"A little." I wasn't in the habit of monitoring it. I don't even think my mother did, and she even drank from it occasionally. He made her special things, imbued with chocolate or cherries. "Not enough to last your family more than a day or two, I'd guess." They wouldn't know how much my dad drank, sitting in that urine-soaked chair very late every night, after monitoring the townspeople as they ran screaming through the forest.

"You could say something to your dad, talk him out of this," Will said, slipping his hand down near my breast. His mouth was so close I could have licked it.

"I don't think so," I said. "His mind is made up." There were clean brews he did, and sometimes he would give me a little of those to try. I would sip them politely, then hide the rest, save it up, give it to Will. I figured he would give them to his family -- his father, his older brothers, to try to placate them. It never really crossed my mind that he would drink them himself. Until he stopped coming to school, of course. So I figured burning the still would be good for him.

"He enjoys a drink as much as the next man." The bonfire was taller than Will, and very hot. When we had set them up that afternoon, the benches had seemed too far away, but now they seemed perfect.

"He doesn't want to get in trouble," I said. "Law men, tax men, too many people are interested."

"We can all keep our mouths shut." A band my dad had hired played off-balance dance rhythms on fiddle and banjo. I had to concentrate to pick out Will's words.

"He would argue we haven't already," I said.

"Just say he burned it," Will said. "Everyone here would testify." People danced, trampling the unmown hay.

"Not the same as a real story," I said. "This will make news." I trailed off as he kissed me, not that hard or that long, more of a promise. But he got up to fill his jar again. I could see he wobbled just a little as he walked.

Maybe my father had seen, and disapproved. Or maybe all the eight families were here. With a horn fashioned from the still's tubes and pumps, he blew a fanfare to get everybody's attention.

He wasn't much of a speech-maker, and maybe he was drunk, too. "Thank your federal representatives, if in fact you rue this day," he shouted, and pulled a rope. The still tipped into the bonfire. Amid hissing and crackling, the leaky bits popped first. Then the whole thing lit up.

Will came back over and sat down beside me, not too close, and no arm around me this time. "That's not how I expected it to burn."

"Oh? What did you expect?" I said. It was metal. I didn't expect it to burn at all.

"I don't know, colors or something," Will said.

I laughed as a small explosion puffed out, green to the fire's standard orange and red. That would be some of my father's cheaper alchemical pyrotechnics, but good enough quality for tonight. It even smelled like some of the things he'd sold to the townspeople.

"That's more like it." Will took another swig, and edged a little closer to me on the bench. I could see the wildness growing a little bit in his eyes. But what did it matter? It was only one night. I turned a little towards him, sipping my lemonade, felt my skirt pulling up a little.

That wasn't the real still, anyway. Packed with alcohol fumes, it would have exploded, not burned.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge: Revenge Served Chilled

The challenge, and the other stories, can be found here. If you know where I got the idea for this story, remember, it's just a story. I'm told she's really very nice.

She wore hot pants, a midriff-bearing sweater, and ankle warmers, so we ignored her technique, put her with the beginners, and snickered behind our hands.

Weeks later when she asked where to get a uniform, we wondered if those were the only work-out clothes she had.

But she came to the next class in her new gi, and wore a black belt and gloves. She fought all the black belts, and won the dojo, without even glancing at the green and brown belts.

While she was fighting, we poisoned her water bottle.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

In process -- August 2011

First Draft


“Fairfax”. Started month with about 14000 words (48 handwritten pages plus the two flash fics). Now I have about 22,000 I think.

Editing

"The Rabbits". (short story) Draft 6 came in just shy of 7000 words (having gained 500), so I put it on OWW in two parts for the August Crit marathon.

“Chickpea”. (short story) I’d typed this (it came in just shy of 4000 words) back in July. I did a second draft to make the ending consistent with the beginning, and then wrote in a new character and added a proper ending, because it didn’t have one.

“Fairfax”. Typed Chapter 3. Something weird happened while I was doing this. I started to feel guilty that I was spending all my time writing, and none on “having a life”. It was a terrible moment.

The challenges

“Flea Market Finds”. As has become my pattern, I wrote the 1st draft on Monday (a holiday), then typed it up on Tuesday, edited Wednesday and Thursday and posted in the wee hours.

“Witch Trial”. Since I was going to Florida Wednesday, I wrote the first draft on Sunday, then typed it Monday. It came out at 2400 words. I did a second draft and printed it again Tuesday. Then, I printed it and carried it to Florida, where I did two editing passes on the same draft to get it under 1000 words. I was pretty happy with this one, which tells backstory for Fairfax.

“The Grand Plan”. I wrote this for the Crossed Genres II challenge, but I was at the cottage (vacation) so I never typed it up or edited it or submitted it. Maybe I’ll do something with it later.

“Amelia Earhart is Completely Sane”. First draft Monday, about 1600 words. Typed it up Tuesday, then edited it Wednesday and Thursday.

Being reviewed
“Karate Zombies”.
My friend who read it last month asked for it back so he could comment on it directly.
“Ian’s Dad’s Ashes”. Eight crits now, it needs to come off the 'shop and have something done with it.
“The Rabbits”. I wanted to have some things up for the Crit Marathon, so I pulled this one together. I posted it in two parts, because at just shy of 7000 words, I thought it might not get readers if I asked for them to do it in one go. This story makes me nervous – to me it has contentious subject matter. So when I got a positive crit that didn’t seem to agree with me as to what the story was about, I was confused.

Knitting
Morrigan
(No Sheep for You/Frangipani). Second sleeve, 16 rows from the armscye.
Skew socks (Knitty/some self-striping thing). Done.
Chasing Snakes socks (knitty/some divine merino in a color called Lead). First done.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge: Amelia Earhart is Completely Sane

Back after a couple weeks off, with another challenge (read the other entries here). I'd meant to write about Lord Simcoe, who named lots of places in Ontario. But driving back from our holiday, in the very edge of the former Hurricane Irene, we saw the weirdest clouds... Thanks to Ed for research help.

"I wouldn't even know what to call those," Amelia said to her trusty plane. Much like the Eskimos and snow, she had something like 56 different words for clouds. Nothing from stratus to cumulonimbus quite described these log-shaped formations scudding below the smooth silver overcast.

"Multiple layers of cumulus," the Electra said. Her navigator, Fred Noonan, couldn't hear, because in 1937 no one used intra-cockpit voice-activated communications systems.

As they had entered this strange region of sky, they had dropped altitude -- 6500 feet, 6000, 5500, and now they were at 2000 feet with no place to land. Fuel was a concern. Going up, through the cloud bank, was not an option, though everything was telling Amelia she was going to be pressed relentlessly into the sea. Neither led to the sort of death Amelia Earhart wanted to be known for. In fact, she didn't want to be known for any death at all.

The wind was with them at least. Electra's frame creaked as she rolled like a raft in white water.

But there was nowhere to land, just endless sea. The storm was helping them make good time, but it was not helping Fred with the charts.

At least he only used one voice when he was muttering to himself. When she had the conversations with Electra, the plane spoke in a feminine yet vaguely German accent.

"I do not like the look of those clouds," said Electra now, softly enough that Fred couldn't hear. He'd just see Amelia moving her lips. He hadn't learned the trick of reading them yet, or if he had, he hadn't let on.

Talking to the plane was always more satisfying. They could always hear one another, and if they misunderstood, it was on purpose.

Amelia took her eyes off the instruments for just a minute. The clouds lolled like a school of whales. She could see six. What was beyond them was anyone's guess.

The plane dropped suddenly, and her stomach went up.

"Amelia, get your hands back on the wheel," said Electra, while Fred shouted the same thing.

"All right, all right," Amelia said to them both. As she took the yoke up again, the plane from took a spectacular dive. The recovery shifted their trajectory a bit to the left, putting one of the weird tubular clouds right in their path.

"You did that on purpose," Amelia said, much more softly, to the plane.

"Aren't you curious?" Electra asked.

"Sure," said Amelia. "But I'm not suicidal."

"Neither am I," said Electra.

"Back on course, please," Fred shouted. "We need to find a place to land."

The drop had forced them another 500 feet lower. Seagulls and albatross circled, completely visible, below.

But now they hurtled towards one of those profiterole clouds. Tendrils of smoke came off its back end.

"Pull up," said Fred. "I'd really like not to hit that."

"It's small," said Amelia. "we'd just pop out the other side." Still, she did pull back, and compensated a bit for the wind.

At the top of the little cloud, turbulence hit. Electra slipped sideways and hit the cloud wingtip first.

There was a jolt. A map flew from Fred's hand to paper the windshield.

"You okay, Electra?" Amelia asked, and this time she didn't care if Fred heard her.

"No," said Electra.

Amelia looked across Fred out the right window. A chunk of the wing had torn off. The flap hung loose. The plane would be a whole lot harder to control.

"Shit," she said. "Sorry."

"Shut up and fly," Fred said, and tried to take the controls.

Fortunately, they worked together well, and they both tried to do the same things. But still, the plane went into a spin.

"I don't want to die," said Electra. It wasn't just the plane spinning. The cloud seemed to be losing altitude, too.

"Yeah, me either," said Amelia. "What just happened here?" She was trying to get the controls going the same direction as the plane so they could get things back together.

"We hit the cloud, and it broke our wing," said Fred. They jolted, a soft jolt like hitting emergency foam, or a water landing.

"Does that seem right to you?" said Amelia. "Aren't clouds usually soft?" Soft wasn't really the right word. They looked soft. They felt wet, but without the surface tension of the ocean -- moist, damp, not hard.

"Stop looking around and try to save yourself," said Fred. He rifled through emergency gear. The engine had stopped, but they yelled anyway, because of the wind, and because they were used to it.

"I'm no meteorologist, but there's something odd about the way this cloud is moving." said Amelia.

They hit the top of it, and now they kept hitting, bouncing off it as it descended. The wing tip was caught somehow. The landing gear hit and the plane rolled in the air, then the nose, and Amelia would swear the cloud was hemorrhaging from its side. They had dropped another 400 feet by the altimeter, and the cloud seemed solider still.

Amelia looked up; the other clouds seemed to be watching, One had a giant eye trained on them.

"Whatever it was, I think I've killed it," said Electra.

They were maybe 500 feet above the water. The milky, translucent beast seemed to be shrinking as it pressurized, still as long as before, now like a rubber tube with plants growing out the end, a giant calamari. It was trapped with them. Both propellers had stopped, embedded in the beast's flesh, and they spiraled towards the sea. There was a mighty splash.

"Who knew?" Amelia said, as the cockpit filled with water. "Giant flying sky squid."


What I read -- Aug 2011

“The King’s Peace by Jo Walton. I found this book harder to read than her others, mostly because of the sheer number of character names. I wished it had a map, because there were also copious unfamiliar place names. Also, parts of it were too subtle for my undiscriminating eye until the book was almost over – made it seem like there was no plot to speak of and no real bad guy until about 100 pages from the end. All this makes it sound like I didn’t like the book, and that’s not true, but it was more of a challenge than "Tooth and Claw" to get through. There were some really awesome scenes, really nicely worked.

“The Year of our War” by Steph Swainston.
I requested it from the library because an article on her decision to put her writing career aside to teach Chemistry created a lot of discussion on the places I frequent on the Internet. The boy read it first (he told me I wasn’t going to be satisfied with the ending, which was true). Seemed more along the lines of “Perdito St. Station” than I’d expected. When I was done, I googled to find out this is an example of “the new weird” which is good to know. I liked it quite a lot. What an awesomely messed up main character! I loved his “I will never do cat again” statements.

“Norse Code” by Greg Van Eekhout. Also a library book, picked off the shelf because I loved the title. Frenetic. Everyone in the house reada this one.

“The Red Tree” by Caitlin Kiernan. Library book, picked off the shelf. Because I read her every day on LJ, I found the voice really easy to get into. She really has that “write what you know” thing down; this book seemed extremely personal.

“Changes in the Land” by William Cronon. Bought it as research for Fairfax, and also because of his blog post during that Wisconsin thing earlier in the year. If I can’t vote, I can vote with my $$. This book was really interesting, and I’m totally glad I read it.

“Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier. This has been on my list for ages, owing to the connection with the Peter Pan guy. Someone had left it at the cottage. I felt like I’d read it before, except the tidbit of information about 2/3 of the way through totally caught me off guard. I know I’ve started it before, don’t think I ever finished it. Lots of sections might have reminded me other, similar books – e.g., Jane Eyre, etc. I spent the first 2/3 of this book wondering if the characters ever had sex, and then the last third agreeing with the “bad guy” that when someone is murdered, the murderer ought to be brought to justice, whether or not the dead person was a bitch (in one character’s estimation). I suppose it’s just as well I didn’t grow up in such a classed society. The technique she used where the main character speculated about what other people were thinking, or had thought, was nice.