Monthly Archives: April 2014

Writing prompt: The rain man

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“the rain man”

I rolled into Pittsburgh around 3 PM; by 5, the rain had begun. I can travel at 400 miles an hour 30,000 feet above the ground—it’s called a jet airplane. Those hours gazing out the window at the blue sky and the bright sun, and those first few minutes on the ground in a new place, the beams of sun warming my skin and the green leaves of trees shining—those are rare and special moments in my life. Because where ever I go, the rain follows me. At the least, the clouds follow.

The rain followed my father too. He told me that we have an obligation to keep to the road. He was a travelling salesman, and I didn’t see him too often. I didn’t understand at the time what he meant. Now I do, and I travel and sell too. He said there were other people of the rain, that we were the origin of rain dances, special men who, more attuned to nature, could turn the rain on and off with a focus of concentration and desire.

I wonder if maybe everybody’s got it, and maybe my switch just won’t turn off. Dad said his father learned to control his own curse, over many years, or maybe his curse just weakened with age. Dad died last year in a flash flood outside Las Vegas. He probably thought he was safe there. I’m so tired and I’m so alone, and more than anything, I want to stop running.

A Weekend at Ravencon

This weekend I went to my first science fiction convention, Ravencon in Richmond, and what a weekend it was.

The weekend started with a bang when our hotel had a fire alarm during a tornado warning. The hotel staff tried to gather us into a large glass atrium. As a Midwesterner, I refused indignantly.

I heard Elizabeth Bear read from her One-Eyed Jack book set in Las Vegas. I took Allen Wold‘s fiction writing glass and got so excited I could hardly calm down to write a hundred words for him. I went to two Jonah Knight concerts featuring scifi/fantasy acoustic guitar songs. I was also intrigued by authors R. S. Belcher, T. Eric Bakutis, and Lana Krumwiede.

So basically, I met a ton of people, had a great time, and feel quite motivated and inspired regarding science fiction. When I got back last night with a throbbing headache, I managed to bang out a first draft of a story about a pool that’s possessed by a spirit. It’s a bit incoherent, but it’s spontaneous and joyful, and I don’t sit down and write 2600 words as much as I should.

Still exhausted today, and it’s raining, which feels like nature’s way of telling me to take it easy. Will do, nature, will do. So that’s all I can manage to say today, but what a weekend.

(Oh, and check out my story “Ephemerality” at The Colored Lens about a girl who ages very quickly who falls in love with a boy who doesn’t. This one is my favorite story I’ve published thus far.)

Writing prompt: The dream weaver

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“the dream weaver”

I slipped the electrodes onto the ports behind my ears and at my hairline, shuddering slightly at the slight tingling. I leaned back into the bean bag chair and set the timer to 30 minutes. No, it was already 2 AM. I dialed it back to 20 minutes. I had six hours and desperately needed to come up with an idea and fully develop it in that time. I positioned myself so that nothing would go numb or fall awkwardly, and I pressed the remote control and I entered the dream weaver.

The first thing I always dream about is heights, damn them. Each time I have to cross a bottomless canyon or climb a tree or something like that. I can’t decide if my fear is growing stronger or weaker with these constant reminders. I need an idea. I remember the words of my instructor, to try to visualize the landscape. I see the glow on the horizon of idea. I walk in that direction.

Once I read a story about a woman who went mad using a dream weaver—she had to face the things that frightened her most, and when she couldn’t, she simply shorted out. I sometimes wonder if it was true. Maybe it was something that someone thought up using a weaver. On a distant hill, I see a man with a strange intensity to his eyes. He holds a knife. I suppress unease, and I walk toward him; this is the focal point for today. They can’t all be comfortable.

Learning, learning, learning

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for an online service, Lynda.com, where you can watch videos to learn about various software. I’ve been watching the things non-stop, especially to learn about InDesign and Illustrator. In a way, the videos have been exhausting; I am so curious about the topics that I sometimes watch until I’m absolutely frazzled. There’s nothing more exciting than learning new skills. Then I took my learning to my projects. I had another bookbinding marathon last week, putting together copies of three books-in-progress.

Project #1: loosely based on Hiroshige’s “100 views of Edo.” This 4″ x 6″ book contains the first 25 scenes of the city of Vironevaeh, along with historical context. Harkening back to Hiroshige, I bound this book using Japanese stab binding.

SONY DSC SONY DSC

 

Project #2: A project I first started a year and a half ago, I re-visited “The Galactic Adventures of Zish and Argo”, with my new knowledge about layout and so forth. I improved the cover, and all around tightened things up.SONY DSC SONY DSC

Project #3: A collection of science fiction stories by the members of my writing group. Assembled in InDesign, also taking advantage of my new skills. Soon to be available on the kindle.

SONY DSCAnd now back to projects. More to post later, undoubtedly.

 

Writing prompt with edit: preparing for a long trip

Time: 7 minutes. I then set it aside for about 30 minutes, and then edited the piece for ten minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“preparing for a long trip”

The first run: 7 minutes.

Dale looked at the empty suitcase. It wasn’t the one that would accompany him on his journey, but it was the same size. That suitcase was in a sterile environment, and everything that would eventually go into it would have to be sterilized as well. He would have to be scrubbed and cleaned up as well. But looking at this empty suitcase, not even the one that he would take, lent an air of finality. Whatever in the world that was his from now on would fit in this small space. Any memory, and hobby, any cherished treasure would go into this space or he would never see it again. This said nothing about all the people that wouldn’t fit into the box.

Lily panted in the doorway. She seemed to sense her master’s discomfort, but feared suitcases and other boxes for reasons Dale still couldn’t fully explain. Lily would be going to his sister. She might send letters with Lily’s picture, but one can’t do much with the picture of a dog. The picture of a dog can’t startle you with its wet cold nose, or rest its rest in your lap when the day was nearly too much. He couldn’t look at her, and he couldn’t look at the suitcase. After a few years, the letters would grow sparser as the separation from Earth grew. If Lily was even alive by then.

He tried to tell himself what an opportunity lie ahead. But it was hard not to feel the weight of all the opportunities closing behind him. Many a master lost a beloved pet. But where he was going, there would never be a Lily ever again. Soft fur brushed against the back of his bare leg. Lily whimpered. It was time to go for a walk, but Dale fancied some deeper sensibility.

The edit: 10 minutes. I tried to eliminate unnecessary text while still preserving Dale’s emotions. I removed scifi-ish stuff that didn’t seem to contribute to that end, regarding the suitcase, and tried to give more time to Lily and Dale, which to me ended up being the best part of my first run.

Dale looked at the empty suitcase. It had an air of finality. This space would encompass his life until this point. Any memory, and hobby, any cherished treasure would go into this space or he would never see it again.

Lily panted in the doorway, unable to come closer due to a fear of suitcases and other boxes that Dale still couldn’t fully explain. Lily would be going to his sister, Eva. Eva might send letters with Lily’s picture, but one can’t do much with the picture of a dog. The picture of a dog can’t startle you with its wet cold nose, or rest its rest in your lap when the day was nearly too much. After a few years, the letters would grow sparser as the separation from Earth grew. If Lily was even alive by then.

Dale could not deny his excitement for his future, the opportunity of a lifetime. But it was hard not to feel the weight of the opportunities closing behind him. Where he was going, there would never be a Lily ever again, never a new puppy, never an old companion. His eyes burned.

Soft fur brushed against the back of his bare leg. Lily whimpered, her eyes uneasily fixed upon the suitcase, but determined to be near him. It was time to go for a walk, but Dale fancied some deeper sensibility. He grabbed two tennis balls. One he put into the suitcase; hopefully the decontamination process wouldn’t destroy the scent of dog drool. The other he kept in his hand as he and Lily walked toward the door.

Happy 17th Anniversary, Vironevaeh!

Tomorrow is April 15th, 17 years since I did a project about a city named Vironevaeh, chock full of V’s and vowels, because why not? Somehow it never went away, and seventeen years later, it’s hard to imagine life without it. When people ask me what color the sky is in my world, I say purple; it used to be turquoise, but I thought that a white sun was more likely to diffract into the purple frequency range. That’s… usually where those conversations end.

Since the 16th anniversary, I’ve earned my PhD. I’ve started another Vironevaehn history project, and I’ve published my first story set in the Vironevaehn universe. I’ve written drafts for two different novels set in the universe.

But today, I thought I’d post a blast from years farther past. In 8th grade, I wrote my first Vironevaehn book. It was just by hand, and without much planning or forethought, half of it scribbled down during orchestra while my friends patiently ignored my rantings. But I filled a whole notebook with it. 14 years later, that book is one of my most valued possessions. Here I am with it today, and there I was with it 14 years ago, in a Polaroid taken as just another offhand idea.

comparison

 

Create something today, even if it’s silly. The only folly is not trying.

Writing prompt: Modified pollen

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Modified pollen” (quote at bottom by Alfred Tennyson, in ‘The Lotos Eaters’)

The hazard flower came to our county five years ago. Another invasive species, blown in on winds from the south and trucks. No one knows how exactly it came to exist, going on twenty years ago now. Terrorism? Science gone bad? A chance cross-pollination?

Pollen season started yesterday, so often course we are all indoors, with the windows closed and the filtration systems on. The count is still well below two inside, so all is well. It looks so beautiful out, and I am trapped inside with canned air. The season only lasts about a week.

In the last year or two, I’ve wondered… what would it be like? The ‘Lotos Eaters,’ as they call those exposed, seem serene and at peace. Damage to the emotional center of the brain, the doctors say, not so different from a lobotomy. But they seem at peace, and right now, I do not feel at peace. I watch the yellow dust drift, and know that until the hazard crews come and hose it all off, I will remain inside. Once an injured cat lay in my yard during pollen season, and I simply watched, unable to help, but unable not to care.

It’s 75 out, a beautiful day. A lovely day to take a walk.

“Thro’ every hollow cave and alley lone
Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.”