Sunday, June 30, 2013

Prompt: Sort of a con report for ConTemporal 2013, Day 2

I’ve been involved with running various aspects of science fiction conventions (“cons”) large and small for *mumble mumble* years. For the past two years, I’ve been making an effort to get out and simply enjoy *attending* many of the regional cons in the South. One of my most favorite activities has been participating in Allen Wold’s marvelous writing workshop. In this program, Allen and a small panel of published authors and editors talk about the importance of actually *beginning* your story, and how you can’t start improving it until you actually start writing it. So the challenge is to write a brief intro with a “hook” that will make the reader want to continue reading.

This is one of the things I was most looking forward to at ConTemporal this weekend. So when I started to talking with friends on the planning committee about the 11th-hour help they needed, this was the one thing I asked to make time to attend. And the 1st part of the workshop did not disappoint. A small group, and I enjoyed every story, from action fantasy to steampunk to erotica (!) to my own Blade-Runner-esque action SF. And I can’t wait to hear how much better we all sound after a day to edit into the 2nd draft!

Otherwise, for having spent most of the rest of the day around the registration area, I feel like I have really *seen* a lot of the con, especially the marvelous costumes! The steampunk community really outdoes itself in this regard!

We were close enough to enjoy most of the music during the con, without being overwhelmed by the sound. I also enjoyed talking with members of the East Coast Pirate Crew about their work up and down the Eastern seaboard. And, of course, the gamboling Fool.

As I have attended more cons in the past couple of years, it’s been a pleasure to see so many familiar faces and to slowly get to know people better. I really enjoyed talking with a few small groups over the past couple of days.

I expect registration will be pretty slow tomorrow, so I’ll have time to go walk through the Makers’ Expo and the Bizarre Bazaar (aka “dealers’ room”). Most of the day will be spent chatting and saying goodbye…until next time.


Time writing:
20 minutes
 
 
June word count:
17,464

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Prompt: Living your horoscope

Your intuition is a powerful force today -- so keep pushing yourself to dig deeper and learn more about those around you. Everything should start to make more sense by sometime tonight.

Today was the first day of ConTemporal, the 2nd annual steampunk convention in Raleigh, NC. About a month ago, their head of registration had to step down, and they asked me to run reg. I’ve never run a con reg, though I’ve run many other aspects of cons over the years. And I’ve run reg for business programs from 12-500 people, so this wasn’t completely foreign ground to me. However, stepping in on such short notice meant that I was playing catchup on planning and decisions made months earlier. So I did the best I could to prepare and expected a fair amount of onsite chaos.
 
I wasn’t disappointed.

But happily, the chaos wasn’t really reg-related. In fact, we didn’t have any major reg problems, and nothing that wasn’t easily handled by my stellar staff and volunteers.
 
So how does this related to my horoscope for today? Well, reg is really all about people. Some come in and know what they need, some don’t. Some are in a good mood and happy to be there, some aren’t. Some have easy questions, some take a little more work. I’m a people person, and this is what I do well. Help people. Fix problems. Find answers. Make their day better.

For example, a lovely older lady came in late this evening to see a former student of hers, with whom she had traded emails, as he was performing on stage tonight. In the course of conversation, she talked about some of the challenges she had that day, and I didn’t want to add to them. It turned out that by the time we figured out when he was performing, he was already on stage. I told her to go in and enjoy it, and return to pay me afterward. I took a chance that she would. She could have walked out, but she didn’t. She came back and paid and we talked some more, and the musician came out and she introduced us, and he was obviously pleased that she had come to see him. Total win. Will she come next year? Probably not. But he might. And you never know how things will play out. The connections we make with people play out in endlessly fascinating ways. Maybe all that happened was that I helped two people feel happier. I call that a good day.

And indeed, things did indeed make more sense by the end f the evening. Earlier chaos was resolved, things are much better prepared and organized for the morning. Which means fewer logistics to manage and more of what I really enjoy. Talking with people.

If you’re local, come and see me at ConTemporal! I’ll probably be hanging out at reg. That’s where the party is :)

Time writing:
~20 minutes
 
 
June word count:
17,064

Friday, June 28, 2013

Prompt: Driving at night in Kakadu

There are no lights in Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Top End. After the sun takes its long, sweet time melting the clouds with red and orange and yellow fire, it drops down down down below the horizon and the world is black, spread over with a blanket of glittering stars.

The animals all seem to know that the humans leave with the light of the sun. Within minutes, they emerge from their hiding places, curiously incurious about any humans remaining in their nocturnal territory. It’s their space now, and they have no time to waste on humans suddenly blind and helpless.

The dingo creep across the highway, in search of careless bandicoot nibbling dry grass. The wallaby disdains the dingo. Dogs are no match for those thumping, jumping hindlegs.


Note: So this is a memory that’s trying to be told, but there’s no story yet. Usually something will spark and a story will come pretty easily – the start of one, anyway. But not tonight. Part of the process!

Time writing:
~30 minutes
 
 
June word count:
16,604

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Prompt: Miss Mary’s Table


Shawna was glad to get the job at Honey’s CafĂ©, even though she expected it would be tiring work. Honey’s was one of the most popular restaurants in Charleston’s historic district, and Honey Jameson had a reputation as a great boss. Shawna dreamed of opening her own place someday, and she knew she could learn a lot from Honey’s.

So she walked in, ringing the hanging door bells, Wednesday morning ready to take on anything and everything. The young man wiping down the tables smiled as he looked up. “We don’t open till 11, sugar.”

“I’m starting work today. Honey told me to come in at 9?”

He flipped the towel over his shoulder and came toward her with his hand out to shake. “Oh, yeah, she said something. Shawna, right? I’m Adam. Honey got all your paperwork done the other day, didn’t she? Come on, I’ll show you around and we’ll get you started.”

Shawna followed Adam in a bemused daze as he chattered non-stop, pointing out features in the dining room, the kitchen, the pantry, and the walk-in fridge. “Okay, hon, here’s an apron. Go on and finish up in the dining room, will you? The cleaning crew does a good job, but we just like to go over everything before we open. And set the window seat for Miss Mary, will you?"

Adam left her at the counter and bounded back into the kitchen, calling out to the staff already beginning to prepare the day’s food. Shawna wandered around the dining room, making sure the tables and chairs were straight and there was a bud vase and shakers on each table. There was a small table set in the front bay window, and she supposed that was the one Adam wanted her to set for Miss Mary. She was just wondering what to set on the table when a cute Latino came out of the kitchen with a tray and flashed her a bright smile.

“You can set these on the table for Miss Mary, por favor.”

As Shawna took the tray, he grinned and added, “She likes to sit on the left side. Don’t stand there. She doesn’t like that.” He turned and was back in the kitchen before she could ask what he meant. Who was this Miss Mary? Why were they catering to her?

Shawna shrugged and took the tray to the table. She set it on the right side while she placed everything on the left. As she lay down the napkin, it fluttered out of her hand and onto the floor. Not thinking about the warning she had just received, Shawna bent over the seat to reach for the napkin. As she leaned down, she felt a shiver of freezing cold sweep over her, and a sharp rap on the top of her outstretched hand.

She jumped back and bumped the table behind her. “What the...!” She stared at the table, rubbing her hand. The door bells rang, and Honey walked in.

“Ah, you’ve met Miss Mary, I take it. She really doesn’t like it when we get in her space.” Honey looked at the table and saw the napkin. She walked behind the chair and stooped behind it, reaching in carefully as if to avoid touching someone. When she picked up the napkin, she snapped it back into a clean fold and placed it carefully on the table.

She rested her hand lightly on the back of the chair and said, “Miss Mary, please allow me to introduce our new staff, Shawna Whitson. She’s from over yonder past Orangegrove Creek. Please excuse the boys. You know how they like to joke. I see Juan Martin brought you a fresh cinnamon scone and some of your favorite peach tea. I hope you rest awhile and enjoy it.”

She stepped back and turned towards Shawna with a smile. “So, sugar, you ready to run out the door yet?”

Shawna followed her into the kitchen. “Miss Jameson, um, Miss Honey…”

Honey laughed, a rich, warm sound. “Just Honey will do, sugar. That’s what everyone calls me. Now, you’ve got questions. Let’s hear ‘em, and see if you still want the job.”

Shawna resisted the temptation to look back at the window table. She saw the expectant looks on Adam and Juan Martin’s faces as they studiously avoided looking at her. She saw the patient, accepting look in Honey’s eyes. Shawna shrugged. They were crazy, or putting her on, no doubt. She didn’t know how they’d pulled their little practical joke, but she wasn’t going to throw in the towel as easily as that. She could play their game just fine. “No ma’am. That is, what do you want me to do now?”

Honey’s smile lit her eyes. Adam nodded, and Juan Martin jumped a little in excitement. Shawna guessed she’d passed some sort of test. The slight sound of a chair scraping on the concrete floor made her jump. Honey picked up a knife to chop vegetables with Adam.

“Why don’t you go get the butter out of the fridge and start cutting pats to lay on the bread plates. Before you go in there, though, take a glass of water out to Miss Mary, will you?”

Dogs in house:
Houdini


Time writing:
~1 hour


June word count:
16,434

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Prompt: Reason, thicker, particular, smoke, special (use at least 3 of these)


Jacob eyed the smoke oozing from the cleft in the mountain. It curled and coiled, swirling light and dark as it escaped the hidden depths. It had haunted his dreams for the past thirty years. He looked down the length of his body with chagrin. His chest and belly were thicker than they had been then. He’d have more of a challenge getting through the narrow walls of the smoky passage.

Reason deemed this a fool’s errand, yet he had to try. If there were any chance he could save his family, his kingdom, he would do anything within his power. Even face the demons he had escaped once before.

“That looks fun,” Samuel nodded toward the rocky wall before them as he settled down beside Jacob. He handed his cousin a hunk of bread and cheese and a bottle of mead, stolen with a laugh from Cook before they rode out this morning. Samuel was the laughing one. The golden boy. The heir. They had adventured together since they were young. Since before Jacob had faced this particular adventure alone. Samuel had gone with his parents on a tour of the land; and in a fit of pique, Jacob ran away, straight to hell.

And now he would return on purpose, and hope against hope that he could escape again. “You can’t go with me,” he said without looking at Samuel.

“Don’t be an idiot. Of course I am,” Samuel said without heat. It was an old argument, and he always won.

Jacob said nothing further as he watched the smoke rise up, clearing along the ground outside the opening. Without warning, he swung up the handle of his sword and struck Samuel across the brow. Samuel fell backward without a sound. Jacob knelt and covered him with a blanket. “I’m sorry, cousin. Not this time.”

He approached the passage warily, listening for any sound of movement within. He remembered the smoke came in waves, and as it rose up, for a little while the narrow passage would be clear enough to breathe. Until it filled again with the noxious fumes.

He’d have to worry about that if he survived long enough to try to escape.

TBC perhaps

Dogs in house:
Houdini


Time writing:
20 minutes


June word count:
15,560

Monday, June 24, 2013

Prompt: The Gears of My Heart Will Never Be Broken (part 2)


…Continued from yesterday
Thanks again to Milosh Jevremovic for permission to use this stunning image, "My Pain"!

Kirondan waited more years, more endless heartbeats, for Neevo to become a man. He grew to his full height, taller than his father. His shoulders and arms were broad and strong from years of labor. Finally, his father struck him, and he struck back. He knocked his father to the ground and stood over him. Kirondan watched from miles away. He was always watching.

Neevo walked into the house and came out with a bag. He walked away without a backward glance. Kirondan felt a fierce joy flood through his body, stretching his wings wide. The boy was a man. It was time.

Neevo was impatient. He still lived in human time, by heartbeats. Kirondan’s mantra was Patience. Persistence. One by one, they hunted down sorcerors and collected the gears. They had to trade many things: labor, coin, memories, dragon scales, human hair.

Neevo chafed with each delay. Kirondan wrapped him under wing and whispered in his mind. Patience. Persistence. Until finally, they had the last gear. The last spell.

They flew to their hidden cove, the only place they both called home. And now the sun was setting. When its fire lit the ocean, the poorvatch would begin. Are you ready? Kirondan asked Neevo once more. The boy looked up with no hint of fear, only trust and love in his bronze eyes. He held out the gears in both hands. Kirondan inhaled and blew a bolt of fire into his chest.

Neevo arched his back and screamed in agony. Kirondan reared up and roared at the sinking sun, helpless. Neevo lifted his shaking hands and dropped the gears into the burning hole. As they fell, clicking together, the spells flared into life. The gears slid into place in his chest and began to turn. Tick, tick, tick. Neevo reached trembling fingers into his chest and pulled out his heart, flickering with Kirondan’s flame. He held it out with a steadier hand.

Kirondan leaned down and touched the beating heart with his tongue. So hot, so fragile, so powerful. He swallowed it whole and felt it burn all the way down his long throat. The heat burst through his body and he shot flames up into the sky. Agony! The ancient said nothing of this! He looked down at Neevo, who lay with his eyes closed, the hole in his chest still flickering flame as the gears settled into place and found their rhythm.

Kirondan flapped his wings, lost his balance, and fell to the ground beside Neevo with a crash. He pressed his head against Neevo’s outstretched arm and felt his eyes close as his own body burned inside. Was this dying? Had the poorvatch killed them both? Kirondan closed his eyes and felt nothing flame.

Kirondan? Kirondan? Wake up!

He heard the whisper in his mind and knew he must be dreaming. The boy was dead. Kirondan had killed him. Kirondan was dead.

“Kirondan! Wake up!” No whisper. A shout. Kirondan opened one eye. Neevo smiled at him and stroked around his eyes, along his snout. “Wake up! Do you want to spend forever sleeping?” He teased.

Kirondan rolled over and rose to his feet. He looked down his body. No flame. He looked at Neevo. His chest was whole and strong. Kirondan stretched his wings wide. “Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t care. We have forever.”

###

Dogs in house:
Houdini


Time writing:
~30 minutes


June word count:
15,196