Tag Archive: writing

Spring Roundup

Spring is here and so I’ve done a spring roundup. Well they are vaguely tied to spring in my head. Emotional intensity, sensory experience, creativity, and of course SMBHs. (What don’t you think of Super Massive Black Holes when you think of spring?)

Reading YA and introverts and emotions

Jocelyn at 52 Letters has a great post about seeing yourself in characters, about emotional reactions, and about the way we expect our characters to be. I highly recommend it.

I’m not sure I have all my thoughts wrangled together on this yet so I may end up looping back to it.

Senses

Computer Generated Logos not entirely a creative AI but similar I think. (There is also an Atlas of Potential Nations, which generates country names and flags.)

Listen – Table Top Audio is a cool audio tool for listening to audio with a specific ambience. Designed for tabletop gaming, but works incredibly well for writing too. (I’ve actually been loving Thunderspace an app for the iphone for rainstorm sounds as well.)

Taste and Smell? – The future of gardening? I really try to keep myself aware of the range of the future. I know I have talked excitedly about the future of ponytail holders. (Because yes, I am the dullest person ever…shut up.) There seems to be a tendency to focus on some of the big things with technology, but it pervades everything, including gardening. I know there are the fancy indoor gardens (which I’m not convinced I could keep alive) but these little pods seem like another step along the path to the future in another way.

Creativity, the brain, and practice

Creativity and the 10,000 hours thing

So in reading this I’m not entirely sure I understand it. I want to say I disagree but I don’t feel like that’s the right phrase, if this is what the science shows then …who am I to disagree. But it sort of doesn’t seem like what he’s saying is entirely backed up.

the techniques of deliberate practice are most applicable to “highly developed fields” such as chess, sports, and musical performance

But is snowboarding a much more highly developed field than civil engineers? Are musicians not creative?

Supermassives

Supermassive Black Holes are spinning the same way

This was a cool story about the possible reasons that supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at the center of the galaxies appear to all spin the same direction. Early fluctuations of the universe seem entirely reasonable for this, but hopefully this can also give us more insight in the long term into the early universe.

Resources

When I go looking for information I find I often go back to the same resources. Yes, I mostly start with Wikipedia and Google. But if those aren’t finding me what I want I have a few other places I regularly loop through.

Cracked – personal experience column

I know it is a humor site but it is surprisingly good, especially the personal experience. Depending on what you are looking for it can be a good place to go. There is a lot of adult language. I cannot express this enough. But if I want a little background story on someone who wrote video games or cleaned swimming pools? This is great.

Ars Technica

This is a great site for news. They frequently do a surprisingly good job on the research so I use this on the current stories I want information on.

Mental Floss

There isn’t a lot of original content here but it is a good place to find links to other stuff and they do a very good job of citing sources. It is often a place I stop when I feel like something should exist but I’m having a hard time finding what I want. They do sometimes put together fun lists and posts as well.

Science Based Medicine

This is a site I come to for medical news and when I’m not sure of something. Is this really a thing? Ask SBM. It helps to understand what the science and evidence say about medicine and I am not great at reading medical papers, I can scan them but I often miss stuff. So this is a good tool to get the actual understanding of what is happening.

Scientific American

I’ve certainly linked to this often enough. Good resources, links to the studies, interesting stories. All the stuff you want.What sources do you use that might be unusual to help you find the information you need?

Which Words

Writers and words go together because…duh? But which words?

Call me…a miniaturist?

Maybe? Mental Floss has a list of 14 old fashioned things to call writers.

Someone who writes short pieces of fiction. Yup! (Writrix is also good but mostly because it sounds like someone who stabs someone with old fashioned quills.)

Which Words? Swear Words

How many swear words could you come up with? 400 or more? Mostly we use 10.

No, swearing doesn’t mean you have a limited vocabulary.

Cut words, ruthlessly

Would you be willing to let an app edit you? I mean chances are extremely good you already have auto correct turned on, you use spell check. Why not have an app weed out words you don’t need.

Watch nature

I looked a bit for a site (or better yet an apple tv app) that compiles all the bird/bear/shark/etc cams from different DNRs, park services, and other resources. I couldn’t find one. If anyone knows of one please tell me!

Good cam news? Condors are raising a foster chick

Bad cam news? The PA eagle hatched an egg and the hatchling did not survive. The second egg is unlikely to be viable.

Camp NaNo

Camp NaNo is coming up soon and I’ll be using it as a chance to dig in and focus on a giant monster edit pass of the first in Jenna’s series.

I know that some writers are judgey of NaNoWriMo and the NaNo camps. For me, at least, they are a good opportunity to set my focus on one project and try to carry it to completion. Doing NaNo doesn’t mean I never write for the rest of the year. And for the people who do only write once a year? Good for them for writing once a year! That’s awesome. If you were a full time author and only wrote once a year for a month? You might still be doing fine. If NaNo isn’t for you that’s great too. Do what you need to get the outcome you need. If you need NaNo and the camps? Great! If you need a daily goal, every single day? Great! If you need to go to a hotel in Amsterdam? Good for you.

For me? I work on other projects, editing, flash, podcast. (I have a podcast! You should check it out!) But using NaNo to write novels is really valuable to me.

Now that I just said that I’m going to loop back and say that I’m going to edit this NaNo. (And I’m going to record in the summer camp.) I have partially finished projects floating about everywhere and I want to start moving forward with some of them. For years I’ve been writing things and throwing them out. Writing and moving onto the next thing. Even writing, editing, and then abandoning. I need to move forward with some of these projects.

broken watches

Camp NaNo is about time, and so is Jenna’s second book!

I really like Jenna’s story, I like what I’ve written. I like the second book, but the first needs work. (Though I did have a moment of re-reading it last summer when I did this thing I do when I’m reading a book I really like where I move from spot to spot in the house without stopping reading at all. That was a great moment.) So I need to make some big sweeping changes and that is what I’m going to try to tackle this April.

It doesn’t make me a bad author or a lazy author or a good author. It just means I’m trying to use the tools that work for me. NaNo is a tool that works for me. I’d be silly to not use the tools that work for me.

Compiling Feedback

What now? I need to start compiling feedback.

Ok so I’ve gotten feedback and I’ve thanked the person (I really liked Elizabeth@Be There Dragons’s suggestion of a small thoughtful gift is a great one). Then I need to work on what to do with it.

Some feedback is better than others. If I’m going to be doing a full rewrite  the grammar and spelling are likely not that helpful. If someone doesn’t like the genre…then not much I can do about that. If someone doesn’t like strong female leads or magic or aliens or whatever, then I have learned that the book/short/flash wasn’t for them. But I’ve also learned that the piece doesn’t have a lot of cross over appeal.

Within a novel/la

I try to pinpoint things like if a character is called out multiple times throughout a novel (or novella) for being harsh, crabby, angry, etc. I want to step back and look at is that the perception I want of this character. If it just shows up once? Or only from one person it isn’t a theme, I can look at that one incident. What I want to see first is what are the things that are repeated. Anything that shows up more than once needs a lot of attention, it needs to be carefully considered and look for why is that showing up.

I have something in my To Edit queue where the major feedback was on the character’s attitude. Some people thought it was bitchy, others said cold, some aggressive, some thought she was kickass. This was a theme, this character fit a pattern and I sat down and looked at who was reading it (inside genre readers/outside genre readers/men/women/etc) and compared that to my target audience. I also thought about what the goal was for the reader to feel toward her.

My initial goal for her was that she be a bit…not ideal, kind of not really a person you’d want to be friends with. Which I achieved. Except that doesn’t really make for a good read. So I succeeded. YAY! But I failed. Ok time to dig back in and make changes. Sometimes you try things and they don’t work well, that’s ok. But, then I need to loop back and fix it.

This is a bit where iterative design strategy comes in, but hold that thought for now.

So I create a list of character changes that need to happen. Then I focus on plot, what was confusing, didn’t work, or needed expansion. In beta passes these are the things I want to know. If it is one person or one spot? I’m going to try to fix that one spot, or consider if that one person (out of many, one out of one wins, one out of many may not) makes sense. (Back to the person who hates magic and complains every time my character uses magic? I’m going to ignore that. The person who doesn’t like strong female leads? I’m going to try really hard to ignore that even when it continues to eat away at my brain like a horrible brain eating worm.)

Shorter or flash fiction

I treat this a little different because especially for flash fiction and sort of under 7K fiction I’m really looking to see if the tone works, if it feels like a whole story, does it work.

I want especially to see what things people are confused by and on the other side what lines they really like. In a short piece (and since I do audio for my short works) a line that reads well is worth a lot so I’m going to hang onto those.

Just one person or many

When working on web design or elearning design and one person can’t get to the next screen that could be multiple things. It could be a technical issue, which we rarely have in writing, it is extremely rare that someone is unable to turn your page. So I almost never have to trouble shoot technical things like that. (Except last week when all the i’s disappeared from my comments.)

If one person has a problem with something it is worth considering, if more than one? It likely is a problem. If they can’t understand something? It isn’t understandable, I can do a better job of explaining it.

Iterate

I’m sure someone has written a book perfectly on the first pass. But I am super not that person! I am a fan of iterating. Some people write a first round and then throw it away and then go forward after that. I don’t always do that. But I’ve absolutely thrown things out. Sometimes it is better to take the lessons you learn and move forward.

Most of the time you can wrap those into the next version. A character too cold?  Find ways to warm them up. Reread the scene. What else needs to happen.

I often fix a bunch of things on a single pass, but having a plan makes a big difference in getting a good outcome.

You can’t iterate endlessly. At some point you have to put your penny down and go forth and try it.

BUT!…

I get this. A lot. Less than I used to, it happens a lot though. I read a piece of feedback and I get this gut reaction of …BUT!

I struggle, but I generally manage to set aside the explanation, or write it down (which is useful later). When someone is reading (or listening) to something I wrote I don’t get a chance to explain when they make a confused face.

Everything I want to tell them, everything they need to know has to be in front of them when they need it. Sometimes you don’t want to give it to them yet, so you have to compel them to keep reading.

You don’t get to argue with the reader, you don’t get to hold the book in front of them, you don’t get to tell them they have to do something.

That moment when I want to go “but!” is the moment I can learn the most from.

Outlines

I have no theme for today’s roundup of links. But I’m seriously excited about the Google Docs outlines thing. It is so nice. I

Writing Skills

Writing more is good. Whatever the words. Even “arse full of farts”. I’m all for fan fiction, writing back from a skeleton of something else, writing within another world (like for a tabletop game…not that I’d ever do that…). Write. Write. Write.

Though I do know someone who once copied the phone book, by hand…That kind of writing might not be super useful to developing writing skills. Though it does a great job of developing handwriting.

Flexible, electroluminescent skin

The first part of it is a little less than exciting visually, but keep watching, the end is mesmerizing.

The options for androids, cyborgs, and humans is incredible.

Perception and expertise

We don’t all see the same world. You and I can look at the exact same thing and see something radically different. Powerful, fascinating, worrisome. This also very much means that you shouldn’t assume just because someone else isn’t having the experience you are having that they are wrong. They have bring a different set of expertises and history to the situation.

Google Docs outlines

They now has baked in outlines. If you use the styles (Normal text/Heading 1/Heading 2) which of course you should because magic TOC and accessible, you now also get the amazing benefit of an outline automatically generated and navigable right from the left side of the screen. (Open it by going to Tools–>Document Outline (or CTRL+ALT+A). You can also navigate this way. So just click on the section you want to go to.

(This is a lot like the Navigation Pane in MS Word, though you can’t move the sections around.)

If you make all your parts H1s and chapters H2s and your scenes H3s and you can jump from spot to spot easily. I’m so excited about this. It’s about time but so nice.

SimpleOutline

Navigate scenes with the outline

PostOutline

A more complex outline (of this post!)

Feedback

I’ve been reading a lot about beta-readers, critiques, feedback, editing, and all the things that surround it. This post (well series of posts) is me working out my thoughts about feedback of all kinds. It’s going to start fairly traditional, but expect it to take a weird turn at some point in the second or maybe third post…(UX…dun…dun…dun)

I’ve read about writers who are scared of feedback, nervous about sending things out into the world, and protective of the things they’ve written.

I’ve read from the professionallier people that you have to get lots of betas, you have to take in everything, you have to pay all your betas, you have to do 2 or 5 or 7 rounds of feedback, or that you have to [insert thing I read once here x 74].

I have absolutely zero authority, and zero whatever it takes …this is what I think!

Feedback is important

What is feedback? From who? What kind? How do I get it? What kind? What do I do with it? How do I respond to it? How do I use it? Oh god oh god it is all awful I should just delete the whole thing! (STOP!)

You may already know the answers to all of these questions. I didn’t. I still don’t. I guess we all have to struggle with our own things, but hopefully someone else is helped by me flailing in my continued quest to sort out the answers to these questions.

Getting feedback

I have tried a lot of stuff. So this is sort of the ways I’ve gotten feedback, not really what I do with it, or even so much what kind, how I respond, how I use it. I’ll get to all that later.

Critters.org

I am a member over at Critters.org which is a site where you submit your own pieces, and other people critique it. You have to critique about three pieces for every piece of your own that gets critiques. The feedback varies greatly. Sometimes it is awesome and detailed and helps pinpoint exactly the problem. Sometimes it is…not great. It isn’t quite anonymous but you don’t know the people, you might get to know them a little after doing a bunch of critiques or getting a bunch, but the turn over seems fairly high, so there will always be people who know nothing about you giving feedback.

The anonymous aspect of it is interesting, people are generally quite polite, but people aren’t afraid to say that something doesn’t work for them, that they hate characters, arcs, etc.

There are also some other aspects of this that make it more or less useful. It is always weird to get people who don’t read flash fiction critiquing flash fiction and saying they wanted like pages and pages more background. It is odd to get things from people who hate that genre or type of work reading it and then saying how they didn’t like the thing that fits the genre. There seems to clearly be a sweet spot of length that works best.

I know there are other sites like Critters that do similar kinds of exchange things. I just haven’t used them.

Friends and family

I have a couple of family members who read inside my genre and a couple friends who do as well. Personally, I’m very nervous about sharing my work so it took me a long time to get to the point of sharing things with them. (I have a friend who bugged me for years before I let her read anything.) I generally have them read a fairly close to final version and some of the picky ones come back with grammar things (which I love, comma fail).

I do have one extremely picky and brutally blunt friend who I will ask to read early things, because I know he’ll say things I don’t really want to hear. He never feels bad (at least he doesn’t seem to!) about saying that something sucks, or needs a rework, or even isn’t working at all.

Most friends and family you’d share things with should like you, and want to be nice to you. This is great, and can be a good way to sort out ideas early on, get a boost that you should keep working, and the like.

Novel swaps from NaNoWriMo

I’ve done this a couple times. Or tried would be a better way to say this. I’ve signed up and read a lot of books for other people and sent critiques, feedback, reviews, whatever you want to call it.

Sometimes this works well. I’ve met people who are wonderful are excited to give feedback and are glad to hear what you have to say. Sometimes people don’t ever respond past the first, here’s my novel now read it.

Personally, I’ve found that sending a sample of the first chapter or two back to the person and then asking them if that is the level/type/kind of feedback is what you are looking for helps. It helps identify the people who never respond again. It helps make sure I’m looking at the things the authors wants looked at. It helps make sure we are on the right page. And personally, if they say thank you? It helps me feel better about spending a lot of time on a read and feedback.

Paying

You can pay for beta-readers and all levels of editors, copy editing, proof-reading, etc. I know some people think this is absolutely vile and disgusting, but whatever. I don’t pay beta readers. I do try to:

  • Show my extreme gratitude with specific and thoughtful thanks
  • If they are also a writer offer to give them feedback/beta-read for them (and then make sure that I do a detailed and thoughtful job and a quick turn around)
  • If they are a local (friends and family basically) and not a writer, buy them dinner
  • Help with other things, if appropriate (I have NonWriterly skills…most of my skills maybe…)

On the other side when I do give feedback to people I want to be thanked, to know my contribution was valuable and useful. I want reciprocation (most of the time).

To Do Lists

To Do Lists?

I love them. I have a very deep love for to do lists. But I want to not just write to do lists, I want them to help me write better. For me Chuck Wendig style flailing and shouting isn’t actually useful. Yes, but what will I write? Which project? How much? By when? Me? I need structure. All brains love structure, but I know mine does and I want to feed it structure so it can barf out success.

Try and try and try again

I’ve been trying different varieties for a while and narrowing down what really helps. I just don’t like digital to do lists. I have no doubt that this will come as a shock to people who know me and know how much I love tech stuff, all the tech stuff. But for me there is something wonderfully visceral about having a to do list and crossing things off and then throwing it away when it is done. Crumpling up my phone and tossing it away and sighing with success is not really a thing.

Physical lists

So with a physical list and mostly focusing on weekends, I tried a bunch of things. I tried just making a straight up list of everything that needed to be done. Overwhelming.  I tried making a list broken out with each chunk of the day and what I was going to do. Better, but unsatisfying.

These were sort of my two main points after some very unsuccessful attempts earlier that included digital lists, lists of only the next 2 and 3 things that needed to happen, lists that only showed the task I was supposed be working on at that moment. Just didn’t work.

What works for me

A multipart list has worked best for me. It basically comes in two parts, the primary list and bonus.

A list chunked out Friday PM/Sat AM/Sat PM/Sun AM/Sun PM. Broken out like this I can have a general idea of what I’m supposed to be doing, if I have brunch plans they can be listed, but they won’t take up the whole chunk of that space. So it stops me from feeling like I’ve just overwhelmed a part of my day with a social obligation (yes, I’m an introvert, why do you ask?). It also gives me a way to check and see how I’m doing without checking too frequently.

The bonus tasks list is a list of things that I can do and cross off at any point during the weekend. It isn’t a huge problem if they don’t get done at all, but they also help me to not feel like I am only treading water. Adding the bonus tasks really helped me to feel like whoohoo! I’m ahead of the game. Which is really where I want to be. Simply adding all those additional tasks to the primary task list made me feel like I wasn’t getting ahead and I was falling behind if I wanted to do something like put off taking the trash out until the next time I was leaving the house. All the stress was not productive and I got less done.

What are bonus tasks? For me they are mostly household things. They are easy and fast to do and I get to cross them off. I know chances are very good I will do them. They are easy to do when I need to take a break from whatever it is I’m working on. They are also sometimes things for writing or the podcast that could be done now but aren’t really needed for a while.

So partial day chunks with a bonus task list. Generally created Friday morning before work, sometimes Thursday evening. I have found a tasking plan that works for me!

Any problems?

A weird and specific to me problem is audio recording. I need to be mindful of running the washing machine, turning on the heat, or my robot cleaner when I want to do audio. The sound is usually one I can clean out, but it is easier and faster if I just don’t have it there to start with. It is mostly something to be aware of. I also know I tend to do those things in the morning so I put audio recording duties as afternoon tasks.

What is your motivating, planning, get to creating style?

Alone – Again

A couple of updates and then onto another flash fiction piece (or jump ahead for Alone – Again).

Update: Publishing

Thieves has been updated and remastered and is out now on Amazon for $.99. It will also, hopefully, be out soon on Audible as an audiobook. (Check back for updates on that.) I will also have another audiobook (I’m reading someone else’s book) coming out soon on Audible. I’ll announce that when everything is finalized and it is available.

Update: Podcasting

I will be kicking off my own podcast in March. It will be a primarily flash fiction podcast. So episodes will be normally 10 minutes or less of audio fiction. I may also create opportunities to feature flash fiction from other authors, so please get in touch with me if you are interested.

Update: Dead stuff…wait…

I think I found – yet another!- dead podcast, but it had a flash fiction challenge I decided to take on anyway, despite being…months late. Whoops.

Episode 6 – Keeping it Real – Writing in the moment

Alone – Again

Alone – Again audio

The glass shatters on the closing door. I kick the couch and growl at the pain.
“Alone.” I huff and storm across the apartment. The apartment was designed for two, now it would be just me, alone. “Again.”

I brush my hands across my face, red and hot with anger. I growl at the empty space. I snarl at the hole left behind. I won’t get irrational and overly emotional. I’m perfectly rational about this.

She’s the one who is being irrational. I have been nothing but rational, reasonable, and kind.

I grab the plates off the table and toss them into the kitchen recycler. I flick the switch and it starts separating things. The recycler will pull the organic detritus from the strong, sturdy, remoldable plastic.

I storm over to shelves and throw them open. I snap at her clothes “I was great, she said. I was everything she wanted. She loved me.” I grab an armful of her clothes and throw them into the laundry chute. “LIES!” The chute flashes Recycle or Clean. I smack Recycle.

I stop in the middle of the living room and look around for evidence of her. A painting she made. Worthless. Her absurdly, expensive collection of old fashioned silverware. Sell it. She said she never wanted to see me again, so she wouldn’t.

I unclench my jaw and massage my neck. “I don’t deserve this. I deserve someone who cares about me.”

I sink into the chair and lean back into the computer. I look through my files, cleaning her out of them.

I’m going to make her go away. I open my editor and start pulling out memories. I start with the oldest ones, the best ones. I have a note in my editor to never start with the newest memories. I don’t know why it is there, but I trust me. I feel my anger, my frustration rise as the memories slip away. Until, I sweep the last of them out and my body relaxes.

I look at my system, my brain editor is open, I frown for a moment. I must have been stressed out about something but that’s gone now. I think maybe I’ll turn in early tonight. I hear a chime from the door.

A beautiful blonde in an incredibly sexy red dress shoves past me. Her face is smeared with makeup and tears. She grabs down a painting I don’t remember buying, and weird collection of shadowboxes with something shiny inside. I watch her with confusion.

“You already deleted me didn’t you?” She wipes at the makeup, smearing it more. “You’re never going to be happy if you don’t start learning and stop deleting. But it doesn’t matter. You’re going to delete this right now aren’t you?” She snorts and leaves.

I go back to the computer to pull up whatever I’d just deleted. I look at the editor and instead delete my recent memory with a swipe.

Ring of Bullets

Another flash fiction challenge from someone else’s title thanks to Chuck Wendig. I selected Ring of Bullets and I went weirdly literal? I feel like there are a lot of places to go weirdly literal with Ring of Bullets. Last time I selected a title no one else had picked and then as the stories started to filter in it was one of the more popular ones. So I’m just going with the one that grabbed me when I read through the list.

I’m still working toward the short and flash fiction podcast. I will be likely opening it up to doing reading of other author’s work occasionally so if you are interested please let me know.

Ring of Bullets

Ring of Bullets – Audio version

It has been 16 years. 16 years of peace, prosperity, life saving breakthroughs, empathy, and all the good things humanity ever strove toward. The first few years no one believed it, no one knew this would be real, no one thought it would last.

A few people today, still say it won’t stick. They stand on the street corners, yelling and shouting, while people walk past in a blissful haze. I sometimes stop and watch. Every couple hours a Representative comes out and brings them water, or a snack, and offers them help. I’ve never seen someone take the help.

Well, not in the last ten years. At the start, of course, everyone was getting help. Everyone was helping. Then people got used to it. The world is perfect, but it isn’t special anymore. Just another perfect Tuesday.

I remember what it used to be. It really is better now. I remember the ache of hunger, the deep despair of loss, the dull emptiness of disasters—the worse feeling when it was people who made the disaster.

The last few years have been the strangest. I feel like I don’t belong in this world anymore. It is still perfect. It is still amazing. Every single day.

I was excited 16 years ago. I was thrilled to finally be able to follow my passion of making art. I had help setting up a jewelry studio. I started to find my niche when people brought me old things. They wanted them turned into bracelets, necklaces, shimmering reminders of the past. Of how far we’ve come.

This job was bullets. An old man—he would have been an old man when the peace began—came in with a handful of bullets. He wanted something that he could give his great-granddaughter on her wedding day.

The bullets were lighter than I expected. He’d taken them apart before he brought them to me. He wasn’t sure what he wanted exactly. He said I was the artist, I should use them to make art. I’d smiled at him.

I would make him something that honored what it had taken to get here. The sacrifices had been great.

I ran the bullets through my scanner and my cleaner. They were, just as he’d said, safe, already taken apart.

I sat at my bench and pulled out a paper sketch pad. I had a computer I could sketch on too, of course, I used it for people who wanted something specific. I could render it in minutes while they watched. When I had time, I preferred the paper, the sound of the scratch of the pencil.

I sketched a dozen designs and threw them out. Nothing was working right. I decided just to work with the metals. I dumped the bullets out onto the table, dozens of them.

I picked up one with the outer part peeling off. I was able to peel away the copper easily with my fingers. At some point the lights in my workshop came on automatically. I had tiny cuts on my fingers and a pile of separated metals.

I scooped up the heavy discs, dotted with my blood and dropped them into my bin to recycle. I knew that I would make a bracelet, a thin, delicate, copper bracelet. It would gleam and shine with potential.

Working the bracelet took a few days, but every time I passed the recycle bin I ached just a bit at the dull, flat discs.

I ran my fingers through them, the discards of the past and finally dug them all out. I separated them and pulled out the lead and tin, heated and waiting for me.

I carved a ring, smooth with only a single ridge running through the middle. I poured dozens of mixtures into the mold. One came out, a dull tin alloy mix. It felt like it might have been a year old or a thousand.

He came in and I showed him the bracelet. He was delighted and was sure it would be perfect for a wedding gift.

I placed the bracelet in a box and hesitated for a moment before taking out the ring. If I was the artist and I was creating art, this was the art I had created. I unfolded the cloth around the ring.

He stared at it for a long time in silence. “You know sometimes I think I don’t belong in this world anymore. The world is beautiful, sparkling, gleaming.” The ring didn’t sparkle or gleam, I did think it was still beautiful.

He hesitated before finally reached out and picking it up. “This reminds me of…” He stopped and slid it on his finger. “Of a time long since passed.”