Tag Archive: writing

The Crow of Nine-World

Another flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig:  The Crow of Nine-World. This one was the best, because I didn’t have to come up with a title. And I hate titles.

Pick from a list of titles and write something.  While “The River’s Mask” was very tempting I went with The Crow of Nine-World.

A quick pause before we get to the main action. I’m considering starting a podcast to put the audio in. I’d love any feedback if people would like that option.

The Crow of Nine-World audio

The Crow of Nine-World

A tall, blue-haired, female elf walked through the shop door. The shopkeeper preened his smooth black feathers on his shoulders with his beak and cawed at her. He picked up the nearest item and his cloth and started polishing it. He watched her.

12.6 seconds after she walked through the front door he lifted his hand. “Welcome to The Crow’s Nest miss.”

She turned sharply to him, bumping into a mannequin that displayed items at her level and for her class. The mannequin tipped and reappeared in the correct spot when she got out of the way. She walked toward him a bit awkwardly, her gait exaggerated and unnatural.

“Menu!” She shouted at him. “Quests? Shit, hey Suze what am I supposed to say?”

“Are you new around here miss?” Crow tilted his head, his voice lilted with laughter.

“Hi?” She finally managed to walk over to the counter he stood behind, only after stepping over one of the shorter displays of boots.

“Hello miss. Are you new around here?” He set down the bauble and picked up another identical one and started polishing it.

“Quests. Beginner quests. It’s not giving me any quests!” She reached out and grabbed Crow’s beak. “It’s really cool! I can totally feel it!” She squealed with delight. He stepped back and twisted out of her grip. He gave a quick caw and smoothed the feathers on his shoulder.

“Oh, wait, why shouldn’t I? I mean it’s not real. I could kill it and it’s not like it’s real.” The elf pulled out a wooden dagger from the folds of her robes. Her hand didn’t grasp it tightly and she dropped it.

He stooped and scooped up her dagger. “Would you like to sell this to me miss?” His voice was not gentle any longer. In his hand the wooden dagger glinted like polished gold.

“No, I don’t want to sell it! I need a quest so I can upgrade it and Suze said it was in here.” The elf grabbed for the dagger. Her hand moved fast and she brought it down right on the tip of the dagger. She screamed and swore.

Crow paused for a moment. “Would you like a healing potion miss?”

“How the fuck does this hurt? Like it really hurts!” She was grabbing her hand and wrapping her robes around it.

“You’ve injured yourself miss. Injuries often cause pain. I have healing potions. I also have a single, special, invincibility potion that will make you invulnerable to all pain for 3 seconds.” Crow watched the blood drip to the stone floor which seemed to absorb it.

“Stop laughing! It’s not funny, it really hurts. Sure, give me your best healing potion!”

“I would never laugh at your pain miss.” Crow squatted down and plucked a tiny red vial from the shelf under the counter.

“See, even the game is nicer to me than you are. Thank you, shopkeep.” She reached out to grab the vial but smacked her hand on the counter. She sucked in a quick breath and pulled her hand back to try again.

“That will be 824 pieces.” He held the vial tightly as her hand collided with his.

She looked over his left shoulder. “I only have 8 pieces.”

“Would you like to buy additional pieces?” Crow raised his other hand. A scroll unfurled next to him and all  the tiny motions in the shop–the curtain in the wind, the rat under a table, his chest rising and falling–stopped.

“No, I don’t want to buy shit in your stupid game. Why did I agree to play this?” She waved her hand at Crow.

Nothing happened. She pushed on his arm with the scroll. His feathers were stiff and didn’t move. She frowned and stepped to the right a bit. She reached out and pushed her hand forward again and touched the scroll at the top. It rolled back up and vanished.

“Would you still like to purchase the healing potion miss?” Crow smiled at her and stepped slightly so he was in front of her again. The small motions in the room resumed.

“No. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Ok, back to why I came here. I need to start a quest to upgrade my dagger.” It had blood on it, she brandished it at him. He stepped back away from the edge of the counter and gave a loud caw.

“Have you tried over at the orphanage? They always have work for someone who is good with children.” His voice had a gentle tone and his head tilt seemed inquisitive.

“I just got back from trying to kill the rats for orphans. I don’t even know how to get a damn starter quest done.”

She vanished.

The shop froze. Just for a moment Crow’s eyes flickered and then he, too, froze.

The same tall, blue-haired, female elf walked through the shop front door. Moving smoothly, with an incredible grace and walked right up to Crow.

Crow had just picked up his bauble to start polishing it. The elf bowed deeply in front of him. Her face was contorted. She opened her mouth and laughter came out, she doubled over clutching her stomach laughing.

Crow set the shiny bauble down and preened, smoothing the feathers on his arm.

She straightened and regained her breath, then bowed again. “Excuse me, good sir Crow. It is a pleasure to be in your presence.”

“A pleasure to meet you as well miss.” Crow bowed in return and the feathers along his back gleamed in the flickering lights above them.

“Is there anything I could do for you?” Her face froze with a twist of a smile.

“In fact, miss, I was just about to call for someone to run this bundle over to the orphanage. If you would do it I might be able to help you improve your weapon. If that would interest you. Or perhaps a new set of robes?” He reached under the counter and pulled out a small bundle wrapped in twine.

She lifted the bundle easily and slipped it inside a fold in her robe where it vanished. She bowed again. “Thank you very much Crow. I will return soon. And that is how you get a goddamn starter quest!”

She vanished.

The shop froze. Crow’s eyes flickered for several moments, the feathers on his shoulder raised up and froze.

Cold Escape – A flash fiction challenge

Why?

Chuck Wendig threw down some sort of gauntlet filled with geese and assassins and lightening. And also pretty pictures. Because what good is a goose without a pretty picture? I don’t understand either. I’m secretly not entirely sure he understands. Shh.

But what I do understand is a challenge. This challenge was to write a 1K flash fiction piece about a photo from a random photo generator.

Show me!

The lovely photo I selected (in part because it’s a bit chilly here this weekend) by Kirchmeier (who has lots of other cold photos, because cold).

Listen

I also did audio. You can download the mp3 here: Cold Escape audio

Or read it below.

Cold Escape

Again. I lifted my left foot and leaned forward. I was falling more than walking.

Again. I lifted my right foot, I could barely feel anything except the cold. It burned the little skin that was exposed. My body shook in a desperate attempt to warm up. My right foot crunched into the snow as I put it down.

Again. Lift foot. The boots I’d stolen weren’t warm enough. The three layers of pants weren’t enough. Foot crunched into snow, I felt the grasses laden with frost push up under my pants and scrape against my skin.

Again. Lift foot. Don’t fall. My arms flailed out automatically, to steady my body, I didn’t feel like I had control of it anymore. My too short sleeves exposed my bare skin to the icy cold. The shock of the cold made me gasp. The frozen air filled my lungs. I couldn’t stop. I had to move forward.

Again. I shook as I lifted my foot. I thought about pulling my arms back to my body, they obeyed slowly. I tried to tug the sleeves on the three layers of sweaters I had manage steal. I couldn’t do it without taking my hands out of the sweater sleeves I’d cut and sewn into a semblance of mittens. I brought my foot down. I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t turn around.

Again. I lifted my foot. I didn’t know how long I’d been here. But I couldn’t stay another day, staying meant death. I’d rather die out here, than back there. I had to keep moving forward. I looked down, through my frost laden lashes, at my hands. I pulled one mitten sleeve off. I worked as quick as I could to pull the sleeves of the sweaters down, and wrangle the mitten back on. My foot came down.

Again. I repeated with the other hand as I lifted my foot. I had to keep moving. I knew they wouldn’t notice I was gone until morning, but I didn’t know how long that would be, or how far I could get by then. I pulled my arms in close to my body. I wanted to cry and shake and curl up into a ball. I put my foot down, another step forward.

Again. If I could get past the grey beyond, past the clouds, I would be out, I could be free, I could be safe. My foot slid in the boot as I lifted it. The boots were too big, even with the extra socks. I put my head down again and just thought about the steps.

Again. A few steps later or a few thousand. I looked up and saw the tree. Standing tall, proud, alone. Each branch, no matter how tiny was thick with frost. The sky was a crystal blue. At some point the sun had come up behind me. It was another of those days that I would have called a lovely day a few months ago. Sunny and blue, with only a few wisps of clouds. But it held death. Probably mine.

Again. If only I could get to the tree. I wasn’t sure what then. Stop and scrape the snow from the inside of my boots. The rolling grey beyond still seemed a forever away. But the tree, I could make it to the tree. My foot came down, the crackling and crunching sound I knew was there but I could only hear the thoughts in my head, my ears too cold, my brain too cold. Everything was too cold.

Again. A sound as I lifted my leg, the cold of the pants pressing against my skin trading for the cold of the air trapped between my skin and the cloth. A whisper. Not dogs or machines or people yelling behind me. A warm whisper. Warm. A whisper like hot cider, like a bowl of hot soup, warm to the core.

Again. The whisper filled me. I lifted my head to look for the source. Only the endless expanse of frost and snow covered grasses poking up and the one lone tree. I gave a heavy warm sigh and the moisture from my breath clung to my lashes, lacing them together. The tree.

Again. It wanted me closer. I kept moving. It was a hum that filled me. It promised I would be free. I was close. I would be safe. I would be free. I would not be dragged back.

Again. I was almost there. I paused, reaching up to brush the frost from my eyes. The tree reached out for me. I stepped toward the nearest branch. Low, low enough for me to touch. I reached up at the curled finger covered in frost. I didn’t remember taking my mitten off. But I wasn’t cold anymore. I stroked the frost with my finger and it melted away, the water ran down my hand, it should have burned my skin with cold.

Again. I tried to lift my legs but they were frozen in place. They weren’t cold, but they were frozen, heavy, unmoving. I tried to twist, but my waist wouldn’t move. My arm still stretched out to the tree. My fingers turned the color of bark, cracking. I wasn’t cold. I tried to wiggle my toes and felt them stretch down into the earth. The roots of the other tree wrapped around my toes.

I didn’t need to move again. They would never drag me back. They would never capture me. I was safe. I was still. I was free. I felt the branches grow from me. I hadn’t made it to the grey, but I wouldn’t be take back.

Now we two beckon to others. We whisper of the safety, the freedom, the life that can be lived. Someday we will be many. We will be space enough for some to hide in, before continuing on. Someday, one will make it beyond the grey.

2016 Goals

Not resolutions but goals and plans

I don’t love making resolutions, but I do think that the new year is a good time to consider plans for the upcoming year and what goals I have. And what strategies will get me there. Part of this is the world is full of looking back on the last year and looking forward to the new year. Part of it is I spend a lot of time at my day job with year-end reports and next year planning. Part of it is lots of things roll over with the new year. Resolutions without a plan fail, so I need a plan. When I have a plan I can work the plan.

A look back on 2015

My goals were a little loosey in 2015. Read more, write more. About half way through I was struggling with what my plan was, so I came up with one. Basically randomly. Well I say randomly, but there was thought. As much as I’d like to say it was just a guess.

30 and 3 in 3

The goal was to write 30 shorts and 3 novels in 3 years. 30 shorts is less than one a month, and plan to write the novels during NaNoWriMo. Oh and during that time edit things too.

The shorts have ranged from flash fiction, challenges, novelette length, novella length, and shorts for anthologies. A few have been finished up. A few were bad, and won’t see the light of the world. A few are in progress. I’m a few ahead. (I have a note in my giant spreadsheet that says I’m up to May.) I’m going to keep doing challenges that pop up here and there, work on the list of random prompts I have stacked up, and more of the Smoke Jumpers series.

I’ve got draft 1 of novel 1 under my belt. I’m aiming to start in January on edits for it. Actually I’m going to edit the first book in the series. I found the missing chapters from the end of book 1. They will, naturally, have to be entirely rewritten, but I found them! My other 2 of the 3 will be Diane’s first full novel and Jenna’s third.

A look forward to 2016 goals

Writing

Continue the 30 and 3 in 3 goal. For 2016 goals this means continuing to try to write at least 1 short a month. Do my best to edit up and do something with them.  Next November draft a novel, not sure if it will be Jenna’s third book or Diane’s novel. I also want to get at least 1 maybe 3 more sort of novella length pieces for the Smoke Jumpers set. By the end of the year I want to have an anthologies worth for the Jumpers.

Editing

I have a strategy spreadsheet for editing steps. Starts with identify problems, create a plan, and comes all the way down to words I over use (and improperly use). I really need to dig in and start doing it more than I do now. Every week do some editing. Have a project to edit in the hopper at all times. And work it, according to the plan!

I have one novella length piece I’m working on and I want to dig in and start editing Jenna’s first book in January.

Reading

Read more, always read more. Read more out of genre. Read news. Read articles. Read novels. Read shorts. Read the labels on food. Read  websites. Read directions. (Don’t follow them, but read them.) I think I’m going to write another post about this later.

Critiquing

Read and critique. I’ve been doing it pretty regularly, but I’d like to do a couple of novels in the next year. Either volunteering on the NaNo or Critters sites or some other way. But being thoughtful and considerate of the way story and characters and plot works for others will help me. And hopefully help them!

Be critiqued

In addition to giving feedback, I need to continue to get feedback. Reach out and ask for feedback from others. Be thankful and appreciative of the feedback I get. Especially the negative feedback.

Don’t stop planning

Over the next few months I want to keep working on planning and aiming toward my 2016 goals. Planning is a big part of that. Write a lot isn’t a good resolution for me. A specific and achievable goal with a plan. I’m going to write a few more posts over January on some of these specific issues.

I challenge anyone else to have goals with plans to make the goals happen!

NaNo Update 2

I’ve got less than 7000 to go to get to the shiny Nano 50K goal. Less than 10K to get to the end of the first draft. What does that mean?

If I Finish Early

I’m going to go back and write the Missing Chapters. I am really good about backing things up. I actually have four copies of the files for the first book in this series. None of them have the Missing Chapters. I’m starting to wonder if I wrote them.

I seem to remember that I wrote the final chapters and kind of hated them. I came back later and rewrote them. I think at some point I deleted them and then never saved the new ones. I will look again to see if there is some magical secret storage place (possibly dropbox, I’ve already checked in the usual suspects, but also back things up to dropbox as a if fire happens tool). Mostly though? I think I have to go and dig my damn toes in and write them. AGAIN.

After NaNo?

I’m setting the book/s aside for December. I need space between the writing and the edit. I figure I can work on something(s) else for a month and then come back to the first book and the new nano book and try to burn through editing them both. I’ve already got a good list of edit notes for them.

Unfortunately, the first book is going to require a good bit of surgery, cutting out one entire plotline and adding in a brand new one. It will make it much stronger, but a lot of work.

More Shorts!

My plan for December is to write at least one short, and polish up two of them. I’ve got two for the series I’m working on that both need editing.

I also have the short for the Anthology I’ve been working on with Stefan Budansew. Mine is ready to go on that.

And name things.

Anything. I’m horrible with names. I don’t have any good names for my current works in progress. They are all named for the series or main character with a number. Jenna 1, Jenna 2. These are not good names. I want to come up with one good damn name in December.

 

NaNoWriMo Update 1

The first week of NaNoWriMo is nearly over. It’s time to check in on goals and update where I am.

Pre-November – a little late update

  • My outline was ok, I’m continually working and reworking it as I go. I slipped in another subplot I hadn’t written down but had foreshadowed several times so apparently it was on my mind.
  • My on-the-go writing plan has been fairly successful. I’m using Scrivener this year, which does not have an on-the-go component. It seems to assume that everyone only ever writes while sitting at their computers. I like to have it on my phone or tablet to be able to write elsewhere. I copy the current scene and my scene synopsis into a google doc and am able to access it on the go. When I get home I paste it into scrivener and work from there. It’s not perfect but it’s ok.
  • I worked through my confusion and cleaned up my physical and digital spaces. I’ve been working with full screens more often and it helps a bit.

November – current update

  • Vote – done!
  • Critique – done! (well this week)
  • I’ve got four Writing Days scheduled and I have a little bit of extra time scratched out here and there as well that should help.
  • I’ve been very good about making sure I know where I’m going next before I stop. I’ve spent a good chunk of time reworking my outline based on problems I’m having or parts I’ve added that seem to work.
  • Write every day – good so far.
  • 11K steps/day, eh. Mostly but not perfectly. I had a couple of 9ishK days this week. I have to get out for a long walk today, but it should be nice.
  • Bonus: I put a hold on Winter

Numbers!

  • Am currently at 21,689
  • Until yesterday I had been writing about 4K/day
  • I took a light day yesterday and just wrote what would be required to finish on time.
  • I’ve got 18 scenes done (I’m actually going back and writing two scenes I decided I did need and couldn’t just gloss over)
  • Today is the official NaNoWriMo double up day. I am not going to double the amount I’ve written. I’m not going to double my average. I’m not going to double the number of write ins I do.
  • It is now time to go write words and make that number grow.

Bonus Goals

NaNoWriMo’s basic goal is write 50,000 words in a month. Start November 1 and write to get to that word count goal. Everything about it is focused on that number. How many words a day, how far behind are you, how far ahead etc…

I’ve done that a few times and I’m ready for other goals.

Nothing crazy like 100,000 words (I already have a full time job!) or counter productive like write two stories.

Pre-November First Goals:
  • Have an outline I feel ok about (I’ll never feel great, at this point I don’t think I’ll feel good, but I can feel ok)
  • Plan for on the go writing
  • Recruit a friend to talk through the problems with so I can shake out some of the confusion
  • Clean my place so I don’t have messy headspace (I know the science on this is mixed)
  • Clean my digital spaces (rss feeds/podcasts already pared down)
In November Daily Goals:
  • Write what the next scene/thought/part/aim/direction is before stopping each writing session
  • Review the upcoming scenes each morning so they can float around in my brain during the day and I can get words down during the day
  • Write every day (I’m generally pretty good about this, I’ve been slacking in October because reasons)
In November Other Goals:
  • Critique (for friends or as a part of the Critters) weekly
  • Blog at least weekly (substantive and thoughtfully- write a Post Nov Goals post…)
  • Write down any ideas for potential shorts and file them for December (30/3 in 30)
  • Make at least 4 Writing Days (a day when I mostly focus on words on the screen, planning, etc – ideally a higher word count, next scenes scratched out)
Bonus Not Writing Goals:
  • 11K steps a day (and skiing if we get snow!)
  • Vote (local election)
  • Give myself a pass on things if I get behind (podcasts/rss/randoms/etc)

Planning Mire

I’m mired in planning. I have entered the bog of I Have No Clue What Happens Next.

My characters are mostly returning from prior book (though a couple of new ones, and a few more developed who will get more words). This should make it easier. It has not.

One of the themes I currently have happening in the book, as it is half planned, is fighting apathy. Apathy is a really difficult foe. How does apathy fight back? By just sitting there. How do you fight apathy? Rage, scream, explode things, destroy vast tracts of land? Do they care? Nope! I may be in over my head here.

I watched the NaNocast from last week, it was good, a nice well paced webinar. I won’t be able to do tomorrow live, but I know they’ve been posting up links later. I’ve been heavily participating in the NaNo forums. I’ve been listening to podcasts. I’ve been doing everything but putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

This week my goal is to try to really sink into my character’s voice in my head, and then come back to my outline and re-examine everything I’ve got so far, I think there’s a sticky point about 1/3 of the way in that’s making it so I don’t like anything that is 1/2 of the way in.

I’d like to lay out a list of excuses (and oh boy would they be good!) but in the end they are just excuses and I want to do this. I want to write. I want to put thoughts down and share them. Excuses don’t do that. So go forth and words I shall.

(And good luck on a good election Canada! I’m listening in.)