Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction: The Princess and the Pie

Today's Friday Flash comes from a writing prompt from one of my favorite podcasts, Writing Excuses. Go check it out.


The Princess and the Pie

Isaldar ran at full speed down the castle hallway. He reached one set of doors that a pair of soldiers were guarding, and shoved his way past them, throwing an apology over his shoulder as he went. He couldn’t slow down, though. Time was not on his side.

He listened to the clack of his hard boots against the stone floor, and concentrated on his breathing. He just needed to get to the princess, before it was too late. He was still berating himself for letting the delivery happen in the first place, but how was he supposed to know? The princess did get outside food delivered often, especially as gifts, as this was presented.

He shook his head. No recriminations. Just get to the princess. He came to another double door, this one leading to the royal sleeping chambers. There were four guards here, and these looked ready for him, halberds down to block his path.

“Sorry, guys, no time,” he said as he skidded under their pole arms and through the door. “Believe me when I tell you that the princess wants to see me!”

Finally, he made it to her room, where there was but a single guard. Not wanting to put up with anyone trying to stop him, he whipped out a stone from his pocket and casually tossed it ahead of him as he ran. The small, flat stone whipped across the room and smacked the guard right between the eyes. The man briefly looked around in surprise and then fell to the floor, unconscious.

Without hardly a pause, Isaldar pushed open the doors. He saw the princess then, sitting at her table about to take a bite of a very fine looking pie.

“NO!” he shouted and threw himself across the room. He landed right into the table, shoving it over and knocking pie all over the place. As he went down with the table, he snatched the fork in the princess’ hand, that piece of pie also flying.

“What in the name of the nine hells?” the princess started, but Isaldar interrupted her.

“Did you eat any of that pie, princess?” he asked.

“What?” she said, anger crossing her fine featured face.

“Did. You. Eat. Any. Of. That. Pie.” Isaldar said very slowly as he stood and brushed himself off.

“No, of course not,” she replied, standing up herself to face him eye to eye. He forgot how tall she was. “You threw your self at my dining table, upending everything and splattering the walls and even myself with it!”

“Good,” Isaldar said, reaching over to pick up a piece of the pie. He smelled it as the princess nearly exploded. Before he could, he shoved the piece of pie in her face.

“Look at this,” he said.

“What, it looks like an ordinary… wait,” she said. “Is that?”

“Yes,” he replied. “Darkberries. This pie was designed to steal your powers, princess. And as you well know, without your powers, the world would crumble to dust at your feet.”

She just stood there, eyes wide open. The whole of creation, nearly undone because of a pie. She shook her head.

“How did it get here in the first place?” she asked.

“Poor security,” he said. “Between that and my easy run here, I’ll need to do something about that.”

“Good,” she said. “Go do that. And bring in a maid to clean up this mess you made.”

”Yes, your highness,” he replied, leaving to go. He smiled. The world was safe once again.

“I still want pie,” he heard the princess say behind him. He sighed. Sometimes, he feared she would never learn.

The End

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Writing Groups

Somewhere in my mind I have it that I’ve done a post about this topic before. However, when looking through my archive, I can’t seem to find it. So, I’m writing this topic now, and if I have written about it before, please bear with me.

The subject of writing groups has been on my mind lately, and so I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts.

Quite a few writers I know, myself included, tend to think of writing as a solitary craft. We create alone. It’s just the way it works. When you ask a non-writer what they think of when they think of a writer, they imagine some middle aged man with a scarf around his neck, smoking a pipe in a cluttered room, hunched over a typewriter, punching at the keys furiously, and brows furrowed in concentration.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, the traditional image of a writer does not include others.

And I’m here to say that this does not need to be the case.

True, the actual act of writing is usually done alone, at your keyboard. In my case, usually late at night when the wife and boy are in bed. However, even this doesn’t need to be the case. In NaNoWriMo, every year, they organize ‘write-ins,’ where groups of novelests get together to write in a public space. Sometimes, it’s quite as everyone types. But most of the time, at least in my few experiences with these, people are talking, sharing ideas, getting feed back and having word wars. It’s actually a pretty social activity. And imagine having fun while getting your word count up. Who could pass up on that?

But write-ins are an odd and unusual method of writing. So I won’t get into them more here. What I’m really here to talk about is writing groups. This is when you gather a group of fellow writers (or join an existing group), and then show them our stuff so they can tear it apart.

It sounds great, doesn’t it?

No, seriously, it does. The goal of a writing group is to help everyone there become better writers. And I know that I am always striving to be a better writer. Tighten up my prose, write better characters, discover new ways to describe things that make it more clear than my initial pass. And that’s where writing groups help out.

Right now, I’m working on a joint project with some friends, and as such we’re sharing our stuff with each other. We get and give feedback to each other, and it’s great. And I’m wondering if I can talk these two friends of mine to making this a full on writing group, and not limited to just the current project. And the best part of this group is that, thanks to the power of the internet, we can do this despite the fact that two of us are in California, and one is in Wisconsin.

But in addition to this new joy in my life, I am thinking of joining a face to face group right here in my home town. I love the idea of getting good feedback from live people, people that may not even really know me or my style. I love the idea of growing as a writer with these people, and watching them grow as well. It’s an exciting prospect.

I’ve not had any real experience with these kinds of groups before, but I’m told from others that have that it’s well worth it. I’m still a little nervous, and also concerned about finding the time to join a regular group, but I’m moving towards commitment with this. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

In the mean time, I would love to hear about your experiences with writing groups. Where they good? Did they help you get better? What would you do different next time?

Until tomorrow, keep on remembering the future!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

World Building 101: Culture

So, I am currently working on two different short stories set in someone else’s world. However, I get to take my hand in these worlds through the stories I am writing. And one of the ways I get to do this is by designing some of the cultures that exist in these settings. So, I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about designing fantasy cultures.

The first thing I do when designing a culture is look at the geography of where the culture is going to be placed. Is it rocky mountains? Is it the high desert? Perhaps they live in pastoral farmlands. Then, I look for real world cultures that lived in similar geographic areas, and pick one or two that I like. Lately, I’ve been getting into the idea of smashing two real world cultures together, especially two that don’t seem like they would mesh, and seeing what I can. I haven’t yet been very successful at this, at least not to my way of thinking, but I am still fond of the idea. I blame Robert Jordan for this, with his Irish-Bedouin Aiel.

So, I’ve picked a culture. Let’s go with an example. Let’s say our geographic location is the artic north. What cultures in the real world work there? Vikings come to mind. As do Eskimos. Which one of these I pick depends mostly on the type of story I’m writing. Let’s go with the easy one tonight, and stick with the Vikings.

So, with that said, I now know that my fantasy culture is warrior based, probably due to poor resources in their region. They likely raid neighboring lands for food and materials, maybe even for women and/or slaves. That’s a rough basic sketch, but it works for now.

Now comes the part where you add little details that make this culture seem real. Remember that at this point, you’re creating a fantasy culture, so strict adherence to the real world culture is no needed. In fact, I advise against it. Start adding new things to the basic outline that you’ve described.

So, we know that in most popular stories about Vikings, they wield axes. I’m going to run with this, and say that in my culture, swords are considered the weapons of women, and axes the weapons of men. Never would a man use a sword, nor a woman use an axe. It’s just unheard of.

Throw in a few other little details like this, it helps define your culture some. Another example could be that the color black is the color of death, and so it is never worn. Another good one is to say that men do the raiding, but women do the defending. So, say that one group of my Viking people attacks another. The attackers would be men, but all the defenders would be women. The men of the defending village, if not out raiding on their own, would take the children and protect them should the women fall. But the women are tasked with guarding the walls of defending against attackers.

Now, something else to think about. This being a fantasy setting, what do these people think of magic? At this point in setting development, magic should be at least outlined on a basic level. Let’s go with my fantasy Viking culture. I’m going to say that magic exists, and it’s common enough that magic users are not feared or hated, but not so common that there are a lot of them, either. So, a person that is born that can use magic is sent to a special place where he or she is raised and taught how to use magic. It’s likely tied to their religion in some way. In fact, I like that idea.

Let’s talk about that for a moment. Religion is, in my opinion, important to a culture. I know a lot of fantasy writers want to avoid religion, or just make it some massive, generic religion that never references a specific deity. And that can work, but to me is unrealistic. And I won’t get into designing a religion in detail here. That could be a whole blog post by itself. But what I will say is that think about throwing in some culture-related religious ceremonies or beliefs.

So, back to my culture. I’m going to say that the chief god of these people is also a god of magic, and so the wizards in this culture are also priests.

Now, I have two distinct groups in my culture. Warriors and wizard-priests. Clearly, they are both important to this culture, which leads me to another question. What about everyone else?

Well, if they are resource poor, it’s unlikely that there are many farmers. Perhaps hunters and gatherers, which could still be warriors. Blacksmiths and shipbuilders would be respected non-combat positions. Healers, possibly magical healers as part of the priesthood, would also be respected. Everyone else would either be a slave or perhaps just a low member of the society. Likely, anyone that falls into this low category is not going to be mentioned in the story anyway.

So, that gives me a brief outline of my culture, and it’s enough to start with for a novel, and more than enough to run with for a short story.

I hope this has aided you in working up some ideas for your own fantasy writing. Until next time, keep remembering the future!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tiny Tales Tuesday: Blue

Everything around him was blue. A deep, dark blue. It was cold, as well, a wet cold that seemed to reach into his very bones. It took a moment to realize that he couldn’t breathe. He thrashed, sending bubbles around him as he struggled against the bonds that held him down.

Water. That was the blue. Water. But that wasn’t why he couldn’t breath. Something was covering his mouth. He struggled again. Why couldn’t he turn his neck enough to see?

He kicked and thrashed, pushing himself backwards, and kicking up sand. So he was at the bottom of some place. That would help. But pushing up didn’t seem to work. Whatever he was tied to, it was heavier than him.

His chest started to tighten. He could feel the blood pushing harder to get what little oxygen there was left around his body. His head started to ach.

He pushed harder, and bumped against something. Pushing again, he felt his hands scrape against something rough. It cut, but it didn’t hurt in the haze of pain he was already feeling. He moved his arms around and stated to rub against the sharp thing that cut him. He wasn’t sure whatever bonded him would cut, but he worked hard at the rubbing. Eventually, it did snap, and he flung his arms up and pushed himself towards the surface.

He pushed, with his legs and arms, but all he saw was blue. How far down was he? He pushed again. Blue and more blue, and it seemed that the blue was trying to keep him down.

His vision was blurring, and he could feel water enter his lungs through his nose and mouth. It was like liquid fire. He had to reach the surface. Had to.

The blue started turning black. Darker and darker, until he felt that everything would become black. Suddenly, he felt his hand break through the water. Air! He shoved again, with what little strength he had left, and broke the surface. He took gasping breaths, coughing out the water as much as taking air in. His whole body was on fire, but he was greatful for it. Pain meant he was still alive.

Alive, and with a single desire. A desire to find out whoever had stuck him on the bottom of the ocean, and repay the favor.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I GET to do some Hard Work!

So, I was listening to one of my favorite writing podcasts today, I Should Be Writing, and the host, Mur Lafferty, said something important in the latest episode. She said that successful writers don’t get where their by being in the right place at the right time. They get where they are by working their ass off.

She gave some examples, but one comes to my mind that she misses that I heard people talking about, and even bitching about. Patrick Rothfuss. His book, the Name of the Wind, was a huge success right out of the gate. And I learned through some of this kvetching that he had the “luck” of meeting Kevin J. Anderson, got him to read his book, and then Mr. Anderson sent it to his editor. The rest, as they say, is history. But, to say that this was the result of luck is a disservice to both the book and to Patrick Rothfuss. He worked really hard on writing that book. Just as hard as I have on mine. As you have on yours. And even without the help of Kevin J. Anderson, Rothfuss’ book is really good, and it would have been published eventually. Because he put a lot of work into it.

And that’s the point. It takes a lot of work to get a book going. Work that most of us, myself included, don’t always want to do. I find myself sitting at my computer, staring at that blank page, or those few lines that, frankly, just suck, wondering what the hell am I doing. I’d rather be watching Big Bang Theory. Or playing a video game.

And sometimes I do. I don’t want to make it sound like you can never watch TV or play video games ever again.

But the truth is, if I don’t put in the work of actually writing my books, they will never get published. If I don’t put in the work of editing my books, they won’t get published. If I don’t put in the work of submitting my books, they won’t get published.

There’s a lot of work up there. Sometimes, it’s more work than I put into the paying job I put eight hours a weekday into.

But, given that there is all that work to do, I want to talk about the attitude I need to take towards that work.

Someone I listened to this weekend had some good advice for me. There are the “get to’s” verses the “got to’s.”

“Got to’s” always complain about HAVING to do something. “I GOT to get some writing done tonight.” You can almost see their eyes rolling as they put that tweet out. It’s a chore for them.

“Get to’s” are the exact opisit. “I get to do some writing RIGHT NOW!” It’s far more exciting and fun. It’s not a chore. It’s play time. Play time that might turn into a paying job, but even if and when it does, it’s still play time. Then, it becomes “I get to write, AND they pay me for it!”

I don’t know about you, but I want to change my attitude from a “Got to” to a “Get to.”

That really all I have to say for now. Until then, I get to do some writing!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: Bunnies!

A special Easter edition of Flash Fiction Friday!


“Atten’shun!” came the cry, and all one hundred of the rabbits in the field stood up straight and sharp, forming four lines and making sure that the also formed a perfect square. Another rabbit, a large grey with a black beret on his head that had a patch with a pastel yellow egg on it with a red omega symbol, walked up and down, eyeballing them.

“Floppy, get those ears up straight! God damnit, son, you think this is funny?” he shouted into the face of one bunny, causing the younger animal to jump slightly before straightening up and pointing his ears to the sky.

The rabbit with the beret growled and then walked to the front of the group.

“You are the sorriest lot of Easter Bunnies I have ever been saddled with training,” he said. “But they don’t give me enough time to take maggots like you and turn you into real rabbits before I gotta send you out into the field. So, I guess you’ll have to do.”

He sighed and shook his head.

“All right, listen up! This weekend is the real deal, sweethearts. No more training. No more mistakes. You go out there, and you’re each on your own. You have to get in there, fill those baskets, hide those eggs and get out before anyone can catch you. Especially don’t let the adults see you. They’ll capture you and dissect you before you can say Peter Cottentail. You got me?”

A collective “Sir, yes, Sir!” came up from the assemblage.

“Kids are a slightly different story. We may not be as big as the jolly ol’ fat man from the North Pole, but we’re still mighty popular with the kids. One of them see’s you, you wink and smile and then get the hell out of Dodge. No one tries to be a hero, and get their name down in some kiddy book by befriending a kid. If I hear that any one of you learns the name of a single kid out there, or God forbid, you give your name to one of them, I will personally hunt you down and skin you myself. Do I make myself clear?”

The “Sir, yes, Sir!” rang out once more. The head bunny nodded approvingly.

“All right, then. Your assignments are on the billboard by the carrot patch. I EXPECT each and every one of you to make even better time Fluffy here did on the obstacle course last week. I EXPECT each and every one of you to do better than your best, and not embarrass me. I have a reputation for putting out the best Easter Bunnies in these United States, and I do not intend to have the reputation tarnished by you ladies. Are we on the same page?”

“Sir, yes, Sir!” came the chorus. Once again, he nodded his approval.


The other rabbits quickly bounded off to the carrot patch to see their assignments. He sighed. He always hated letting the recruits go into the field. He never felt like he had time to properly train them. One more week, even. But, still. Despite what he said, the same thing he always said, this group might just be the best bunch of Easter Bunnies he had ever produced.

He nodded in satisfaction and headed to the juice bar for a much needed rest..

The End

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Having Fun Writing

As I mentioned yesterday, a couple friends of mine approached me about working with them on a shared project.

In true Christopher Blanchard form, I started taking the whole project way to seriously. I wondered about cost, about weather such a project would be viable, how would an eBook for it work, what word count should I be aiming for, blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, it was pretty ridiculous.

The good news is that I recognized that I was acting pretty stupid in this regard, and decided to just let go of all that and concentrate on the thing that drew me to the project in the first place.


Because, the truth is, this is a fun project. It’s good friends that I’ve known for a long time. It’s a fun setting that one of theme created and the other two of us are adding to. And I’ve got a great idea for a story and character that I am working on developing.

So, the lesson I am taking away from this is that I should try to keep all my projects fun. Even the ones with deadlines, or that I am getting paid for. Because if it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing anymore.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WIP’s, WIP’s and more WIP’s

So, as I mentioned, the other day, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of not only my submissions, but also my WIP’s. And it turns out, I got more WIP’s than I realized I did. And I added another one last night. (For those that don’t know, WIP stands for Work In Progress. It’s Twitter shorthand for any project you are currently working on.)

Now, the good news is that in addition to the progress of each WIP, I also have a due date, so that I can make sure to get stuff done in the right order. It really helps me stay focused and not project hop. But I want to spend a moment to talk about the project I just added.

I was contacted through Facebook that some old friends of mine, also writers, are getting together to work on a potential anthology using a setting created by one of them. The idea originally was to do a straight up Sword and Sorcery, al la Conan, with lots of action and in a very low magic setting. That has since changed somewhat, but that’s what happens when you collaborate. I am working on the rough ideas for a story for this setting, and it’s kind of exciting to be working with these two guys.

Now, the question comes to mind, what are the plans for this project? One friend suggested publishing it as an eBook. I’m still a litter nervous about doing that. I don’t have the money to lay out for a proper eBook launch, including editors, cover design, formatting, etc. On the other hand, I’m not really against the idea of doing it this way, as it’s unlikely that a group of unknown authors can get an anthology just featuring us can get published in New York. So, it’s something that I have to think about, because the truth is, I want to know how we’re going to go about this before I invest a lot of time working on a story.

This is not to say I won’t be writing a story for this project if it’s only for ourselves and never sees the light of day. I’m having fun right now, and that’s the important thing. Just that if we do go with a full book, we need to talk about how that will look before we start writing. At least, in my opinion. So, I will have that discussion with them soon.

This brings up something else that’s been on my mind lately. With the creation of the spreadsheet, I saw that one of my WIP’s missed it’s deadline, and so there’s no chance of it getting included in the project I was writing it for. So, now I’m left with a project that’s one third of the way through its first draft, wondering if I should even bother finishing.

On the one hand, it just bugs me to leave a story unfinished, even if it won’t get used. On the other hand, it kind of feels like it’s not worth it. Why should I finish a story that the project it was done for is closed? On the OTHER other hand, I could just finish and file it away. You never know, there might be a use for it later.

So, that’s where my mind is right now regarding my projects. I’ll probably figure out all this stuff by next week, but I’m also sure that this is a topic that will come up often.

Until then, keep on remembering the future!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tiny Tales Tuesday: Space Pirates!

So, today's Tiny Tales Tuesday is brought to you by my friend Tom. He invited me to play around with him and another friend in a shared universe, one that is heavly influenced by the movie Treasure Planet. If you haven't seen it, it's Treasure Island is pace. Litterly. The ships are 18th century wooden ships with rockets on the back, the sails are solar sails, and the guns are replaced with plasma cannons. It's lots of fun. So, reading over his setting document, I was inspired to write this little short.

It's not bad, but it needs some work. Outside of knowing the setting, this story does little to inform people they are flying through space on an opened deck wooden space ship. I'll need to work on that more, I think. Anyway, let me know if you all enjoyed this one.


“Another hit, sir,” Richards said, lowering his spyglass. “I have to ask, sir. How is it that you know where they’re always going to be? Running these asteroids is risky business at the best of time, never mind in a ship as large as theirs, loaded with gold and jewels.”

“Did you know I once served under Edward Blackstar, Richards?” Captain Mathews said.

“The pirate?” Richards, his first officer, said, turning to look at his captain.

“Indeed, though back then he was a fine Imperial Captain,” Mathews said, “and I was but a stripling Lieutenant.”

“I did not know that, sir,” Richard said.

“He taught these pirates everything he knows, you see,” Mathews continued. “And since he taught me much the same things, I know how they think.”

“I see,” Richards said. He turned his spyglass back across the void of stars to look at the deck of the other ship, it’s solar sails in pieces after having been blasted by plasma cannons. A white flag was being waved from the fo’castle.

“White flag, sir,” he said. “It looks like they’re surrendering.”

“Excelent,” Mathews said. He turned away from the other ship to stare out at the asteroids. “Excellent. Send some men over to recover the stolen treasure.”

“Aye, sir,” Richards said. “What about prisoners?”

“No, just the treasure,” Mathews said. “Once it’s back over here, separate us from them and destroy their ship.”

“Sir?” Richards said, one eyebrow raised.

“It’s a shame, really,” Mathews said, turning back to the enemy ship. “These pirates are cowards, but stubborn. They were willing to destroy their own ship against an asteroid rather then turn the treasure back over to us.”

“Yes, sir,” Richards said, still confused.

“Once the report is written up, I’ll announce to the crew that I will be retiring once we return,” Mathews said, continuing. “Everyone who served with me this day will get a substantial bonus, from my… personal coffers.”

“Oh,” Richards said, understanding dawning on him. “I see, sir. Aye, sir.”

“I told you,” Mathews said, “Blackstar taught me everything he knew.”

“Aye, captain,” Richards said. “I’m learning much myself.”

“I very much think I would like to retire to a private asteroid of my own,” Mathews said, leaving the deck and returning to his cabin to file the report.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Update

It’s Monday again, and time for an update.

And man, what a Monday it has been. Work was just ROUGH today! Partially because I didn’t get much sleep last night. It’s my own fault. I was organizing my WIP’s and my Submissions in a spreadsheet, so I could keep track of everything I was doing.

Yes, that’s right, all that talk a week ago about getting such a sheet done, and I finally do it… last night. And why? Because I needed to figure out what WIP had the next deadline. It’s ridiculous. But, at least it’s done, and now it’s just a matter of maintaining it. Which will be easy.

But, the result was, today was rough. Busiest day of the week for me, and to top it off, we’re in the beginning of a peak period for my company, so the’s even more work to do than normal. And what do I do? Go to be late. Ugh. I’ll do my best to get some serious sleep tonight, but it probably means no real work done on my WIP. Still, sleep and health are important, so I will do those things first. Writing can come when I’m awake.

And speaking of writing… I submitted again! I sent of a query letter to an agent for the Windsmith. It’s always a little frightening when I do that. I have butterflies in my stomach even talking about doing it. Still, I have hopes for this one! And even if she rejects me, there are many more agents out there. I’m hopeful that this book will get published.

I had a good weekend. The fam went to the local Earth Day festival, and marched in the parade with the boy’s school. Except for the anti-abortion extremists with their extremely graphic pictures, the faire was fun as usual.

And I think that’s it from the world of me. I’ll see you all tomorrow with a new Tiny Tales Tuesday! Until then, keep remembering the future!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction: Camera Store

Today's Friday Flash Fiction is curtousy of a prompt by my twitter friend Nicole Wolverton (@nicolewolverton). If you're not following her, why the hell not?


Clara stopped licking her ice cream and looked up. She turned her head slightly to make sure she actually saw what she thought she had seen. There it was. A sign, with an old fashioned camera on a tripod, complete with man behind the large cloth cover and holding the flash powder over the contraption. Next to the picture were the words “One Thousand Words Cameras” in an old time styled font. Clara’s forehead creased and she turned around, taking a few steps down the cobblestone walkway to the storefront.

When did this place get here? She had walked down this little alleyway in Florence everyday since arriving here to work four months ago, and this store was never here. It wasn’t there yesterday. And yet, here it was, as if it had been here this whole time. The sign even showed wear and aging. What the hell?

She had to find out. So, she opened the door and walked in. The little bell chimed as the door opened, and again as it closed behind her.

The place was small, but crammed from floor to ceiling with cameras. Cameras of all shapes and sizes, makes and models, even some that weren’t made any more, and a few that Clara didn’t recognize. Must be state of the art models, though she figured she would have at least heard of them enough to recognize them. She was a professional photographer after all.

Still, now that she was in here, she was intrigued. This place had everything. Cameras, stands, film, books on cameras and photographers. It was like a camera buff’s wet dream.

She walked across the small store and stopped halfway to the back. There, on the counter, was a camera so unique and startlingly different she had to stop and take a look at it. It looked very much like a modern digital camera, with a screen and control buttons on the back, but the casing was wood. It had a tripod that was also wood, and the whole thing had a classic feel to it. It had a pretty advanced lens too, if she was any judge. And she was.

She reached out to touch it.

“Oh, I wouldn’t touch that one, if I were you,” a thickly accented voice said, and she turned around, surprised.

There was an old man there, wearing what looked like a suit from the 1800’s, and an apron, of all things. She could swear that he wasn’t there before. This was a little too much. She made her living with her eyes, how was it she wasn’t noticing these things?

“Why shouldn’t I touch it?” she asked. “How will I know if I want it if I can’t see it in use?”

“Oh, you don’t want that camera,” he said. “It’s cursed.”

“What?” she said, blinking. This had to be some bizarre nightmare.

“Oh, yes,” he said. “Cursed. Everything that you take a picture of with that camera… BECOMES the picture.”

“Come again?” she said.

“It actually becomes the picture,” he repeated. “It disappears from the real world, only to exist in the picture you took.”

“That’s ridiculous,” she said. Then, a thought occurred to her. “I want to buy it.”

“I don’t think you…” he started.

“Yeah, yeah,” she cut him off. “It’s cursed and you don’t think I really want to buy it. The thing is, I do. See, it’s the most unique camera I’ve ever seen. It’s beautiful work, and it’s a very high quality camera, from what I can tell.”

“Oh, it’s the best,” he said. “All to make it more appealing.”

“Exactly,” she replied. “And I want it. So, I’m going to write you a check, and you just tell me how much to put in there.”

“Madam,” he said. “This camera is not for sale.”

She was ignoring him now. His whole cursed shtick was getting old. She turned around and picked the camera up over his protests. She flipped the power switch, and watched as the screen came to life immediately. Nice. Even her best camera took a few seconds to warm up. She swung it around the store, looking at the view on the screen. It was sharp and clear, very detailed. Also very nice. She aimed it at the shopkeeper, who was now waiving his arms frantically.

She pushed the button, and the flash light up the small store, blinding her for a few seconds.

When she could see again, the shopkeeper was gone. She looked around for him, and then noticed something moving on the screen for the camera. She looked down at it, and saw the shopkeeper. He was in the picture she had just took, but he was moving, banging his hands against the screen and waving his arms frantically.

Had she taken a video instead of a picture? No, the setting was on picture. She looked back at the screen. He was screaming and pointing at her now. She practically dropped the camera.

Oh, My. God. He was telling her the truth. The damn camera really was cursed. She looked down at the screaming man in the camera. Then, a cold smile crossed her lips. She knew a few models that she wouldn’t mind getting rid of. Not to mention a few magazine editors. This was going to be fun.

She looked at the shopkeeper and grinned at him. Then, she flicked the power switch off.

The End

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Worldbuilding 101: Geography part 2

Okay, so yesterday we covered some good basics. Maps, and how to make them. Geography that makes sense. Asking basic questions to the internet. All good stuff.

So, let’s get into some more advanced stuff here.

I’m going go back to maps for a moment. Don’t let the fact that you’re not an artist in the slightest stop you from drawing a map. The map you make for yourself does not have to be pretty. It just has to make sense for you. Squiggly lines for a forest, a blue crayon to draw the rivers, triangles for mountains. In fact, crayons (or colored pencils if crayons are too kiddy for you) are a great idea. Green for forests, yellow for deserts, brown for mountains, blue for water. It makes it a lot easier. And don’t worry about being specific. A vague shape for the forest is good enough. A circle for the towns and cities, with a black line to note important roads and trails are fine. And note that by important, I mean important to the story, not the map. Remember, the story is the thing here, the map is just to help you give visuals, to keep some kind of consistency in your story. If the Kingdom of Nogg is to the north, you want to make sure that your characters always refer to it that way, and a map can help with that.

When your book is finished and you get it picked up and published, then the publishers can hire a professional cartographer to make the beautiful maps that will appear inside. Just like they hire someone to paint your book cover. So for now, a basic, crude map is just fine.

Now, let’s talk about something more interesting.

Previously, we’ve discussed sensible geography. Making sure that the rivers flow from north to south, and that the desert doesn’t run into the Arctic Circle, that sort of thing. Let’s talk now about fantastic geography.

This is where you want to have a city under the water, or the villain’s hideout built into the side of an active volcano. I’m going to stick here with real world geographical features, so no Crystal Forests of Nogg, or castles built on top of clouds. Not that you should avoid those. I’m a fan of that kind of thing. If you’re writing a fantasy world, or even a new world in a sci-fi story, there’s no reason at all to make the world fantastic with things like that. But those are magical things that should be part of your magic system, or just part of your world’s history. They’re not part of what I am talking about here.

For fantastic geography, you need to combine the fatures of realistic geography with things that we can’t do in the real world. Like how would a medivile-era civilization build a city under water? Well, with magic obviously, but there still needs to be a city there. What’s it made of? This is where the internet comes back into play. Some basic research will reveal building materials underwater. Maybe the buildings are all built of coral, or using the rocks that are native to the oceans bottom. Maybe the villain’s hideout is built out of the cave itself, with no extra material. What kind of cave would exist in a volcano, anyway? Are there any animals that live in active volcanoes? Check that out, and use their homes as blueprints.

This is not to say that you can’t just go all magical on this stuff. If you want your city under the sea to be built from rainbow crystals, by all means, do so. Inventing special properties of minerals or materials that only exist in this world are perfectly acceptable. I’m just suggesting looking to the real world first. There’s some pretty fantastic stuff in nature for you to draw upon before going to the truly magical answers.

Okay, I think that’s all I got to say for now.

But, before I go, I want to ask you all a question. These posts on worldbuilding seem to be the most popular I do on this site so far. Would you be interested in this becoming a weekly feature? Let me know!

Until tomorrow, keep writing!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Worldbuilding 101: Geography

So, I’m struggling with a topic for today’s blog when I am reading a friend’s blog where he discusses his thought processes behind geography choices on the world he is creating. And while I’m reading it, I think, hey… this is a great topic. Geography. So, here I am, writing about geography for your fantasy world. Or, even, your sci-fi world/worlds.

Let’s cover the basics. Let’s assume for a minute here that you’re creating a world for your epic fantasy trilogy. You’re going to need a pretty big world, or at least a big area of it, so that your characters can tromp all over it in search of the big, magical treasures that will allow them to defeat the big bad guy in the denouement. And that means maps.

I don’t know about you, but I love maps. Being a huge fan of Dungeon’s and Dragons, the RPG, I have had a love affair with maps since before I started reading epic fantasy such as Tolkien or Jordan. And I love cracking open the cover of a hardback book with a full color map on the inside. They are beautiful.

But beyond that, maps serve you, the writer, a special purpose. They work as… well, a map, of the story. With a map, you can chart out the path your characters are going to take to find the magical artifacts. Place notes on the map of what dangers lurk in that section, mark dates, chapter numbers, book numbers, whatever, and the map becomes a visual outline of your book. I’ve done this before, it’s amazing how well this works.

So, lets talk about your map for a second. Where do you start? I mean, mapping out a whole world, or even a good sized portion of one, is pretty tough.

So, I’m going to again steal a page from Dungeons & Dragons, and say that you start small. Only map what you need, at least at first. So in your epic fantasy, start with the little town that your heroes come from. Is it a farm village miles away from the nearest city? Is it a remote mountain town where the people are miners and goat herders? Maybe it’s a little fishing village on the other side of the mountains from the rest of the world? Whatever it is, start with that. Map out the village and it’s surrounding territory. Don’t go more than what you need for your first few chapters, before the heroes start their real journey into the world. I would say stick to the village the heroes are from and add maybe one or two more.

Then, when your done with that and you know enough about the area from your map to have your characters talk about it like they’ve lived there their whole lives, move on to bigger areas. Map out the kingdom the characters live in. Give it a few neighbors, detail at least one major city that the characters will stop in and also details some important points in the kingdom where the characters will get into trouble.

Keep expanding on this until you have enough of a map detailed that you can tell your whole story. You might need to fill in some areas of the map with things that your characters will never see, but that’s okay. Fill those in last. The important part is that you know where your characters are going, and what those areas look like.

Now comes the part about geography. When drawing your maps, try to make the geography make some sense.

Note that I didn’t say realistic, but sense. Realistic isn’t really a part of the formula here. We’re talking about a world where wizards toss about fireballs, dragons eat princesses and hulking barbarians wield swords bigger than they are. So, don’t worry about realistic. But, it does need to make sense. And by this, I mean that for your reader to feel like they are a part of the world, it needs to at least resemble the world we know.

So, that means now swamps next to the big desert followed by arctic tundra. It means that the rivers should flow from the north to the south, and not the other way around. I know this sound suspiciously like realism, and it sort of is, but really, I’m just saying that it should make some kind of sense. What I am trying to avoid by following this rule of mine is this.

Here’s your reader, getting into your stories. The heroes have just fled the orcs that are attacking their home town, carrying the sacred treasure of the now destroyed town temple. They’re trying to get to the city the priest told them about to give the artifact to a priest there. But first, they have to get through the forest and over the mountains. As they’re going through the forest, the heroes come to a river, and it works best with tension, so the sounds of orc hunting horns are coming from the trees not a mile behind them. They get to the river and see… lava!

This is the point where the reader goes “Lava? What the hell?” and is yanked out of the story to realize he’s reading a novel. When this happens to me, I hate it.

So, unless you have a damn good magical explanation for this river of lava to exist in a forest, as well as a reason as to why the characters, natives to this area of the world, haven’t heard of it before, skip it and make it a normal river.

Now, I’m no geologist, and I expect that you are not as well. So this is where the internet comes in. Research is your friend. Look at maps of the real world. Check sites of geology and ask some basic questions. How many different types of trees can exist in one forest? When does a forest become a jungle? What’s the difference between a rain forest and a jungle? Get your answers to these questions before mapping, or while mapping, even. But definitely before writing.

Okay, I think that’s it for now. I like this topic, though, I may revisit it tomorrow.

Until then, keep writing!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tiny Tales Tuesday: I Don't Seek Redemption

Once more, a 5 Minute Fiction entry for today's post. This one is a little dark. Okay, it's very dark. But I think it came out well. Please enjoy.


I look down at the body in front of me. He was a man, once, before I got to him. Before I killed him. I don’t seek redemption for this act, that’s not why I tell you this. No, I instead want you to understand. Understand me, understand why I did things to this man that would make a surgeon run away retching.

And the simple truth is, I did it for pleasure. Strangling him like that, holding his throat as he struggled, feeling his breath fade every second as my fingers tightened around him. There’s no sensation like it. And did you know that the movies have it wrong? It takes more than just making a person pass out to choke someone to death. No, you have to keep strangling them for a very long time, cut off oxygen to the brain, make sure they are dead.

Besides, I wasn’t trying to kill him with the choking. No, I want to prolong my pleasure. I just wanted him out, so he wouldn’t struggle. Not too much.

After I was done with that part, I put on my surgical mask, pulled out my black bag full of little sharp surgical knives, and got to work. Just like the strangling, there’s something special in the feel of slicing open flesh, watching it part before my knife as if it were fleeing it, seeing the red blood spurt forth as I open a vein. And it’s even better when I do it barehanded.

But I am done with him now. This man is dead and can offer me no more pleasure. But you, on the other hand. You I still have hours of pleasure to gain.

But not now. That’s my cell phone going off, see. That means I’m needed back at work, back at the hospital. A patient needs me to save his life. So, work first, but don’t fret, my pretty. I’ll be back soon. And then you’ll know exactly how pleasurable a knife cut can be.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Break’s Over

So, the truth is that I haven’t been getting much writing done this past week. And man, does it feel like it was a LOOOONG week, too. More like two weeks, to be completely honest. Which makes the lack of writing more obvious to me. And really, I feel it. I’m not writing, so I feel out of sorts. It bugs me.

So, that means that the break is over. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret taking some time off, although I, perhaps, took too much time. As I have said in a previous post, it’s good to get some time away from the computer and re-charge the batters, re-fill the well of ideas.

But my time spent recharging is now over. It’s time to crack the knuckles, fire up the ol’ word processor and sit my ass down to get some serious writing done. What will that be? Well, to be honest, one of the things I did while on my mini-vacation was lose track of my projects. I think there was one thing I wanted to finish that I missed the deadline on. Which is bad because its unprofessional, although in all fairness, the people running the event I was writing for didn’t know I was writing a story for them.

But, you know, I want to try and act as a professional writer, which means I take this job seriously, and not as a hobby that I do in my spare time. Which is yet another reason that break time is over. I need to be a professional, and get back to work.

Oh, before I go, some good news! I found out last week that a story I entered into a contest to get into a YA Mystery Anthology passed the first round of voting. Now, just one more round of voting, and the judges will have picked the ten stories that will get published. I’m that much closer, folks! Keep your fingers crossed! According to the email I got, I should know by the end of the month, so I’ll be sure to keep you all posted.

Until then, I’ll be writing!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction: Fiasco on the Ice

Kevin slowly climbed down from the truck, his jaw slack, his eyes wide. What the hell was happening? Nothing was going as planned. And it was such a simple plan, too. How could everything have gone so wrong in such a short time?

All he wanted to do was get off the ice. This fucking ice. He had come to McMurdo Station six years ago, and regretted it ever since. It was a miserable experience out here, where the biggest attraction was the fucking Wells Fargo ATM machine. His only solace was his girlfriend, Sally, who wanted off the ice just as badly.

At first, their plan was pretty boring. Work hard to save enough money to take advantage of the buy out clause in their contracts. But here it was, six years later, and they were still here. That’s when they heard the news.

There was a man coming in to McMurdo, a government man from Washington, with some transfer orders, recalling people back to America. The rumors had it that the orders were for Kevin’s boss, Tony Dravin, that asshole, and his wife. The plan came to Kevin almost immediately. It was simplicity it self. Sally and Kevin would get some fake transfer orders, with their names on them. Then, Sally would user her ample feminine assets to seduce and distract the Washington man, so that Kevin could steal his briefcase with the orders in them, and then switch them out with the fake orders.

And presto, they would be transferred off the ice. Simplicity.

Somehow, things had all gone south. First, it turned out that the damn Government man was queer as a two-dollar bill, so he and Sally switched roles. Then, fucking Tony wouldn’t leave the guys side. So, Kevin came up with a back up plan. He set fire to the warehouse so Tony would have something to occupy his time with while he got Mr. Government Man alone. And away from his briefcase. Which worked, too, because they got the fake papers in the briefcase. Of course, it meant that Kevin had to actually go through with bedding the guy, but that was a small indignity when taken into context of the last six years, really.

But the fire was really out of control, and it burned town the warehouse and two others besides. One that held explosives for use in the ice. The resulting blast killed Tony. Kevin was rocked by that whole thing. Tony was dead, and he had fucked another man. Things were out of control, and he wanted out. But Sally wasn’t about to let him ditch her now, not when the plan was this close to being finished.

That’s when things got really out of hand. With Tony dead, an investigation was launched into the fire, which made Kevin nervous, as there could be evidence that he was guilty. Beyond that, the investigation put the release of the transfer orders on hold, which drove Sally bonkers. At gun point, she took Kevin and the government man out onto the ice in one of those big rigs used to run supplies around. She informed the man from Washington that he was going to release those documents so that she and Kevin could get out of this fucking place. When he refused, she threatened to shoot him. Kevin freaked and tried to get the gun from her, and in the struggle, the gun went off. She fell out of the truck, blood pouring out of her stomach, staining the otherwise pure white snow.

He had shot his girlfriend. The only thing out here that he actually loved. He spilled his guts to the government man. Everything, turning himself in. The man nodded grimly as the story was related, stating that Kevin would have to be arrested and put on trial. He patted Kevin on the shoulder, and Kevin almost laughed.

Trial. That would have to take place back in America. Looks like he was getting off the fucking ice after all.

The End

Thursday, April 7, 2011


This is a topic that is very dear to me. Inspiration. See, it’s something that every artist has to struggle with, and one that many artists, especially writers, seem to think is fleeting and difficult to come by. Some think that it is a rare flower that only blossoms when the conditions are right, once or twice a year. Other’s think it is a precious stone, buried deep in the earth, that one has to work hard at digging out before it’s light can be seen. Personally, I think both of these are wrong.

Inspiration is something that all artists need, I am not going to deny this. It’s difficult, if not downright impossible, for me to write a story when there is no inspiration. However, I do not think that inspiration is something that suddenly comes upon me unbidden, or that it is something I have to work hard at. As a writer, my inspiration surrounds me all the time. I wear it, like a jacket, and reach into its deep and endless pockets to draw forth the ideas I need to write my stories.

How, you may ask, do I do this? Where did I find such a wondrous jacket?

I worked hard at it. I made it myself. I drew the material from the experiences and loves of my life and stitched them together to make this wonderful coat. I stuffed the pockets so full with memories and bits and pieces of things I’ve read or seen on TV, as well as personal experiences, that if I were to draw an idea from it once a day for the rest of my life, they would still be filled to bulging.

And the truth is, you wear such a jacket yourself. You just need to learn where the pockets are.

And I think that’s the end of that metaphor. Sorry for going all poetic there, but I was… inspired, I guess. Heh.

Over the years, reading various books on writing, two have really struck me and stick with me about the craft, and the strangest thing is that neither was really about HOW to write. These books are The Artist’s Way and Zen in the Art of Writing. If you don’t have these books, go get them now. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

In Zen and the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury talks a lot about loves, passions and memories. Those things that we love as children, those things that we are passionate about as adults, combined with the memories of our own lives and experiences are all the inspiration we as writers ever need. We often hear the old adage “Write what you know.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never ridden on the back of a dragon, and I don’t think that Mr. Bradbury has ever walked the sands of Mars. But the people in his books, his characters, were all based on people he knew, in some way or another. His family made it to Mars, to be the basis of many of the characters there. I have often drawn upon personality traits of people I know for characters. In fact, I am doing it deliberately for the fantasy novel I am currently writing. Family, friends, loved ones, enemies. All of them are up for grabs for use as personalities in my novels. Because, that is what I know.

Combine those with the things you love, those things that you are passionate about, and write stories that mix the two. That love and passion will show through, and people will stand up and notice.

The other side of this, and it’s something I’ve learned from Zen in the Art of Writing and from Artist’s Way, is that the story may take a while, several years in fact, to germinate. For example, I have a deep love of Role Playing Games, such as Dungeons and Dragons. I would love to write a story about that love, but what that story is I don’t yet know. I’m sure that one day I will have an idea for a character that will match this love of RPG’s and the story will appear in my head.

But what I’ve learned from Artist’s Way is that I can’t force it. If I do, it will be crap. And I will be exhausted from the effort, and other stories I try to write, unrelated, will also be crap. I need to let the flow happen. And I also need to be good to myself, and take breaks. My well, the pockets of my jacket, need time to refill, regenerate. So, I try to take time off every now and then. Not long periods, mind, a single after noon is fine. I take an Artist’s Date, as described in the book, where I do something I really enjoy and don’t think about writing at all. My mind is relxed, the well refills, and when I return to the writing, I find that the ideas just come to me. Naturally, without struggle, and in a flow, not a sudden blossoming that lasts a short period of time.

So, I use these principles of storing memories and loves, and the idea of taking breaks to refreash my mind, to keep my inspiration up, to keep the flow coming. I never want for ideas, because if I do, I know I have these tools to help me find them again.

So take my advice. Don’t wait for inspiration to happen, and don’t go digging for it as if it were hard work. Let it happen to you, let it flow, and be sure to take breaks from drinking from it, so that it can replenish itself.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More gaming geekiness

So, this blog post is late, and the reason for that is because I just couldn’t come up with something to talk about.

Here’s what’s happening with me. I’ve been kind of distracted from writing since this weekend. Hyphen-Con, the gaming event I went to, has, as it does every year, re-kindled my love of gaming. Role-playing games, card games, board games, video games. I just love games. Hell, even in the Renaissance Guild I belong to, my job is to teach people about period games.

So, right now, I’m pretty geeked out about games, and especially about some new ones I’ve discovered at Con, such as In A Wicked Age and Fiasco (thought I never played Fiasco). These games are a big departure from the standard type of game I played in the past, but they all look like great fun. And I just want to play.

I would love to have a regular game, maybe once a month. I’m just not sure I could put much effort into it. In the past, I was always the game master. I think if I got into a game, it would have to be one where I didn’t have to do a lot of prep work, or one where I was a gamer.

But, right now, it just seems like a lot of work. So, I’m not sure. But whatever, I would sure love to play again.

And, of course, I still need to and want to write. It’s like an imperative. I can’t skip writing for more than a few days before I start to wig out. And so, I will continue to write.

But, that’s pretty much where my mind is at right now. Just thought I would share.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tiny Tales Tuesday: It's a Trap!

Jeff hesitated before walking across the grass to the front door. He couldn’t help but have a bad feeling. Rick and Clara never invited him to their parties. They liked him and all, especially during game night. He was the DM for their Dungeons and Dragons game. But, outside of that, Rick and Clara weren’t all that geeky, and neither were their friends outside of game. The one time Jeff had been invited to a party of theirs, he freaked out a few party goers by quoting the whole Star Wars argument from Clerks. Rick never invited him back to another party after that.

Jeff sighed. He didn’t really blame him. He liked Rick and Clara too, but they weren’t really his closest friends. Those were his game group, especially Sarah, his sister. But, she left for school two weeks ago, and the rest of the gang was out of town this weekend at a con. Jeff was feeling a little lonely. He sort of assumed that was why Rick invited him at work the other day. He felt sorry for his skinny, geeky friend. And the sad truth was, Jeff was just lonely enough to take the sympathy offered and go.

When he rung the door bell, Rick answered. He smiled, gave Jeff a big hug and shoved the skinny young man into the room. There weren’t that many other people there, just a few other co-workers from Jeff and Rick’s company. He waved to them awkwardly, but they all smiled back and waved. But then, Rick started steering Jeff through the living room and towards their study.

“What’s going on?” Jeff asked.

“You’ll see,” Rick said. “I’ve a special surprise for you in here. I think you'll really like her.”

Oh, no, Jeff though. It was all a trick. They brought him here to hook him up with some new girl in the office, he just knew it! It was a trap! He started pushing against Rick.

“Now, now, none of that,” Rick said.

Then, he got to the study and opened the door. Inside, Jeff saw a girl about his age, with straight brown hair that covered one side of her face, thick glasses, a shy smile, freckles, and a tee-shirt that showed Admiral Ackbar, with a word bubble and his famous quote, 'It's a Trap!'

Maybe this wasn’t such a bad trap to fall into, Jeff thought as Rick started to do the introductions.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Of Geeks and Car Troubles

Phew! What a week!

First, let me update you all on the writing angle. No submissions this week, but, I am working on three projects right now. Two short stories are in the work and a flash fiction piece for a podcast is also up and running. I’m working on draft two for the flash piece (the one I posted on Friday, in fact), and I am working on draft one for the other two stories, which will be submitted to magazines, one that pays and one that doesn’t. I know, submitting to a mag that doesn’t pay? But, it’s a new mag, and a publishing credit if they take me. So, while I continue to research them, I’ll work on a story assuming I want to submit to them. If I decide not to submit, I still have a story I can submit to other places. And if I do, and they take me, then like I said, publishing credit.

So, that’s the writing front. In other areas of my life, things are very interesting. My wife and I just dropped a huge chunk of change to get some needed maintenance on our car. You know, stuff like oil filter changed, new oil, new tires, alignment, tune up, that kind of stuff. Then, this very morning, on the way to work/school with our boy, the car breaks down. Turns out the plug for the oil filter fell off, and there was river of oil on the side of the road. So, back to the dealership for the fix and a rental car. The good news is that the engine itself was not damaged, they’re going to do the fix, and also replace our wearing breaks (not really in need, but it would be soon, so hey, cool) and a detail, all for free to make up for it being their fault in the first place.

So, rough day today. But this weekend?

Man, it was awesome! A group of friends of mine do this thing every year, a weekly gaming get together we call Hyphen-Con. It’s a two day affair where a bunch of RPG geeks get together and play RPG’s on one day, and board/card games on the second. And I had a blast! I ran a game of Danger Patrol (retro-future pulp sci-fi narrative game, it’s fun, you should Google it) and played in a fantasy game that used the mechanics from the Smallville RPG, which was also fun. I’m not sure I’d be really interested in a Smallvilleesque campaign, but the one-off was pretty cool.

And board game day was filled with awesomeness. Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Puerto Rico, Zombies, Kung-Fu Fighting, and those are just the games I played in. There were a ton of others.

So, great weekend, filled with geeky goodness, and while I am exhausted now, it was well worth it. I’ll probably take a night off of writing today, for recovery as well as other prior engagements, but I’m ready to jump back into the pool tomorrow. So, until then, remember:

No matter where you go, there you are!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: A Horse with No Name

Welcome back once again to Flash Fiction Friday!

This week's entry comes from the prompt for R. B. Wood's podcast, The Word Count. Go check it out, if you haven't yet. Richard is a good guy, a good author, and has a fantastic podcast featuring all kinds of other good authors.

Anyway, this prompt was "take a line from your favorite song and write a story around it."

It's not my all time favorite song, but I do like it, and this story almost wrote it self once I said the line out loud. Keep in mind that this is the first draft of this story, and it's going to get edited before I record it and submit it to the podcast.

In the mean time, please enjoy!


A Horse with No Name

“I rode through the desert on a horse with no name,” the stranger said in response to Ahmed’s question.

“Bah!” Ahmed said, his lip curled in a snarl. “No one rides through that desert, not and lives. There is a reason we call it the Land of Death.”

The stranger’s eyes, strangely blank and focused at the same time, turned their attention on Ahmed, burning into his skull, as if the man were looking at Ahmed’s very soul. Ahmed took an involuntary step backward.

“But I did,” he said. “And I found it there. The legends are true.”

“Legends?” Ahmed said, his eyebrows raised in confusion. Then, the man’s words sank in, and his eyebrows lowered, his eyes squinting in understanding. “You don’t mean…?”

“I do,” the stranger said, and then reached into his robes to pull out a long, straight bundle of blankets, as long as a man is tall, and thin, like a pole. Or a spear, Ahmed realized.

“That is it?” Ahmed said. “Are you sure?”

The stranger pulled back the blankets enough for Ahmed to see the spear point. Pure platinum, he could tell even just by looking at it, with a single ruby at the point where the blade met the shaft. And runes, ancient runes of a long dead language, were carved into the metal. He gasped, turned to make sure no one else was looking, then quickly wrapped it back up!

“It is…” he said in a whisper. “It’s he Spear of Time, the one prophesied to be used by the Great Defender in the final battle that will either save or destroy the world."

“Indeed,” the stranger said. “I found it… out there.”

His eyes went glassy. Well, more glassy than before, like instead of looking through Ahmed, he wasn’t even aware that Ahmed was there. The stranger was clearly looking at the past, his recent past.

“I… I can’t remember much,” he said. “The heat. I can’t even remember my own name.”

“The desert does that to people,” Ahmed said. “Go on and tell me what you do remember.”

“I…” The stranger paused. Then, he sat down suddenly, on the dusty ground by the building that held Ahmed’s shop. He leaned his head back against the wall, and for the first time, Ahmed say just how tired the other man looked. The bags under the man’s eyes were swollen and purple, and the hair on his chin was clearly at few days worth of growth. And where before he saw a smelly mess, he now saw a man who had torn clothing and a dirty countenance that came from hardship. Ahmed frowned. Sympathy was not an emotion he was used to, and he wasn’t sure he liked it.

Suddenly, the stranger’s head snapped back up.

“A city,” he said. “I remember a city… made of… jewels?”

“Ala-mashad,” Ahmed said automatically, thinking of the old stories and prophecies about the so-called City of God, said to be hidden deep in the desert. He stopped before he said anything else. Ala-mashad? The Spear of Time? Legends. These things were not real. This stranger was just… what? A crazy man? A wily merchant, trying to pass off items as legendary artifacts? No. Ahmed didn’t believe that. There was more to this stranger than either of those options. He just wasn’t yet ready to believe that this man before him was the Great Guardian spoken of in the sacred texts.

“I remember… a man… another man… I…” The stranger continued. “I followed him… into the desert… he had committed a crime, I think… I can’t remember his name, either. I followed him, to that strange city where… something happened. Something rose up… a giant snake? and… ate us?”

Ahmed almost opened his mouth again. Dal-Hashad, the world snake, that was said to devour the light and the dark at the beginning of time, and would spit out the Great Guardian and the Dark Agent before at the end of time, when the Final Battle would happen. This man had to be pulling his leg.

“I don’t think…” the stranger said, still looking into that strange past he saw. “I don’t think I’m the same man as the one that went into the desert, the one that was chasing after a criminal. But at the same time, I am he. I have his… memories. Or some of them, at least. And the man I was chasing, he is different, too. After the snake spit us out, we landed on a pile of treasure.”

Ahmed noted that the man’s words were coming faster now. He was obviously remembering more.

“I remember looking at him, this other man, this dark man, and wanting to kill him, as if that were my purpose in life. I reached out to the treasure around me, and grabbed that spear. I struck at him with it, but he too had reached into the pile, and grabbed a shield. A black shield, that appeared to be made from darkness itself. He laughed, then touched the shield and vanished. I left the city, found this house, and rode… here.”

He sighed and closed his eyes, leaning back against the building. He looked tired once more. A bone deep wariness, as if he had been walking for a hundred years. Which he could have, from the look of him, Ahmed thought.

“I also found…” the stranger said, fishing around inside his shirt. “This. It was around my neck when I awoke on that pile of treasure.”

He pulled out a small, round pendant and showed it to Ahmed. Ahmed gasped, and took a step backward again. He had to stop himself from taking more. It was impossible. But there it was, the symbol, the chain, everything. Proof that this man was telling the truth. For the pendant was made out of a green materal known as Jade, something that didn’t exist anywhere but in legends. But it had to be Jade? What else was that green color? Touching it, it was no stone that Ahmed had ever seen. Jade. Te Rock of God, they called it. This man before him really WAS the Great Guardian. He had to tell someone.

“I…” Ahmed started, looking from the pendant to the stranger. “I need to… tell someone. The priest, maybe. He’ll know what to do. You, you stay here, inside my shop. You’ll be safe.”

The stranger nodded, and stood up to go inside.

“Take my horse,” he said to Ahmed, who nodded. Without thinking, he got on the horse and rode, fast, toward the temple in the middle of town. The priest, he had to know what to do next. He looked down at the horse. The Horse with No Name, the stranger had called it. When that thought went through his head, Ahmed almost fell off.

The Horse was part of the prophecy too. The horse with no name would bring the Guradian out of the Land of the Dead, and it would also carry the Guardian’s herald, who would bring news of the guardian. It was said in the prophecy that the horse would carry the herald to a great leader, where he would share his news. It was also said that the horse would carry the herald in the final battle, where he would die, sacrificing himself to protect the Guardian.

It occurred to Ahmed that he was that herald. He was right now heading to a great leader, the high priest of the temple, to bring news of the guardian. And e was doing it, riding on a horse with no name. It was almost enough to make Ahmed cry.

A bloody horse with no name.

The End