Category Archives: Writing

Christmas in a Strange Place (Orig Pub 12/23/2011)

Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge – Christmas in a Strange Place

“She won’t mind if you wake her.” Bodecia leaned against the bulkhead. Foxin tilted his head to the left and returned her study. One hand splayed across the glass of the cryo-unit.

“Why would I bother her when she programmed the damned thing herself?” His hand stroked the glass. “You’re here after all. It’s not like I’m alone.”

The former general huffed out a laugh. “Foxin, I’m not human. I can pretend, but I don’t feel the way a human does. If you need her for your ceremony tonight, wake her up. She’s a Romantic. She’ll understand.” He needed someone to share the night with, someone who would feel something about it or offer her own traditions. Bodecia had none of that. Sentimentality was not something her initial programming included.

“That’s part of the problem.” He sighed. He crossed the room to stand in front of her and meet her eyes. They were of a height, though his gymnast’s build was slightly larger than hers. He gestured toward the cryo-unit where Captain Starr rested. “She’ll think it means something. Even if she is still officially mourning.” His hand strayed to the widower’s mark on his temple. It was a small rectangle, about an inch long and half an inch wide. “I have doubts that I count as much more human than you are anyway.”

If she weren’t an AI, she might have winced at the bleakness of his tone. Foxin was human, though he had experimental accelerated healing. She’d never seen anything to match it, but not even Captain Starr had managed to get the entire story from him. The tone of voice decided her. She would stay with him to be sure he didn’t give into the frustrations of being the lone human awake on the ship. The ship would alert her to any obstacles. She followed him to the corner of the cargo hold he’d claimed for his own. His bedroll lay in the deepest part of the corner. A small display of shiny objects from the ports they’d visited for refueling decorated a dark green cargo box. They glittered in the diffused blue light.

Foxin pushed his dark brown bangs behind his ears. A small gold ring pierced one lobe. The Bi’Ho thief she’d worked with during the War had kept one too. “What does the ring mean?”

“Oh, my coming of age and contributing to the creche. Nothing much.” He shrugged.

She filed the information away for when Starr asked her about it. “What are you doing?”

He smiled, but didn’t answer. His hands moved quickly to assemble a small metal table. The light of the cargo hold seemed to be swallowed by the black finish. A large pot of what smelled like cinnamon tea was warming on a heat-pad. “Will you join me, General?” He made a sweeping motion to the other side of the small table.

“Of course.” She settled on the floor, mirroring his position. “So long as you explain.”

Foxin inclined his head. “Our Lady of Chaos rules our lives, but she does not exist alone. On this night we celebrate the birth of her consort, Order.” He placed a small clay dish of clear liquid on the table. The smell was sharp. A showman’s flick of his wrist made a flame appear between his fingers. The liquid ignited with a soft whump.

“On Earth Prime, we are told, this day coincides with the returning of the light and the lengthening of the days. The rebirth of the sun. No matter how far we travel between the stars, we must always remember to welcome the return of the light.” He carefully poured two half-cups of tea. No, she realized, it was something sweeter, headier. He offered her one of the delicate jade tea cups with a small bow. She gave him a commander’s nod as she accepted.

Holding his own cup he met her black and green eyes evenly. Very few people managed to do that. “With mulberry wine we celebrate the birth of light and the start of a new year. What is your wish for the coming year?” His voice held the cadence of ritual.

She considered. “May we successfully reach Earth Prime with our cargo and ship intact.”

“A noble wish.”

“And what do you wish for, Foxin?”

He studied his wine. “May the Lady see fit to guide my enemy into my hands and free me from my quest.”

Bodecia inclined her head. She copied Foxin as he put one palm under the cup and tipped the entire contents into his mouth. He set the cup on the table next to the fire. “Okay. Now let me get some real mugs and we’ll sit by the fire and you can tell me stories of battles I should be too young to remember.”

“And you will tell me stories of heists gone right and I will tuck you in when the wine finally hits.”


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A Creation Myth

When the universe was new and the planets known to earth not even a glimmer in the gods’ eyes, the two brothers perked out through the center of the universe. The universe was like a drain running in reverse and the twins, for they were mirrors of each other, grinned with shining edges of light. They were dark, visible only to each other in this new universe they had found.

They dipped out of sight, only to return with two jugs. The jugs were shaped like the curves of a mother and could be carried by one or both handles. The jugs were full of old discarded stars from other projects, and no one would miss them.

The brothers started to dribble the stars out into the swirling of the universe. Laughing and talking they started making drawings with the stars. Here was their mother’s hair spilling out along her pillow. There were the birds that called the winds into being.

The edges of their bodies were covered in the detritus of stars and planets and those dribbled off of them as they moved between the galaxies. Could a human have looked at them, they would only have seen the barest hint of their shape, for they were of the space between the stars and the empty space within atoms.

The right-handed twin formed a tight flower bud, hoping that the swirling and expanding of the universe would open it into the flower he imagined. The left-handed twin shaped a cluster into a regular pattern with the patience of a pointillist.

Between them they poured out the stars, splashing in them as boys do with puddles. Recklessly dripping and dripping the stars this way and that.

They danced among the stars, between them, now hugging some close to create a picture, or running their fingers through them to scatter a too perfect bubble of stars into a crazy quilt of patterns.
Eventually, they tired of their game and left the stars to continue their motion and gathered their jugs to leave. They heard their mother calling them home and dropped their jugs which shattered into comets and planets and hurried home to dinner and dreams. 

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Writing from Prompts #5 Creep (Orig Pub 3/30/2014)

Ellen slipped down the holly festooned stairs. The wooden treads had only one creak which she deftly avoided. Her nightgown brushed along the edge of the holly, catching occasionally on a leaf. The lights were out, except for one candle in the window to guide the Mary and Joseph to a safe place.

She crept through the front room back toward the cozier family room. There, in the corner of the room was her target, the stocking with the little puppy on the front of it. It was smaller than the others by just about one inch, which really wasn’t fair. The cookies and milk they’d left out for santa were eaten, and there was a chocolate santa left on the plate.

She smiled at the sight. That was for Petey. She was too old for that sort of thing now. She was almost eleven after all. Petey was just five. The tree wasn’t lit because Mommy was afraid of fires, but the ornaments glittered in the moonlight. The draft from the fireplace made the ornaments twist and send sparkles across the room. She smiled as one of the lights bounced off of the spangles on her stocking.

Sticking out of the top of it was a rolled up puzzle book. A doll peeked out from the edge. Ellen longed to run over to it, but she had one mission tonight.

She stepped in front of the fireplace and up onto the hearth. She looked at the blue stocking with the puppy. Her mother’s stocking was always almost empty. That just wasn’t right. She looked down at the bottle in her hand. She’d saved up her allowance for over three months for it. She tucked the perfume into Mommy’s stocking, then stepped down carefully.

She was about to creep up the stairs when she noticed the man by the tree. His beard was white and his suit was red. He smiled at her and winked. Then, he crossed the room and stepped up onto the hearth. He nodded at her once, then he turned in place and was gone in an instant.

She gaped at the empty hearth. Then, a slow smile crossed her face. She slipped up the stairs and back into bed. Santa was proud of her.


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eBay sales: Precious Moments figure, Wodehouse audiobook, vintage batteries, rubber stamp

#MilWordy Update: 103,595 (3435 words/day to complete on time)

Today was one of those very strange days when you feel tired, but know you have things to get done.

Then, there was a lovely adrenaline spike when the house alarm went off while we were out of the house. The security company called me and asked if I needed a dispatch. Um, yes, lovely, I need a dispatch because there’s no one home and I can’t get there in the next five minutes. That was a beautiful moment. Not. Then, there was the waiting for follow-up, even as I obsessively stared at the app screen for my alarm system and noting that only the motion sensor in the garage went off. None of the doors, windows, etc registered anything. Which, wohoo! that’s a good thing. But also — worry — are they installed properly? Are they registering? Oh gods, did I forget to arm it? No, no. See where it says it was turned on. So, an hour later, I called the company back and got the “cops found no sign of attempted entry and no persons onsite.” Yeah. Good news. Now I can have an adrenaline crash in peace. And stuff my face with some stress-eating chips and marshmallows. (Don’t judge me. *squints*)

On the other hand, I have things to do which I have not done yet, but the new Focus tool on my phone has reminded me of the fact that they are not yet done. In the interests of satisfying my new robotic overlord, I am attempting to catch up on some of these things before I go to bed. Does that mean I will actually finish all of them? No. A thousand times no. Does it mean that I don’t want to get any further behind? Yes.

In an attempt to make myself productive (home/work/business), I have been trying to do the Pomodoro method. To whit: 25 minutes on a task. 5 minute break. It works a treat so far. The app I’m using (and paid a whopping 8.99 for) has built in times, task reminders, calendar, and keeps reports. I used up the free trial and liked it well enough to actually pay for it. I count that as good. I might even bend enough to do a proper review of the think of the Apple store.

I got positive feedback from a reader of my latest book (To Market) and I am thrilled. They wrote to me, even though they’re only on chapter 6 because they were enjoying it and loved my main character. It’s a good thing because I do plan a follow-up book, if not more because I’m not done with her. And I left some things that were unfinished in the last book that really do need to be followed-up on. I just needed to figure out all of the consequences.

That brings me to my next piece of software: an organizing software for characters and timelines and plotting. I’m using it for universes and world building rather than just a single story. That seems to be the best use of it to me right now. It might be different later, but for now, I want to keep my characters straight. They don’t interact with each other often, but there are connections. And things that happen in one book might need to be referenced in another, so the timeline feature is really what I’m all about. I want to invest some more time in it before I formally review it though.

Open question to authors out there: What software to do you really love? Scrivner? Written Kitten?

I was/am in love with Write or Die. It’s excellent sprinting and it keeps me focussed because it starts yelling at you if you stop writing. I’ve never tried it on the setting that will start erasing your words if you stop because that would just make me too anxious to function. I’m hoping that I fall in love with my new software soon.

Another open question to authors out there: What is your “always do it” writing practice? Do you write at a particular time? Write only to deadlines? Need an outline? Need a slug of whiskey. (Remind me to tell you about my time at the writing convention with the booth that gave me a free slug. It was one to remember. And it was before noon, but… that’s a story for another day.

And one final question to my readers: Would you be interested in reading a 1996 paper on Nazi Propaganda?

Now, I’m off to actually see if I can drop a few more items off of my to-do list tonight. Stay safe, dear-hearts.

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Writing from Prompts: Demon (Orig Pub 8/6/2017)

Smallis leaned back in his chair. It had taken a long time to learn the arcane symbols needed to program a video slot machine, but he’d finally done it. He’d created the most powerful summoning program ever created. He was going to be famous. He spun the chair around twice, then clicked to send the app live.

He put his hands behind his head. “Suck it, you archaic dicks.”

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eBay Sales: Lemax figure, vintage plush, blown glass pumpkin, pair of rag dolls

Craft Projects Completed: 0

To Do Lists completed: updated a website

Dead Bulb Watch: 20 Days (Paused until Monday)

#MilWordy Update: 50,318 words (need to do 2,801/day to complete on time)

Today was the final day of the Sumo Basho (Tournament). They’re 15 day long and we — as a family — watch the basho with dinner. The highlights are played on NHK TV. It’s fun and compressed into half an hour. And I really want to watch a series of mystery novels featuring a former sumo wrestler. I’ve got a list of titles, and the beginnings of a character sketch, but I feel the need to do a lot more of a deep dive into the actual sport before I go too far with it. So far my research has been stymied by not reading Japanese well. And I don’t know if relying on Google Translate is going to be my friend in this case. Still, it keeps popping up in the back of my head. And if I manage to get going on my writing and keep going at the rate of 3K per day, well, I’ll need those ideas sooner rather than later.

My next goal is to finish off a Christmas / Yule themed short story for Patreon, and then keep working on the Promises Universe novels. Maybe if I compress the time I’m working on them, I’ll get them completed more quickly.

I have some editing to do for the press, and I need to get the royalty payments out to our authors this week, so I should sign off from here and get some more administrative things done.

Hmmm… I need a new tag-line for fall. Love, Luck, and Lollipops is too summery. Let’s try Pumpkins, Leaves, and Laughter, my boos!

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eBay Sales: collectable car

Craft Projects Completed: 0 (but I did get a few rows knitted)

Dead Bulb Count: 15 Days (paused until Monday)

#MilWordy Update: 40,992 (Look how close we are to 50K and it’s not been a full month yet.)

I spent most of the day working on eBay things. I did enough listings to fill two boxes to go down to the storage shelves. Then, I went through the boxes of things for sale to find anything having to do with Halloween or Christmas and brought those upstairs. It’s amazing how many items are just waiting for me to list and send off to new homes. It’s a satisfying to see things leaving the house. At the same time, I’ve been through my stacks of items several times in order to find items to go to Goodwill and other thrift stores.

I’m doing my best to sell things before sending them off to a thrift shop though, since I know that they’re overloaded. Heck, Goodwill is just selling pallets of unsorted donations to people. That is a sure sign that they’re overloaded. Everyone who’s been off has had the chance to do some spring cleaning. I’m only donating things that I can’t ship easily. Or things that will be better if someone can touch them. For example, if I want to get rid of a large poster frame, it makes sense to send it to the thrift shop as opposed to trying to ship it.

I’m going to start exploring Facebook marketplace for things, but I just don’t really want to spend time on Facebook these days. It’s just been getting to be a stressful swirl for the past few months. I want to keep in contact with the few people I have no other contact information for, but I just can’t see that happening if I leave Facebook completely. I’m going to need to think about whether or not I really want to stay in contact with people who aren’t actually friends. I’m fairly certain that being sure that not having contact information beyond being FB friends means that we’re not close enough that I should worry about. Ug. I hate big decisions like that.

Other than eBay stuff, it’s been a pretty bland day. I’m about to launch into some sprints (along with a video of someone else doing the same thing) just to keep myself writing. I’m getting a little behind on my schedule, but I’m still under 2800 words per day. As long as I keep it there or lower, I’ll survive. I can do about 1K in a 25 minute sprint and I’m going to make sure I do at least 2 sessions with a friend (via Discord) this week to keep myself moving forward.

And check it out, I’m on a streak that’s 20 days long. I think that may be the longest daily blogging I’ve ever managed, if you don’t count pre-scheduled posts like the writing from prompts I’ve been doing. Which reminds me, we’re about due one of those aren’t we?

The fandom story I’m working on has turned into a meditation on agency and I’m not sure how deep it’s going to get. It’s also got characters airing out emotions and issues and finding resolution before their mission because mission mindset means you don’t walk into a mission without eliminating the negative energies. It’s surprisingly mature for the team, but it also means that all of the little things that could be used against them can’t be. They’re no longer weaknesses if they’ve been talked out. Even if the issues aren’t completely healed, at least everyone’s taking the time to process them before they become a problem.

And I’m trying my hand at building actual emotional and mental health consequences for the histories of the characters. It’s good practice for when I’m working on original stories.

That’s my plug for why fanfiction is a good thing by the way. It lets the author test out plotting and character reactions without having to come up with all of the world and character details. They can take two characters from their stock, put them into a situation and play around without how things work out. And it’s not the investment it would be if you were creating characters from scratch. It lets and author play with tone and type of writing. You’ll rarely find me writing in present tense because I’ve tried it out in fanfic and I don’t like how it flows or feels unless I’m deep inside someone’s head and/or it’s a mental breakdown or a dream. It gives stories a very strange feeling and it might be useful in a horror short story, but a full novel would make me want to throw my computer out the window.

I’m stepping off my very short soapbox now. TTFN.

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eBay Sales: None

Craft Projects completed: 0 (Though I went to JoAnnes today and ended up getting some clay. For free even. It was cool. Their Deco line for Halloween has some beautiful pieces in it — things which can just go right into your home decor. Check it out on line. It’s been described as Gatsby meets Addams Family.)

Dead Bulb Count: 13 Days (paused because I didn’t go in today)

#MilWordy Update: 35,873 words

It’s been a bit of a filler day. The sort of day that would be glossed over in the book you’re reading. It probably wouldn’t even be mentioned. Unless what I was picking up on my errands was necessary to the plot. Like, “she stopped at the craft shop and picked up the clay for the productive pendants” or something like that. “She sped shopped through the grocery store to stock up for the coming programming binge.”

It’s been more than a week of #MilWordy now and I have to say that it’s at least reaching my goal, which was to write every day. I have been not going to bed before at least doing a blog post. That is the bare minimum, but it’s a lot better than going months without putting fingers to keyboard. I’m closer to finishing a Nano before November even. It breaks down to doing just about 2700-2800 words per day to meet the final deadline. That’s an average. So, there’s some days when my production is down low and others when it’s rather high. And of course, there are those days when nothing gets done just because work has killed my brain. But then there are those days when I can spill out several thousand words without even thinking about it. I have a non-publishable story that’s gotten itself a plot that was missing. (Non-publishable AKA fandom-related.) And I’ve developed another new character to feature in short stories. She might develop into something of a short-story collection, or be featured in the Patreon offerings.

Shout out to my fellow Jules Verne fans who are writers — Golden Fleece Press is doing a Jules Verne inspired anthology and still needs stories! So, if you stroll on over and submit with the usual guideline just make sure Jules Verne is in the subject line. “Submission: Jules Verne : Title of Story : Last name” is the preferred. That way it’s going to get to the right reader. I’ll let you all know when it comes out too. I’m very excited for it. And might just end up writing for it myself. I mean, I’ve got to do something to get to my word count every day right?

Also, a review of my new Chroma keyboard from Razor. I’m loving it. It’s got an excellent number pad and the main keyboard is a dream to type on. It’s got a lovely touch. And you can’t beat a light-up keyboard for room abieance. It shifts through the rainbow and paints the walls with color-ringed shadows when the lights are low. It also means that I’m not trying to type a million words on my laptop keyboard. That’s not to say that I haven’t done that, but this is just so much easier.

I’m waiting on Best Buy to tell me that my microphone is in so I can pick it up and start working on the audio-books for Cherry Blossom Express. I’ve been trying to get a microphone for ages, but it was backordered and then they cancelled my order. (Without bothering to inform me, or to tell me which of the gift-cards they charged the money back to. Inquiring minds want to know.) I’m supposed to be able to pick it up from the store on Saturday. Then, I just need to find a good teleprompter program. Any thoughts folks?

I guess that’s about it. TTFN

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eBay Sales: pattern, doll

Craft projects completed: 0

Bulb day count: 10 days (I won’t count the weekend days, so this won’t change until Monday)

#Milwordy Update: 31,738

It’s been just a bland sort of day. Not good. Not bad.

And I’m just tired. So, early to bed.


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eBay sales: none

craft projects completed: o

#Milwordy update: 28,213

So, the bottom line is that I’m not going to sleep without writing *something* every day towards my goal.

Even on days like today when my asthma has kicked up and all I want to do is crawl into bed and stay there. It’s draining on days like this. It’s not even that I can’t get in a full breath. It’s more like, I feel as though I’m breathing okay, but I’m not actually taking in enough air. On a good day, my breathing is compromised. On a bad day, I’m exhausted just pushing through the day with my legal drug caffeine and my inhaler. And it’s not like a heaviness on my chest, but just a general miliase. And my brain stops functioning properly. My brain to mouth filter takes a denial of service hit and my fingers don’t like to actually hold things.

At my day job, there is a light bulb that is blown out just in front of one of our suite doors. It has been blown out for over a week now. I refuse to submit a ticket. I’m waiting to see how long it takes before someone else does it. Seriously. I cannot be the only person in my suite who has figured out how to submit a work ticket. I refuse to believe it. Even though I’m usually the one who ends up doing it because I get annoyed that something isn’t working properly or that the bulbs in the pantry area are burnt out. This is me, waiting, like an annoyed spouse for someone else to notice and get annoyed and put in a ticket. Even if they have to call me to figure out how to submit it.

That was the least annoying part of the day, honestly, but it was annoying.

Also, steel measuring tapes should be considered weapons. I was carrying one from one side of the building to the other, and that thing must way at least a pound, if not more. I’m pretty sure if I chucked it at someone it’d do some serious damage. And that’s not even counting the burr on the edge of the tape where it was nicked by a razor blade once. And I have been cut by a steel measuring tape before. If you thought cardboard cuts were bad, they’ve got nothing on the slice you get from a measuring tape speeding back to its spring-coiled home and taking it out on you that you had the nerve to pull it out. Angry little steel snails do not like to be out of their shells it seems.

And that is the day in the life today. Not cheerful, but could be worse. I have untapped levels of morbid fascinations and justice-fueled rage in my belly that I haven’t really explored in depth.

The Promises Universe looks something like this right now. (Subject to change with no notice) Anyway, I don’t outline, I write jacket covers:

Book 1: Cassandra : Through a Different Lens : Photographer Cassandra Wyeth-Jones’ best friend was her great-aunt Romey. When Romey dies it’s not a huge shock. At least not until the will is read. That’s when Cassandra learns that she’s inherited both a tremendous fortune, and a tremendous responsibility. She knows now that she’s forgotten something from when she was a teenager. She’s forgotten why Romey stopped traveling. But there’s a journal. A stack of IOUs. And a husband and friends who are willing to help her figure it out. She’s forgotten what promises mean. But she’ll learn. Or she’ll die trying.

Book 2: Bryce : Learning the Trick of It : Bryce Williamson is the white sheep of his family of wolves. He doesn’t have the killer ambition that’s led his siblings to achieve great things. In fact, he’s got enough trouble maintaining enough in his bank account to pay for his therapist, anti-anxiety meds, and feed himself and his artist. His mother’s approach to tough love means that he’s got a month to find himself a new place to live. But that the easy part. The hard part is balancing his no-we’re-not-married-artist’s gallery opening, his pregnant sister the lawyer’s fetch and carry quest, and his social network. He’s not an artist himself, no matter what Old Mr. Peretsky says. He’s just good at finding people and connecting them. He didn’t need to know that magic was real. Or that he could perform it. It’s not like he can tell anyone about that. No, he’ll be better off with the magic of quid pro quo and smiling friends. At least until one of the local mafia bosses decides that Bryce’s sister is horning in on his territory. Then, he’s going to need all the magic he can muster to get them all out of this intact.

Book 3: Troy : Things Lost and Found : Troy Wyeth met the love of his life when he was fifteen. The second half of his soul. His perfect partner. Truman. And he lost him just as quickly the next year. He never knew what happened to him. But now, with a quest to find all of the items his great-aunt wanted to distribute to her friends and family, he’s heading back to the land that he never forgot. He has a new lover by his side. Traveling the world has brought him closer to the person he lost and the memory he’s been gripping onto with both hands. He’s got more than a chance to travel the world, he’s got the chance to travel into his own memories. Will the partner he’s found in Trish be able to remind him that he’s got to live in the present not the past?

Book 4: Sulwen : Changeling Sunrise : Sulwen Smith was an orphan. She named herself when she turned sixteen and was spat out of the foster system at 18 with no idea where she’d been born, who her parents were, or why she can’t remember anything that happened before she turned twelve. She went to the police academy and spent a few years learning why she didn’t fit in there. But when she left, she grabbed onto a private investigator’s license and built a life around it. She’s been hired by the Wyeth-Joneses to hunt down the people Aunt Romey left things to in whatever country their currently hiding it. It’s a good gig. But there’s something that’s bothering her. Something like a watercolor memory in her dreams that she can hear more than she can see. And she’s not sure if it’s something jolting loose from the travel Romey’s legacy has caused or the man she’s been tracking down. The man who is the right age to be her father. The man who owed Romey his first born according to the piece of paper he’s been left.

Book 5 : Trish : Untitled :

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