My ‘hone your skills’ Blogfest entry.

March 16, 2011

I’m not quite clear anymore on why I signed up for this blogfest.

The thing is, I don’t really write short-short stories that often, and out of the complete stories that I have that are about the right length, I’ve already shared most of them on this blog since I started doing ‘Sharing Exercise Friday.’ And I didn’t really want to do a repeat for a blogfest.

But I found this little piece in my files, it was from some kind of a prompt at the Chester’s Beers of the world Hamilton Writers group. It’ll be interesting to hear what you think.

On the Halos of a Dilemma.

She hesitated at the post box, not knowing if she should really send the letter.

This was one of those moments where you normally pictured an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, Caroline thought. The problem was, at the moment, she had two little critters who both appeared to have white robes and halos arguing with each other, and she couldn’t really tell if one was a devil in disguise, or maybe they were both well-meaning angels who happened to be having a difference of opinion over her tough choice.

“You have to tell her,” the voice from her right shoulder told her. “There are certain things that you have to do if you want to do the right thing, and this is one of them. You’ve stumbled across a secret that’s about your friend’s life, and you can’t keep it from her. You have to let her know somehow, and this is the best way – anonymously, so that she isn’t hurt by finding out how you know, on top of everything else.”

“Oh, yeah, let’s start there, shall we?” came the reply from left shoulder. “So that she isn’t hurt. Isn’t it better to start with sparing Lizzie as much pain as you can, rather than inflexible rules? If you tell her this, then you’re causing her pain, and not sparing her any further down the road. There’s no upside except keeping your own conscience clear of keeping the secret, so just suck it up and do what’s best for Liz.”

“That’s just a load of rationalizing…” Right shoulder started.

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Sunday Blogisode Twelve

February 20, 2011

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“That’s alright,” Exec told him. “Are any of us feeling the worse for the extra oxygen in the air? Remember the symptoms that Peterson listed.”

“With respect, sir,” Jody replied. “I don’t recall you and Ensign Peterson discussing symptoms for hyperoxia, just treatment.”

“No?” Exec turned to Archer, who nodded a slow confirmation. “My mistake. As well as I can remember, you’ll want to be watching out for tunnel vision, ringing in your ears, nausea, severe anxiety, dizziness, or a frequent cough.”

Jody froze in her tracks. “Sir, then it might be hard for me to determine if I’m suffering from hyperoxia in time to receive treatment. I was already experiencing several of those symptoms before we landed. I ascribed them to Kane syndrome – the hyperspace sickness.”

Exec considered this. “Then you should probably go back inside the yacht, just as a precaution.”

“But what about when you find the natives? I can’t do my job if I can’t talk to them.”

“There’s the intercom,” Archer suggested. “Or we could bring them inside through the airlock.”

“I’m not a xenobiologist, but I think it’s a bad idea to bring a native of this planet into a lower-oxygen environment than they’re accustomed to,” I said.

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Shortfic: Only the Elves know for sure.

February 18, 2011

This was another contest entry in the SDMB holiday short fic contest. I blogged about the contest when it was starting, and shared another entry with you a few weeks ago, so here’s the Christmas 2010 story.

I’d love to hear what you think if you give it a read.

—–

Eddie looked around the playground field. Most of the kids had gathered into two crowds, with a lot of children, like Eddie himself, scattered in between them.

“Of course Santa Claus exists,” Holly Scott declared from the center of the group to Eddie’s right, her blonde hair bouncing slightly as she nodded. “You have to believe in somebody like Santa Claus. Or else what’s the world coming to?”

“He’s not real,” Jason Berlin countered, and the other cynics gathered around him cheered slightly. “It’s all a made-up fake. The presents are all paid for by your parents, and the malls hire guys to play dress-up as Santa Claus. Nobody really flys around on a sleigh in the middle of the night delivering toys. Deal with it.”

There was more to the debate, and several of the undecided eventually picked a side, but Eddie still wasn’t sure what to believe in by the time Recess was over. So he walked home from school by himself and ended up telling the whole thing to his mother.

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Sunday Blogisode Eleven

February 13, 2011

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The airlock was quite cramped with the Exec, Colin Archer, Jody and I crammed inside, but I was glad enough that nobody was being left out – especially because I didn’t want to be the one waiting behind – even if Melissa was staying back in the shuttle for now.

Lieutenant Archer hit one of the control buttons on the wall. There was a hissing sound and I felt a noticeable pressure building in my ears. After a moment, Archer turned to Exec and actually saluted, which in the tight quarters made that he was step closer to Jody, to avoid putting his elbow through the wall. “External pressure has equalized, sir. I do not see any need to equalize atmospheric composition with the outside.”

“By no means, Lieutenant. Let’s take a look outside.”

So Archer opened up the external door, and I could feel the planet’s breeze blowing in, smelling exotic but fresh. I wasn’t quite sure if I could really feel the increased oxygen content, or if I was imagining that part.

The sun was at a high angle from behind the shuttle, so that the shadow stretched for about a meter and a half in front of the door. The sun was just a trace bluer than the sun of Earth was, and I wondered if that spectral difference was what made the sky seem slightly greenish and the shadows a kind of a muddy brown.

“I think that we’ve been noticed,” Archer said, pointing out the door. “If I’m right, he’s making tracks for the center of the base.”

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Sunday Blogisode Ten

February 6, 2011

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“The space habitats could be regressing too,” Archer argued back. “That’s why they don’t communicate with each other or… or use spaceships. Except for that one Walker saw.”

I did my best to ignore the bickering and started scanning for something more useful on the planet, like where would be a good place to land.

“I’m picking up a lot of useful data,” I admitted once there was a lull in the conversation about the space habitats and personnel shuttles. “The sensors on this ship are really good, and we’re getting close to the planet. I see a fair bit of wilderness of all biomes, climates, and terrains… plenty of cultivated land and small settlements, but only a few gatherings that could be described as – well, even as small towns, really.”

“That figures,” Jody grumbled. “Planet of the hick farmers. It’s of a piece with everything else we’ve found in this double-damned solar system.” There was a pause. “Sorry, Brett, but I think – just a suspicion, mind you, that my pain meds might be wearing off.”

“Probably right, but I can’t spare the time to recheck you just now,” Gary told her. “And we’re going to be coming in for a landing pretty soon, which will probably increase the stress on your system. Umm, Melissa, do you think that you could possibly…”

“I’ll check on Ensign Quinton,” Exec snapped. “I might not have ever taken the time for a formal field medic certification, but I’ve had to pitch in for a doctor under desperate circumstances before, and I saw what you were doing earlier, pilot Peterson. It’s not exactly rocket science.”

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Brian Henry exercise number three – Cup of tea assignment

February 4, 2011

Okay, I’ve got one more bit of writing from the Oakville Brian Henry plotting workshop to share today – the assignment was to write something about characters coming to a decision while doing something mundane – such as preparing and drinking a cup of tea. I went in a slightly different direction for it. Please, let me know your thoughts, I love getting feedback on little snippets of writing like this!

————-

The file organizer box sitting next to the videotape shelves was the logical place to start.

Of course, it wasn’t as if the shelves held videotapes anymore. Who had videotapes these days? VCRs have finally gone the way of the eight-track player. So there was a remarkable assortment of burned optical disks, paperback books, USB cables, DVD box sets, and scrap paper on those shelves. There might even be some receipts on those shelves, and I’d need to look through those if it came to that. But the file organizer box was first.

I sat down in the armchair and opened up the box on my lap. Twenty different labelled pockets, all stuffed full of receipts. So much for the paperless economy, huh? Credit card receipts, utility receipts, bank receipts, miscellaneous receipts that defied description, and… there it was. Investment receipts.

Investment receipts showing ninety thousand dollars that I’d sent to the fund people. Day before yesterday, it had probably been worth a hundred grand. Today? Who the hell knew.

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Sunday Blogisode Nine

January 30, 2011

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As we drew close to the planet, I was actually on full-time duty as navigator while Gary piloted – it was my job to observe and find out more information about the natives as we approached the space that they were occupying.

“The space habitats are definitely viable and inhabited,” was the first report I made. “I don’t have quite enough resolution to catch a clear look of the inhabitants, but they look… well, they seem to be walking upright, like humans, but I’m not so sure about ‘biped.’ Might be three or four legs each, in addition to arm-like appendages. And there’s some other living creatures that might be livestock, or… well, it’s probably pointless to guess without more information.”

“Why didn’t we plan to go to one of the habitats?” Jody asked crossly. I could tell that she was really getting tired of the acceleration couch, and maybe the pain drugs that Gary had given her were wearing off.

“A few reasons,” the exec put in when nobody else volunteered. “Mostly we had no idea if they’d have a dock facility that would fit this ship. Especially since we couldn’t observe one of their own ships in flight…”

“Hey, I think one’s launching!” I exclaimed. Exec grunted doubtfully. “Just let me capture the video… sheesh, it’s a fast little bugger!”

When it was all done, I played the footage on the screen in the passenger compartment, so that the rest of the team could see it – a somewhat shaky re-enactment of a tiny little capsule speeding through space towards a distant space habitat. I’d have loved to get a clear look at the docking procedure, but the end of the trip was extreme range, and the capsule flew behind the destination habit just at the end.

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Another Brian Henry exercise to share.

January 28, 2011

Well, I figured that again, I’d share one of the little passages that I wrote at the Brian Henry workshop last Saturday, which was really fun, especially his slightly tweaked version of the Snowflake method.

I’m not sure if looking at an exercise like this is really the best way of judging what I’ve learned at a workshop, by the way, but they’re fun to write, and probably show a bit about how I was thinking about the workshop topic. For this one, in the morning, we were talking about how to structure short stories, and how they can grow up around a very small seed or prompt. This was based on a prompt that somebody called out, which was: “By the time I got to ______, the turtle wasn’t there anymore!”

————

“Purpose of the trip?”

I was taken by surprise at the fact that they actually asked the question outside of tv shows and movies. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, after all, they have to get cliches like that from somewhere. But it wasn’t like I was used to dealing with customs and immigration officials. Heck, I could still count the number of times I’d left Massachussets on the fingers of one hand.

“Umm, well, I’m looking for a – that is to say, business. Or education, more than anything else – or educational business. It’s a student field research trip.”

The uniformed official considered this. “So you’re being sponsored by an American university?”

“Yes.” I dove into my carryon looking for something official with the Harvard letterhead on it, until I was waved down, a gesture that I took to mean that I shouldn’t bother. “Is there a local school that you’ll be working with?”

“I… I’m not sure,” I said. “A local zoologist, at least – Doctor Hector Guerras. I think that he’s with the Institute of Reptile research in Daracas, not an instructor at a school.”

“Very good. Is the Institute arranging for your lodging?”

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Sunday Blogisode Eight

January 23, 2011

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So I took the seat to Gary’s right at the controls, strapped in, and went through the rest of the pre-flight checklist with him. Soon enough we were on our way out of the flight bay, and zooming ahead of the Discovery to Achernar four. Once the flight was well underway there wasn’t much for either of us to do at the controls, but nobody seemed to want to speak up or start doing anything to fend off the boredom.

Jody finally said something about twenty minutes into the trip. “Aren’t you guys going to turn off the seat restraints sign and resume standard gravity?” The pinnace had artificial gravity generators built into the deck, like Discovery did, but Gary had never activated them, even though the main thruster was pushing all of us backwards into our couches at a little over double our usual weight.

There was a few seconds worth of silence. “No, sorry honey,” Gary called back. “The mission requirements are specifically that we get to the planet and land with all possible speed, considering the medical emergency. Unfortunately, that means that we can’t divert the power for reducing g-force.”

“Oh,” Jody said, and I could hear her sigh from up in the cockpit. “I still have a headache, and the pressure is making it worse.”

“Ensign Quinton,” the exec officer snapped. “Were you examined by medical personnel before reporting for this duty?”

“Yes, sir,” Jody replied, her voice stiff with the chain of command. “Doctor Haverman looked me over himself – he did remark that he’d like to have me resting and under observation, but understood that I was needed on this mission.”

“He consulted with me before coming to that conclusion, sir,” Colin chimed in. “I did ask about the likely progression, and it seemed that Ensign Quinton would be able to function for long enough that we could complete our task and she could then receive treatment.”

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A short dialog exercise.

January 21, 2011

I went to a Brian Henry workshop on Dialog last weekend, and I’ll be seeing him again tomorrow for a workshop on Plotting a story. Last Saturday was a great experience, despite the somewhat trying weather – there was just a small group of us at the Saint Catharine’s library, and I learned a lot of useful tips, as well as being able to talk with some other aspiring writers.

Since sharing the ‘Devin’ short story went over well last week, I think I’ll post the dialog writing exercise that I typed out on the Alphasmart Dana for that workshop. Again, this is copyright Chris Kelworth, and I’d love to hear your opinions on it:

 

“Okay, come on, give me the details.” My brother Derek pulled out his android phone and sat down on the couch, ready to thumb-type, with the corners of his nose wrinkling slightly.

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