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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Devin Versus the Distinctive Sweater

January 14, 2011

Okay, as I said I might, I’m posting the full text of ‘Devin Versus the Distinctive Sweater,’ which provided the ending sentence that I shared in the New Creations Blogfest. This is a bit longer than my usual posts, but I’ve decided against breaking it up for dramatic impact reasons. I hope that you enjoy it.

Devin Versus the Distinctive Sweater, by Chris Kelworth

The only thing that Devin Partlan understood was that he had to keep pedaling.

He didn’t know how he kept getting mixed up into this kind of thing. Just because his brother-in-law was some kind of spy, and Devin had accidentally found out the truth behind the ‘cover’, which suggested that Charlie wasn’t really that good at spy stuff, but so what? Devin suspected that there were other CIA agents whose family members knew some details about their jobs, and those family members weren’t constantly getting drafted and inveigled into missions. It just wasn’t at all professional.

On the other hand, after this kind of thing had already come up three times, possibly Devin should have thought better of planning a trip to Paris on the second anniversary of his and Kelly’s wedding. He’d thought twice about it, more about the money than the possibilities of French counterspies putting his life in danger, but – well, his dear Kelly had wanted Paris so badly.

And that was why Devin was cycling desperately away from the bad guys, trying to remember how to get to the one CIA Sanctuary that Charlie had ever told him about south of the Pont D’lena.

At least he’d kept on biking ten miles a day, six days a week, since marrying Kelly.

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Late New Creations Blogfest, and a very small fire.

January 6, 2011

First, the blogfest entry.

I’m entering the ‘New Creations’ blogfest late, because I’m still catching up on ‘Show me Yours,’ but I couldn’t resist the fun of actually contributing something for this one. I really like the idea of writing community blogfests, such a great way of networking and having fun together in the blogosphere. I’m going to need to remember to keep watch for more.

So, first, an ending sentence for a book or story finished last year. As it happens, as I reviewed the stories that I finished last year, all the strongest contenders for a closing sentence were from the Straight Dope short fiction contests. Maybe there’s something about trying to write a two thousand word contest story that helps me end it on a high note. The one I’ve picked, somewhat arbitrarily, as the favorite, is this one, from ‘Devin versus the Distinctive Sweater.’

Just in case something else should happen with the damn thing if he forgot it for a few hours.

And now, a brand new sentence to start off a new story, which is how I often get into trouble with new Works in Progress, but anyway:

I didn’t see how I could possibly concentrate on the blue magic, shut up in a stifling little room with no windows like this.

In other news – I had a fire in my kitchen last night. Not a really big one, but it’s frustrating me, especially since the whole thing was my fault. It started with a pot on the stove, not enough water in the pot, and me spending far too much time commenting on other people’s blogfest entries, actually.

I realized that something smelled a bit funny. “That’s weird, it’s almost as if…” Suddenly clued in and rushed over to the kitchen doorway. There was a cloud of smoke starting to obscure the stove, and orange flames licking around the bottom of the pot.

I remember wondering why the smoke detector hadn’t come on, since it usually reacts to the slightest whisp of something burnt before I can even smell it. Filled a plastic one-cup measure up with water from the sink and tossed it into the pot. This quickly turned into a cloud of steam, and set the smoke alarm going, but didn’t actually make a dent on the flame. I tried again, with more water, throwing it underneath the pot, and that helped. I think I needed a third cupful of water at least to put things out, and noticed that a little river of leftover water was carring some soot and ash across the stovetop to the far corner.

It took a while to get rid of most of the smoke, with two windows open in my apartment, (not that pleasant on a January night like we’ve been having lately,) and there’s still a faint smoky smell when I come in from outside. The pot got dumped into the garbage – possibly I could have cleaned the thing off until it was usable, but I just couldn’t cope with leaving it around. I’ve still got some scrubbing to take care of, and a lot of things that were in the kitchen have got little specs of soot that landed on them.

But aside from that, no damage seems to have been done, so that’s good. And hopefully, I’ll be a lot more careful with stoves in the future.


Blogosphere special: the “Show me yours” Blogfest!

January 3, 2011

Blogosphere index

Okay, today is the day of the Show me yours Blogfest, in which bloggers share a 500-word passage from their Nanowrimo 2010 writing and go comment like mad on each other’s excerpts!

So, here’s mine. It’s from the very beginning of “The Angel’s Charlie,” and does a really good job of setting the scene, I think:

Nothing made sense when Richard opened his eyes.

It wasn’t like things had been that clear in the moment before he opened them either, really. The last thing he could clearly remember was driving home after a late night in the office, and then… well, he’d still been sitting down, but somehow it had been obvious that he wasn’t in a car anymore. As far as he could tell now, he was in the chapel of a church, which hadn’t been the case for far too many months, really, and it definitely wasn’t Ottawa Street Baptist, either.

He started to explore the material available in the back of the pew in front of him. Old-fashioned looking hymnal, so probably not an evangelical denomination. Catholic? No, the decor didn’t really look Catholic… maybe Anglican. Aha, little visitor’s cards to drop into the collection plate, with spots for name and address. But they’d have the name on the card – yeah. ‘Episcopal church of the Good Shephard’, and an address on Delaware Street. It didn’t really ring a bell, except that he thought something was slightly off with ‘Episcopal.’

“I’m afraid that there won’t be a worship service for a while, young man. Are you in need of prayers?”

Richard looked up quickly to see an older man in a sedate uniform standing near the chapel doors. Quickly he rose to his own feet. “Not really, reverend… though a good word with the Lord Father is always appropriate, I suppose. Maybe we could pray together, before we leave, actually. But – but I have to say I’m a little confused, not sure how I got here.”

“I’m afraid I can’t help you with that, my son, though I assumed you walked in,” the reverend said, chuckling slightly. “When I saw you sleeping in the pew on a Tuesday night, I suppose I assumed – that you just didn’t have any better shelter from the cold. Perhaps I was wrong.”

“Yes, the last thing I remember, I was on my way home… do you have any idea how I’d get to Queenston Road from here?” The reverend looked blank. “The Research in Motion headquarters?” Still no real recognition. “It’s not too far from the big university campus.”

“Ah, well, then, you’re just down the street from campus,” the reverend told him more brightly. “I can point you that way, at least. And you can check in our parking lot to see if your car is there, of course.”

“Thank you.” Richard took a breath. “What about that prayer, then?”

“I think that would be a good idea.” The two men sat down on one of the nearby pews. “I’m reverend Hynes, by the way.”

“Richard Horwood, and nice to meet you.” Richard closed his eyes. “Father in heaven, I’m feeling very lost and confused right now, but I know that to you, the way that I should follow is clear and straight. Please guide me in your infinite wisdom, and lead me along the path that leads to your service. You have blessed me with many gifts in my life, I am thankful for them all and give praise to you. Amen.”

“Dear Father, your servant Richard is in need of aid,” the Father added. “You know what his needs are better than I do, or he does, so help him along his way, and give him the strength to carry his burdens for your sake. All glory to your name, Amen.”

UPDATE: Okay, as of this writing, I’ve given feedback to 15, out of the other 34 bloggers who’ve participated in this challenge, and it’s been a really fun experience. If I haven’t posted a comment to your excerpt yet – I’ll do my best to get to you sometime this week – and for the 7 people who signed up and haven’t posted excerpts yet, I’ll keep checking your blog too.

This event has been really very much in line with what I wanted to be doing with Blogosphere Mondays – finding other bloggers who are sharing their own writing, letting them know what I thought, encouraging them – and attracting new readers to my own blog as well. Kinda fortuitous that the whole thing happened to be scheduled on a Monday already!

Out of curiosity, I started tracking the length of the different posted excerpts – partly because mine was stretching the 500 word limit. Well, I wasn’t alone. 22 of the excerpts were more than 500 words, ranging from 505 up to 972 words. (My 567 was more or less in the middle of that pack.) And there was one person who was exactly on 500, and twelve who were less, going from 257 up to 498. Sorry, my numbers geek is coming out to play now.

Oh, and all 3 of the founding blogfest members were over the 500 word limit that they imposed – 533 to 647 words. 😉

Happy Blogfest, everybody.


SDMB Holiday Short Fiction Contest

December 25, 2010

Well, Christmas festivities are over. Thanks to my family for the candy and the gift cards.

Time to buckle down on writing/critiquing/editing, and even though I really have enough other things on my list, I’m going to participate in the third Straight Dope Message Board writing contest. I’ve really enjoyed participating in it each time before, and last time I basically got my Nanowrimo idea from the short fiction contest, so that certainly recommends trying again.

A few things about the format are similar – every writer gets the same three prompt words and a photo that they have to include in the finished story, and a time limit. On account of holiday schedules, they’re trying a new wrinkle in which not every participant has to fit into the same writing window – you send an email to a particular mailbox to signal that you’re ready to begin, and get an autoreply with your prompts. You then have two and a half days, (or 60 hours) to complete your entry and email it in.

To take best advantage of my available free time for the holidays, I’ll probably start around 8am tomorrow, so that I’ll have until 8pm on Tuesday, the evening before I go back to work. And I actually have a little secret weapon of a plot notion that I *might* work in, if it looks like it’ll fit with the prompt.

It’s nice to get a chance to go with little unplanned side treks like this in my writing when other commitments allow. The first SDMB contest, I ended up coming up with something that wasn’t exactly fanfic but somewhat close – it was a little spy story that was a spoof of the TV show ‘Chuck’, with Chuck’s character painted as a completely incompetent secret agent, and his long-suffering brother-in-law constantly covering for him. Last time, I ventured a bit further into original territory, coming up with a storyline of an angel on a mission who fell in love with a human girl and ran away with her, which got tweaked somewhat as the basis of “The Angel’s Charlie.”

I can’t wait to see where the paths less traveled take me this time.


NaNoWriMo Day 29: (Almost) Done!

November 30, 2010

November has almost drawn to a close. I finally reached my goal of 70,000 words tonight at the Blue Danube write-in. Current count is 70,087

Tomorrow, I will have to pack up my things, leave San Francisco, and fly back to the reasonably frozen lands of Ontario.

But… I had a great NaNoWriMo this month, and look forward to even greater things to come in December and the new year.

Getting to bed early now. Much packing to be done in the morning.


Nanowrimo day 27: Seeing the sights

November 28, 2010

Current word count: 63,187 words

Tentative target for November 30th: 70,000 words

Words written over the past 2 days: 2150

I’ve finished the new short story idea that I started Tuesday evening, ‘Alien artifact.’ Struggled a bit to find a new project to keep writing on, and I’ve possibly settled on beginning an idea that I was thinking of doing for my Nanowrimo before I settled on ‘The onus of Grace.’ So it probably won’t be something I can finish in the next four days, which is probably to the good. I can stop it once I get into December and then get back to that start later.

In other news, I haven’t writen much lately because I’ve been spending more time on touristy stuff and less on write-ins. My time in San Fran is definitely starting to draw to an end – I have only two full days left, in addition to what’s left of tonight, and Tuesday, which is the day I fly home.

Yesterday (friday): Spent all day on the bus tour to Monterey and Carmel, which was fun, but a little exhausting. Had fried chicken, corn on the cob, and mashed potatoes from a Forest Gump-themed shrimp shop in Cannery Row. Squeezed in a few hundred words at the pebble beach golf course, and at Carmel before the twilight faded too far. Got rather lost in Carmel after the sun went down – it’s a town without many street lights, but managed to find the bus just in time to not get left behind. Left my umbrella on the bus when I got dropped off at my hotel.

Today (saturday): Rainy. Got my umbrella delivered in the morning by a tour bus driver. Went down to the Cow Palace to take part in the Dickens Fair Victorian Christmas, which was mentioned by some people on the sfbrowncoats group. I was hoping to be recognized by some of them in my browncoats t-shirt, but the only one I actually met was Louise, who had posted details about where to find her and how to recognize her. Still had a great time, filled up the memory card on my camera, had a roast beef dinner for lunch, and the Legion Fantastique stuff was awesome!

Went home a little on the early side, and got some more words written.

Tomorrow (sunday): I have a booking for the Alcatraz ferry at 11am, and a bus tour to Muir woods and Sausalito starting at 2pm. Looking forward to it.

Monday: Nothing particular planned, except for meeting a guy from the area who I first met through a Roswell fanfic community, and have stayed in touch with over IM for several years. I’m going to BART all the way out to Dublin, and we’ll have lunch.


Nanowrimo Day 25: Thanks list

November 25, 2010

Of course, as a true Canadian, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family back in early October with my family, but being in San Francisco on American Thanksgiving, it was hard not to think of some other things and people that I’m thankful for, a lot of them relevant for this blog, so:

– I’m thankful for all the wonderful people at the Office of Letters and Light, who make such incredible events possible for writers all over the world.

– I’m thankful for everybody else who has taken the time to set up or moderate a participatory writing website, including: Stringing Words, Nanowriye, JulNoWriMo, JanNoWriMo, April Fool’s, NaNoEdMo, NaNoFiMo, and many others.

– I’m thankful that I have the financial resources and vacation days to take a trip like this one.

– I’m thankful that I have family, friends, and coworkers who are supportive and encouraging about my crazy writing ambitions.

– I’m thankful for everybody else who has opened up their pocketbook and donated to support NaNoWriMo or Script Frenzy going.

– I’m thankful for everybody in San Francisco who has made me welcome at a write-in, which has been just about everybody I’ve met at a San Francisco write-in.

– I’m thankful for all the incredible writers back in Hamilton in the Nanowrimo group – and the Hamilton Writers group at Chesters who’ve given me great feedback on all kinds of excerpts.

– I’m grateful to Ammy from the sfbrowncoats group for offering a ticket to the Dickens fair to a complete stranger.

– I’m grateful to the entire gang at Stringing Words for their encouragement, critiques, support, and sense of mutual accountability.
I’m probably leaving some people out, but I’ll leave it at this for now. Happy holiday, if you’re in America, and Happy Thursday to everybody else.


Nanowrimo day 24: Pie is squared.

November 25, 2010

Well, today I had my ‘pie time’ with Chris Baty and Lindsey Grant, and it was awesome. (One week to the day since I first got the coupon and started freaking out that they wouldn’t be able to fit me in, by the by.) Rode the BART up to Ashby station in south Berkeley, and all the while I kept thinking of one of those Simpsons episodes with Sideshow Bob – the one where they had a montage of all of his ‘Hello, Bart’ moments, and one of them was actually Bob on a subway platform as the train pulls into the station – and Bart Simpson nowhere in sight. 😀

So, I got there a few minutes early, actually took a picture of the Office and Letters and Light storefront, before going into the Sweet Adeline Bakeshop and finding a free table that looks like it could fit the three of us. As I was getting settled, in comes Chris Baty, tells me, “Hi Chris, I’ll be back in a few minutes,” and continues on to the washrooms in the back.

I get up to take a look at the treats that are available, along comes Lindsey, and she mentions that she’s not sure where Chris went. “He just left the office a minute or two ago.”

“He just came through, I think he’s using the facilities,” I mention, and she looks a bit relieved.

So – I had two little almond tea cakes that were delicious – reminding me of the almondette cookies that we used to get in plastic tray packages when I was young – and a bottle of organic apple cider. Chris Baty had a slice of the lemon tart pie, which he didn’t finish, and tea, green tea I think. Lindsey had some kind of weird cake with pudding in the center or something like that. We took everything back to the Office of Letters and Light building, with Lindsey promising to bring the plates back to the bakeshop later.

I was introduced to a few people in the tech department on the way through, then we arranged ourselves around the conference table and started to chat. It was a great talk, ranging from topics like the wild parrots of telegraph hill and the marriage that they ruined, to how to get more Nanowrimo participants to donate to the Office of Letters and Light, and discussing programs to encourage people to work towards getting their Nanowrimo novels published or their Frenzy scripts produced. Also the snowflake method.

After about an hour, Chris started to very nicely get me up and moving out, explaining that he had another commitment in fifteen minutes, and gave me the full tour of the premises, letting me take a few pictures, and handling a few more introductions. That was pretty much it.

I got to keep my pie coupon, with a scrawl on the back that it is ‘Redeemed’, the date, and Chris Baty’s signature.

Oh, and on my way back to the BART, I saw a sign for ‘The other hobbit’ fantasy and science fiction books, and couldn’t resist going in and looking around. Picked up a Buffy season 7 collection. Also, on my way back to the BART, I got somewhat lost and had to ask someone for the way to the station – only to realize I was maybe fifteen feet away from the edge of the station parking lot. D’oh!!

Nearly pointless Thanksgiving day update from Lindsey: “I think the “pie” I had was called buckle cake…it was very much like a flat round muffin. Yum yum :)”


Nanowrimo Day 23 – jumping from story to story.

November 24, 2010

It’s been a good few days, since the Night of Writing Dangerously. I took a couple of hop-on, hop-off bus tours of San Francisco on Monday, touring around downtown, climbing up to the top of Telegraph Hill, (but not to the observation deck of Coit Tower because the elevator was out for repair,) and crossing the Golden Gate bridge.

I’ve also been attending a number of local San Francisco write-ins – last night at the Blue Danube cafe, this morning at Nervous Dog coffee in the mission district, and this evening at Epicenter. It’s been great going to all of these different neighborhoods in SF, meeting other writers, and adding onto my word count.

When I was planning for Nanowrimo, I said that if I actually got to 50k on or around the 21st, and finished my novel idea then or soon after, I would keep writing at more or less the same pace and work on science fiction-based short stories, especially ones that I could consider submitting for Clarion and Clarion West. At the NOWD, I pulled out one, ‘Harry and Mars,’ a story that I’d started around the end of September, (as part of my September projects list, ‘Start a new science fiction story’,) and abandoned since then. I actually made a lot of headway on it Sunday night, and finished it yesterday soon after getting to the Blue Danube. Ack. ‘Now what?’ I didn’t have any other sci-fi ideas waiting and ready to be written.

I ended up trying an incomplete fanfic chapter just to see if the words would flow there, though I hadn’t really planned to do any fanfic during November. Sure enough, Michael Guerin and Lana Lang’s crossover chemistry was still working fairly well in chapter 3 of ‘A Roswellian Alien in Metropolis’, so I kept working on that, through the Nervous dog write-in this morning, and finished the chapter at Epicenter. I really didn’t want to start another fanfic chapter during Nano, so what next?

Asha, the other Nano-er who made it to Epicenter, had mentioned something about brainstorming, so I actually opened up a scratch pad file on the Dana to list out possible notions, just starting from my ideas about what Science Fiction was. Slowly a new idea gelled, a sort of sequel notion to my 2009 Nanovel, and also a psychological mystery, about a commanding officer who must decide if one of his specialists is a psychotic delusional, only paranoid enough to lie to him, or if one of the specialist’s team members actually did steal something valuable from him. Of course, writing a mystery without knowing ‘who done it and how the sleuth figures it out beforehand’ can be a great way to write yourself into a block – I have a strong notion, but won’t tell you now.

A few trivia items relating to ‘Harry and Mars.’ A few months from now, in the spring of 2011, we can celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first human being entering Earth orbit. And also, I mention something in the first draft of ‘Harry and Mars’ about there not having been anybody who died in space before, as opposed to fatalities within Earth’s atmosphere when a spacecraft was taking off or landing. Unfortunately, I didn’t research that enough to find out about the Soyuz 11 disaster, and will have to rewrite it.

Sweet selections with Chris B and Lindsey G tomorrow – I can’t wait!


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