Posts Tagged ‘writing

01
Dec
19

NaNo. Nah. No.

I didn’t make it. Not even close. Final count was 12,044.

Hadn’t even gotten to the second act. I don’t know if I’ll come back to it and try to finish it or not. We’ll see. It’s still an accomplishment, I suppose – most I’ve managed to write in over a year – but very disheartening.

Being chronically ill is the absolute shits.

KA Spiral no signature

23
Nov
19

Guilt

I’ve been away from my keyboard for almost 48 hours. As I noted yesterday, there’s stuff going on, and scribbling doesn’t seem to help the mindset. But I’ve discovered stopping myself from doing it isn’t all that helpful, either.

This is a nothing post, a quick blurb, but sitting down to do it scratched the itch and banished the guilt demon. It also aggravated the lung, back and head demons who weren’t happy about being dragged upstairs, sitting in the chair, or the frequent panic of what to write. Win some, lose some.

I feel like I’m going insane. More insane than I actually already am, that is.

News as it develops.

KA Spiral no signature

21
Nov
19

Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves

Figured it might be nice to not do something involving the spook, and instead do the beginning. Enjoy.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

“What the fuck are you doing? Where the hell are your shoes?”
The voice came from somewhere further inside the house, the heavy walls and their tapestries deadening it, killing any echoes and making it hard to tell where it had come from. Still, Danny knew it well enough. Calm, despite the words it chose. Deep, rumbling like a subterranean landslide. Faint traces of an accent, but one that was almost impossible to define.

“Taking care of the floor, man! Isn’t that some shit you’re into? Don’t wanna track all over the place.”

Danny’s voice was shrill, nasal, almost the human equivalent of nails on chalkboard. He hated the sound of it himself, and would complain about it to anyone who even vaguely touched the subject, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Puberty and its mysterious ways had been unkind to him in that regard.

The owner of the other voice had appeared at the end of the hall leading from the entryway. Contrary to his irritation at Danny’s lack of footwear, he was barefoot. A pair of gray sweats were the only clothing he wore. His chest was bare, shiny with sweat. Danny assumed the other man had been in the middle of one of his routines when he’d heard the bell.

“I like to keep my floor clean, yeah. That’s why I don’t want your nasty feet dragging on it. I mean, couldn’t you at least wear some socks? Go put your shoes back on. Then meet me in the kitchen.”

The man turned to his left, slipping through a beaded curtain that blended so well into the wall that it would have been invisible if you didn’t know to look for it. He was silent as he did so, and despite the rattling Danny knew he’d provoke by walking through it, the beads barely moved, as though they refused to defy the master of the house.

“Uh… right. Whatever you say, Ichi.”

His voice shook more than usual, and Danny cursed himself for it. Ichiro had never done anything to make him feel the pulse of fear that always quaked through him in the other man’s presence. Nothing to him, anyway. But Danny still always had to wonder if one day that would change.

He slunk back up the two short steps that separated the main room from the entrance, slipping his feet into the battered sneakers that had last been replaced sometime during Obama’s first term, before moving to follow Ichiro through the curtain.

He slipped past the beads, suppressing a shiver as they slid over his shoulders in a way that made him think of creatures raking their nails against his body in an attempt to snare him. Ichi’s kitchen was clean, though not in the way Danny would have preferred.

A clean kitchen, to Danny, spoke of use and care. Nicks in the counter, a permanent stain under the coffee pot that was so old and ingrained that it was seared into the fabric of the table but shone with polish anyway. Curtains that had faded a little, that maybe had a blot of pie filling at the edge.

Ichi’s kitchen was clean the way a sterile room was clean. Gleaming white tile, black and chrome appliances that looked like they had just come from the showroom floor minutes before, perfectly clear windows without adornment, pots, pans, and cutlery polished to a mirror sheen and arranged on metal runners more suited for display than usage. To Danny, it looked like a surgical ward, and part of him wondered if it had ever been used that way. It wouldn’t have surprised him.

Ichi was sitting at the table in the middle of the room, an oak affair on iron legs that would have looked more at home in a boardroom than a kitchen. Arrayed at five points were short stools of black steel with glass seats. Not comfortable looking in the least, but Danny was thankful he wouldn’t be sitting cross-legged on the floor. Ichi was prone to making him do that, and it always made Danny’s knees ache.

One of Ichi’s brows rose, as his hand gestured to one of the stools.

“Sit. Stop staring. I pay you for information, not to mess up my floors and admire my decor.”

Danny’s head bobbed with enthusiasm, and he slid across the floor putting as little weight into his steps as possible. He made it to the stool without incident, but pulling it out produced an unpleasant shriek of metal on tile, and as he dropped into the seat he saw the black scuff mark the chair leg had left.

Ichi’s expression was unchanged, but Danny thought he could smell the other man’s irritation. He gave a pained smile, shrugged, and sat down.

“Yeah. You do. S’why I’m here. Information.”

Ichi continued to glare, eyes boring into Danny. Danny hated it when Ichi did that; sometimes it felt like the man was sifting through his guts and brain simultaneously, digging up every piece of dirt he could. When Ichi looked at him like that, Danny wondered why the man needed people to bring him information. All he really needed to do was stare someone down, and if he couldn’t just read their mind, even some of the toughies on the Southside would start spewing whatever info Ichi wanted.

“Um. Yeah. You told me to keep an eye out for anybody who’s real particular about their collars, doesn’t ditch their shirts or coats even when it’s boiling outside, don’t talk much. Especially if they’re hanging around the kid, right?”

Ichi said nothing. Danny wasn’t surprised. He cleared his throat before continuing.
“Well, there’s a couple that just got into town. Haven’t seen ’em myself yet, but one of them was asking around for the kid, and the other’s been asking around for someone who sounds a lot like you. Mentioned your back and everything.”

The other man’s hands clenched, producing a click as the thick silver ring on his right index finger rapped against the table. Danny jumped at the sound. Ichi’s teeth shone through his lips in a grimace.

“So they’re here. Finally.”

His voice was a growl, lacking in human inflection. Danny found it most interesting, as he’d expected Ichi to at least be surprised. Or angry. Or anything. Snarling resignation hadn’t been the response he thought he’d get.

“Um, yeah. Sounds like it, boss. I’ve got a couple guys sniffing them out, checking their credentials. They’ll call me as soon as they know more, and I’ll call you right after, but I figured you’d wanna know ASAP.”

“For once, you’re correct.”

Ichi steepled his fingers, bowing his head into them for a moment and closing his eyes. If he hadn’t seen the behavior before, Danny might have thought Ichi had slipped into a narcoleptic fit or something. He knew the other man was just thinking, though, and thinking hard. Danny remained quiet, giving Ichi time to muddle through whatever was going on inside his skull.

“Daniel.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is Raioh?”

“The kid? Last I saw him, he was on the schoolyard, playing baseball or something. Mark’s got an eye on him, will pick him up after school. You told me not to mess up his life too bad unless we have to. Since they haven’t found him yet, figured we didn’t have to. Yet.”

Ichi nodded, keeping his head behind his hands.

“Correct. So long as they don’t go near the school, he stays. Have Mark take him somewhere else. A vacation. You do not know where, I do not know where, no one knows where. Mark and Raioh only. Understood?”

“Yeah,” Danny said. He’d learned there was no such thing as a disagreeable order a long time ago. What Ichi said was how it went down, and asking questions was liable to become more trouble than it was worth.

“Good.”

Despite the word, very little of Ichi’s expression seemed to imply anything good about the situation. He folded his hands on the table, staring at the reflection of his own fingers in the mirror sheen for a long moment, then spoke again.

“You say they are asking about me. Or someone a lot like me, anyway. What, specifically, have they asked.”

Danny coughed into his hand, looking away. Bringing up this subject was liable to get Ichiro ansty, possibly even angry, and Danny preferred not to talk about it. But when your boss’s back is covered in an exceptionally elaborate tattoo that quite a few of the less-than-savory folks in the neighborhood are aware of, it tends to be a central point of identity.

“Well, they were… uh… asking about a guy with a tattoo.”

Ichi’s face remained stony, eyes unblinking. Danny took it as a cue to keep talking.

“Said they’re looking for a man with a big flower on his back. A chrysanthemum. Stylized. Heavy ink.”

Ichi nodded.

“Unfortunate. But not entirely unexpected. What else?”

Danny gulped. He wasn’t looking forward to the next detail.

“They also mentioned that the flower might be covered up or overlaid with a dragon or a snake that wraps around the guy’s shoulders.”

He glanced down into his lap, not daring to meet Ichi’s gaze after that. The other man had done some touch up work on the elaborate tattoo once he had settled here, and supposedly only a handful of people were aware of the changes. Even if someone had come looking for him, the change should have thrown them off, at least for a time. But if these goons were asking about the serpent as well as the flower, that meant they knew something they shouldn’t… and Danny could be held responsible.

Ichi surprised him, however. There was no anger, no accusations. Just a slow nod.

“I see.”

Ichiro took a deep breath, eyes closed, as though centering himself. Danny took the opportunity to raise his eyes again, watching the other man carefully. Several seconds passed with neither moving before Ichi spoke again.

“It will be fine. Bring them to me. Make no threats. Make no promises. Find them, and inform them that I wish to speak to them. Give them my name.”

Ichi’s eyes opened, locking on Danny’s and seeming to spark with a fervor and passion Danny rarely saw coming from the man.

“But do so only after Raioh has been escorted away.”

Danny nodded.

“Uh, sure. Yeah, I can do that. But…”

He trailed off, throat running dry.

“But what?”

Danny coughed again, then bit the tip of his tongue to force some spit through his mouth.

“Is that the best idea? I mean… what if they’re here to cause trouble?”

Ichi laughed, a low rumble like the idle of a diesel truck, but Danny didn’t think there was any actual amusement in it.

“And if they are? They know who they are looking for, and know enough to be aware of things that have changed since the last time their organization saw me. Better to face the tiger head on than hide and have it strike you in the back. Besides… they may only be looking to curry favor with Oyabun Kenose. They will not receive such favors, but let them try, regardless.”

Ichi pushed up off the stool.

“You know what you are to do. Now do it.”

He turned away from Danny, giving the man a full view of the elaborate flower that had been painstakingly etched into his back. Circles of yellow and white, done with a traditional chiseled style, the chrysanthemum. Ichi had told Danny once they were flowers of mourning, done to remember the dead. Danny had never asked who was being remembered, but had often suspected it had to do with the boy Ichi was so determined to keep safe.

Laid atop and intertwined with the flower was a much more recent addition. A long black serpentine dragon, claws digging into petal groups, with the tail circling around to Ichi’s ribcage and the head lapping at his neck. Being significantly fresher, Danny could still see some of the blood beads caused by the chiseling.

Shaking his head to clear it, knowing he had better things to do than admire the craftsmanship of Ichi’s tattoo or worry about the implications of it, Danny stood up.

Through some miracle he avoided causing anymore gouges in the tile floor.
He scurried out, phone already going to his ear and Mark’s number being speed-dialed. Best get it done.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

KA Spiral no signature

18
Nov
19

WorldBuilding: Naming Techniques and Philosophies — A Writer’s Path

A bit of handy advice for those of us dreaming up names for fantastic people and places. (Comments disabled here, please visit the original post.)

by Whitney Carter Last week at my Saturday writer’s group, we had a discussion about character names. One of our people is taking her first crack at fantasy, and one of the questions I had for her was whether or not she intended to change the plain Jane names she was using in […]

via WorldBuilding: Naming Techniques and Philosophies — A Writer’s Path

17
Nov
19

NaNoWriMo – Halfway Mark

Well, we’ve just passed the halfway point in NaNoWriMo. How’s everyone holding up? Have you managed the 25k words that are supposed to be in place at this point? Far ahead? Already done? Or are you, like me, dragging behind and wallowing in it?

I’m just about to break 10k. Yeah, not even close to the target, and I fall farther behind every day. Mainly because I can’t manage more than 800 words in a session, and usually closer to 400. But I still don’t feel too bad about it. I mean, I feel bad – I always do, isn’t being a bipolar schizophrenic depressive fun? – but I look at it in a slightly more positive light. I wrote something, and I have continued to manage to write something every day for the last 17 days. It may take me six months to finish Chrysanthemum Graves instead of the one month it’s supposed to, but at least I’ll finish the damn thing, and that’s an accomplishment for me. I haven’t managed to complete any writing material except a short piece called “Layers” in literal years, and maintaining any kind of consistent progress has been completely impossible for me.

So, whether I meet the 50k goal or not (spoilers: almost certainly not), NaNoWriMo did that much at least. Got me writing daily, and made me do something.

What about the rest of you? How goes your NaNo progress? Will you make it? Does it matter? Let us know down below!

KA Spiral no signature

15
Nov
19

Fantastic Races and Why To Change Them

It’s safe to say everyone has read a fantasy novel at some point, right? We know all about orcs, goblins, dwarves, elves, dragons and the like. When we read or write in the genre, we’re aware of certain tropes and styles, and by and large, we conform to them.

Why?

When one says “elf,” one tends to think “willowy, long-lived, magical, pointy ears, forests.” There’s a lot of wiggle room in there, but we almost always end up with Legolas. There are other options, other ways to fill that racial niche.

Dwarves. Mining midgets with Scottish accents seem to be the most popular. Dragon Age turning them into political schemers and less-than-scrupulous merchants was brilliant, in my opinion.

When you say “vampire” to an older person, you usually get the Dracula or Lestat motif. Sexy, predatory, dangerous, tragically romantic. When you say it to a younger person you either get the modern variant of that (like Vampire Diaries or True Blood style) or you get Twilight. Much as I hate Twilight for being garbage, the sin isn’t in “what it did to vampires.” Trying to do something different isn’t a crime. Doing it really, really, really badly is. But that’s just me.

But why aren’t there more rule-breakers out there? When I was still working on my Milefront pen-and-paper setting, I decided I didn’t want any elves and dwarves… but I knew I still needed things that fit their tropes. So instead of elves, there were blood-drinking immortals born from a tree, who preferred to hide in their heavily-canopied lairs away from the angry eye of their mother the sun goddess. They were older than other races present in the world and had once ruled the land, but things went south when they pissed off mom, so now they’re dwindling and reclusive, but still magically potent and possess arcane knowledge no one else has access to.

I’m not too down with dwarves, so instead, I had a tribe of dark-skinned giants who crawled from the bowels of the earth, fleeing chthonian horrors and digging uncountable pathways through their mountain homes to confound and capture their pursuers.

Maybe those were stupid changes. Maybe I should have just had elves and dwarves like normal people. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to do something a little different, and I don’t think that’s a sin.

I’d like to see more folks upend that applecart. I want more goblins who are actually corporate bureaucrats keeping slave labor forces forced to push technology further and further. I want dragons who are deified humans who roar with the authority of the gods of old. I want orcs to be a warlike band of lepers and freedom fighters, pushing back against aristocratic and caste-system following elvish nobility.

I want some variety. How about you?

What kind of fantasy tropes have you upended, and how and why? Any good recommendations for fantasy novels that don’t just follow the Tolkien and D&D blueprint? Let us know down below!
KA Spiral no signature

14
Nov
19

Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves

I don’t know why I seem to like sharing the weird segments of this story that involve The Thirst, but it is what it is. Let me know what you think!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

The thirst had returned. As before, it came first, then other sensations. Unlike before, vision wasn’t merely a red cloud. Other colors were present this time, though all of them were muted, as though being seen through a piece of murky gauze.

The sound was duller than previously, and the consciousness that hung from the thirst like some barely-glimpsed parasite found there was room for emotion: gratefulness. Things had been far too noisy during that previous period of waking, and now it seemed more normal. The bugs in the walls and the hum of every piece of electronic equipment was gone, as was the thrumming of the man’s heartbeat.

There were voices. Coming from somewhere in the house. A thought, and they drew close. Three voices, three men. Two large ones, one the man from the night before. The larger ones were speaking rapidly, angrily; the other was responding with an apparent calm that seemed to stoke the rage of the two argumentative ones.

The thirst knew they were speaking, and could taste the flavor of the emotions contained in the words, but was unable to make out the words themselves. It might have thought this was odd, if it were capable of thinking as such. As it was, it was only interested in the flares of color and scent that burst around each of the men as they threw their words at each other like weapons.

There. The one with the longer hair. A splash of black across his torso, as though ink had been spilled. A rotten scent, the stench of sewers and backed up disposal units. Something wrong with him.

Cancer, maybe? The consciousness that piggybacked on the thirst asked, with the tentative voice of a little girl raising her hand for the first time in class, prepared to give an answer she was unsure of. The thirst didn’t know, and didn’t care. All it knew is that the one with the long hair would be foul tasting and unlikely to provide much in the way of sustenance.

The other one, who seemed to prefer being quiet except to punctuate his apparent friend’s statements, had no similar blemishes. He was surrounded by a faint green glow, and smelled of fresh grass.

Not here, the mind behind the thirst cautioned. Not now.

The thirst pulsed with rage for a moment, but subsided. That inner voice was right. It wasn’t entirely able to resist its urges, however; the thirst blinked, and found itself tangled around the long-haired man, breathing in that scent and relishing the smell that was underneath it. Something red, thick, metallic. What the thirst really wanted, what it needed. Something about this one was almost as appealing as the man from the other night, scratching an itch that the thirst didn’t understand it had.

There was a gap in the man, something missing from him in a fundamental way that the thirst could see but not explain. It knew what to do, how it would get what it wanted. Slipping into that metaphysical hole in his being, merging into it and settling in like a bear into a den, the thirst waited.

It didn’t know what it was waiting for, only that it would know, given time. This was what it was supposed to do. Something inside said so, just as it had said to wrap around the man from last night’s throat, just as it had whispered to awaken and see this man here. Something was guiding the actions of the thirst, something beyond or above the faint traces of a mind that it still possessed. Whatever guidance was being provided was nearly of the highest importance, second only to the thirst itself. The thirst, having been sated previously, chose to follow direction.

Curling within the man, the thirst saw a multitude of images flickering by, mostly of violent actions. Again and again this man had abused, broken and stolen people and things. That mattered little to the thirst; it was a slave to its own nature, and understood. What puzzled it was the apparent pleasure the man took from it. He did those things not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

Then one image froze. The mind behind the thirst gasped. Red began to seep back into everything, fury driving out other concerns.

It saw, just for a moment, the man standing above a bathtub in a tiled room that was both alien and somehow familiar. In the tub, eyes bulging, arms hanging limply over the sides, gouges torn into the wrists that turned them into lipless mouths that grinned death and spoke blood, was a woman.

Something about this woman fueled the thirst’s anger, made it determined to kill the man it found itself hiding within. In the image, the wrists of his red sport coat were wet. His fingers were pruny. In his left hand he held a pocketknife stained with rust and fresh blood. The sense of satisfaction in the image was almost a physical thing. The thirst could practically hear the man muttering to himself about a job well done. He had killed this woman, and had enjoyed it.

The red haze grew stronger, overtaking the image and leaving nothing but a crimson void. The thirst wailed, wanting more, but knowing it was powerless against the forced slumber that was coming.

But, as before, there would be a period of waking to follow. Retribution would follow that. The thirst demanded it.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

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