Monologue #19

I like to think I’m closing in on the end of my first novel.  There are still changes happening which has me a little concerned about time, but I’m still making progress so I’m just letting it happen.  The actual finish line isn’t as close as I would like it to be though.  My personal goal was to have this wrapped up by the end of June.  It’s looking like I’ll be pushing into July now.

I’m still looking mostly at Kindle for publishing.  The overall amount of information available through a simple Google search is mind-numbing.  I’m probably jumping the gun a bit, but I find myself researching when my brain has rejected the notion of writing anymore for the day.  It seems like I’m going strong for a few days, then BAM!  I’m staring at the computer screen without a single idea about how to connect my thoughts.  That’s when I shrug it off and spend a couple hours looking at publishing options.

Is anyone else partially writing their book on their phone?  Lol.  I spend a lot of my breaks at work tapping out words with my thumbs on my Note 5.  I can’t help myself.  Ideas ramble into my brain and I need to get them written down before I lose them.  Back in November, when I started this project in NaNoWriMo I think I wrote a full quarter of my word count on my phone.  It’s a tough way to go, but it works.

Happy Father’s Day!

Monologue #18

Another week has flown by.  The temperature here is close to 90 degrees and my antique AC unit is struggling.  This means I am not sleeping well.  Hopefully the maintenance guy will come tomorrow and fix it.  I have done as much as I am able with my trusty can of compressed air.  Now it’s their turn.  I have taken evasive action and strategically positioned my fans to produce a wind-tunnel effect in my small apartment.  The internal temperature is still in the low eighties but at least I have a breeze.

Smashing Pumpkins is pretty much on schedule.  The rough sleep has slowed down my concentration right now so I’m not moving as quickly as I was last week, but I’m still thinking I can be finished by the end of the month.  I’ve been trying to establish a workable format so I won’t have a ton of things to do when I’m ready to turn all the files into book form.  The mighty Oracle of Google has shown me a number of ways to accomplish this.  I even have cover art now!  My wife was kind enough to bust out her mad skillz and produce some options for me.

Also, I want to give a shout out to any LGBT followers.  It is June and that means… HAPPY PRIDE!  The festival here in Milwaukee was in full swing this past weekend.  While I did not participate this year due to my devotion to getting my book finished, my wife spent all of Sunday having a blast at the festival grounds and riding  with friends in the parade.  Our community here is strong and beautiful!  Stay Proud Milwaukee!

Monologue #17

June is my month to get Smashing Pumpkins wrapped up and cleaned up.  I’m planning to publish at the end of September.  I won’t have an actual launch date for a little while yet, but as soon as I do I’ll post it here along with information on where to get it.  

I’ve had to come to grips with my genre for this which was a bit of a surprise to me.  Smashing Pumpkins is definitely Urban Fantasy, but not the kind with magic or demons.  The fact that I have added a non-existent element to our current reality takes the book right out of the realm of plain old fiction.  In addition to that, it also stands as a Mystery Thriller.  I’m sort of scratching my head over this.  I hadn’t planned to write something that landed in more than one genre.  I suppose it was inevitable considering how much I dislike something so common as reality.  I love to change things, to alter a single item of what I see and imagine how it would affect life around me.

So far, I’m pretty happy with my progress on this first book.  Having never written one before I’ve been nervous about the amount of time I have been spending on things, but I’m not really beating myself up over it.  Things take as long as they take.  

Happy writing everyone!

Smashing Pumpkins – Samson

Watching Sara Chimner trudge listlessly into the room, head down, brown hair hanging loose in her eyes, Samson tried to imagine what it would feel like to work at McDonalds on the grill.  Sure, people suffered everywhere but, at least as a fast food line cook he wouldn’t have to deal directly with eight year olds.  From the looks of her, Sara would be an unwilling participant today.

“Good morning, Sara.”

At the sound of her name, Sara sighed and slid into her seat, putting her head down directly upon the desk top, arms hanging down by her sides like a rag doll.  Eyebrow arching upward in fascination, he wondered if he was too young to get a vasectomy?

“Is something wrong, Sara?”  Rising from his desk he swallowed his own sigh and walked toward the child’s seat where he knelt down beside her.  “Did something happen?”

Like a marionette, her right arm rose into the air, nearly whacking him in the face, and her hand opened to expose a single, opaque tooth, the bottom edges slightly darkened.  He stared obediently at it.

“We all lose our baby teeth, Sara.  It’s nothing to be upset over.  Your adult teeth will grow in and fill the gap.”  He thought his rational explanation was a good start.  He watched her close her hand again around the tooth and rest it on the desk beside her head.  His jaw tightened.  “Did you lose it on the way to school, this morning?”

A muffled no came from the still form.

“When did you lose it?”

“Yesterday.”

Thinking she sounded rather bitter, he tried a different tactic.

“Do you know about the Tooth Fairy?”  Every child knew about the Tooth Fairy, right?  This particular mythos was still alive and well, being preached to every child on American soil.  He fully expected Sara to acknowledge the question with a positive response.  He was more than a little startled when she raised her head and fixed him with eyes lacking any spirit of life and told him just how much she knew about it.

“I put it under my pillow last night.  It was still there this morning.”  The brown eyes were puffy and red, having shed silent tears of grief all the way to school.  Her lips, normally full, seemed thin, drained of their usual vibrance.

Looking at her now, he could see she had taken a serious blow to her ego.  That a child this young could have her mental legs knocked out from under her by being overlooked by a made up entity that bought children’s teeth for a living seemed absurd.  Part of him wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her, to rattle some sense into her.  The Tooth Fairy is a lie!  It’s all a big lie!  Get over it and get on with growing up.

None of that was possible though.  Samson’s sense of reason struggled to get a grip on his anger.  He was expected to tell these children that the world was round, the sun rose in the east, and that two plus two equals four.  If he told Sara the Tooth Fairy was a lie, he would, effectively face a firing squad.

“Did you tell your mother?”

“No.”  Sara dropped her head back onto her desk, this time using her arm, the one still holding the tooth, as a cushion.  “It fell out after I went to bed.”

So she had just stuffed it under her pillow.  Samson could see it as clearly as if he had been there.  It had never crossed her mind to get up and show her parents the tooth.  Sara had absolute faith that her parents told her the truth in all things.  To have her tooth still with her when she awoke had been far more tragic than just the loss of a quarter.  That tooth meant that her parents were not the all-knowing gods she had thought them to be.  They had been wrong.  Those red eyes weren’t about the tooth, they were about the loss of innocence.

“You need to tell your mother.  Mom’s have a secret way of communicating with the Tooth Fairy.  If you don’t tell her then she can’t send the message and the Tooth Fairy doesn’t know to come.”  He almost patted her on the head but caught himself.  Never touch the children.  Straightening he went to his desk and pulled a couple pieces of tissue from the box and walked them back to her.

“Here, let’s wrap the tooth up nice and safe and put in the front pocket of your bag.  As soon as you get home today, give the tooth to your mom.  Can you do that for me?”

Sara turned her head on her arm to look at him again, this time with a small flicker of hope in her eyes.

“Uh huh.”  She sniffed and sat up enough to drop her tooth on the tissue.

“There, all safe and sound.  Let’s go put it in your bag, okay?”  He stepped back to give her room to get out of her seat and lead the way into the hall.  

Sara’s bag was pink and purple with flowers all over it, a miniature back-pack, complete with straps to go over her shoulders.  Samson handed her the wrapped tooth and watched as she zipped it securely into the small front pocket.  He gave her an encouraging smile that felt unnatural for him.

“Let’s get back to our seat now, and start our day, okay?”

Monologue #14

What about visual cues?  What about those nervous habits that people have?  How many of  these things make their way into your writing?  I often find myself studying people while I work, watching how they turn their feet when they walk or hold their face when they make a bet.  The look on the face of a guy who is chasing his money is vastly different from the lady who has just arrived and is buying into the game for the first time.  Chasers have a hard, pinpoint look in their eyes.  They remind me of bird dogs going on point.  They have the scent of their prey and know they way.  The lady who is just sitting down may be a regular or not, but her eyes are clearer and more open to the upcoming experience.  Her smile is natural.  The Chaser?  He’s usually angry.  More often than not it’s anger at himself but it comes out in a numerous ways.  He’ll verbally abuse the dealer for dealer him crappy cards, or he’ll chastise another player for taking a questionable hit.  He can even blame the waitress for distracting him at a key moment.

All of these things go through my mind every time I sit down to write.  Which of these cues will make it into my writing that day?  It’s possible that none of them will.  It’s possible I’ll forget all about them in favor of being lost in the craft of piecing words together.  My balance can be tilted toward getting something to eat rather than fine tuning a character to be more three dimensional.  It’s really just a daily crapshoot and I put my money on the line and pick up the dice like everyone else.  Some days I win.  

Happy Mother’s Day!

Monologue #13 – Proofreading

BookBub anyone?  I get the daily email and scroll through the list.  Sometimes I click a link and peruse the reviews of a book that might interest me.  Very quickly learned to ignore the good reviews in favor of the poor ones.  Three stars or less and I wanted to know why?  What did the author do wrong?  Why does this person want to tell other people what is wrong?  The bad reviews have become my school.

The reason for bad reviews is a long one.  I have read many that stated a book was boring, too poorly thought out or contained an element that the reader hadn’t expected.   While most of these reviews are valid from a reader’s point of view, as a writer with a book that I intend to self-publish, I want more from the reviews.  I have to look deeper down the list and keep reading.

At the top of list of things that readers complain about is something I can’t help but be appalled by; spelling and grammar.  To see a book review by Mr. Joe Average Reader that is denouncing the work due to its lack of proper spelling, poor word choice or repetitive use of a specific word makes my stomach clench and I usually back away from the book without making serious eye-contact.  I take those kind of reviews to heart.  Just reading one can make me run home and check my spelling.

As a future self-publisher, I find myself being harshly critical of my work now.  I know I can’t expect everyone to like what I offer, but if I can at least avoid being bashed for lack of proofreading then I will feel better about not being a one-size-fits-all kinda person.  To ignore something that is built into every single text editor, including our phones and text messaging apps, is a mark of extreme laziness.  I’ll probably worry myself to the point of nausea over this.

I’ve looked at this page a thousand times.  I’ve stared at it so much that I no longer know if anything is off.  I know what it is supposed to say so my eyes are reading what I have meant for them to read.  Whether or not it really looks the way I think it looks is a different story.  My proofreader isn’t home right now.

The Mine – #5 (GW2 Fanfiction)

(Guild Wars is the property of ArenaNet.  I do not claim ownership over any location or character, except those that I have specifically paid for or are in agreement with me over their use.  While some NPC dialogue is taken from ingame, it has been modified and paraphrased to suit the story.  This is strictly fanfiction and is intended for entertainment purposes only, not profit.)

 

Having found his staff near a railed support beam by one of the the large motors, Ian quietly rejoined the group and began digging through his pack, looking for food.  Sitting beside him, Moon Moon thumped his tail fiercely against the mesh, his front paws drumming excitedly.

“Hungry, huh?”  Chuckling a little he held out a thick strip of spicy smelling meat.  At least the wolf wasn’t being judgemental.

Very politely, the Alpine closed his teeth on the food and slid it out of Ian’s hand.  An instant later he was hunched over, snarling and glowering at every other member of the group as he chewed frantically.

Sorting through the entire contents of her pack, with the unhelpful assistance of the snow owl, Zerela paused to stare at Moon’s antics.  Grinning mischievously she made a fast grab for the food, missing by a wide margin.

Amusement rippled through the group as Moon yelped in outrage and whirled around, putting his back to the big feline and tucking his tail beneath him.  His snarls became louder and his blue eyes slid deeply to one side, watching for another attack.  The owl walked closer, clearly intent on inspecting him he chewed faster.

“I feel the same way, buddy.”  Laughing, Ian pulled out a thick strip for himself and stowed the rest back in his bag.  Taking a seat on top of it, he took a huge bite and focused on the Charr’s growing collection.

“I wonder if the Dredge are a distant relation to Skritt?” Zerela pawed through the keys, small bottles containing questionable looking liquids and leather scraps, looking perplexed by the enormity of the assortment.  Her worn, dark leather pack didn’t look nearly large enough to hold it all.

“Uh huh.  And which side are you related to?”  Azumae raised her eyebrows at the ranger as she tipped a handful of, what looked like, trail mix into her mouth.  Her leafy hair seemed to brighten as she chewed.

“What’s that?”  Holding the meat with his teeth, Ian used his staff to prod at a large, squarish, iron key lying beside a carefully arranged pile of leather.  It looked heavy enough to use as a weapon.  “Did you bring that with you?”

“I found it on one of the Dredge.”  Zerela picked it up, weighing it in her hand.  “I think it’s Dwarven.  See the markings?”

“There are rumors of a couple of Dwarven strongholds here in Dredgehaunt.”  Eir finished off her small loaf of bread and licked at her fingers, the smell of tarragon hanging in the humid air around her.  She tried to look at the key but couldn’t seem to stop glancing toward the bridge.

Caithe came trotting up the far ramp holding a pistol in each hand.  “Snik is down below with seven Dredge and a golem.  He doesn’t seem to know we’re here yet.”  She sniffed the air.  “Who’s got tarragon bread?”

Reaching back into her bag, Eir ripped a loaf in half and handed one piece to Caithe.  

“Give me a few minutes.”  Zerela began stacking her collection.  “I need to get this stored.”

Four heads turned to stare at the amount of things spread around the Charr.  Between the new items and old, packing it all looked like a major job.

“Um… can I help?”  Thinking he could at least stack a few items, Ian reached awkwardly toward the pile.  Fast as a striking viper the Charr gave him a hard swat with the back of her paw.  “OUCH!”  Snatching his hand back he held it against his chest, grimacing at her.

Azumae frowned and tapped Zerela on her nose.

“Bad kitty.”  

Her expression widened as the Charr rose to her full height, ears flattened to her head, holding tightly to the sword she had knocked Ian’s hand away from.

“Touch me again weed and I’ll sever your stem!”

The necromancer took a half step back, keeping her eyes fastened on the Charr’s.

“I was just trying to help.”  Ian glared at the ranger.   The skin wasn’t broken but the small bone on the outside was throbbing.  “You could have just said no instead of breaking my hand.”

“It’s not broken.”  Zerela pointed at the glyph on his belt.  “Even if it was, you are a druid.  Heal yourself.”

“That doesn’t mean you can just bust me up when you feel like it!”  Angrily he turned away from her.

“You need to work on using your words instead of your actions.”  Standing well back, with her axe in hand, Azumae gave Zerela a stern look.  “Humans aren’t like us.  They are frail.”

“Don’t lecture me!”

“I’m not frail!”

Ian and Zerela shouted simultaneously, their voices drowning each other out.

Quickly Eir stepped between them, her body blocking their view of each other.

“Enough!”  Her voice was low and harsh.  “Snik is too close to risk alerting him of our presence.  You two need to suck it up.”

“Yes.  We lost our element of surprise once already.”  Caithe looked directly at the Charr.  “Let’s not lose it again over petty arguments.”

Zerela stood still for a moment, glaring at everyone.  Finally she took a deep breath and let it out slowly, looking very much like deflating circus toy.

“Fine.  Here are some words for you.”  Stepping carefully around the Norn, she held up the sword for Ian to see.  “It’s soulbound to me.  I’m not sure you could even pick it up if you wanted to.”  She looked at his wounded hand with sincere regret.  “I didn’t mean to actually hurt you, I was just trying to protect you.”

His anger abated a bit at this.  Still, he would have been happier if she had just told him not to touch it.  Ignoring the pain in his hand he looked closer at the sword.

“What does it do when someone other than yourself tries to hold it?”

“I don’t know.  Nobody has tried before now.”   She turned a bit, displaying the weapon as the others leaned in to peek.

“What is its talent?”  Caithe ran her eyes slowly up and down the weapon.

“What do you mean?”

“Soulbound items usually have a specific strength they enhance.  What does this one do?”

“This is soulbound too.  The sigil helps boost my healing.”  Feeling a little knowledgeable, Ian pushed the staff toward the Charr.  “Go on, take it.”

Looking uncertain, Zerela reached for it.  As her hand closed around it her ears flattened again and her eyes stretched wide, her muzzle wrinkling into a growl that didn’t quite make it out.  For a few heartbeats she stood there, holding the staff, looking ready to be knocked off her feet.  Then she relaxed and looked a little sheepish.

“I thought I would get zapped or something.”  Ian smiled at her.

“For you it is just a staff without power.  Nothing better than a club.”  It felt good to be able to say something that didn’t make him sound dumb.  Ever since they had walked into this place he had felt like the odd man out.

“Do you want to try the sword?”  

Quite abruptly, the Charr thrust it toward him and on reflex he reached for it.

“NO!”

“NO!”

“NO!”

Three voices rose in unison.  Eir, being the closest, pushed Zerela’s sword arm down.

“Let’s not let weapon bonding get the better of us, shall we?”  Caithe pressed forward and steered the Charr back toward her packing.  “Zerela, you need to get your treasures together so we can move on.  Druid, give her a hand but try to not touch anything vital.”

“I can help.”  Azumae stepped toward the pack, stopping abruptly as Zerela looked sharply at her.  “If you like?” she added.

The Charr opened her mouth to speak but Caithe cut her off.

“Azumae, I could use your assistance over here.”

“Garm and I will monitor the bridge while you guys pack.”  Eir sounded worried.  “I don’t want to be surprised by more Dredge sneaking up on us.”  The Norn and wolf set off toward the first ramp.

Kneeling beside Zerela’s collection, Ian watched the two Sylvari as they stepped carefully around the dead, moving to the far ramp.  He was positive the necromancer didn’t like Caithe very much.

“Do you think they would be friends outside of this mine?”  Zerela spoke quietly, with her head down while she stacked items.

“You see it too?”  He pushed a small tower of leather squares toward the ranger.

“The necro always looks like she smells something bad when Caithe is near her.”

“Yeah, and see how her hair kind of bristles?  Reminds me of how Moon’s back hair stands up when he is threatened.”  His observation was met by a low chuckle from the ranger.

“I guess not all Sylvari are automatically friends with all the other Sylvari.”

Surprisingly, they finished packing quickly, all the items going into the bag.  Ian stared at it in wonder.

“How did you get all of that inside there?”  The bag didn’t even look like it was bulging.

“There’s a human I met in Lion’s Arch awhile back.  He sells runes that expand the inside of a bag.  You can put more stuff in and it doesn’t feel heavier or stretched.”  Zerela gave him a toothy grin.

“Sheesh, I need to meet this guy.”  His own pack, while not filled to capacity, was still very limited.  Treasure was not his ultimate goal but, if he actually found any, he had to save room to carry it.  A simple rune that could make the bag bigger on the inside but not increase the weight would be well worth the long trip to acquire.

“Heads up, here come the plants.”  She wriggled a bit, getting her pack positioned then, pushed at her muzzle with her hands.  She lowered them to reveal a comic look of anticipation.

“You’re a terrible person,” Ian said with a laugh and knelt to slip his arms through his own bag.

“All set?”  Caithe stared suspiciously at Zerela for a moment, her eyes narrowing before continuing.  “We will be splitting up for this one.  Azumae and I will be taking the ramp down by the bridge while you three go down this one.”  She pointed to the narrow walkway she and the necromancer had just returned from.

The ranger glanced between the two stated locations, her expression darkening a little.

“We could have gone down the first ramp and skipped this battle entirely?”

“So it appears.”  Caithe met Zerela’s look without any sign of argument.  “Had we scouted better we might have known.”

It wasn’t a lie.  Ian knew they had all missed the implication of the first ramp and simply focused on the Dredge they had seen.  He tactfully refrained from pointing out the thief had been the scout.  They all knew it.

“Well, scorch my stones!”  Grabbing her sword, the Charr seemed to move in multiple directions at once, jerking to a halt with each step like she was hitting a wall and looking like she wanted to hurl her weapon at something.  Finally she just stopped moving and stared down at the platform, ears jutting at half mast, huffing the warm air.

“Okay then.”  Caithe drew her pistols.  “Rangers, lay traps when you get close, all of you.”  She looked pointedly at Ian.  “The more traps the better.  Our necromancer will lay down poison and cold from our side.  Nobody shoot until after Azumae and I have engaged them.  Then all of you rain arrows on them.  Druid, you will drop back after that and tend to us where you’re needed.”  Now she looked at Zerela.  “After the initial barrage we will need you to work some magic with your sword.  Are you up to it?”

Everyone jumped as the Bloody Ranger whistled her blade through the air fast enough to alarm all three animals.

“I am ready to slaughter something!”

“Good.”  The thief managed a wry smile.  “Hopefully you guys will be a surprise for them.  They will have their eyes full of us.”  She gestured to herself and Azumae.

Adjusting her quiver, Eir waved Garm to her side and told him to heel.  Obediently the black wolf sat at her feet, looking up at her expectantly.

Looking at Moon Moon, Ian wondered if he should have brought a tether?  He had never thought to try and train the wolf.  He didn’t know where to begin.  If Moon exposed them early though, it could be a disaster.  He looked to see what Zerela was going to do about her bird.

Cradling the owl in the crook of her arm like it was baby, she began to rumble softly, deep in her throat.  The owl closed its eyes and appeared to go to sleep.  Zerela looked up smiling, obviously pleased with herself.

“She will be no trouble until the fighting starts.”

“Let’s get moving.”  Caithe set off toward the bridge with Azumae following behind.

Watching them leave, Ian wondered if splitting them up was the right thing to do?  What if the Sylvari became wounded?  He couldn’t heal what he didn’t know about.  Don’t be stupid!  Everyone has the ability to heal themselves at least a little.  

Just before the pair dropped out of sight, the necromancer glanced back, her opaque eyes brushing against his.  Stubbornly he looked away.  He wouldn’t forget that shove so easily.

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four)