Fiction is Life – #2


A writing prompt deconstructed from actual news of the day. Each week a new prompt is posted and the previous week’s source article is revealed.

Last Week’s Stuff

Prompt post and original article

Week #2 Prompt

Newly elected mayor found dead in locked room.


Write your own story/short/article/poem/etc and link to this post so others can see what you did. If you don’t have a blog, just post the link in the comments and I’ll stick it in here manually.

Continue reading “Fiction is Life – #2”


Unseen draft complete. Excerpt

I finished the Unseen first draft tonight. This is the third book draft I’ve finished off under the wordsurge I largely attribute to NaNoWriMo.

I celebrate with a scene I like that was written for a character I didn’t expect to become a principle, but did anyway. Likely just to spite me. She has issues with authority.

 Unseen is steampunk / post-apocalypse. This scene is where we learn about my unexpected protagonist’s character when it’s nobody but her there to see.

Critical Personnel

The alarm woke her. There was no way it could be morning yet. She felt like she had only just laid down. What time had she gotten to bed, anyway?

It must have been pretty late. She couldn’t even remember getting relieved from her watch station.

The alarm. The watch station.

Verias became alert in a shocking instant. She was on perimeter watch. An alarm. There was a perimeter door open. What was she supposed to do? She was supposed to never have to figure that out! That’s why first years were put on this duty! Because nothing ever happened!
Snap out of it, Verias!

She gave herself a quick physical slap to go with the verbal one.

Thinking back on the brief training, she remember the senior student saying the only reason these alarms ever went off was a dog sensor being off. Just go to the port and re-clamp the dogs to reset it.



Go to the port and re-clamp the dogs.

She noted the port location that was alerting, grabbed a light stick, and ran off to make her check.

As she made her way through tubes that were lighted, unlighted and every variation of semi-lighted, she made a mental note to request the service ways be excluded from mandatory night variations.

She arrived to her target but it was not the port with a loose dog as she expected. This was an open porthole, exposing the Burrow to whatever might wander in from outside. She couldn’t believe it. Who would do such a thing?

It was at that point that she noticed the lights dimming again, and realized it was a general alarm.

A general alarm and somebody sneaking out of a port she was monitoring!

She realized her first duty was to the Burrow’s safety and that meant dogging this port and waiting for reinforcements. But whoever was escaping might be just meters ahead of her! She had to at least see if she could identify them!

I’ve crossed 40,000

I did it today instead of yesterday as I’d expected, but I crossed 40,000 words for #NaNoWriMo. That feels pretty cool. I was writing before NaNo and I’ll be continuing after it, but having that constant goal for new words has shown me I can continue writing new things.

The story for Ages of the Seed is continuing to develop. When I hit a recent bit I kept at it and resolved it. For the story I was supposed to be writing instead of editing a different story like I really wanted to.

I see encouragement all over the place for NaNo and it really is a big help. If nothing else it’s a constant reminder that you could be writing.

So thanks to all of the people who are continuing to cheer on the WriMos. You rock!

And to all of us who are still working at it, what the hell are you doing reading blogs? Get back to writing! ;-P

Pomes are hard

I have an incredibly difficult time with poetry. Writing it, I mean. I’m fairly good at enjoying a well written poem. Getting something of my own down in satisfyingly melodic fashion is really hard though.

There is a carrying religious theme through the Ages of the Seed and I’m finding that it requires some poetry. Religious verse isn’t prose, generally. It is parable, instruction, message and verse all in one. It’s a poem.

Generally when I have to write something poetic it is… Well to be honest it’s generally what I’d consider to be total suck. But then there are these brief flashfire moments when a poem writes itself and all I have to do is write it down. I really love those moments. I had one tonight.

The Verse of the Seeker Ardent

In the dark I wandered aimlessly, lost in body and soon in mind. My hands, my sight in these burrows, bloody and raw from the granite incisors I ran them upon. Forsaken, lost, bereft. What would I give to see again the light, to feel the sun upon my face? Nothing, for nothing was everything I had.

Chapter Art

When I was a kid I devoured science fiction. L’Engle, Asimov, Bradbury, Chalker, Heinlein… I could fill up an entire post with these names but I think you get the picture.

Something that was very common with those older works but is rarely seen now was chapter art. I loved these little greetings, these foreshadows by woodcut.

I am planning to have chapter art in each of the Ages of the Seed books, and the style of it will vary by the genre of the books. Weavers is a fantasy setting and my illustrator (the incomparable Mareta Pettigrew, who still needs an artist’s page so I can send people her way when I brag about her) is doing pencil/ink drawings reminiscent of those old timey woodcuts.

Below is the art for the first chapter of Weavers. I love the feel of it and how it sets up the scene so well.

What do you think of chapter art? Do you miss it as much as I do?

Weavers_PateMeetsTam (2)

Freshmen writers suck. Like a lot.

It is heartbreaking to see the stylings of academia as provided by a first year college student.

This article goes out to college freshmen (also freshwomen and freshalternatelygendered). Your writing is horrible. It affects your grade in a huge way. Huge! Not only because I can’t understand whateverthefuck you are trying to say and have to grade accordingly, but because you are personally offending me in multiple ways and I carry a grudge.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

I will teach you.

I will make you capable of not earning my wrath (and ideally also avoiding the wrath of the person who is specifically grading your paper).

I will make it easy for you to win.

I will do it in 5 easy steps. Are you ready? Awesome, because I already did it. Here, let me elucidate explain:

Rule 1: Don’t use “I”

Look at the preceding four paragraphs. How did it make you feel when you read them? Like the focus of the conversation was me, right? The focus of your paper is not you. You, represented as “I”, should never, ever appear in your paper. Equally prohibited are “we”, “us”, “me”, or really any pronoun that references anything that is not the actual topic you are discussing. Anecdotal experiences have no place in academic writing.

Rule 2: Make a statement

Your days of regurgitating facts are over. You need to say something with your own voice. Say it in your paper’s title and say it again with the first statement in the paper. Lead strong – you are arguing a point. Say what your argument is right away.

The title of this post is provocative. It irritates you and you want to see more, if only to find something else you can be more offended by. It entices everybody else. “What the hell is this guy going on about? I must see more.” It absolutely caught the eye of anybody in academia. The opening statement of the post expanded and modified the title, drawing people in, keeping them curious, defining the document they were about to read.

Rule 3: No thesaurus, ever

If you open your thesaurus, know that it is an automatic letter grade deduction on your paper. You are presenting facts. Facts are precise. Words that may or may not actually mean what you are trying to say are not precise. Do not ever use a word that you do not understand. It almost always has meanings that you are not familiar with and will (at best) confuse your reader or (at worst) invalidate your statement.

Rule 4: Stick to two syllable words

Look just above Rule 1 above. Why did I strike out “elucidate” and replace it with “explain”? Besides the fact that I was setting up an example for this rule, I mean. It is because ‘explain’ is common, understood. It communicates effectively. “Elucidate” says I am trying to impress people with big words. It says I am concerned with showing you my intelligence rather than proving the validity of my statements. Your paper is not a place to impress people with big words, it’s a place you are trying to get your point across. Get it across clearly and concisely using the most common words possible.

Rule 5: Don’t write like me

All those “I” lines, the aggressive stance, the tone I put into this post… Don’t do that. Ever. Never, never, ever use a one word sentence for effect like I did in the previous sentence. Don’t use repetition for effect like I did in the sentence previous to this one. Don’t write as if you were in a conversation, like I’ve done for most of this post. Don’t use colloquialisms, idioms or pop-culture. Don’t wordify (using words you made up, like “wordify”, or ones that are out of the common lexicon). All of these have valid homes but academic writing is not one of them and they will offend the people grading your paper.

So there…

I just brought your ‘C’ up to at least a ‘B’. Shower me with riches after you graduate and you get your dream job.

The Elevator Speech

At a party last weekend I realized I had a problem. Friends I hadn’t seen in a long time were interested in my novel and I stumbled over how to talk about it. How could I possibly encapsulate all that I’ve worked on and all that I’m planning into a conversation piece that wouldn’t make eyes glaze over and kill that nascent interest? I’d been parceling everything out through narrative revelation and realized I myself didn’t have a holistic description for it.

I really had no excuse for this. I’ve been doing project summaries and carrying them around in my theoretical pocket for a dozen years in my job. I speak of course of…

The elevator speech! (Saw that coming, didn’t you? My teaser titles may need some work.)

An elevator speech is a short and concise blurb about your project that you have ready for whenever a prospective resource shows interest in it. When you end up on the elevator with the VP of Technology and she asks how your big development effort is going you don’t have to think. You tell her exactly what the status is and where it needs help, and you do it in less time than it takes for the elevator to get to her floor.

I generally have three versions ready at any time for projects I’m working and I think the format will work most excellently for writing projects. I’ll take one of my books through this as an example (and because I need to do this for all of the books I have in process). These are all for Unseen, the third volume in Ages of the Seed and the book I’m currently NaNo’ing.

The one liner

A simple statement that encapsulates. It answers the question “What is it”? This is what you give to casual inquiries to judge whether deeper conversation is warranted.

Unseen is the introductory novelette for the steampunk/noir age of my novel series.

That’s a lot of information with few words. I’ve conveyed the title and genre as well as giving a reference for length. I’ve also related that there are more stories in this vein as well as additional novels. I’ve given them multiple topics they can ask follow-up questions on depending on their interest. If they’re not interested in any of that a longer description is just wasted words.

The Descriptor

This adds status to the statement and fleshes out the description. How is the project doing? Where is it in the process? Where do you need help?

The story follows a young man and the voices in his head as they navigate through an Earth where physics has gone wrong. I’m about a quarter complete and am planning on getting the draft out to early readers for feedback by mid December.

I’ve engaged the story (compared to the book) and communicated progress, completion estimate, current state and that there is an opportunity for their assistance.

The Decimator

The waxing poetic marketing blurb. This is stuff suitable for the back cover and the Amazon description. This tends to work better written, unless you can talk like that guy who narrates all of the movie trailers. “IN a World…” You know the guy.

200 years have passed since the fall of mankind. Life is cheap, brutal and short for the remnants of humanity as they eke out a desperate existence in the deadly Earth their ancestors created. The Cataclysm mankind visited upon itself has taken away its greatest advantage; technology no longer functions in a world where physics is broken.

Life is slightly better for Daeven. Deep in the Burrows he has food, shelter and community, a quality of life that he had thought unachievable. But there is a shadow hanging over Daeven. A darkness that lies waiting in his mind, ever watchful, ever waiting.

Darkness has decided that its waiting is over.

At this point they should be telling me to shut up and take their money.


There you have it. The elevator speech, sized to fit all audiences.

Write what you know, otherwise…

You’ll end up on an NSA watch list as I most assuredly have. In the past 2 days I’ve Googled:

  • How long does it take to choke somebody to death?
  • Phosphate based explosive compounds.
  • Flashpoint of magnesium?
  • Rats as biological weapons.
  • Mosquitoes as biological weapons.
  • How can you train a botfly?

Okay, that last one might not have tripped any flags but I’d still be worried about anybody searching for it. Unless they were writers, of course.

What scary/weird things have you been Googling?

Excerpt: Huntress (Makers, AOS vol 4)

From Makers: Ages of the Seed, Vol 4

Why yes, I do have most of volume 4 drafted despite volume 1 going out for draft feedback only this week. Don’t you judge me.

This chapter introduces Cree Chiwa, who is not a very nice person. JS Malpas’ post this morning (Tip #26: Characters Who Do Bad Things) made me think of her. Chiwa does bad things. She’s not the only character in Makers who does bad things but she is the only otherwise rational character who does them because she enjoys them. That was difficult to get my brain behind while I wrote her.

I use a few sources for inspiration when writing her as I (hopefully obviously) have no personal experience with the things she does. In her normal state she is tightly controlled (Arthur Denker from Apt Pupil / S. King). When she loses control she loses it completely and animalistically* (the husband from Shadowfires / D.Koontz). She is also emotionally abusive and controlling in a very methodical fashion (Gregory Anton from Gaslight).

Scene/terminology – Makers is a fantasy setting. Chiwa is in the city state of Rosoph, famed for its trade goods. Weaving/Making/Harping are types of magic in this world.

There is some fairly violent content in this excerpt.

* Wordified – You know what it means, even if spellchecker doesn’t.

Continue reading “Excerpt: Huntress (Makers, AOS vol 4)”