Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SFF Challenge: Leather, Ether & River 1856 words

Here is the second piece I wrote for the SFF Challenge.

This piece fits into my Dragons in Space WIP, but I'm not sure I'll actually include it since it takes place about 10 years before my story starts. I'm really hoping this makes sense and that you, the reader, can see the images I'm trying to create. I'm still building this world and doing a lot of research, so if anyone out there can help, I'd totally welcome it.

The first line is from a Tori Amos song, Leather.


“In a sense,” he said, “you’re alone here. So if you jump, you best jump far.”
Sonya Lee looked over her shoulder at her teacher Master Abdul. The light inside his helmet threw his broad smile into stark relief. She let out a shaky breath, the fog blooming against the glass of her helmet. “I don’t think I can do it, sir.”
“And why not?”
She swallowed a lump in her throat. “I’m afraid of heights, sir,” she whispered.
“What was that?” he asked as he tapped the side of his helmet with a gloved finger. “The com didn’t catch that.”
Sonya coughed and said, just a little louder, “I’m afraid of heights, sir.”
Master Abdul let out a belly laugh. “You want to fly in space but you’re afraid of heights?”
She shrugged, the leather of her uniform creaking beneath the snug space suit. “There’s no gravity in space, sir. No falling down.”
He continued to laugh. “I can see why you failed to Bond with a Flyer.” He struggled to contain his mirth for a few moments then finally cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders. “Nonetheless, you still have to do it. The Jin-saw won’t be complete until you do.”
Sonya nodded and turned to face the canyon they stood on the edge of. The yellow rock was bright in the direct light of the sun. She knew the heat was intense but her suit protected her from it.
She tried to tell her self that the gravity on this moon was less than that on the planet’s surface, but it didn’t help. She’d still be falling and if she wasn’t caught, she’d hit the rocky bottom and die. Taking deep breathes, she looked up into the ether and spent a few seconds counting the stars and willing her heartbeat to slow.
As she counted, Sonya felt a vague sense of worry in the back of her mind that she knew wasn’t her own. The worry came from below, but she couldn’t tell where. She tried to concentrate on the feeling but it slipped away like oil on water.
“Any day now, Trainee Lee,” Master Abdul said. “You will continue to be alone here,” he tapped the side of his head again, “until you make that jump. So just throw your self out there.”
Sonya nodded and took a few long strides backwards. Heart pounding, she closed her eyes and ran forward. She meant to keep her eyes closed, but when she felt her feet leave the solid rock her eyes popped open and she screamed.
Even with her space suit on, she could feel the air rushing past her. The yellow rocks below were coming up much faster than she expected. Flailing her arms and legs in a vain attempt to slow her fall, she drew in what she thought was her last breath for a final scream when she noticed a dark shape launch off the canyon wall.
Sonya’s scream died in her throat as she watched the Moon dragon dive beside her. He was small, for a hatchling, but still large enough to carry two humans on his back. His smooth hide looked like the star filled sky above; black with hundreds of white specks that covered him from sleek head to slender tail and across his wings.
For a moment, Sonya and the dragon were even in the air and she could see into his large black eyes. A wave of love and reassurance radiated from them and for the first time Sonya noticed silver flecks in their depths.
With a short flap of his wings, the dragon pushed him self faster. Sonya spread her arms and legs out and watched as the dragon turned to position him self below her and spread his wings wide.
She hit his back with a bone jarring thud and quickly locked her arms around his neck. Closing her eyes, she pressed her face to the glass of her helmet. Tears pooled beneath her nose.
Are you alright? The voice in her head sounded like a little boy’s.
Sonya gasped and sat up. They were flying through the canyon now. The walls flying by at speeds she wasn’t comfortable thinking about. The Moon dragon had his head turned so he could see her with one eye. The sense of worry in Sonya’s mind was still there but was being combined with more reassurance and an overwhelming sense of joy.
“Yes, I’m fine now,” she said aloud.
Good. He turned his head forward and the worry dissipated from Sonya’s mind. My name is Hey-song. Can we do some real flying now?
“This isn’t real flying?” Sonya asked with a grin.
I want to be up there. Hey-song jerked his head towards space. I don’t like how the gravity drags me down here on the surface.
“Me neither,” Sonya laughed. “Let’s fly!”
Hey-song opened his jaws and let out a roar that Sonya felt more than heard. He pitched up and pushed his wings hard. Sonya locked her arms and legs around him and kept her gaze towards the stars.
It wasn’t long before they broke through the moon’s thin atmosphere and began an orbit around the yellow satellite. Sonya felt the weightlessness of space tug at her and her muscles ached because of how hard she was holding on.
We shouldn’t stay out here too long. Sonya pushed the thought toward Hey-song as Master Abdul had taught her.
Ack! You don’t need to shout, he grumbled.
Sorry. Sonya said, mentally pulling back. We don’t have the right equipment for a flight like this.
We’ll just do one complete orbit and then we’ll head back, okay?
Alright, she said. She was going to ask a question but her mind froze as they came around the side of the moon and her home planet came into view. It looked so much larger from space than it did on the moon’s surface. A green and blue ball streaked with lines and swirls of white. An orb of life filled with both humans and dragons.
Agitation flared in the corner of her mind that was now always connected to Hey-song; disturbing her thoughts. Turning her eyes from the planet, Sonya saw two dragon hatchlings flying towards them. They were riderless, and for the first time, she realized how small Hey-song was compared to other hatchlings.
The two new dragons circled her and Hey-song. Sonya couldn’t hear what the other dragons said, but she could feel the tension in Hey-songs body and hear his angry responses.
Fly off, tolai!
Sonya winced against the words bouncing around in her head. What’s going on?
Hey-song snapped at a dragon that flew too close. They’re taunting me. They’re trying to get me to race them.
Suddenly, one of the dragons dove down and snapped its jaws right over Sonya’s head. She let out a little scream at the sight of those long, sharp teeth. 
That’s it, tongsal nom! You want a race, you got one. First one around the moon wins.
“Hey-song,” Sonya shouted. “Can you take me back to the surface first?”
No time, he said as he drew even between the other two dragons. This hapung ends now.
Knowing there was no way to change his mind, Sonya readjusted her grip, said a prayer to the Mother Dragon and made a mental note to talk to her dragon about his foul language. As soon as she was settled, all three dragons launched forward.
Hey-song’s body rumbled as pouches beneath his wings filled with a special chemical concoction. Once the pouches were full, a pair of moon rocks within the pouches struck each other and caused a spark. The ensuing explosion launched him forward as if a rocket was strapped to his back.
Hey-song folded his wings against his body and shot ahead of the other two dragons, leaving twin trails of vapor behind. Sonya looked back over her shoulder and saw the larger of the two gaining. His pouches were larger than Hey-song’s so he could sustain a longer burn.
The larger dragon continued to gain on Hey-song and was less than a tail length behind when he seemed to slow and fall back. He had burned off all the fuel in his pouches, and while he continued at his previous speed, the larger dragon had to wait for his pouches to fill before he could do another thrust.
Sonya could still feel the rumble between her legs. Hey-song was still burning his fuel and gaining speed. How are you doing that?
Doing what? Hey-song asked.
How are you still burning your fuel? Haven’t you run out yet?
Run out? Hey-song sounded appalled. I never run out. There’s always a continuous flow into my pouches. Do others run out?
Yes. Sonya turned her gaze forward and risked removing an arm from around Hey-song’s neck so she could lower her sun visor. They had come around the other side of the moon where the sun blazed bright and hot. It’s a safety precaution, she continued. Your body stops filling the pouch when it’s full so that you don’t run out of energy. It takes a lot for your body to make that stuff. Didn’t you know that?
Hey-song shrugged his shoulders. No one ever told me. I thought all Moon dragons flew like this.
Well most dragons have to drift for a while as they wait for their pouches to fill.
Huh. Well, sucks for them. He turned his head and gave her a toothy grin.
As they continued their orbit and turned their backs to the sun, Hey-song shut off the flow to his pouches and spread his wings wide to catch the solar winds. Tiny veins glowed orange between the white specks as his wings absorbed the sun’s radiation.
Sonya looked back again to see the other two dragons way behind with no chance of catching up. I’m pretty sure you won.
Of course I did.
Sonya laughed as they continued to sail on the river of solar wind. It didn’t take long for them to return to their starting position in the space between the moon and the planet.
We better get back soon, Sonya said. Master Abdul will be mad at us for being gone so long.
Let’s wait for the other two to show up. I want to see the defeat in their eyes.
Oh, come on, Hey-song. You don’t need to rub it in.
Yes I do. I’ve been getting crap from them, and others, ever since I hatched, just because I’m smaller than everyone else. I’m tired of it. I want them to respect me.
And beating them in races will do that?
Yes. Hey-song said as he turned to watch the other two dragons finish the last leg of the race. That wasn’t even my fastest. He called to them. I was taking it slow so as to not upset my human here.
Sonya couldn’t hear their responses but she did see the rude manner in which they flipped their tails at Hey-song. He laughed as he headed back to the moon’s surface.

Monday, June 18, 2012

SFF Challenge: Butcher 1976 words

As I have mentioned before, I doing a prompt challenge this summer. And as promised, I'm going to share with y'all what I wrote. The first prompt was Butcher and because I'm with a two year old all day the first thing I thought of was that nursery rhyme "Rub-a-dub-dub/Three men in a tub". So I went with it and this is what I got.

This is a fluffy, fairy tale type piece and not my strongest writing. But I found the story fun to write so I guess that's all that really matters sometimes.


Three men in a tub
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All put out to sea.

The Butcher leaned against the port side railing of the ship and sighed as he watched the gray sea pass beneath him. He’d been on this ship, The Tub, for nearly three months and they seemed no closer to their destination than the day they left home.
Butcher drummed his meaty fingers on the railing and then turned away from the ocean view in disgust. “Shouldn’t we be there by now?” he asked two men standing behind him.
One of the men shrugged. “It’s on Wandering Island,” he said as he ran a hand over his round belly. “No one knows where it is exactly.” The Baker’s face could only be described as doughy and at the moment it looked tired with a tinge of sea sick green.
“People say it stays in this general area though,” said the second man. The Candlestick Maker, or Candle for short, was tall and thin. His face dripped sweat from the heat, but he didn’t seem to notice.
Butcher was about to say something when a sailor up in the crow’s nest cried out, “Land ho!” Everyone on deck looked up at the crow’s nest and then to where the sailor was pointing off the starboard side. There on the horizon was a tiny black speck against the clear blue sky.
 The captain gave an order and the helmsman steered the ship towards the speck. It took several hours before Butcher, or anyone else, could tell that the speck was indeed an island. The sun was setting by the time they got there. They found a deep cove that allowed the ship to settle close to shore. It didn’t take long for the crew to empty The Tub and make camp on the beach. The last rays of the sun saw everyone gathered around a fire eating and drinking.
Butcher, Baker and Candle sat a little away from the crew, eating in silence, each lost in their own thoughts.
“So what now?” the captain asked from across the fire.
The three men jumped and then looked at each other for a long moment. Finally Butcher shrugged and said, “We’ll start our search in the morning, I guess.”
“And how long do you plan on searching?” the captain asked.
“As long as it takes,” Baker replied with a glare.
“We can’t stay here forever,” the captain snapped.
Butcher laid a hand on Baker’s shoulder and said, “Give us three days. It shouldn’t take any longer than that to find what we’re looking for.”
The captain nodded and turned away from the three men.
“Is three days really going to be enough?” Candle asked.
“You saw how small this island is,” Butcher replied. “It won’t take us more than a day to cover it.”
“And what if the treasure is buried under some random tree in there?” Baker snapped, pointing a finger at the dense jungle that took up the middle of the island.
Candle shook his head. “The traveler said that the treasure is in a cave.”
Baker opened his mouth to argue more but Butcher held up a hand for silence. “We’ll go to the far side of the island tomorrow,” he said, “over where those cliffs are. That’s the best place to start as any other.”
Baker and Candle nodded and began to settle in for the night. No one got much sleep though. The sailors stayed up late drinking and laughing, enjoying the freedom of being on land.
When the sun rose the next morning, Butcher, Baker and Candle gathered their things and started their trek across the island. They made it to the far side before noon.
The day before, as The Tub circled the island looking for a place to drop anchor, Butcher heard one of the sailors comment on how the island looked like a wedge of Swiss cheese. One side of the island sloped gently out of the ocean and up to the other side where it dropped off a steep cliff face riddled with caves.
From the top of the cliffs the men had a magnificent view of the ocean and cloudless sky. They could also see how far of a drop it was down to the waves that broke against the rocky shore.
Without a word the men pulled climbing rope and gear from their packs and began their decent down the cliff face. At first, the caves they passed weren’t really caves at all, more like deep pockmarks in the rock face. It took until they were close to the bottom before they found a cave that looked promising.
The opening was narrow but they could see that the cave went deep into the earth. They crawled into the cave and lit torches they had in their packs. A few hundred yards from the opening a tunnel took a sharp turn to the right and down into the darkness.
Butcher led the way, with Baker and Candle following and exchanging worried glances. The tunnel continued to twist and turn and always went downward. After an hour they finally saw an orange glow ahead of them. As they drew closer waves of heat assaulted them. They turned the last corner and came into a cavern half full of lava. The heat was so intense the sweat that dripped off of them sizzled when it hit the ground.
Before the men was a long slender bridge that was made of a strange stone. The bridge led to a wide island that gently bobbed in the lava. Sprawled out on that island was a creature from nightmares.
The entire thing was black. It had the head of a ram, with long twisted horns. Its body was scaled and shinny and had six legs. The front pair was huge lion paws, the middle pair thick horse legs and the back were massive eagle talons. Feathered wings were folded against the creature’s body, making it impossible to tell their span. The tail was that of a scorpion, the tip large enough to impale a man.
Candle swore under his breath.
“What the hell is that?” Baker whispered, his voice trembling.
Butcher shook his head, fear keeping him from replying.
Before any of the men could move or even think about what to do, the Beast opened one red eye. The men fell back a step, fear making their hands tremble and causing them to drop their torches.
The Beast rolled its eye and sighed. “What do you want?” it asked, its tone bored.
For a long moment the men were too shocked to speak. It was Butcher who cleared his throat and spoke first. “Excuse me?”
“I said, what do you want?”
“Um, well,” Butcher said, looking to his companions for help. The other two just shook their heads. “We, um, came here looking for the treasure.”
The Beast let out a long stream of gray smoke. “Of course, the treasure. Men like you are always coming here looking for my gold.”
“It’s not gold we’re after,” Candle said, his fear half choking him.
The Beast raised its head and looked at the men with both eyes. “If you’re not here for the gold, then what treasure are you seeking?”
“We heard a story from a traveler that had been here before that amongst your gold was magical tools of various trades,” Baker said. “Including a magical rolling pin that could cause every pastry it made to taste like heaven.”
“And a candle mold,” Candle choked out, “that made candles that last forever.”
Butcher nodded. “As well as a meat clever that never failed to make the perfect cut of meat.”
The Beast regarded the three men for a long moment. “And how did you plan on obtaining these items?”
Butcher looked at his companions again and said, “Well no one said that the treasure was being guarded, so we thought we could just take it. But under the current circumstances…” Butcher shrugged.
“Is there something we could trade for them?” Baker asked.
“There is nothing in your possession I want,” the Beast said. It crossed its front paws and laid its chin on top of them. “But, I could use some entertainment.” A grin grew across its face, revealing a set of large sharp teeth. “I enjoy poetry. If you can help me finish a poem to my satisfaction then I will give you the items you seek.

Three men in a tub
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All put out to sea.
Butcher, Baker and Candle huddled together for several long minutes, discussing their options. None of them were good at poetry but they figured they’d keep it simple and pray for the best.
Butcher stepped forward first and said,

Three men in a cave
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All come to see me.
The Beast’s grin widened as he said, “Continue.”
Baker was next.

Three men seeking tools
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All praying to go free.
The Beast laughed as Candle came forward.

Three men receiving gifts
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All new friends to thee.
The Beast roared, flapped its wings and beat a paw against the ground. “Oh, that is wonderful! In all my years, no one has made a poem so amusing to me. I have had some of the best poets and scholars try to entertain me with their flowery verses, but never has anyone made me laugh.” The Beast rose and turned toward another bridge that had been hidden behind his bulk. “Follow me and I’ll give you what you seek.”
Butcher, Baker and Candle followed the Beast into another large cave filled to the ceiling with gold and jewels. Off to one side was a pile of plain looking objects, among them swords, shields, a sewing needle, armor, a plow, horse harnesses, clothing and various other mundane items.

The Beast picked out the meat cleaver, rolling pin and candle mold from the pile and laid the tools at the men’s feet. “Thank you for entertaining me, gentlemen, I am sure these tools will help you in your trades. But be warned, these tools will wear out over time. To keep them in perfect shape recite the poem we just created together over the tools every morning before you start working with them. If you do that, they will last forever.”

The men picked up their treasure, thanked the Beast profusely and made their way out of the cave and back to the beach where the crew of The Tub was waiting. The sun was again setting and the crew was shocked to see Butcher, Baker and Candle return so soon.

In the morning, everyone returned to the ship and began the journey home. Butcher, Baker and Candle returned to their shops and renewed their work with their new tools. Each remembered what the Beast had told them and they recited the poem every morning. Their businesses became profitable and the men were able to pass them, and their treasure, on to their children. But over time, the story of how the remarkable tools had come to be and how to take care of them was forgotten. The magical tools became just a plain meat cleaver, rolling pin and candle mold. And all that was left of the poem was that first stanza.

Three men in a tub
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All put out to sea.


I'd love to hear your thoughts, good, bad or indifferent.

Thanks for reading and Happy Monday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jumping Tracks

I came to a slow realization the other day. It's an idea I've been toying with in the back of my mind for a couple weeks. It started out as a really random thought but the more I think about it, I wonder why I didn't think of it before. Now I have to give credit where credit is due, one of my sisters helped me realize this (you know who you are).

So what's the realization you ask? I've been writing my White Crow story in the wrong genre. Currently, it's an Urban Fantasy (UF). Wikipedia describes UF as such: "Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.[1]"

I'll be honest, I don't really read UF. I've read a few things but nothing that's really caught my attention and made me go "Oh wow!". The genres that I really love is High Fantasy (HF) or Historical Fantasy (HisF). Only difference between those two is that HF generally takes place in a whole new world (think Lord of the Rings) while HisF takes place in our world but in the past (like King Arthur).

(and if you throw some dragons in either genre, I'm golden :) )

Anyway, since I don't read a lot of UF it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to be writing a story in that genre does it? As I said, this idea came to me a couple weeks ago in a "Yeah, I could write this as a more traditional fantasy if I wanted to" kind of way. Then I was talking to my sister and she asked me why I was writing in a genre I don't even read. It was like a slap upside the head, "Well DUH!"

So after some careful thought and lots of notes I've decided to completely jump tracks and change this story from a UF to a good old HisF. I truly believe this will be better for the story. I won't be forcing my self to write about topics I'm not really interested in. I'd so rather be researching medieval swords than drug cartels, let me tell you.

Of course, this does mean throwing out about 44000 words and a year and half worth of work, but a lot of the fundamental work I did will still be the same, it's just the words that are going to change. I'm going to give my self a month or so before I really start working on this, just to let the ideas marinate for a while.

In the mean time I'm working on the SFF Challenge I talked about before and hope to have the first installment up and ready by this weekend. So look forward to that. :)

Thanks for reading friends! Have a Happy Hump Day!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Getting Back on the Horse

This past week I have begun working on edits for White Crow. It took me awhile to figure out a new system on how to get any writing done when I spend most of my time holding a baby and a bottle. And along the way I learned that I can hand write faster than I can type with one hand. I'm hopeful that if I keep up my current pace I can finish round one of edits and maybe finish a second round by the end of the month. I'd be thrilled if I could have this manuscript ready for beta readers by July.

I've decided to keep Dragons in Space on hold until I get White Crow as edited as possible. I'll jump back into it while I'm waiting for others feedback. It's killing me to wait, I really want to work on this project, but I have to get White Crow done first or I'll never finish it.

In other news, over at Absolute Write there is a new Sci-fi/Fantasy challenge starting for this summer. I'm super excited about it and I plan on participating. As I do I'll share my work here as well. So look forward to that over the next few week.

And that's all I got for now. Thanks for reading! Have a good weekend!