Friday, September 30, 2016

No post today, and two announcements

I've had a really hard time writing these Friday posts, trying to write a bit of flash fiction every week has been something that's been hard for me to do. I've been so focused on getting my current project written, that every time I sit down, I want to put words into that.

But the whole narrative of me doing this blog is trying to get better. Blog Ahead October was pointed out to me by a friend, and I think I'm going to take advantage of that, because I'm going to be making myself busy in November.

I'm going to be trying to get written the third book of the Spellchaser series in NaNoWriMo, or at least, hit the month's 50k word target. I'll try and post little snapshots of my progress as the month goes, and hopefully? I'll be editing both books come December.
Blog Ahead 2016-Oct

Monday, September 26, 2016

Where doesn't matter.

Back this week to a prompt from the list. "Where would you want to be right now, if you could just go?"

Friday, September 23, 2016

Victoria and Ari

Ari Safecracker hated few things more than a job going sideways. It always felt worse when you knew, absolutely knew that you had all of the angles covered, the right men bribed, and your getaway planned. It brought a scoundrel’s heart to breaking, it did, when things fell apart. The job had even been a simple one. The law firm of Clacher, Mason, and Muraro had just won the contract for managing a large number of farms on the western reaches of Ashalia. The jobbies running the shop had no clue what constituted proper security for holding onto that much shiny, being too new at the game.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Writing Progress

My brain is one that seems to straddle that line between the raw artistic and the analytical. I think that may be one of the reasons that when I try to create art, I write. Stories have a structure, a flow to them, but also the unbridled wild ride of creation. So, I write; but I also have a spreadsheet where I keep track of how much writing I've done.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Change is normal, Change is everything, Change is Scary.

Trying to pull a prompt out for myself this week, instead of pulling from the list my friend's been supplying me. I think some of that is fear; there are certain topics on that list I don't want to hit for another month or two, until I've sorted out certain things in my life.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Stories End

It had been a thousand years since I'd walked the surface of my home world.

Earth had managed to recover quite well from the depredations of her least grateful children after they had the grace to move out. The sky was the blue you see in the old images, not the streaked red and gray that it was the day I left.

We'd destroyed it, raped our world until it couldn't sustain us anymore. We caught onto what we were doing just soon enough that we'd been able to put together the sleeper ships to carry the last of us away. We ran from what we'd done, cowards afraid to face the consequences.

When the first of our new friends found us, Humanity, what remained of it, was humble, a penitent race whose brow was wreathed in ashes. It's too fucking depressing to say that we weren't the first to stumble onto the galactic stage like, but it's true. We had brothers out there in the stars, peoples who'd found a peace in the wake of their mistakes.

We didn't become saints. We were better, treasured every chance we had; waste was considered the great vice now.

"How is it, Jim?" The voice of my dispatcher crackled in my ear. She was a kid, spacer-born and smart as a whip, but not able to make sure journey surface-side without a heavy suit. She'd been my only company for the last month as I reminisced about the days before we left on our approach.

I looked around me, standing in an clearing of an old growth forest that had once been one of the greatest cities in the world. It was perfect. "It's a wasteland." I climbed back into the jump ship, killed the scans and collection, then deleted the data.

I curled myself up in the cradle, and pulled out my pistol. Another antique, like myself. Perfect memory of a time filled with mistakes. And there are some mistakes, I thought as I slid the barrel between my lips, you shouldn't get to walk back from.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Power Fuel

I currently live alone, which means that my food habits are not what a person might normally consider... sane.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Choice I Couldn't Make

Another Monday, another deeply personal topic for me to talk about. This week's question is whether I'd prefer to be attractive or intelligent. The problem is, I can't even treat this question the way it's framed seriously. I'm putting my own spin on the idea, big surprise, huh?

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Call

There are few things as good for your mood as finally sending in the last payment on your student loans. It had been a millstone around my neck for the past two decades, and I'd finally managed to clear myself of the last of the obligations. No more random calls by people who wanted to try and extract some pound of flesh for a debt I owed.

That's why I picked up the phone without hesitation, what did I have to fear from it anymore. "Can I help you?"

"Yes, sir. We'd like to know if we can have some of your time." The voice sounded young, and I remembered when I'd had to sit in a call center for a year as I tried to get my first job with my degree. It hadn't been fun, having random people screaming at you and trying to kill you through the phone. I must have lost myself in that thought, because I heard the voice on the line breaking my reverie, "Sir? Are you still there?"

I laughed and fidgeted, all gestures the person on the other end of the line couldn't see. I coughed as I collected myself, "Yeah, I'm still here. Sorry, just remembering when I had a job like yours. Phone sales suck at the best of times. I can give you a few-" Even as I was saying the words, I heard the step-down sounds of the call disconnecting. I figured it happens, though I thought call centers had better connections.

As I was writing it off as just one of those things, I was pulling my phone up, double-checking my messages. I'd pushed back a response to evening plans to get the last check mailed. But there was something wrong with the phone. Because there was no way that it could be midnight.

Just a few minutes of your time...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

When it comes to formatting, Work Smart, not Hard.

In Reckless Magus I've got a number of characters who communicate with each other using mental communication. As I was writing, I threw the text between <<>> to indicate when a character was speaking psychically, like so:

Abe looked at the Esper with a sour expression, "Was that really needed?" 
Simon looked to at Abraxas and responded, <<He was not going to to assist us otherwise. He will not help us knowing you are a Spellchaser.>>

That worked in my first draft, but by the time I went back to edit the book, I thought I needed something more to make the text stand out, so I changed the text inside the angle brackets to italic. It looked much better, but every time I had to process the text, I would lose all formatting.

But before I could start to groan about having to send each draft through a second pass to edit back in the formatting, I caught a post from Evil Hat's Fred Hicks about using Indesign's intelligent styles. It really helped save me from headaches, and I just wanted to tip my hat to one of the people who I've been paying attention to in the business of creativity.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Walking the Edge

I can't seem to do these prompts correctly. I'm holding a card asking me to talk about happiness, and I want to talk about Depression. Capital is fully intended and deserved there, since it's something that I've dealt with for a long time.

I think the biggest reason that I realize that I've been carrying this with me for so long is what's missing. It's always felt like other people are better able to remember their childhoods, the things in their life. But all of my memories seem to drift in, with maybe a few snap-shots of things that stick out, the rest blurred and indistinct. I can't really put my finger on any given incident that might have pushed me into depression.

But it's been there for a long time. I've built coping mechanisms as best as I can, but... they're just coping. In some ways, it feels like I'm always walking the edge of the deepest parts of my depression. To the point where it felt... right that I would think about killing myself at least once a day or so. Even when things were good, I'd still be there, standing on the edge.

I've broken down a few times. Once, in the middle of gaming with my friends, I couldn't stay there anymore. We gamed on our college campus at the time, and there was a small forest crisscrossed with walking trails only a short walk from the building we were in. I went there, hoping to clear my head; but the longer I spent walking around, the more I just wanted to end things. I tried to open my wrists with my keys. It feels pathetic to say it, but it wasn't attention seeking behavior: I use my keys as an impromptu edge to open boxes, and it was the sharpest thing I had on me at the time. I really didn't want to walk out of there, just find someplace in the snow where I could bleed out and leave.

But it's very hard to cut yourself with a set of house keys. And I eventually went back to be near my friends and just mope in the next room. On the way home, my roommate noticed how close to the edge I was. We went to a bookstore and Toy'R'Us, buying nerf guns at the latter. That's probably one of the reasons that I remember that night so well, him reaching out and pulling me back.

I'm on medication now, and it helps. I'm not always walking the edge of the cliff, staring into the abyss. But it's not perfect; early in 2016 I almost did something very stupid. And I still find the concept of growing old a strange one... Like I don't ever expect to be here to reach that age.

I try and find things worth living for: friends, family, stories. These help ground me. And I'm grateful for all of the people in my life who are here for me.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Drop of Compassion

A bit of flash fiction based on this image from io9.
Payday comes around again, and once again I'm just a little bit short of the money I need to make rent.
I know, I know. I was supposed to be good this month, but James, my idiot roommate, decided to drink away most of his rent. Now, you can't exactly blame him. We're both three years out from grad school and still neither of us have a job that lets us do anything but feed ourselves ramen and pay the bastards at the banks just enough to keep the wolves away from the door. He cracked this month, so I covered for him. He did the same for me when I cracked two months ago and threw my money down the drain at the casino.
But we have a way to earn a little bit of the cash back. There's this clinic, just around the corner from our rat-hole. They offer some free services, but they make most of their money from Extraction. Heroin's been gone three decades, and still people have track-marks running up and down their arms from where the clinic's needle goes in and takes away the pain. Just a little prick with the needle, and they sift and sort out from your blood the wonderful chemical cocktails that drive you to fuck up.
I started getting extracted six months ago, right after Lucy walked off. Walked in, coughed when they put the stethoscope against my chest, then had my ten minute session with the needle. That was my first experience with "the lows." Right after I walked out, Lucy's departure stopped hurting so much. I got almost $1,000 for all the love I had for that girl and the first good night of sleep I'd had since she left.
Amy's at the desk again when I walk in the clinic doors, and when I caught her eyes I saw the despair in them. "Bob, I thought I said I didn't want to see you or Jimmie here again for another three months." We'd known her back at Uni and she used to hang out with us before her girlfriend, another mutual friend, cut her wrists and left a note saying, "Let's see them get their money out of me now." They got $328.67. "You're coming in too often."
Her compassion did her credit, and I told her so, "You take a trip with the needle, you'll get a couple thousand of compassion easy, Amy." She looked at me hard for a second, but before she could say anything I went on, "I've got to. We need rent money, and James drank up half his rent money at the bar last night. This will be the last one for a while, I just need the $250 for a standard extraction."
"And we're not going to deny Robert his freedom of choice, are we, Amy?" Amy's supervisor, the clinic's owner, had come up behind her while we were talking and set a hand on my friend's shoulder, giving me a wide smile full of teeth. "A standard? Follow me, Mister Gibon." I followed the old woman down the hall of the clinic back to the machine. "You were just in here a few weeks ago. Your last psychical is still in effect, so we can dispense with that bit of business." I nodded, because that was an extra $20 in my pocket if I didn't have to take a deep breath and cough.
The room with the machine was in what used to be the operating theatre of the clinic, back before PP had been run out of business by the Paul administration. It was a gleaming mess of tubes and steel filters attached to a new-looking clinical chair. I settled into the chair, relaxing back into it. I could already feel it, that numbness that the machine gives you, even before I felt the prick of the needle in my arm. After a few minutes in the machine, I heard the doctor's voice, "Robert, I'm not getting enough through the filters on the normal setting."
I turned my head to look at the neat little row of bottles, all my emotions dripping into medical vials beside my head. I could see that she was right. The vials labeled "love" and "hope" were dry, while "joy" was almost as empty. The only vials I had filled even to their first markers had been "peace" and "empathy". I knew she was right, I wasn't even producing enough to earn me $100, much less the money I needed for rent. I started to panic, my voice catching in my throat. Then the trickle into "peace" stopped. I stopped myself long enough to take a deep breath and ask the doctor, "Can't we turn it up? I need the money for rent. Just enough to make rent?"
She nodded in the affirmative and played with something on the controls, then I felt the machine kick into high gear. I think I also felt the doctor slipping more needles into me, but all I could feel was the oncoming lows as all the chemicals were filtered out of my system. I lost myself in that low trip, or maybe I just passed out from the pain.
When I woke up, I was alone in the operating theatre. On the tray beside me was my receipt and a stack of bills. I folded the bills, thinking about why I was here. What right did James have drinking away my rent money? I decided I was going to head home and straighten the fuckstick out.
And on the tray, the receipt: 30ml compassion, $350. 15ml Peace, $100.