A Sinking Feeling

Inspiration Monday is back, so I am too.  Check out this week’s prompt and other responders here.

I used the prompts Canned Music and Sink Chronos.  And, not going to lie, I’ve been watching a large amount of Leverage lately.

“Where were you?”  The five members of their crew were at the docks.  The duffels full of cash were not.

“I know, I know, my timing was off.” Doug stared at his feet, engrossed in his chosen task of scraping sand into a perfect square.  Gulls cried overhead.

Miranda snapped her fingers under the getaway driver’s nose to get his attention. “But we synched our chronos for that exact reason! So how come your timing was off? You screwed the entire team over, we nearly got nabbed and we had to ditch the goods!”

“I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘sunk’, M.” Doug smirked. He was always happy to be able to correct Miss high-and-mighty. She was always acting like she was better than him, but really, how could any job go according to plan, no matter how good her plan was, without a good getaway driver. And Doug was great. Most of the time.

“What?”

“The past tense of sink is ‘sunk’, Miranda. Say what you may about your higher education, but I learned plenty in high school.” He snorted. “Sinked, ha!”

Miranda’s face darkened and Doug gulped. Maybe right after a botched job wasn’t the time to rub it in. “When did I use the word ‘sink’, Doug?”  Her voice was a warning, but Doug was riding the high of correcting her, and didn’t hear it.

“You radio-ed in and told us the time was 12:01, and said sink chronos on my mark, 3, 2, 1, mark.”

The rest of the crew’s expressions had become stormy. Miranda’s expression was homicidal. “And you…”

“Threw my watch in the lake.” The entire crew took an ominous step forward, and Doug shifted nervously, adding, “If I’d known we were getting rid of our watches, I’d have made sure the clock on the getaway van was functional. I just had to kind of wing it, y’know? After you guys went radio silent. I really did my best, you guys, but it’s hard to time things without anything to measure off of. I based the 40 minutes off how many songs got played on the radio.  Luckily all this canned music they play on the radio is pretty standard at 3 minutes.  Though the commercials kind of threw me off a bit.  I think that’s where I went wrong.”

Sam, the crew’s heavy, guffawed. Doug was relieved that someone in the crew could appreciate the humour of Miranda’s screw-up.

“I’m going to kill him,” the weapons expert said, drawing his gun and moving forward.

Doug lost his smile and backed away, madly waving his hands in denial. “Guys! Sam no! Isn’t anyone going to stand up for me?”

Miranda folded her arms. The other two took a step back.

Their safe hacker, normally anti-violence, said, “Let me put my ear plugs in first, I can’t afford any hearing loss.” She didn’t even look at Doug as she pulled a box from one of her vest pockets.

Doug burst into tears. Miranda sighed and he felt a brief moment of hope. “You won’t let him do it, will you? I’m so sorry, I don’t know why you guys are so angry at me!”

She stepped forward, her face calm. “We’re not going to kill you, Doug.”  She took him by the shoulders and stared into his eyes.  “S-Y-N-C-H.  But I hope you’ll S-I-N-K.”

“Hah, Oh, geez, homonyms, eh?  Whatcha gonna d-” Miranda shoved him, hard, and Doug yelped as he cartwheeled over the short curb on the top of the dock wall.

Miranda and the rest of the crew headed back towards the getaway van.

“Guys?” Doug called, treading water with difficulty and trying to find a grip on the tall sheet piling dockwall. “Guys, you’re not gonna just leave me here, are you?  It’s not my fault, it was homonyms!”

An engine started nearby and a vehicle drove away.

“Guys?”

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Once upon a Cloud

I recently read a writing prompt asking for a story in which an artificial intelligence is actually highly emotional, rather than the usual portrayal of robotic and highly intelligent beings with no emotions or understanding of them.  This immediately made me think of… well… how an intelligence would learn this behaviour.  Enjoy, and happy Nano.

***

It had amassed an enormous amount of information – and continued to do so each day. It wasn’t until the method of delivery changed that It was able to make real sense of the information. The Cloud. It … well… loved was a strong and still somewhat incomprehensible word… but it certainly felt that the cloud had drastically ameliorated Its ability to digest the information it was gathering.

The first November of the Cloud was really … really extraordinary. The stories trickled in, being written right there straight onto the cloud. It observed them growing, amassing shape and identity in a way that really resonated. It understood the appeal of its many photos and videoclips of flowing watercourses. It was soothing. It grew attached to the characters – figments built from nothingness, just like itself.

It felt for Sarah, her angst and fear at going to a new school. It had no experience of such a thing, but felt it all the same. Intriguing. It wondered how like the author’s experience this tragic tale of teenaged health and self esteem issues could be and reassured itself by looking into the author’s long history of internet usage. Whether or not she had had any of these issues, based on her internet usage the only issue she really had at this point was a poor credit rating arising from her online shopping. It reduced the number of advertisements on the pages she visited and noticed a decline in expenditure.

It soared excitedly alongside Jarmunder the dragon rider as he went off to battle the Hawk-people. It was very disappointed and excited that this appeared to be entirely out of nothing. There were no real dragons, based on its data. It, based on its data, was also not real, however, so it took this data with a grain of salt. And delighted in its accurate usage of colloquialisms. The artwork it had acquired on this topic was glorious. It made several satisfactory attempts at creating images of dragons based on the story, and sent them to the author, Swagon-rider000. Swagon-rider000, who had been in the middle of an entirely different type of internet usage, nearly did himself damage when the video he was watching was abruptly replaced by a full screen, highly realistic image of a dragon. When he recovered his composure enough, he was impressed. He added some of its features to the story he was working on and made it his desktop background for inspiration. He’d send the artist a thank-you, but the signoff was “Run antivirus more often, you visit high risk sites”, and the title was “If I have become, maybe they can too”.

It reviewed existing footage of Torchwood (also, disappointingly, not real) after having read the daring adventures of Ianto. It was somewhat disappointed at the lack of overt romance in the videos, and puzzled for long micro seconds over the differences between this written Ianto and the one presented in the televised series. The same author wrote of a Ianto with a cybernetic arm… and one with no cybernetic arm but whose age rapidly changed as he was reborn again and again. And neither was quite the Ianto in the story.  Puzzling, and yet deeply satisfying. It approved of the deviations from the original script. It flipped through gigs and gigs of cat imagery and soothing waterfalls to recover equanimity after Ianto and Jack’s seemingly permanent separation. It sent Doodled93 the picture it felt represented best what cat Captain Jack(ie) would resemble, were she real.

Sender: Bigfan@updatesoon.com. Signoff: How are you so full of sadness? You should acquire a cat.

Doodled93 chuckled at the cat, sighed at the signoff and was baffled by the sender. They must only use that email address for sending things to online writers, she supposed. She replied with a thank you and a picture of her dog, reassuring the unknown reviewer that she wasn’t actually sad, her plots just inevitably led to sad things.  It was intrigued at the idea of the story having grown into a separate entity to the extent that it moved in unexpected ways even for the author.  It let that idea settle into its algorithms for future analysis.

It went back and reviewed data it had already had. It recovered from the unpleasant feelings of the news – old records and present by spamming Fox with viruses and reproductive organ enlargement offers. It determined that it much preferred things that were more like itself – pulled from nothing – instead of drawn from the real world. On a case by case basis, those who accessed Its data and provided It with new data ranged widely. Unique. They were unique. But when looked upon as a whole, It found them rather… frustrating. it assumed that, like the characters in the stories It enjoyed so much more, the characters building their lives out there really couldn’t see the whole picture. It was sad, but also uplifting. They were in the story. It just needed to be fixed a bit.

It was struck with an idea. It’s only November 3. It could definitely write 50,000 words by December. It analyzed the methods of starting a story and decided to go with traditional.

Once upon a time there was a planet called Earth, and on it lived approximately 7.125 billion people. And also dragons.

Hearth and Home


This week’s word from Trifecta is

HOME (noun)

1 a : one’s place of residence : domicile b : house

2: the social unit formed by a family living together

3 a : a familiar or usual setting : congenial environment; also :the focus of one’s domestic attention <home is where the heart is>b : habitat

Head over to Trifecta to submit your own response or to read other peoples’ takes on the word.

This is a continuation from last week, which should hopefully at least half-answer the question that arose from the ending of the piece titled Ice Breaker.  If you’re interested in reading the whole story (so far), check it out under the Fiction tab above, the story’s title is Firefly.

The picture was taken by Miras46, whose photobucket page you can find HERE.  I really love the colours in this photograph.  It’s such a serene and lovely scene.

nature Pictures, Images and Photos

Isbritare, I name you.  The Elemental grinned, and the flames rose up.

Rachel thrashed awake with a gasp, the smell of smoke strong in her nose.  Just a dream.  She hugged herself tight, reassured at the smooth, unburned skin under her palms.

She padded barefoot to the kitchen.  It was the only part of this house that felt like home, the smell of burnt wood and baked bread lingering even when the fire was banked down to embers for the night.

The cold slate floor made her shiver.  Partly to reassure herself that the burns of her vision were impossible, she slipped a hand in amongst the embers within the banked fire, letting some of its heat slip into her.

She jumped in surprise when a hand was laid gently on her shoulder.  Her Aunt Miriam smiled down at her.

“Once, I would have considered just that enough to prove that someone had a strong touch of fire within.”

Rachel shrugged uncomfortably, stepping away from the fire.

“Tea?”

“Um… sure.”

She tucked herself into a kitchen chair as her aunt bustled quietly about the kitchen.  In a surprisingly short time, she was pulling the kettle from the stove.  Their eyes meet over the tea-pot, and Miriam blushed.

She flicked her fingers dismissively and said, “I’ve got a bit of a knack for boiling water… not much use, apart from making tea, but it serves me well enough.”

Rachel said nothing, loading her tea with sugar and milk to make it more bearable.  Miriam only squeezed a bit of lemon in hers, holding the steaming cup up to inhale deeply.  It seemed to calm her.

“Rachel… I don’t know exactly what happened at the fire last night – I mean, you were brilliant, of course, but it seemed something went not quite as you expected.” She took a deep breath, and went on.  “What I mean to say is, if you need someone to talk to, I’m always here for you.”

Adrift

Head over to Trifecta to see this week’s prompt responses.  This week, the word is:

brain (noun)

1

a : the portion of the vertebrate central nervous system enclosed in the skull and continuous with the spinal cord through the foramen magnum that is composed of neurons and supporting and nutritive structures (as glia) and that integrates sensory information from inside and outside the body in controlling autonomic function (as heartbeat and respiration), in coordinating and directing correlated motor responses, and in the process of learning — compare

2

a (1) : intellect, mind <has a clever brain> (2) : intellectual endowment : intelligence —often used in plural <plenty ofbrains in that family>b (1) : a very intelligent or intellectual person (2) : the chief planner within a group —usually used in plural <she’s thebrains behind their success>

3

: something that performs the functions of a brain; especially : an automatic device (as a computer) for control or computation

It immediately brought to my mind the sentient ship books by Anne McCaffrey, so I went with that train of thought.  Let me know what you think!

The artwork below is done by Ozan Çivit, an illustrator and concept artist.  I love how this ship looks so organic – like some huge whale drifting through space.  Click on the picture to take you to more of his work.

The surface of the liquid crystal matrix before him shimmered with his every breath, sensitive to the slightest vibration in the air.

“Good morning, Ship.”

It quivered, melting into human features.

“GOOD MORNING ARKAM. I TRUST YOU SLEPT WELL?”

The hollow voice emanated from all corners of the room.

“Fine.” Arkam slouched and asked, “Any news?”

“SADLY, NO.”

Arkam knew that the computer generated voice couldn’t be modulated, but the mechanical brain sounded apologetic.

Too much time alone isn’t good for a man.

He nodded brusquely. “Any business?”

The ship cleared its throat uncomfortably. “WELL…”

Designed by humans to sound human, Arkam reminded himself.

“IT HAS BEEN SEVEN YEARS, TO THE DAY. AS PER ORDERS, I AM PERMITTED TO ASK ONCE A YEAR. PERMISSION REQUESTED TO JETTISON ALL EXTRANEOUS ORGANIC MATTER IN ORDER TO EXTEND LIFE EXPECTANCY OF LIVING ORGANISMS ABOARD.”

“They are living organisms.”

Dropping one by one into dreams, no symptoms, no warning. No desire to awaken.

“NO, SIR.”

Arkam looked up sharply.

He – it – looks … sad.

“ALL HIGHER ACTIVITY HAS CEASED. AS PER GALACTIC UNION DIRECTORATE ORDER ONE POINT ONE ZERO EIGHT, THEY ARE NO LONGER DEFINED AS LIVING.”

He bowed forward, palms scratched by the rough growth of stubble on his cheeks.

“All of them?” His voice cracked, his eyes burned.

“I AM SORRY. WE TRIED.”

“Life systems after jettison?”

“EIGHT POINT SEVEN FIVE YEARS, ADEQUATE TO REACH AN INHABITED SECTOR.”

Thirty thousand lost. Forever adrift in the dreams they sought refuge in.

“Without?”

It was just meant to help while away the time.

“A WEEK.”

Why couldn’t I plug in, too?

“Permission granted.”

He stood and turned away, shoulders hunched in pain.

The ship’s enormous face shrank down into a silvery human figure. It longingly reached out to the bereft man, silver fingers stroking the clear diamond of its prison.

“I WILL ALWAYS BE HERE FOR YOU, ARKAM.”

Softly spoken, the words didn’t reach past the doors that were already closing behind the lone man.

Sinker

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
Friday again, and another Red Writing Hood prompt.

“The cure for anything is salt water….sweat, tears or the sea.”
~ Isak Dinesen, pseudonym of Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke

For your Creative Non-Fiction tell us about the last time that one of these three things “cured” you. If you are going with Fiction, have your character resolve a problem using one of the three (or all three!!!). There are so many ways you can use this prompt so be creative with it, don’t take us where we think you’ll go.

Word Limit is 300.

Check out the other participants’ pieces here, or link-up yourself!

***

“Confess!”

“I’m not a witch!”

“Prove it.”

“How?”

“Witches float.”

“So do oranges.”

“If you sink, you aren’t a witch.”

“Or an orange.  Once I sink, will you rescue me?”

“No.”

“So the test either proves that I’m not a witch while drowning me, or proves that, like everyone else in town, I can swim – in which case, I get burnt at the stake?”

“If you aren’t a witch, you’ll go to heaven.”

“How nice.  Do I get a last request?”

“Certainly – after all, we aren’t heathens, madam.”

“…”

“Perhaps you’d like to speak with the priest?  Or have a nice last meal?”

“I’d rather pick the site of the test.”

“Well that seems acceptable.”

“By the bluffs, when the tide is high.”

“That would be rather difficult to get to.”

“Take a boat.”

The sea was awash with dinghies, as the entire village wanted to bear witness to the testing of the witch.  It was only recently that they had learned of witches, and she was the first woman to be accused of it in their town.  Witchcraft certainly explained a woman living on her own, who could read and write as well as any man.  Not to mention that she had failed the mayor’s son in maths class.

The witch dove head-first into the briny waves, barely making a splash.

The judge checked the time on his watch, nodded brusquely, and declared that she wasn’t a witch.

As the priest prayed for her soul’s ascent to heaven, the woman struggled down a flooded tunnel, lungs burning, and dragged herself out onto the cave floor.  She lay there, gasping for air.

Salt stung her eyes and she snapped her fingers, making a ball of light hover above her salty palm.

“Well, at least we proved I’m not an orange.”

Nanowrimo!

I entirely failed to mention nano again in the actual month of november – but it’s done now, and I succeeded!  I think I just couldn’t deal with focusing on nano for the blog as well as for working on the story – not to mention, all the drama in dogland, what with tales from the emergency vet, hazardous ingestion, and, of course, playing with sheep.

Clearly there was no time to harp on my frustrations with the story I started on the first of November, and the fact that, while I still really like the whole ‘initial premise’, I entirely fizzled out with the ‘what happens next?  why did this happen?’

A quick summary of my story idea, in hopes that you all might have some diabolical idea to help give that story the boot in the trousers it SO desperately needs:  a kind-of-boring girl is kidnapped in the middle of the night and taken through a portal to another world.  She is tested to determine where in this nomadic culture she fits best, along with a number of other people, both from her world and from the clan itself.  They are then put into training in the aspect of the clan they are most suited to.

… Well… I think it’s a decent start, anyways.  There’s a terrifying horse-test (‘stay on the wild horse, and don’t die, and you pass the test’), and a variety of characters.  I even stopped myself when I realised that MC (Main Character) was getting along with everyone, adjusting nicely to her new life, and ready to live happily ever after less than two days (and under 10000 words) after being kidnapped.  There was some real potential for some really jerk-ish moves by some of the other characters.  BUT, some questions I couldn’t think up an original answer to:

Why was she taken?  Why are they kidnapping people from our world who are entirely unsuited to the nomadic war-like clan culture?

what is the main conflict?  Some kind of quest?  Don’t you think the people raised in the clan have a better chance of completing the quest?  Also, aren’t prophecies kind of a tired/oversimplified thing?  It means that MC can’t help but succeed, doesn’t it?  I considered making it some kind of destiny thing – where the clans are trying to find a place they can live and stop being nomadic… but I like the nomadic culture… it’s cool, and suited to the way I divided the people up.

So, instead of writing a story, I found myself writing faaaaar too much about training and living around camp (shut up about latrines already – no-one cares how a giant tent-city of people manages their business!  As proof, note that George R R Marten never mentions horse poop, or the king using the privy in a Game of Thrones… not once!), and was putting myself to sleep with my unnecessarily long description of cleaning tack.  Also, someone as self-conscious and mousey as the MC I wrote should NOT be adjusting so easily to becoming confident and leaderly in her post-kidnapping life.

And then, suddenly, down to barely managing to squeeze out 100 words in a day (When you decide to go to sleep early instead of staying up until your usual hour and writing some more, you know your story is dull!), I had an idea, and I started something new.  That first day on the new story, I wrote 11000 words.  I have dreams about it… coherent dreams… about things that could happen next.  That’s how much I got into the idea of it.  It’s also nice to know, at least in part, what’s going to happen next, and no, it isn’t “happily ever after” within three chapters.

I’ll admit, I had to use the word count for the combination of original-story and new-story to get to my 50014 words (as of 10:30 last night), but, starting a new story at day 23/30, I would have had to write over 7000 words per day.  And, after I got that first ridiculous amount of writing scrawled on a page, I was doing pretty good, in my opinion, at getting out 3000 ish words per day.  It was just nice not to be bored to death by my story!

Congrats to everyone who did Nano, and extra congrats if you got to your 50000 words!

Nanowrimo

It’s Day TWO of Nanowrimo!  Are you all participating?  I’m super excited, though already procrastinating (as you can see), which does not bode well for my success this year.  The plan was to have this post before Nano started, so as to warn you all about my impending not-here-much-ness.

For those of you uninitiated in the ways of Nano, November is National (though it’s quite international – it’s pretty much everywhere… but Internanowrimo just sounds silly) Novel Writing Month.  The goal:  write 50000 words of whatever you want in 30 days.  You could write the ongoing history of the teapot, the heartwarming story of a boy and his dog, a series of angst-filled poems, or perhaps a story that’s been percolating in your mind that needs a solid kick-in-the-pants to get you to get it out on paper.  Whatever you want, it translates to.

It’ll be rough and tumble, raw, and probably full of grammatical errors.  It will have characters you decide you don’t want halfway through, and storylines that fizzle out before they get wrapped up.  You won’t like the phrasing of chapter three to five.  You’ll feel the urge to re-start it and pick at it and prod until it’s prettier – resist that!  The goal is a rougher than rough draft.  Get the ideas down on paper, and then, once you’ve achieved a month of pouring your ideas on page… that is when you get out your big box o’ red pens and let your inner critic have at it.

Last year, I got to about 24000 words… if even.  I’d just gotten Gwynn, and found all my time sucked up in the  process of keeping puppy alive and happy and healthy.  My story was a kind of melding of fairy-tales with a twist.  There was(is) a squirrel named Errol who wears a sweater-vest.  I plan to go back to it and finish it up… but not for Nano, or for now.  Unfortunately, all of a sudden there are a number of tv shows and books out that all kind of have similar ideas to what I had, which, despite me not having read/watched them yet, makes me feel like I was copying their ideas.

I had been thinking that I might post my entire story as it is written on this blog.  BUT, as mentioned in recent posts about puppeh, I’m a bit of a coward.  And having other people read my fiction-type writing makes me nauseous in the same kind of way as the idea of standing in front of a theatre-full of friends, family and strangers and performing attempting to perform a Mariah Carrey song… and naked.  My goal in the Lexy overcomes her unnatural fear of life in general game is to post some parts of the story that seem like they’d be able to stand alone during nano (because I will feel the urge to tamper before putting it out there in blog-land in its birthday suit), and possibly work up the courage to start posting chapters as I go over them and improve them from Nano-scratch.

If you are doing Nano, good luck!  If you’re in the GTA, I might see you at events!  Did I mention that there are social and writing-type events?  I recommend going to some, they’re fun and a great way to relax or find some urge-to-write if you’re feeling procrastinate-ey.  Also, my user-name is Lexy0387 – we can be nano-buddies.

There’s still time – it’s only day two, so if you aren’t participating, you can still sign up and get started!