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.

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Trifecta – Craft

Trifecta’s writing challenge challenges you to write a piece between 0 and 333 words, with the third definition of the word they give each week.  This week was:

 1 :  skill in planning, making, or executing :  dexterity
2 a :  an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill <the carpenter’s craft> <the craft of writing plays> <crafts such as pottery, carpentry, and sewing>
plural:  articles made by craftspeople <a store selling crafts> <a crafts fair>
Click the link to head over and read some of the other submissions, or submit your own.

This piece is stand-alone, or can be read as a kind of prequel to Castle, Stormed.  The artwork is by my sister, the talented Doodle.  Click the image to go to her DeviantART.  It’s a free-hand pencil sketch, and, not to sound too cocky, but she drew it for me.  I requested an unimpressed goat.  It totally makes sense.

It took hardly any of his craft to get the map.  Its previous owner understood so little of what it meant, this scrap of parchment with the name of a long-forgotten kingdom, that by the time he’d been through, the woman had been glad to part with it in return for a song and a smile.

He’d have called it not enough of a challenge, but he tried to avoid setting himself up for failure.  The most complicated part was dosing the goats just right, so that they didn’t die on the way to the castle.  It was a little-known fact that dragons didn’t eat things they hadn’t killed themselves.  His father had wanted him to go into medicine, had taught Monroe all he knew of herbs.  He suspected the old man would not have considered this a worthwhile use of that knowledge.

The toughest part was hanging by his fingers, over the edge of the bridge.  He hadn’t really considered what would happen if the dragon didn’t take the bait soon enough, not until his fingers were going numb, his arms and back aching as he hung. Hanging over a dry moat full of rusty and broken pieces of armor shook his confidence in the plan.

He’d done it, though.  The dragon slept soundly less than an hour after he’d crossed the moat, and he padded through the empty castle, hopping confidently over the piece of the dragon’s tail that blocked the inner yard.

The highest room, in the tallest tower, he thought, mentally mapping out his best route through the maze of corridors.  I’m going to be rich.

His legs soon joined his arms in aching, as the stairs spiraled up and up.  Even with his goal so close, he stopped at the top landing to catch his breath.

His grin faded as he stepped forward.  He may have been clever in defeating the dragon, but it appeared he wasn’t the only one to get past.  She seemed surprised to see him too.

Camp Nano

Hey all,

I know plenty of you already participate in Nanowrimo (National novel writing month… it’s in november, and if you don’t participate already, you should consider it), but do you participate in Camp Nano?  It’s basically the same idea as Nanowrimo, only you can set your own goal wordcount.  Great for those of us whose Nanowrimo wordcount is three or four times as high as the 50000 required… and for those of us (this guy), who don’t necessarily have the time to write that whole 50000 words, and would perhaps be more comfortable at 30000 instead.

I’m acutally aiming for the full 50000 for camp nano, but I am being a bit flexible, and counting my blogging, prompt responses, and any fiction writing during this month for my word count.  I’m on a construction site all day, which creates the added difficulty of not having a computer on me at all times.  During my breaks at work, I’m busting out a notebook.  This, of course, is excellent practice at reading my own dreadful handwriting.  I’ve read a number of articles recently bemoaning the death of teaching handwriting in elementary schools.  While I completely agree that everyone should learn how to write by hand, I’m also very grateful that I no longer have to write essays long-hand.  Or at all, but that’s besides the point.  The point is hand-cramping.  Much as I love notebooks (pretty little ones with patterns on the front, or that kind of cushy leather cover that you just want to stroke), and the idea of sitting idyllically by the creek, feet dragging in the water as I put pen to paper… it really isn’t me.  In that particular scene, the dog prances through the shallows, sending water – not crystalline droplets of refreshingly cool spray, but buckets of fishy smelling, likely muddy water – in sheets up to drench my legs, notebook and general surroundings, before barking for my attention.  Why is the dog there, you may ask?  Why wouldn’t he be?  I can’t see the point in leaving him behind when I go out on a walk, and he can’t see the point in me sitting quietly while he goes off and exercises himself on our walks.  So I mostly just write inside, or, if I’m feeling like risk-taking, in my yard, where borrowing someone’s laptop works just fine.

Back to my reasoning for including blog posts, I want to get back into writing consistently on my blog, and if it doesn’t count towards my word count, then it won’t get prioritized like I’d like for it to be.

I’m hoping to post at least twice a week, either about writing, or pieces of writing.  Wish me luck, and if you’re participating this month, I’ll be rooting for you too!

I leave you with a picture of me… notebookless… on a walk.

The little guy with us is Calvin, a corgi who is staying with us while his family is away.

The little guy with us is Calvin, a corgi who is staying with us while his family is away.

Rain

Not gonna lie, this prompt response is 412 words.  But, people, it’s nanowrimo, and every extra word counts.  I’ve got no time, no words, no ideas, and definitely not enough freaking words.  See for yourself – if you want to be my friend on Nano, find me under ‘lexy0387’ in the Toronto nanosphere.  I know, it’s sad.  Every word is being dragged out of me with the sam amount of effort and pain as an adult tooth.  And, when my dentist pulled a front tooth painfully and without enough freezing, from my mouth, he was horrified.  “Oh… yeah, that would have still hurt – wow, you’ve got long roots!”.  Thanks, doc (dent?), thanks a whole lot.  If I ever need another tooth removed, I’ll remind you to seriously seriously pay attention when I ask for that fourth shot of freezing, because apparently my roots are about this close to coming out the bottom side of my jaw.  Like an alien from Doctor Who.

I had this brilliant idea… it was all planned out in my head.  There were scenes in which my MC, much as I like her, would not be happy.  She would, in fact, experience the full range of human emotions, and encounter difficulties, people she liked, disliked, loved, hated.  It was all there, and I kept holding back writing anything of it, because, you know… not november.  And now, where is it?  I’ve got nothing.  it’s sad.  This weekend might just see me begging family members to take the dog on various lengths of walk, so that I can sit at the computer without him yipping his loneliness at me, and actually… write.

I’m starting to feel like Hook.  Can anyone else hear that dreadful tic-tic-ticking?

For now, though, shockingly, the cringe-worthy first scene in what I’ve written so far actually quite suits the Red Writing Hood prompt over at Write on Edge.

This week, use rain as the inspiration for your fiction or creative non-fiction piece. The word limit is 400, so please come back this Friday and show us what you’ve written.

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
Follow the links to check out what others have written.  If you’re doing Nano, good luck, and I hope you’re doing better than I am.  If you aren’t… well… then you just won’t understand why my posting is going to continue being so severely limited for the remainder of the month.

Interesting artwork from talented artist?  Hah, no.  How about more hours in the day?  But here’s a picture of my puppy.  Note that he’s not sleeping.  No… that would be ridiculous.  He’s watching me type my nanovel… keeping an eye on me to ensure I don’t do anything silly like try to leave the room without his noticing.

Lily stared grimly ahead, struggling to keep calm.

Of course they’d be here.  They paid for it.

She shivered as the steady drizzle of rain seeped ice into her bones, stabbing through her heart as her brother’s coffin was lowered into the ground.  She wondered if any of the strangers who had shown up for his funeral actually cared that he was dead.  That woman, his boss, certainly showed no signs of sadness.  Lily glared at the couture-bedecked woman seated across the grave, some minion holding an umbrella over her head.  Perfectly made-up hazel eyes lifted to meet red-rimmed and swollen.  Lily refused to look away, refused to be apologetic for being caught glaring.

The woman’s lips twitched near a smile, and she nodded acknowledgement to Lily before turning to speak to the man seated beside her.  He nodded and rose.

A few moments later, the rain transferred its sodden fury to an umbrella.  Lily tensed, trying to focus her whole attention on the priest’s words, trying to ignore the presence at her back.

Her nephew had other ideas, twisting around to smile toothily.  “Hey, Remy,” he stage whispered, his childish enthusiasm giving it greater volume.

“Hey kiddo,” Remy crouched down slightly, still holding the umbrella high enough to protect all three of them.  More than a hint of a smile played across her brother’s ex-employer’s face this time.

Lily hated the easy way Matthew let go of her hand to grab hold of Remy.

He’s been Jake’s best friend for years.  Of course Matty likes him.  He’s a familiar face.  She tried to focus on the fact that, without Jake around, she wouldn’t have to deal with these people much longer.  Just get through today.

She flinched away when Remy leaned in, his warm breath against her neck.  “I’m going to take Matty for a walk.  He doesn’t need to hear all this crap.”  Faintly, Lily saw the sharp jerk of Remy’s head towards the priest.

Lily hadn’t even been paying much attention to the man, but Remy was right.  Ramblings about how God felt it was her brother’s time to go, that God was taking him into his arms, blah, blah, blah, how trite.  How completely meaningless to a boy who just lost his father.  She nodded her consent.

Remy tried to hand her the umbrella, but she shook her head, no.  She had cried enough over the past few days – the rain could do her crying for her.

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!