Friday, February 28, 2014

Smoke and Mirrors

The orphanage on Orange Street was burning. Again. Trin watched the flames lick their way through the smoke surrounding the decrepit pile of a place with a lop-sided smile. This could become a habit. He patted the lump where he'd jammed the coins into his coat-lining. It was foreign currency, but it would get him something to eat, possibly a place to stay. With luck, it'd be a warm place. One without bugs.

The last of the children were rounded-up. They practically ran onto the carts and wagons his employers had brought along. A little coaxing was all it took to convince the others to get on-board. A few of the older ones had run off at the first sign of trouble. Frightened hares. They were too wary, too aware of their situation to hang around when things went bad. He'd been like that once. Before Kasker caught him.

Trin wiped his cheek with a smoke-stained sleeve. The smoke was acrid. Made the eyes run. Everyone knew that.

The wagons were moving out. That part was over now. For him.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Eight Sentences: Zeelia (6)

Red, black, red again; she fell through fronds that snapped, small branches that broke, twigs and leaves and runners. Then everything stopped abruptly. Stagnant water splashed around her legs. She was half-in, half-out of a depression in the muddy soil; a natural reservoir of rain-water. Slowly, painfully, she pulled herself out of the scummy pool and rolled onto her back. Nothing seemed to be broken; bruised thoroughly, but no fractures or anything embedded in her flesh. The armor she'd stolen from one of the hound-handlers had proven itself. She looked up towards the place where she had fallen through and groaned; the shaft of sunlight streaming through the tear overhead showed her the veiny underside of a gargantuan leaf.

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The Weekend Writing Warriors site sponsors a round of 8-sentence excerpts every weekend. Zeelia (1) was my first 8-sentence except and has become a regular weekly feature here at my blog. There is a new Linky-list at Weekend Writing Warriors for everyone participating in the blog-hop each weekend. Be sure to check out some of the other writers!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Eight Sentences: Zeelia (5)

Everything was wet, covered in a layer of moisture that had the consistency of spit. The ground was muddier, sloppier. It quickly became impossible to run; she was reduced to slogging through the sweet-smelling red muck. With any luck the canopy would shield her from her pursuers. The heavy, pungent stench might confuse the scalehounds' sense of smell. But she wasn't going to stick around to test out that theory. She kept moving. Then the ground gave way beneath her feet and she fell.

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The Weekend Writing Warriors site sponsors a round of 8-sentence excerpts every weekend. Zeelia (1) was my first 8-sentence except and has become a regular weekly feature here at my blog. There is a new Linky-list at Weekend Writing Warriors for everyone participating in the blog-hop each weekend. Be sure to check out some of the other writers!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Making the Rounds (Friday Flash)

Doktor Hesseline Vaughn paused at the heavily reinforced door to the ward. It was too warm in here. The fetid air saturated his clothes leaving behind a stink of desperation and despair that followed him along on his rounds. It made an unpleasant routine all the more distasteful. He examined his delicate white wermskin gloves. The gilded monogram might have been a bit much for most people, but he had been born into one of the Old Families. Some claimed his ancestors were among those who had founded the Second of the Three Encampments that had allegedly served as the nucleus to the original walled city centuries ago. He snorted derisively. Only fools and patients believed such errant folklore. He had seen too much during his tenure in this place to believe such nonsense and faery tales. No doubt it was all some sort of romantic rubbish intended to help salve the ego of some decaying old man locked in a room within one of the Six Manors.

The door groaned as it swung slowly open. Chains rattled and clanked behind the spattered and lichen-crusted walls. It wasn't comforting. It wasn't supposed to be. Despite himself, he glanced over at the ragged wretches slumped and panting in the wooden wheel used to wind and unwind the chains. Their scars were said to be some form of stigmata. Each carried a different tale embedded within their very skin. Some interns had attempted to decipher the skin-texts last Winter. It had ended badly. The survivor was now one of his patients. The scars disturbed him. More now that he knew what to look for, thanks to his recklessness. Peter Zimes had whispered to him what to look for and in a moment of weakness he'd indulged his patient's lunatic fancies. In a moment he had seen it. All too clearly. The stigmata criss-crossing their bodies was not any cipher. No secret code. It was a cursive form of Aklo. He was grateful that the slaves were blinded, lest they learn too much of things best left unsaid, unread. The guards were of no concern to him in this regard; they were selected for their illiteracy as per the old mandate set down nearly a hundred years ago, after the last uprising.

The orderly stared at Doktor Vaughn. It was the empty stare he'd become accustomed to in this place. The young man was pithed. Only those sections of his brain absolutely necessary for him to carry out his assigned duties remained intact. A brutal, if necessary precaution against some of the things locked-away on this ward. At least someone had finally wired the boy's jaws shut with some wire so he didn't dribble spittle over himself any more.

Doktor Vaughn sighed resignedly. Adjusted his monocle. Nodded to the orderly. There was nothing left to help him delay the inevitable. He took the clip-board from the orderly's limp grip and walked down the short ramp. Each step taking him deeper and farther into contained madness and stunted mayhem. It reminded him of a zoological garden of sorts. One with terribly human exhibits.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In an Obscure Wood...

Your prompt is: in an obscure wood.

I'm not going to die here. Not in this forsaken place. I survived the march out of Karlogne. Even with the new leg still baby-raw and not completely attached. Idiot Grood field-surgeons. I guess I'm lucky it was a leg. And the proper length. And that it faced the right direction. I've heard stories. We all have. Some orderlies and corpsmen have twisted senses of humor. Bastards. With any luck I'll never lay eyes on another blood-spattered, hunchbacked medic ever again.

The trees are all twisted here. Gnarled and half-chewed. They're supposed to be apples. Maybe they were. Before the bombs. The Black Smoke. The Plagues. Apples aren't supposed to be black and wrinkly. Jarmis found a tree full of speckled apples that writhed like shriveled hearts. He just had to cut one open. Worms took his arm before we could amputate. Couldn't do it cleanly because of all his thrashing around screaming. We buried him out back of the burned-out farm house.

Three days. Has it really been three days since we buried Jarmis? Feels like three years. Wandering lost through some obscure wood half way from Hell or any place else we might recognize.

At least there's a road. Such as it is. Not too many bomb-craters along this stretch. We've made good time. Wherever it's leading. Maybe the snow will hold off for a while longer. At least until we can find some shelter for the night. We'll have plenty of fire-wood. One good thing about being lost in a forest.

As far as I'm concerned the war is over. We all lost. Now it's time to look to our own survival. None of us really believes that we'll ever get a chance to go back. After what we saw in Karlogne we know. We know. No one will say it. But we all know it just the same. There's nothing left to go back to, not any more. We saw the airships thrumming along overhead. Ponderously slow and bloated with bombs. Evil whales wallowing through the night sky carrying destruction in their bellies. They did unto us what we were doing to them. As bad as Karlogne was, going back would be worse.

Sergeant Koznir always liked to remind us that war is a brutal, bloody business. Full of sacrifices, pointless and otherwise. He had no trouble sending us off to get killed or maimed. He enjoyed it. Made a game of it. Made bets with the other Non-Coms. I'm glad he didn't make it out of Karlogne. If anyone deserved to burn, it was him.

We're deserters now, at least technically. Deserters or a unit on deep reconnaissance that wandered right off of the map. Lost. Cut-off. We so far off the map that we're not even behind enemy lines anymore. All we have to guide us is this road. This cold road. And the woods. We'll avoid the farmsteads as much as we can. Follow the road. It has to take us somewhere. Anywhere would be better than where we just came from...

Art Prompts.

Satchel of Volcanoes: An Entry for a Collective Poem

Darkness falls with a terrible clash, all cymbals and shattering glass. A righteous cacophony spilling over into the light, across the fields of vision, and down the stairs of perception. Drunk again. An exhalation of fur-clad trout in unseemly array flutter forth tut-tutting in falsified remorse as they flee the gnashing teeth of dim-eyed doves perched solemnly upon the heaped and humped backside of the invading clown prince.

Satchel of Volcanoes is a collective poem that lives and breathes at the site.
It has been running for about 15 years now and it is still ongoing and open to contributions.

Links: Online Fiction

I'm very interested in Online Fiction. I have posted stories at Burrst (soon to resume), tried out Protagonize briefly, and have sampled a few other services and platforms currently available. I'm currently at work on a serial intended for one of the sites listed below. We'll see how that goes. In the meantime, I'll update this set of links as I learn more or run across anything new. Feel free to make recommendation and suggestions in the comments. Thanks!

Last Updated: February 9, 2014

Links: Interactive Fiction Resources

I've always been fascinated with those Choose Your Own Adventure books, the Fighting Fantasy series, all that sort of thing. Interactive Fiction intrigues me. That's one reason I've been writing Bujilli's adventures as an open-ended reader-directed experiment. I'm also at work on my own Pick-Your-Path sort of project.

Here are a few links to various Interactive Fiction resources. I'll update things as I uncover any new leads. Feel free to point anything I might have missed or overlooked in the comments. Thanks!

I've started work on a story using Inklewriter, and would like to do something through StoryNexus...once they allow users to import their own graphics. I've also been working on a more traditional C-Y-O-P sort of manuscript, off and on, in-between other projects. Maybe this year I'll get the thing done, finally.

Last Updated: February 10, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Links: Market Info

A writer needs to know where to send their stuff. That's what these links are for. I'll try to update these links as I discover more market information sources. If you know of one that I've missed, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

Last Updated: February 20, 2014

Prompts, Challenges and the Like

Here are a few links to various writing prompts and challenges. I plan on sticking with Friday Flash Fiction  as well as the Weekend Writing Warriors (every Saturday) for the foreseeable future as both are a lot of fun and they've got me writing along nicely. I recently tried out the Trifecta Writing Challenge and might do it again. The first time I tried to use The Writing Reader's prompt, I wrote a story that has now been sent off to another venue, so yeah, I might just try that one out again fairly soon. Especially if the story gets accepted. If you know of any other prompts or challenges that you think I ought to know about, try out, or consider adding to this list, please feel free to let me know in the comments. Thanks!

I'm also tinkering around with my own set of writing prompts. More on that later.

Last Updated: July 30, 2014

Trifecta...Hold My Drink While I Try This...

Lately, I've been exploring some of the various online writing prompts out there. Not for ideas, but for a spur to get things done, to actually write. My goal is to write each and every day. Doesn't matter if it's one word or a thousand. some of this will go out onto the blog(s), but hopefully, more of it will be making its way to other venues.

In the course of my online travels, I discovered a site called Trifecta, and they host a writing challenge that sounded intriguing. I'm not sure that I'll join-in every time, but I'm going to check it out every Monday and see if I can come up with something using Write or Die to hit the right word count. This challenge and that software seem to have been made for one another.

As part of getting into the swing of this particular challenge, I'm supposed to cut-and-paste some questions to the blog here and answer them, then link it over to their site. I hate questionnaires. But here goes.

What is your name (real or otherwise)?

Describe your writing style in three words.
Constantly evolving.

How long have you been writing online?
Long enough.

Which, if any, other writing challenges do you participate in?
I'm in the process of trying a few out. We'll see which ones stick. I like Friday Flash and I'm doing my own challenge of sorts with Bujilli every Thursday at Hereticwerks.

Describe one way in which you could improve your writing.
Write more. Get more things done and out there.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Go write. Keep writing. Write some more. Words stuck in your head or confined to a notebook are useless. No one gives a shit about your precious stillborn brain-fossils. Writing is about communication. Put it out there or walk away.

Who is your favorite author?
Anyone who gets things done and out there.

How do you make time to write?
I write most days that I'm still breathing.

Give us one word we should consider using as a prompt.
Remember--it must have a third definition.
Outrageous. Or how about Abstract? Or Spurious? I've always liked 'spurious,' as a word, never as a house-guest, of course. Seemed like it was appropriate to suggest three words, this being Trifecta and all...

Direct us to one blog post of yours that we shouldn't miss reading. 
I'm kind of partial to Bleak Prospects. But that's mostly because of the stories that hinge off of it. You're more than welcome to browse through the blog for yourself. I'm hardly the best person to pick any one story of mine over another. I tend to delete the ones I dislike.

Trifecta: Week 102

This week's writing challenge at Trifecta was to write about love gone wrong in exactly 33 words, but not using the words love, sad, tears, wept, heart, or pain. below is my entry, written using Write-or-Die.
How'd I do?

Crisp. Clean. The air is sharp as knives. The waves crash like thunder through the rocks along the shore. It's a good place to be alone. To remember. To forget. But I can't.

REH Word of the Week (Feb 10, 2014)

Slashing talons tore through the rain-saturated canvas. Guy-lines snapped. Fetid, noxious fumes sputtered from the filth-choked camp-fire. Shrieking and squalling, the harpies had picked this spot well. Too well. They had us at their mercy. The night sky ripped asunder in the strident roar of the electric mitrailleuse we'd dragged along behind us since Marzivia and Draktus. It was over in a matter of seconds. The stinking hag-birds were too sure of themselves. Someone had tipped them off about our little expedition. Someone who either didn't know what it was that we were carting along behind us. Or someone who didn't care enough to warn the harpies. In either case we had an informer in our ranks. It wouldn't take long for the Colonel to call me into his field tent. One more time. I'd get stuck with sifting through the thoughts of the troops in our unhappy little band of brigands. He'd expect me to ferret-out the culprit. Even as deserters out in the middle of nowhere, I still can't catch a break. At least it stopped raining. For now.

The REH Word of the Week for February 10, 2014 was: Strident. I thought it made an interesting writing prompt.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Eight Sentences: Zeelia (4)

She nearly lost a boot pulling her feet out of knee-deep leaf-mold. A quick adjustment and she was good to go. But go where? Away from the scalehounds and their masters. Quickly scanning her surroundings she spotted what looked like a fairly good option. It led deeper into the trees. Good enough. She ran for her life.

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The Weekend Writing Warriors site sponsors a round of 8-sentence excerpts every weekend. Zeelia (1) was my first 8-sentence except and has become a regular weekly feature here at my blog. There is a new Linky-list at Weekend Writing Warriors for everyone participating in the blog-hop each weekend. Be sure to check out some of the other writers!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Cutting Loose 4 (Friday Flash)

Glass can be wicked sharp. Every predator has their teeth. Even a desperate man. Especially a desperate man.

They brought a mirror in last time. An elegant, old looking glass salvaged from some bombed or burned-out mansion down along the Jumbles probably. It had a Pruztian look to it; all curlicues and jagged edges, each overlapping the other. Expensive stuff. Took me a while to break it. But they won't let me use my hands. No. Every time the roll in another mirror, they strap me into some heavy canvas and leather jacket. Once I'm properly restrained they unveil the damned thing and leave me alone with it and a candle or small lamp. They expect me to look. But I won't.

Mindgames. They're playing some sick, twisted little game with me. Like a cat tormenting its prey before killing it. That's what they want me to feel like. A mouse. Caught in a trap. About to be eaten. But I'm not buying it. No. They could have killed me any number of times before they took me. It's not simple murder that they intend. not even torture, strictly speaking. And I know my way around that matter all too well. Hazard of the profession and all that. Spies get caught. Eventually. If they don't get killed. The trick is in how you handle the captivity, turn it to your advantage. Spies know things. People want to know what we know. Where we've been. Who we've talked to. Who has been talking to us. If you're still breathing after being taken, it's because someone wants to know something they think you know. So long as they're in the trade. When it comes to amateurs all bets are off.

There's the key in the lock. This time it's the orderly who can't ever get it right the first two tries. The one who used to drool before they fixed-up his jaw. Good. He's precisely the one I was hoping they'd send. The lobotomized drone will stand there staring off into space if I time things just right. Shame to get blood on the Doktor's fancy clothes, but in these difficult times we all must make some sacrifices.

One  Two  Three  Four

Cutting Loose 3 (Friday Flash)

I won't give in. Never. They can't make me, they'll never break me. I survived Dorscheldt. I escaped Belzir-Hauftin. I may be crazy. Who wouldn't be after some of the things I've seen. Done.

You can never go home again. Heh. Once I thought that was just some quaint bit of bullshit. Now I know better. It's all too true. Going outside the fold changes things. Perspective is upsetting to the status quo. Experience is corrosive. Knowledge never set anyone free. Freedom is only ever purchased with blood and trouble. That's why tyrants fear knowledge. It allows one to weigh the options, to decide if it is worth the effort to stand against the way things have always been.

There's a special kind of madness that comes from knowledge. A personal thing. A refusal to accept things as they are, to give in to the inertia everyone else allows to persist. It's so much easier to just give up, give in, go along. Easier. Less painful. For a while at least. But ignoring predators only works for so long. Right up until they get hungry again and it's your turn. And as long as everyone else does like you did and ignores the screams, overlooks the blood, steps over the remains, everything will be fine and just go on like always. So many sheep in a pen. I don't intend to go quietly.

One  Two  Three  Four

Cutting Loose 2 (Friday Flash)

Later. Much later. It's not thunder. No. they cannot fool me that easily. It's the door to the ward. The Doktor is making the rounds. Heh. Bet he looks at the slaves. Again. How could he help it? Perhaps it was unkind to let him know the secret of the slave's stigmata. At least that part of the secret that he could handle.

So many secrets. They shut me up in this place because I knew too much. No knife in the back, no poisoned chalice, no 'accident' in some dismal alley. Not for me. No. They couldn't risk it. Wouldn't dare it. So the cowards had me drugged. Gagged. Dumped into this cess-pit of festering neuroses and curdled brains. Damn them both. I deserved better.

One  Two  Three   Four

Cutting Loose 1 (Friday Flash)

Broken glass shards. Haphazard debris left-over from last night's episode. One more shattered mirror. One more outburst. Shit's getting old. This time. Heh. This time I fooled them. Slipped. Fell. Ground my shoulder into the sharp glass. These well-fed idiots have gotten tired of my fits. My rantings and ravings are starting to bore the orderlies. Good. They overlooked the splinter I slid under my bunk. For later.

One   Two  Three   Four

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Eight Sentences: Zeelia (3)

Heavy, wet-red air flooded her lungs. Freefall. She looked down upon a riot of pungent plant-life that nearly overwhelmed the massively gnarled roots of gigantic scarlet-barked trees. She fell through a vast cathedral forest. Fronds and ferns, mossy-clumps and peculiar bumps; she clutched at branches, stems and runners, anything to arrest her plummet. Scalehounds howled mournfully behind her. Above her. She laughed--then she hit the dirt.

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The Weekend Writing Warriors site sponsors a round of 8-sentence excerpts every weekend. Zeelia (1) was my first 8-sentence except and has become a regular weekly feature here at my blog. There is a new Linky-list at Weekend Writing Warriors for everyone participating in the blog-hop each weekend. Be sure to check out some of the other writers!