The Cold, Hard Truth

Posted: May 26, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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Post #3 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge. Today’s prompt: MShep, The Council, “the cold, hard truth,” courtesy of the Mass Effect Random Prompt Generator.

The turian Councilor brought up a map of the batarian home world. Shepard frowned as he watched the Reaper and friendly troop numbers filling the screen. The Councilor said, “Your efforts rallying the batarians have borne fruit, Shepard. We estimate there are a hundred thousand civilians who have formed a resistance against the Reapers.”

“On Khar’shan? It’s a lost cause. The Reapers flattened the whole sector in the first month of the war.”

“The batarians are proud. Many of them would rather die fighting for their home world than live as exiles elsewhere.”

Shepard had a headache. They dodged Reaper forces for four days finding the batarian Pillars of Strength in the Khar’shan cluster, an artifact to help rally survivors on the Citadel. They had felt like mice trying to stay in the shadows while ebon giants sought to crush them. “Can we evacuate them?”

“Even if we could, we doubt many would. They’re asking for weapons. Supplies. More troops to help liberate their world.”

“Liberate…” Shepard tried to think it through. His tactical mind threw it back in his face. The batarians had no backup, no numbers, no troops, and no time. Earth was barely holding on. The krogans had finally evened the odds on Palaven. “No. We can’t open another front.”

“We can’t simply leave them,” the salarian Councilor protested.

“It’s hard enough to fight when we’re doing everything right. It’s impossible to fight when people are throwing their lives away.”

“What do you propose we do?” the turian Councilor asked.

Shepard closed his hands into fists. “Spell it out for them. We evacuate them, or we arm them, but we don’t have any help to send to a sector crawling with Reapers. Every day they hold on is one more day someone else can survive. If they stay, they’re buying the rest of the galaxy time with their lives.”

“You’re willing to sacrifice the batarian people?”

“It’s their choice. Not mine.”

Aria’s Guest

Posted: May 25, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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Post #2 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge. Today’s prompt: Tali, Aria, bound wrists, courtesy of the Mass Effect Random Prompt Generator.

“Give her the counter-agent,” Aria said. A batarian injected Tali’Zorah using a hypodermic gun meant for cattle. They didn’t have anything else powerful enough to penetrate the layers of self-sealing protection in the quarian’s suit.

Tali’Zorah stirred. Aria saw her eyes blinking slowly through her face mask. “Keelah. My head. What did I… What?” Aria smiled as those bleary bright eyes focused on her.

Tali tried to get up, but Aria had tied her hands and wrists herself. The batarian caught her as fell. Tali continued to struggle. “Get away from me! Get the hell away from me!”

“It’s a good thing quarians wear suits. I think this one bites,” Aria said. The batarian chuckled on cue. Aria didn’t like him. He laughed at all her jokes, like a puppet. He stepped away. Tali managed to stay upright as she slid to the floor. Aria filed that away. Good balance. Don’t underestimate her.

“Tali’Zorah, I’m Aria T’Loak. Your headache will pass in a moment. I have an offer for you.”

“I know who you are,” Tali said. Aria smiled again. The little thing reminded her of an angry lap dog. Tali continued, “You drugged me and I’m tied up. Shove your offer.”

“A week ago my largest mining drill struck a deposit of element zero like nothing we’ve never seen before. It blunted the drill head and burned out a motor the size of a drive core.”

“Get another drill.” Tali continued to work her restraints.

Aria lifted one hand. Tali flew into the ceiling head-first and floated slowly back down. Tali cried out. A stream of quarian swear words flowed out of her vocal filter. It couldn’t be flattering, but it all sounded like flowers to Aria. She liked Tali’s voice.

“Do I have your attention?” Aria asked.

Tali breathed slow, harsh breaths. Aria could sense her fear. Her breathing slowed down more. She was thinking. Good.

“What do you want from me?”

Aria nodded. Good. “I can replace a drill head, and a drive motor. I’ve mined enough eezo out of this rock to know when I’ve hit a wall. I need a mechanical genius. You’re going to modify my drill to cut through that vein of whatever it is.”

“And then I’m free to go?”

“Be a good girl and you’ll get a parting gift. I want us to be friends.”

Tali snorted. “More like you don’t want to be Shepard’s enemy.”

“Either way. Do we have a deal?”

Tali sighed. She nodded tightly. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Good.” Aria got up to leave the room. The batarian followed her.

“Hey. Wait!” Tali twisted around. She lost balance and hit the deck in a clang that made Aria’s ears ring. From the floor, Tali yelled, “Untie me!”

The door closed behind them. Aria almost wished she’d stayed to watch the little suit rat struggle.


Tali waited a full minute after that cold-hearted bitch and her friend left, to make sure they were gone. “I thought they’d never leave,” she said.

Her nimble fingers undid the restraints around her hands in seconds. One thing about creatures with five-fingered hands: they always underestimated the strength and dexterity of those with three.

That Time of the Month

Posted: May 24, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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“Alenko. It’s good to see you again.” Feron’s voice overflowed with disdain. Kaidan smirked. The drell looked healthier than Kaidan’s last visit. Color in his cheeks. Eyes dark and shiny. Kaidan wasn’t sure that was a good thing.

That time of the month again. Shepard insisted that they pick up intelligence from Feron face to face, to maintain security. Kaidan understood. He didn’t have to like the job.

“Feron. What do you have for us?”

“Blue Suns raiding eezo mines in the Traverse. Here are the locations.” Feron handed Kaidan a data chip. Kaidan scanned the chip. Feron folded his arms. “You don’t trust me.”

“Shepard and Liara trust you. That’s good enough,” Kaidan said.

“Cagey as ever. I miss our conversations when you’re not here.”

Kaidan’s skin crawled. “What are the Suns after, other than eezo?”

“If I knew, I would have told you.”

Kaidan’s sigh burned the back of his throat. Any angrier and his dark energy aura would glow. “Feron, Liara can do the most good with us.”

“You don’t know me at all,” Feron hissed.

Kaidan put his hand on his shoulder. “The mission’s more important. You can’t let your feelings blind you.” Like Kaidan had done on Horizon. The memory of how he’d acted still sickened him.

Feron pushed Kaidan’s hand away. “Just keep her safe.”

“I’ll tell her you miss her.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Not in so many words.”

Kaidan walked away. Feron didn’t thank him, or wish him well. There was always next month.

I haven’t been writing my daily 400, so I thought I’d get back to it with something more bite-sized. This is post #1 of a 30-day Mass Effect “drabble” challenge. Wiki defines a “drabble” as a short work of fiction around a hundred words in length. My first lesson learned is that drabbles are harder to write than I thought. The word count on this one is twice as high as it should be!

Jeana_standoff

Inspired by Vorcha Girl’s playlist for her Shepard character from Mass Effect, I wanted to post the playlist I made for one of my characters from Star Wars: The Old Republic: Jeana, the Light side Sith warrior.

Theme Music

“Break On Through (To the Other Side) [Remix]” by BT vs. The Doors — Jeana’s theme song. As a Sith, she’s seen the other side.

“Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani– Jeana, Vette and Jaesa are three badass women. They ain’t no hollaback girls and they’ll knock you the eff out.

“Goddess” by Soho — Jeana’s a true heroine, fighting darkness when there’s no other light but hers.

“D’Artagnan” by Michael Kamen — This epitomizes Jeana as a low-level character: incredible potential, hopeful, full of life and a dash of well-deserved arrogance.

Dance Music

I was playing through Jeana’s missions while I was first getting into the TV show So You Think You Can Dance. Any hero has a life outside of saving the world, and Jeana’s first love is dance. These are the kinds of songs she would enjoy dancing to.

“Peace and Love, Inc.” by Information Society — I first heard this song watching an NCAA gymnastics competition. The power, grace and fire that I saw remind me of Jeana.

“Trip Like I Do” by The Crystal Method — Jeana would shred a song like this!

“Right Here, Right Now” by Fatboy Slim — This too!

“Veins” by Charlotte Martin — Quirky, cool and mysterious. This is where science fiction veers into magic.

“Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake and Lil Jon — And sometimes, you just dance like a badass.

Scene Music

“The Thorian” by Richard Jacques and Jack Wall — As a Sith, she’s fought a lot of nightmares.

“Distants” by Celldweller — Jeana watched the twin suns of Tatooine set beneath a stone arch the size of a mountain. With the dry air, sharp as a blade, she thought she could see every crevice, every crack and pit in the rock face. She said to Vette, “Now I understand why prophets come to the desert. It burns away what doesn’t matter.”

“Sand” by Nathan Lanier, featuring Karen Whipple — This is one of my favorites. The song opens as Jeana sees a vision on Tatooine that lays her destiny before her. Her childlike hopes for a peaceful Empire vanish. As much of a gut punch as it is, she sees what she has to do: join forces with a Jedi padawan who experiences the Force with as much passion as she does.

“Eptesicus” by Hans Zimmer — Having the will to act is the first step.

“Enter Sandman” by Metallica — Like I said above, sometimes she’s just a badass.

“Ra” by Nathan Lanier — There’s a villain in the game named Thana Vesh, a Sith who is Jeana’s equal: arrogant, fast, vicious, and fights like a tiger. This is the music for their confrontation in the middle of a burning space port.

“Girls With Guns” by Tommy Shaw — Jeana’s friend Vette carries twin blaster pistols and shoots them like a demon!

“Samara” by Jimmy Hinson — This captures the awesome power of the Force that surrounds her. I imagine Jeana walking into a room full of bad guys, trying to reason with them, then their sense of dread as she fires up her lightsaber, throws some across the room, and they realize how much trouble they’ve gotten themselves into.

“Mother vs. Daughter” by Jack Wall — “Jeana and the Sith fought like a bladed whispers. They moved too quickly to see.”

“Torn” by Nathan Lanier — Jeana is nearly killed by her Darth Baras, her master. Her mother picks up her lightsabers again to avenge her daughter. Darth Baras has no idea what fury he’s unleashed.

“Rise Above” by Veigar Margeirsson — Heroine or hero, anyone can have a crisis of faith.

“Bernini’s Angels” by Kerry Muzzey — Or as I call it, “Like Mother, Like Daughter.” Jeana and Raffa fight Darth Baras’ apprentices while her mother and father cut through his armies like chaff.

“Don’t Let Go Yet” by David Roch — On the verge of turning to the Dark side, Jeana finally finds something to give her hope. Vette sobs as she watches Jeana dance again.

“Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons — Jeana defeats Darth Baras and takes her place as Darth Soleus. The Empire is about to change. Welcome to the new age. Roll the end credits!

Making a Wish

Posted: April 14, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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I’ve been trying to explain this to family and friends but nobody seems to get it. I hope that you do.

This past weekend I was lucky enough to get “dragged” into being a stage hand on a community theater production of “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim. I say “dragged” because they didn’t know they needed help until last week, and I’ve never been into musicals. I grew up rolling my eyes every time someone broke into song in old movies. Real life isn’t like that! People are awkward, not beautiful! You get the idea. Well, even if it’s not my thing, I support the arts and artists, and I was happy to help.

Well, I’m hooked now.

I’m sure that there are theater companies where the actors don’t like each other, where the directors are mean, where dueling egos and deadlines drive everyone to the verge of stabbing each other to death with anything they could grab off the prop tables. I was brought in too late to get to know everyone, but I can tell you that the performers were wonderful, dedicated, friendly, and talented beyond belief. I knew that people in theater worked hard, but I didn’t know how hard.

For three nights, I helped move Rapunzel’s tower on and off stage, including a gaffe on the first night where we started pulling it off too soon. I could barely watch the show because it was obscured by curtains and actors running on and off, but I could listen, I could look at their faces and feel the energy that they brought to the show. I feel… tremendously… lucky, and blessed, to have been there. For three nights in a row I shed tears during “Children Will Listen” and “No More.” You have to understand, for the past twelve years I’ve worked on various projects in my day job that have involved hard work and teams coming together on their best days. They didn’t involve singing, and music, and people putting their hearts out there and creating something beautiful. Even if it was just for three nights.

At 46 and never having been on a stage in my life, not to mention having a serious writing addiction, I don’t know where I’ll find the time to make it on stage, even as Villager #4 or Spear Carrier on the Left. But I want to.

Careful the wish you make,
Wishes are children.
Careful the path they take,
Wishes come true, not free.

Into the Woods, “Children Will Listen”

Sometimes, It Works Like This

Posted: April 7, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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I thought I’d share a fun story about how one of my characters is developing. I’m not insane, but sometimes it looks that way.

"Corso Riggs" from Star Wars: The Old Republic

“Corso Riggs” from Star Wars: The Old Republic

He was originally inspired by Corso Riggs from Star Wars: The Old Republic, a gentlemanly hired gun who’s a bit of a country guy. My character won’t look or act like him, but he’ll be just as tough, good-hearted and loyal. First, I needed a new name. One Google search later, I picked the name “Kahlil,” nickname “Kal,” which means “friend.”

I was writing a “get to know you” scene where everyone on the ship is having dinner together for the first time. At first I had Kal’s boss, Raffa, cooking chili, but then I realized that Raff was making dinner, and had put on the music (blues) and was a musician himself (guitar player). He has plenty of things that make his character interesting, and I wasn’t leaving anything for Kal. Switch over to Kal doing the cooking. At first I kept the chili, but then I thought, let’s follow the ancestry of his name and make it Middle Eastern. I mean, it’s the year 3000 or who knows (not even me, yet), so he could cook anything, but I wanted to make it simple.

(My characters break the 4th wall and look out at the audience. This is simple?)

So he’s a hired gun who likes to cook. How good is he? I decided he’s very good at it. When you’re stuck in space traveling all the time, you might as well try to eat as well as you can. I even made a gag out of it, saying that the rest of the crew often does his chores for him so that he’ll cook for them.

Dinner was kebabs using meat from an animal he shot in the field, the local version of an onion, and spices that they picked up on other planets. He also improvised hummus using some alien rendition of chickpeas. So not only is Kal a gunfighter and a cook, we also know that he’s resourceful, persistent or stubborn, and takes pride in what he does.

Zohan

Don’t mess with the Zohan

My pop-culture-addled mind jumped from hummus to Adam Sandler’s Zohan. Do I want to play Kal for laughs, too? Make him listen to disco, have 1980s hair? No way. If I can work in having him and Raff play hacky sack to build up their coordination — maybe Kal’s a martial artist too — that’s fine, but no more than that.

Probably.

To get a visual of what this feels like, watch the “Script in Development” sketch from Saturday Night Live :).

"Script in Development," from Saturday Night Live

“Script in Development,” from Saturday Night Live

All images used without permission.

Two Broke Girls with Guns

Posted: March 30, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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Actually they’re not broke, but they’re starting out with the clothes on their backs. And guns. 2,107 words tonight, about 900 of which came from a scene I wrote a few months ago when I was jumping ahead. Risha and her best friend are on their own now.

Having 900 of today’s words was a huge shot in the arm, but even without it, I can’t get over how much better the writing feels now than it has before. I think it’s because I’m getting to know the characters better and I’m taking my time with the story. Originally I had expectations of what had to happen when and when the story should look like. To be blunt, f*** that. Let the characters tell you what they feel like. Listening to them, exploring the story, is opening it up more than I ever dreamed.

Do you eat dinner with your friends with expectations of what they’ll say and when they’ll say it? Hell no. You sit back, have a few drinks, and let the night go where it does. Never mind that an evil empire is chasing after you. That’s a whole ‘nother problem.

Two days until Camp Nanowrimo officially begins!

Who Said Anything About a Deal?

Posted: March 29, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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1,325 words today, putting me 122 words ahead of schedule. Today Risha and Raffa had to think on their feet, in a scene that I wrote while waiting to get a haircut. The scene went pretty well. The haircut, not so much. Pfffft.

Fear Helps

Posted: March 28, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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fear will find you

“Why do we write?”

* * *

“You do not fear writing. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak.”

“Why?”

“How can you write more than possible, imagine more than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of writer’s block.”

“I do fear writer’s block. I fear that my stories will never be written, while I stare at the page every day, and my voice will never be heard.”

“Then write your story.”

“How?”

“Pour the words onto the page. Then fear will find you again.”


1,366 words today: an argument, a revelation, and a touching family moment. Also some scenery and a little bit of jumping ahead as a seed for a scene in the future. Fear helps.

It’s funny, I feel a little guilty having success while writing several days ahead of the official start date. I do this to make it easy on myself. I started last November’s Nano several days ahead, too. If this was a competition I’d certainly wait until Wednesday to get started, but it’s not. This is all about the writing and encouraging people to write. Writing is hard enough without deliberately making it harder. I’m going to pour it on.

And thank you, Batman.

Camp Nanowrimo Inspiration

Posted: March 28, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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flawed diamond

Photo of a flawed diamond from the Wikipedia page “Perfect is the enemy of the good.”

My good friend Steve Phillips sent me some inspirational quotes for Camp Nanowrimo — which starts on Wednesday, in case you’re interested!

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” George S. Patton

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Voltaire

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” Confucius

“Striving to be better, oft we mar what’s well.” Shakespeare, King Lear

The Pareto Principle: it takes 20% of the work to complete 80% of the work. (And believe me, that last 20% of the work really does take 80% of the effort.)

“Give them the third-best to go on with; the second-best comes too late, [and] the best never comes.” Sir Robert Watson-Watt, the developer of early warning radar for the British in World War II.

I’m all about making the story as good as I can, but now is not that time!