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Contemplating the Future

At some point, you’ve gotta look at your list of stories you intend to write, and pick one. You have to list them in Particular Order so that you can write them and finish them.

 

I will do that this week and edit this post to reflect it.

 

Watch for upcoming PLANS! 😀

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…for a flash fiction challenge!

Yes, I know. I promised you all updates on my revision progress. I will post that next, after there’s some progress. My revision novel is so terrible that I can’t bear to look at it right now. I’m sure you know the feeling.

Anyway. Chuck Wendig, of www.terribleminds.com , has posted a flash fiction challenge! It’s here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/05/25/flash-fiction-challenge-one-random-sentence/comment-page-1/#comment-139232

The rules are simple. Get a random sentence; create a thousand words of fiction, post on blog, link back to Chuck, maybe win a book. Read everyone else’s fiction and alternately weep and giggle maniacally. I have decided to accept this challenge for two reasons. First, the random sentence generated grabbed my muse and she’s snickering loudly at me. Second… well, I’ll tell you second after the story. And so, without further ado, here it is.

Our Place

Inside our desert spins my sword.

They think it is their desert. The lines on the map tell them as much, and they have no desire to think anything else.

But it is not. No desert creature died to sustain their lives, as so many did to sustain ours. Not a drop of their blood touched it. We fed its coarse sands with ours. The blood of men, far from home, fighting man and beast and sun and earth. Survivors all, cut down at the last. The desert is the soldiers’ desert, and the soldiers are ours. We will remember them, as brother remembers brother, here in this place. The place made sacred by their deaths. Our place.

The lines are carved into the blackened yellow stone of the cavern. I stare at them, entranced, and for a moment the false chill of shade becomes the bone-chill of ghostly men standing around me at parade rest. I shiver.

The slight movement draws me out of the past. I step back a pace, framing a shot, and absently reach for my camera case. I need a wider lens; the zoom lens I’d been using on the tarantula’s nest nearby can’t possibly capture this.

My camera isn’t new. It’s interesting. It has threaded lenses and a crack in the viewfinder. It’s dinged, scratched, older than I am. But load it up with 35mm 100-speed film (which is really hard to get these days), light the shot independently, and it takes better pictures than most new cameras. Anyone willing to spend fifteen grand on a camera will have better quality prints—but they won’t have the art of it. There’s something magic in the art of photography that only comes to light when you know you have to spend 45 minutes getting the shot right because there’s only enough film for three shots and you’ve already taken two.

I’m waiting for the light, now. In about fifteen minutes the sun will spill over the ledge that hides this strange shrine, and the mirrors I placed earlier will light it up like Christmas. It will be a beautiful shot. The local governor will pay dearly for it. He will never know who else will buy the print.

Something moves near my foot. I look before I move—moving first usually ends in death before bedtime out here. I was right to look first. Another one of these desert bugs—who knew there were so many?—has crawled halfway onto the steel-toed boot-top. I doubt its stinger could get me, but I prefer not to chance it. Slowly, I crouch and offer my lens cap as a new floor for the creeper. It accepts, and I deposit it in the mouth of the tarantula’s nest. It skitters off the hard plastic, unwilling to leave the relative safety of the cap for the deathtrap, then lands on the floor. Its carapace ticks against the stone.

When I stand up again, there are three men in my shot.

I ignore how they got there. The people who live in this place are very good at moving quietly. “Excuse me,” I say in the local dialect. “Could you please move? I have to photograph this. It’s for the governor.”

Usually mentioning the governor gets me smiles and nods and anything I ask for. Now, I am ignored.

The men are grown but not old, and although none of them are looking at me, they could not have helped but hear me. We are less than ten feet apart. One of them puts a sandaled foot on the mark I’d made to measure the focal length of the shot, obliterating it. Well, I know the distance. Patience isn’t a virtue here. It’s the first rule of survival. I wait, and I watch.

The man closest to the shrine has a messenger bag slung over his shoulder. When he takes it off his hat gets caught in the strap and falls to the floor, crown-side down like a bowl. Apparently the man expected this. He crouches down and dumps something from the bag into the hat. I can’t see it, but it hisses like sand.

The other two men come to crouch beside him, circling the hat. The man on the left produces three fat, stumpy emergency candles that I recognize from the survival kits I’ve seen for sale in the market. He lights them with a cheap lighter and murmurs something, then grinds the candles into the sand.

The guy on the right reaches into his vest for something. It takes me a minute to recognize the knockoff Swiss Army knife, but the blue handle gives it away. He lays it gingerly in the sand.

I cannot look away. The three men raise their hands, resting their elbows on their thighs, and begin to chant. The hat owner reaches out and spins the hat. The knife shifts minutely; the candles flicker and one of them tips. Wax drops land in the sand and on the hat brim, thrown out by the hat’s movement.

I can hear the words now—they are the words carved in the wall. “Inside our desert spins my sword. The desert is the soldiers’ desert, and the soldiers are ours. We will remember them, as brother remembers brother, here in this place.” Over and over they repeat the lines. Every few seconds one of the three reaches out and pushes the hat, to keep it spinning.

And then they fall silent. The candles have guttered out, flames lost in the slight breeze. The hat grinds to a stop.

The sunlight pours over the top of ledge. I raise my camera without a single conscious thought, and gently push the shutter button. Something moves beside my foot, and I jump.

On my boot, the creeper pulls its stinger from the thick leather. A needle jabs my foot just this side of the steel, and I collapse.

The floor is cold.

Inside our desert spins my camera.

*** fin ***

Title: 2 words

Story Length: 1000 words

***

Want to know the second reason now? It’s because I wanted to write a camera as a sword.

Hey everyone!

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted. The universe has gone crazy, again, as usual. This time, though, it’s me stuck at home with double pneumonia. Less than fun, I’ll tell ya. If you have a cold that won’t go away, PLEASE have a doctor check you. I thought my doctor was going to say, “Why do you keep coming in with these little colds? Take two [cold medicine of choice] and come back when you’re bleeding.”

He didn’t. He said, “Well, your one lung sounds pretty solid, and the other’s not much better. You definitely have pneumonia, and I’m going to give you a breathing treatment right now, and then you’re going down to X-ray and we’ll see just how far that infection has spread. And when you get home, you go to bed and stay there as much as possible, and drink a lot of fluids.”

I’m not sure if I’d rather have had him say to come back bloody, but I’m glad I went.  First, it means that with medication I can breathe a little better for the first time in three weeks.

It also means that I’m in bed for a while, resting.

What, oh what, could a writer POSSIBLY find to do while confined to a single room? 😀

Those of you who are acquainted with Holly Lisle’s course boards may know that I’ve been revising my very first novel and am deep in the land of finding what ails the manuscript (which is nearly everything). I think I’m going to marathon revise today! I’ll drop a few updates on Twitter (@Danzierlea is me!) and round the day out with a final check-in here. The novel is short–some sixty pages, and I’m on page twenty-three–so with a little luck I should get a significant distance into the revision today. Wish me luck, and off I go!

First, there’s this. I  got sick of writing the word “audience” in my notes in my high school drama class. I had a list of terms, on which “Author” was first, and “Audience” was second. I abbreviated “Audience” to “A-Squared”, working under the idea that because each member of an audience creates their own meaning of the text, the group is effectively a bunch of authors.  A-Squared is annoying to type, and so it’s become A2.

I’m in two classes right now: Documentary and Feminism in Media. Both classes are more awesome than they sound. And in both classes, we’ve had to examine, briefly, the idea of the audience and the Target Audience. But school’s not the only place the A2’s been popping up. It’s come up at work (yay, radio day job! So much fun!), it’s come up in random conversation with my sister, it’s come up…well, everywhere! Even on the bus, and I’m not one to talk to random bus riders. But I digress.

In my FM class, we looked at the creation of audience as commodity. Most people will balk at this; that’s ok. The question was, do media companies simply produce a product (ie, film)? Do they create their audiences? This gets into why there’s advertising and product placement in movies (my favorite soda has a cameo in X2, and my favorite candy starred in ET) and the creepy thought that media companies are like fishermen who use their catch as bait. It’s fascenating and horrifying, like Tom Sawyer’s big toe.

Media companies are, basically, producers and salesmen. As writers, we’re essentially the same thing. We produce content and persuade someone to buy it (or publish it). This is why Holly addresses A2 consideration in one of the HTTS lessons.

But in other areas of our lives, we’re also producers and salesmen, and this bears careful consideration. Our families see us every day. Friends and coworkers see us often. We are producing something every time we interact with them, whether or not we know it. We have secret ninja-like audiences making judgements about us based solely on what we are doing when they see us. It behooves us, then–woah I just used “behooves” in a sentence!–to consider our products, and our audiences, at all times.

Yeah, I went all vague there. It’s like this. My daughter watches me when I get home from work. She sees what I do, and what I emphasise. She decides whether to ask me for a cookie before dinner based on whether I’m cooking something or working on my computer. Why? Because I say yes more often when I’m on the computer. We call this A2 conditioning via repeat performance.  If my hubby sees that every day when I wake up, I’m a crabby monster, he’ll quit waking me up. Same deal. If my boss accidentally calls my line at work and I answer professionally without knowing who’s calling, he’ll consider letting me work a shift when people call in. I hope. A2 conditioning. People react to what they know of you. Do what you can to figure out what you want from them, then act in such a way that their automatic reaction gets you what you want.

Don’t be fake about it, though. Everyone thinks they can fake it at some point, and we all know we can see right through ’em and we like to point and snicker about it. So don’t fake it. If getting a better shift by this time next year is your goal, do the same good stuff the people on the better shift do… and do it all the time. You can’t know when your boss is going to accidentally call you, so you answer all calls as if they were him.

This is longish and ramble-ish, but there’s a method to this madness. I started this post in order to work through my thoughts on A2 and why it makes me nervous, and here’s my conclusion: my grandpa always says, “If ya do what’cha always done, you’ll git what’cha always got!” If you want something else, do something else… because you always have an audience, and despite all efforts, you can’t pick who’s watching.

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Hi everyone.

This is a tough, touchy topic, but I need to work through it.

Holly Lisle wrote a pair of posts about the Apple iBook Author software–the first looking at what was wrong with the EULA (you-la, End User License Agreement–basically, the contract) and the second about what was wrong with her viewpoint.  Her blog is here: http://hollylisle.com/how-to-say-i-was-wrong/?awt_l=BixhE&awt_m=JmUU.wpfhm.TgP

I read through that, and I found my problem.

This was an issue that someone outside the HTTS/HTRYN group on Twitter brought up to me. I read the related article, read the comments, and passed along the link because what I’d seen made sense and was supported. Holly had kindly returned my follow on Twitter, so it’s easy for me to assume that Holly’s misstep is my fault–that I pushed her.

It’s possible.

But Holly is a smart person. She doesn’t rant on things that she doesn’t investigate, and she doesn’t take other people’s opinions or research as canon. She does her own research, and she makes up her own mind.

I didn’t.

I passed on a link without looking deeper into the issue or into the writer who posted the linked info. I trusted his presented credits without research; I didn’t read the material he quoted for myself; I didn’t read other entries in his blog to see if he had a record of being irresponsible with his reccommendations.

I broke one of my cardinal rules, and I didn’t even notice I’d done so until after I’d read Holly’s retraction. The rule is, “Think for yourself.” And I didn’t. I did a minimum of research, trusted others’ thoughts, and passed on what could have turned into a terribly damaging smear campeign without so much as a “what if he’s wrong?”

He was. I was. And I can’t help feeling that if I had stuck to my guns and my brains, Holly wouldn’t be.

Lesson in action: when you screw up, admit it. I pushed Humpty Dumpty. I was wrong.

Lesson in action: Think for yourself. I’ve let my thinking get sloppy and lazy. I haven’t bothered to think further in a lot of areas–not just here, but in all sorts of places in my life. I’ve become reactionary instead of considered. I’ve let other people’s thoughts and opinions rule my actions and decisions. I’ve based an embarrasingly huge chunk of my life on whether x action will make y person angry or upset or happy.

It’s time to fix that.

It’s gonna hurt, but sugery does.

I’m sorry, Holly.