What Will You Write? #4 – The Winner

After a two week wait, we can finally get a winner for the fourth What Will You Write?  This time, we had a guest prompt by Tracey Lynn Tobin, and the theme was supernatural.  Due to time constraints, she was unable to judge this time, so I’ll be judging.

You can check out the original post right now if you need a reminder about the prompt.  Judging this one was not easy.  There were only two entries, but they both took a similar path.  I noticed they both ended up outside, but with very different conclusions.  Both entries were well-written, had good suspense, and were supernatural in nature.  But they were different in tone, one was darker, the other lighter.  Both could easily win, but I had to make a decision.  The winner is silverliningsanddustbunnies with a first time submission.  Why did I choose this one?  Well, first, please read the entry:

Jerry flicked on the flashlight and pointed it into the electrical box. The batteries were dying, so the light barely illuminated the box enough for him to read the labels.
“Well?” Andrea asked, peering over his shoulder. “What’s the issue?”
Jerry frowned. “There’s no power,” he shot back with a sarcastic tone. “How the hell do I know? Do I look like an electrician?” Gingerly, he poked at one of the breakers and was surprised to find that his finger came away sticky. He shined the flashlight at his hand and squinted. It was some kind of red liquid. Upon further examination he saw that half the box was splattered with it. “What the…”
Andrea’s hand reached out and grabbed Jerry’s wrist hard, her fingers digging into his skin. “Jerry,” she squeaked. “Look!”

Jerry was tiring of her hysterics, but as his eyes followed where she was pointing an involuntary gasp escaped him. Rising from the top of the electrical box, now spitting out sparks, was a shimmering blue Haze that was moving upwards with obvious intent. It seemed to be searching for something. In the split second he was able to focus clearly on it, it dove through the floorboards to the kitchen upstairs. With the last dying rays of his flashlight he could see a small patch of dripping red liquid where the Haze had penetrated the wood.

“What the hell…,” he mumbled.

“We can’t go back upstairs. It’s in the kitchen,” Andrea whined, clinging to his arm so tightly that it hurt. “Oh, Jerry, what’s happening? What was that thing?” Her voice rising both in volume and tone, and he could feel rather than see the tears gushing from her large brown eyes.

Instead of the biting sarcasm he had answered her with earlier, he replied as calmingly as he could, ” I don’t know what’s happening, and I agree with you, honey. Let’s get over to the wood chute. We can get out there and then come in the front door.” He was trying to calm himself as much as her. They picked their way through the basement clutter in the near total darkness. Jerry’s fear was now as palpable as Andrea’s, who was beginning to shake. They could hear clattering above them as they finally reached the chute. Jerry reached up to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge.

Just then the basement light came back on, and then as suddenly went out. From the corner of his eye, Jerry saw sparks once again flying from the box, like embers from a hot burning fire. A second blue shimmering Haze was taking form, this time was drifting in their direction. “Holy shit! Jesus, help us!” he breathed hoarsely, and with sudden almost superhuman strength ripped the chute door off its hinges.

He burst out into the eerily moonlit alley that ran out along the back. As he turned to help Andrea out of the basement, he watched in helpless horror as the blue Haze engulfed her. She shrieked something unintelligible, with her now wild shining blue eyes staring somewhere past him. She shook all over, and after blinking rapidly, Andrea’s eyes closed as she collapsed into a heap at the base of the chute. The Haze was now pouring out of the doorless chute.

Jerry, frozen to the spot, felt as cold as death itself as the Haze brushed past him. Then it was gone. Taking a deep breath, he pulled the limp form of his wife from the chute and sat cradling her in his arms until he stopped shaking.  When Andrea finally came to and had regained some strength, they made their way around the house and out to the street in front of their house where they hid between two parked cars. They watched as shimmering blue patches of Haze emerged from a few other houses on the block. The Haze was climbing up the power poles, and ran like ghostly current towards the two story house at the end of the cul-de-sac.

With the pounding of his heart slowing a bit, Jerry became aware of neighbors screaming and doors slamming. He forced himself to look towards the two story where the loudest screams were coming from. Blue patches were gathering into a glowing blob in the air outside of it, and as he watched, the blobs sank slowly to the ground.

From their hiding place the terrified couple watched the blobs coalesce into two distinctly human shapes. All of the remaining Haze rushed toward the shapes as though being sucked in by a vacuum. The two forms glowed brilliantly for a second, and then the glow started to fade while the personages started to advance up the street in Jerry and Andrea’s direction.

Andrea fumbled for her phone. “I’ve got to get a video of this,” she whispered. Jerry shook his head in sheer amazement at his wife.

When the ghostly couple was almost upon them he could see in the fading glow a man and a woman dressed in turn of the 20th century garb. As they passed by, drifting as much as walking, the man nodded his head toward Jerry and tipped his bowler hat with his ivory capped cane. The younger looking woman was still settling her gathered flannel skirt and short jacket into a more defined shape, but she turned her head in Jerry’s direction and gave him a saucy wink. After they had disappeared around the corner, a heavy scent of lilacs and musk lingered in the night air. Street lamps were flickering back on, revealing red shoe prints glistening on the pavement in their wake. Looking over his shoulder at his own house, he could see the power was on again.

“Crap,” exclaimed Andrea suddenly. “There’s nobody on this damn video but the neighbor.” Walt, their next door neighbor, sporting smeared red streaks from wiping his hands on his white t-shirt, had emerged and was yelling, “What the bloody hell is going on? I’ve got this red stuff all over my house.”

Neighbors began to gather and exchanged hushed and frightened whispers. The sound of sirens from a rescue truck and squad car added to the tension of the night. As the vehicles pulled into their neighbor’s driveway. Jerry and Andrea, not wanting to be part of this scene, inched quietly back into the shadows and entered their house.

After intense scrubbing and cleaning, life returned to normal. Jerry opened the Friday paper to read a short entry in the weekly “Police Blotter.” It stated that an unknown individual or individuals had vandalized a few houses in their neighborhood with red paint. He smiled and shook his head.

I enjoyed the light tone toward the end.  There was a lot of tension and suspense about what this haze was, but it turned out to be a couple friendly ghosts.  What I liked about this was that it came to a reasonable conclusion, but left a lot of questions.  As it is supernatural, it’s not possible to know everything.  A lot is left unexplained, which is fine.  I don’t think anyone could explain the reasons for what happened.  It is still quite mysterious.  So, congratulations!

The only other entry was done by a consistently high quality writer.  Here’s the entry:

Tara Southwell – The winner of the previous two challenges and the next prompt writer and judge.  This was yet again a very strong piece, creating some great atmosphere.  It started off lighthearted, but soon became dark and pretty atmospheric.  Check out her entry.

So, as I said, the next prompt, which will be up later tonight (that is my time, Japan time), is being done by Tara Southwell.  It’s quite different than before.  Now, instead of a couple of paragraphs, it’s only one line.  And there is no theme.  It’s a wide open theme, so you can write what you like.  This should result in a lot of variety.  So please keep your eye out for the next challenge.

What Will You Write? #4 is Closed

The fourth What Will You Write? has come to an end.  I will be judging the entries and posting the results within the next 24 hours.  After that, #5 starts with a guest prompt by Tara Southwell.  She’ll also be judging.  It’s going to be a very different kind of prompt, and far more open.  There should be a wide variety of stories.

Also, I’ve decided to join Camp NaNoWriMo! That means I’ll be trying to get some work done on my work in progress.

Winter is Coming…in Summer

Well, there goes summer.  Back to Westeros I go.

I’ve been feeling a lot of anticipation recently.  I’m nearly finished reading Moving Pictures, and my next book is A Storm of Swords.  Back to the world of Westeros and the coming winter.  It was just pure luck that we had a storm coming through today, so I had to take the opportunity to make this brief video.

It’s not often that I feel such a great amount of anticipation for a book.  I’m really looking forward to this.

What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Camp NaNoWriMo Comes Again

2014-Participant-Facebook-Cover

Guess what it’s time for?  Camp NaNoWriMo is starting up again for July!  Just like the April camp, it’s a more informal version than the main NaNoWriMo in November.  You can set any limit you like, and try to achieve that through the month.  In November, the minimum is always 50,000 words.

However, I won’t be participating this time.  I have no project I’d like to work on that could be included.  I have a work in progress, but I feel that it doesn’t fit the camp.  I will also be doing some flash fiction, but I don’t know how much.  I don’t feel like I can include that with any confidence.

But wait a moment.  If you think you can convince me to join, then I will welcome any comments trying to show me some compelling reasons why I should join.  There’s a little time left, so try to convince me in the comments.

Half Year Review

June is almost finished, so let’s take a look at how the first half of the year has gone.  It’s been an incredible first half of the year!

New things that have started include my Worldbuilding series, which I will get back to now that my writing course is finished.  I also started What Will You Write?  This writing challenge is a lot of fun, and the response started out great.  I also started doing Encyclopedia Entries on the moons of the Solar System.  I’ll get back to this soon, too.  I also started vlogging, so subscribe to my channel!

Looking at the numbers, the number of views has been steadily rising.  Take a look:

  • January: 1259
  • February: 551
  • March: 1082
  • April: 1388
  • May: 1441
  • June: 1715 (projected to be 1890)

I’ve reviewed a total of 10 books this year, but hoping that I can reach my target of 30 books.  That means 20 reviews in the next 6 months!  Best book so far is The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons.

Tomorrow night is the end of the fourth What Will You Write?  So, get your entries in!  On Monday night, I’ll get the monthly review done.  And I’m thinking another round of introducing you to other blogs.

How’s your half year been?

Reading With My Daughter

My daughter loves looking at her books.  They’re mostly picture books, but she does learn a lot of words from them.  She also has an Anpanman book that has an electronic pen that says the word when it touches the picture.  It does this in English and Japanese.  It’s a great learning tool for her, and she loves playing with it.

However, she’s almost 2 1/2 years old, and we have the Complete Peter Rabbit Library that she got as a gift from my family.  I’m going to have to start reading it to her.  It’s a collection of 23 books, so that’s a lot to read to her.  I’m not sure how much I’ll get to read to her in one sitting, as she’ll probably lose interest quickly.  But hopefully, over time, she’ll pay attention more, start understanding the stories, and look forward to being read to.

One thing this’ll have a positive effect on is my reviewing.  I’ll be reviewing each book in the series on here.  They’re pretty short, so I can finish reading them pretty quickly.  I may read ahead, just to see where the story goes, and review.  Reading to my daughter will be much slower.

I hope that my daughter will come to love reading as much as I do.  It’ll enrich her mind and fuel her imagination.

If you’ve read Beatrix Potter’s books, please leave a comment with your impression.  And which book did you like the best?

Genealogy in Fiction

I read a lot of fantasy series, and some of them span centuries.  But for those series, they often use ancestors to continue on the story.  So, understanding the genealogy of the characters is very important.

In Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, the story mostly follows the Ohmsford family, and to a lesser extent, the Leah family.  A Song of Ice and Fire has an extensive list of family members, so keeping them straight is a must.  There’s also a back story with ancestry, so George R. R. Martin probably needs to understand the family tree.  In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and The Children of Hurin, an extensive family tree was made, and is even in The Silmarillion.

In real life, I find royal family trees fascinating.  My aunt is researching my maternal grandfather’s ancestry.  My paternal grandmother is possibly a descendent of William Malet, though this is not confirmed.  This is all very interesting stuff, if you ask me.

For Ariadne, I’ll be doing an extensive genealogy, as a few families will remain quite prominent in society on the new world.  So far, I know who is in Journey to Ariadne, as well as the following duology.  The duology has the second generation and features many of the same characters as Journey to Ariadne, but also their children.  However, the following planned trilogy is far in the future, and I will do a very extensive genealogy, so I can keep track of who’s who and which families have become related through marriage and children.

Another thing I find interesting is when playing The Sims 2, I can follow the families and see how the traits of the parents are passed down.  That’s one of the most fascinating things I find about the game.

How about you? Do you have an interest in genealogy in fiction?

Oh, the Injustice!

False accusations, inequality, bad customers, greedy corporations.  They all have something in common. They all involve people behaving badly and trying to get away with it.  They’re also things that make me angry.  Not just if they’re against me, but other people as well.  I hate seeing others abused and I have a great sense of satisfaction when they fight back and win.

This kind of story is pretty common in fiction.  I love seeing the oppressed get back at their oppressors.  I love seeing the bad cop get caught, the bully get beat up, and the abusers go to jail.  I love it when it happens in real life, but it’s also wonderful to see in a book.

But there are real life cases.  You can often find videos on YouTube by searching for “karma.”  Some are quite funny, but there’s a sense of satisfaction watching them.  Here’s a recent case involving sexism in Tokyo’s metropolitan government.  An assemblyman threw sexist comments at an assemblywoman and has since apologised.  Then there are people like Donald Trump who need to learn to be human and how to speak to people.  He’s just plain offensive.  And of course, governments need to learn to stop being greedy, childish idiots and actually work for the people.

Here are some things I hate hearing people say to me or others (it’s a list!):

  • I’m the customer, so I’m right! (No you aren’t)
  • Only men who are married are worth working with. (Paraphrased, sexist man-hater I worked with years ago)
  • You’re an atheist? You’re going to hell! You just hate everyone! (No, I don’t.  And as a Christian, you’re not supposed to judge.)
  • Oh, Daddy is being Mommy today. (No, Daddy is being Daddy, one of the two parents.)
  • We need the oil, so we’ll shut down this national park. (No, we need the plants and animals more.)

Just a handful of things there.  You see, as a customer, I want to treat staff well.  They have a tough job dealing with idiotic customers, so I want to make their job a bit easier.

I don’t make distinctions between men and women, married or single, in the workplace or anywhere else for that matter.  People are people.  Give them respect, they should give respect back.

I am an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I’m hateful and immoral.  Religious people aren’t necessarily moral, as many atrocities have been committed in the name of religion.  I’d prefer to treat everyone with respect until they disrespect me.

I am a father, and I have heard stories of good fathers being discriminated against because of the sexist idea that they aren’t good parents, that they can’t be loving or do things like a mother can.  And just because I’m taking care of my daughter a lot doesn’t mean I’m being some kind of superdad or have some kind of burden put on me.  It means I’m being a parent.

I would certainly say I’m an environmentalist.  I’m disgusted by companies who ignore the environment for the sake of profit.  That’s irresponsible, and those companies should be heavily penalised for the damage they do.  And not just companies.  Governments, too.  Can’t wait to say good-bye to Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

There are so many other examples of people that are merely irritating or completely awful to deal with.  Why do people behave like them?  It’s always wonderful to see the good guy win, whether in real life or in fiction.

What kind of people do you hate to see?

More Class Culling

I’ve gotten so far behind in the Diversity of Exoplanets online course that I’m going to be cutting it.  Honestly, there’s not much that’s new, since I’ve already done two exoplanet courses.  What’s special about this one is that it’s taught by the exoplanet experts, the ones who have discovered so many at the University of Geneva.  Oh well.  The lecture videos are so long and there are so many that it would take up too much of my time.  I’ll take it again if it’s offered again next year.

I’ll be finishing the Ecosystems course tonight, as all I have left to do is the test.  It’s been interesting and fairly useful, particularly the parts dealing with biodiversity and conservation.  I’ll also finish the Archaeology of Portus course in the next couple days.  I’ve found that this course was very useful to me for worldbuilding.  Understanding the past is very important.

I have one ongoing course that I haven’t even touched, the Paradoxes of War.  However, I don’t want to quit this one.  I’ll just watch the videos.  I have about 3 weeks to get caught up, so that’s okay.  Next week, I start the Richard III course, which should be useful in understanding what society was like back then.  And next month, I’ll start a course on the French Revolution.  I also think that’ll be useful to me.  So, lots of history courses going on, which is great for developing cultures in speculative fiction.

No new courses until the end of summer after these.  I need to spend more time actually writing than doing courses.  I’ll conserve my time.

Brief Survey for My Readers

I have some quick and easy questions for you.  Nothing difficult to answer.  I’m curious about a few things.  For those of you who I already know, you can answer, too.  So, please answer in the comments.

  1. Where are you from? Country only is fine, city if you like.
  2. What’s your favourite book genre?
  3. Where would you like to go on your dream vacation?
  4. What’s your favourite food?
  5. What’s your least favourite food?
  6. If you could go back to school (or you still haven’t started university), what would you love to study?
  7. Print or eBook?
  8. Have you ever climbed a mountain?
  9. For those of you who write, paper or computer?
  10. Read the book before watching the movie, or watch the movie before reading the book?

Thanks!  I’ll even answer the questions in the comments, too.