A Random Pattern

Archive for the 'personal' Category

Novel Excerpt: Trapped

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Now is a good time to mention “word wars”.  Word wars are useful tools during the frantic month of November, when 1600+ words a day are required and time, family demands, and everything else collide.

Set a timer for 5, 15, or 30 minutes, challenge someone else, and see how many words you can get written.  Leave everything behind – grammar, punctuation, spelling, perhaps coherent sentence structure – but get that wordcount.

The section below is from one of many word wars.  Because of that, even though I’ve done some basic editing, it is a little confusing.  Hopefully you can still enjoy:

As tension was rising within the group, they nearly encountered [BC1] another Deeper traveling school.  They scrambled to change direction, but the Deeper community seemed almost to follow them.  They swam rapidly, trying to stay ahead of the quick-moving Deepers and the accompanying Shallower school above.  As they moved off towards one side, they found another, larger shallower school, with no real place to squeeze between.  Frustrated the four swam forward as quickly as they could, gaining a little ground ahead of the shallower farm.  But as they raced ahead, looking for a way to get off to the side before the ridge which was rapidly approaching, a ship and group of enforcers appeared on the horizon.
Alex frantically looked for options as they stopped.  Behind them the shallower school continued approaching, to the north [BC2] a larger school.  Underneath both, a farily [BC3] large Deeper community.  In front of them to the south, the Ridge, which would force the Deepers up and leave them very little room for even possible hiding[BC4] .  And passing directly in front and headed towards them from the east, the group of enforcers.  There was little time ofr [BC5] arguing, though each of them suggested a different tack.  We’ll split up [BC6] Alex decided.
“Gooshan and Xero, to the south, try as hard as you can to get past the school.  If you have to go over the ridge, try to make it through or find a group to blend in with if possible.  Good luck, we’ll meet you on the shelf.  Muuld, come with me, we’re going to try and go under the enforcers but stay out from under eth [BC7] ship if possible.  We’ll be pusing [BC8] our depth but hsould [BC9] be able to make it.  Everyone stay calm as you can, if you get found sing the slave song as we’ve discussed before and mimic the controlled fear of those belonging to a Deeper group already – afraid only of your owner deepers and not those approaching.  I pray for the best and hope to see you in a few days.”
No one noticed Daire was gone, nor had thoughts for him now[BC10] .  He wasn’t going to save them, not that they trusted him enough for that anyway.
Xero and Gooshan did as Alex suggested, and took off on a south-east tangent, swimming as fast as the possibly could, trying to escape detection and make it around – or under – the shallower school while escaping Deeper notice[BC11] .  They kept being forced to change course east to avoid getting too close.  Just as they seemed to make it south enough of the school, the ground underneath rose forming the ridge, and the Deepers began coming to ttheir [BC12] depth.  There was no room to get further out of the way – they were trapped.

As tension was rising within the group, they nearly collided with another Deeper traveling school.  They scrambled to change direction, but the Deeper community seemed almost to follow them.  They swam rapidly, trying to stay ahead of the quick-moving Deepers and the accompanying Shallower school above.  As they moved off towards one side, they found another, larger shallower school, with no real place to squeeze between.  Frustrated the four swam forward as quickly as they could, gaining a little ground ahead of the shallower farm.  But as they raced ahead, looking for a way to get off to the side before the ridge which was rapidly approaching, a ship and group of enforcers appeared on the horizon.

Alex frantically looked for options as they stopped.  Behind them the shallower school continued approaching, to the south  a larger school.  Underneath both, a fairly large Deeper community.  In front of them to the south, the Ridge, which would force the Deepers up and leave them very little room for hiding .  And passing directly in front and headed towards them from the east, the group of enforcers.  There was little time for arguing, though each of them suggested a different tack.  “We’ll split up” Alex decided.

“Gooshan and Xero, to the south, try as hard as you can to get past the school.  If you have to go over the ridge, try to make it through or find a group to blend in with if possible.  Good luck, we’ll meet you on the shelf.  Muuld, come with me, we’re going to try and go under the enforcers but stay out from under the  ship if possible.  We’ll be pushing our depth but should be able to make it.  Everyone stay calm as you can, if you get found sing the slave song as we’ve discussed before and mimic the controlled fear of those belonging to a Deeper group already – afraid only of your owner deepers and not those approaching.  I pray for the best and hope to see you in a few days.”

No one noticed Daire was gone, nor even thought about him right now .  He wasn’t going to save them, not that they would have trusted him enough for that anyway.

Xero and Gooshan did as Alex suggested, and took off on a south-east tangent, swimming as fast as the possibly could, trying to escape detection and make it around – or under – the shallower school while escaping Deeper attention .  They kept being forced to change course east to avoid getting too close.  Just as they seemed to make it south enough of the school, the ground underneath rose forming the ridge, and the Deepers began coming to their depth.  There was no room to get further out of the way – they were trapped.

Ah, and here it gets very intense.  The rest of this chapter, and on into the following chapter, is packed to the gills (haha) with …. Well, I won’t spoil it for you.

It has been fun to write, though sad in parts.  I will say shortly after this word war I realized that I’m going to completely change how the groups split up, and in fact mid-way through the chapter I just changed who was where, magically, with no explanation.  My poor proofreaders!  Anyway, this section has a lot of room for improvement on the re-write.

I hope you’ve enjoyed.  If you would like more excerpts, please let me know.  I’m drawing near the end of the first draft now, and anxious to be done.

Novel Excerpt: Freedom at what cost?

Monday, December 14th, 2009
“Do you – do you want to be free, Thodn?” she asked quietly.  “It will be dangerous, but I’ll do everything I can to help you.  You can come with us, and they have some small safe places set up that I can get you to.   You can spend time quietly there, just learning and doing whatever you choose.”
“Whatever I choose?  You mean, whatever I choose from the options they give me.  Without leaving the area, and so on.”
“No, Thodn! You can leave the area.  You can go out on your own at any point you want.”
“I can do that now.  What kind of choice is that?  ‘Here, you can go on your own if you like, aren’t you free?’ Yes, free to die.  If I want to live, if I want to eat, play games, enjoy life, then I need community.”
“But Thodn, right now you don’t get any choice about community.  You stay in the school you’re in and hope to live out a long life there, if they don’t work you to death.”
“Do I really get more choice in IR?   You’re still at great risk for death from Deepers, and the only difference is you’re working yourselves to death.  You’re free to pick community – from the IR only.  Which I have to imagine is small, and probably spread across the ocean.  Did you pick your companions?”
Gooshan’s thoughts turned red with a sudden flush of embarrassment.  Though she wanted to defend herself, she could tell this wasn’t going the way she had wanted.

Gooshan has encountered her long-lost friend, Thodn, from near the beginning of the book.  He is safely in another school, still a slave.  She decides to offer him a chance…

“Do you – do you want to be free, Thodn?” she asked quietly.  “It will be dangerous, but I’ll do everything I can to help you.  You can come with us, and they have some small safe places set up that I can get you to.   You can spend time quietly there, just learning and doing whatever you choose.”

“Whatever I choose?  You mean, whatever I choose from the options they give me.  Without leaving the area, and so on.”

“No, Thodn! You can leave the area.  You can go out on your own at any point you want.”

“I can do that now.  What kind of choice is that?  ‘Here, you can go on your own if you like, aren’t you free?’ Yes, free to die.  If I want to live, if I want to eat, play games, enjoy life, then I need community.”

“But Thodn, right now you don’t get any choice about community.  You stay in the school you’re in and hope to live out a long life there, if they don’t work you to death.”

“Do I really get more choice in the Invisible Remnant?   You’re still at great risk for death from Deepers, and the only difference is you’re working yourselves to death.  You’re free to pick community – from the Invisible Remnant only.  Which I have to imagine is small, and probably spread across the ocean.  Did you pick your companions?”

Gooshan’s thoughts turned red with a sudden flush of embarrassment.  Though she wanted to defend herself, she could tell this wasn’t going the way she had wanted.

Excerpt courtesy Bryan, my brother. He wouldn’t excerpt the really excellent part shortly after that. So you’ll have to read the novel yourself if you don’t want to miss out.

Tentative Novel Cover

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
"Oceans Die" Book Cover with author Stephen Christopher

"Oceans Die" Book Cover with author Stephen Christopher

Thanks to the generous pennythepants who is making covers for many happy novel writers over in the NaNo Artisans forums.  She(?) made me this lovely cover, which is encouragement as I struggle through the last 15K or so of my novel.

I’m officially one of many NaNoWriMo ‘winners’, which means I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days.  However, my story isn’t finished.  In some ways it is just getting started.  Right now I’ve set a goal to write the ending by December 19th.  After that, I will worry about the second draft… (*shudder*)

NaNoWriMo Excerpt: Sanctuary

Friday, November 20th, 2009

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…the other three’s thoughts rushed over her.  They had stopped cloaking completely.  She turned, looking for them.

They were doing lazy loops up near the surface, though not so near as to be easily seen from above.  At least, Alex and Xero were.  She reached out with her gravity sense and found Muuld, over against one of the walls, eating.  Her hunger pangs struck again and she swam over to join him.

“Is it all safe to eat?” she asked, eyeing him.  He was using some type of tool to scrape along the surface, pulling off plants and eating them.  Some he was also shoving into a bag.  “Wait, where’d you get that bag?”

“Ah, you’ve found my secret!  No, actually this is why Alex picked this location.  We’ve used it before, the Invisible Remnant has.  We keep a few supplies here.  Alex figured we could use the bag.  I agree whole-heartedly, the diet has been rather slimmer than normal lately.  We normally start out a little better provisioned.”  He realized what he’d said too late, and hastily tried to correct himself “Uh, not that we don’t ever, err, leave like that. Sometimes you just go with the flow.  I think the exercise and diet’s probably been good for me anyway, I’m one of the runners so I really need to keep fit and fast.  Surprises are good” he finished lamely .

I rather wish you could read the rest of this section.  I’m quite happy with it, needed edits notwithstanding.  This is probably the last break my hapless crew are going to get.  Unfortunately there are dark days ahead of them.

By the time you read this excerpt, my crew will have been forced to leave here early as well.  They may have lost and gained members of their group.  I will hopefully be nearing 40k, and also trying desperately to wrap up the story towards the big finale.

It is strange that 17 days into this daily writing adventure, I am still fluctuating – sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis – with whether I love the story, hate the story, think it’s an good, or want to throw it all away as junk.  This must be the joy of NaNoWriMo.  I wouldn’t give the adventure of writing it up for anything.  It’s been an immensely rewarding practice, even if I am exhausted at times, and consumed at other times.  Now if only I can produce something excellent out of it, I’ll be really satisfied.

NaNoWriMo Excerpt: Too Close to Shore

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

She didn’t get a chance to answer, something pierced the water above them.  They both dove instinctively, even as they felt the cries from Muuld and Xero further up the shelf.

“What is it?  What do we do?” cried Gooshan.  Alex had already whipped around, a quick turn and rapid acceleration.  She bent her waves towards Muuld and Xero – Xero was hit with something, and was thrashing around in pain.  Muuld was working to severe some type of rope.

“It’s some type of spear and rope” called Alex.  “Stay far from the surface, they’re accurate with these things down several meters now.  There must be Grounders attacking us.  “I’m going up to try and get Muuld, you stay down there and try to help guide us.  I know it’s hard, but see if you can get any idea of what is on the shore from there.”  He bolted off, skimming on the bottom and changing direction every few strokes.

She focused her mind, travelled along the rope, trying to follow it all the way to the land.  It was actually rather easy, the rope was under a lot of tension and there were waves from the Grounders, filled with hate that enveloped it.  So she saw rather easily a weak spot in the rope.  “Xero, pull, swim back and forth going toward the rope, get a little slack!  The rope is about to break!”

“You’re crazy” Muuld yelled back.  “They’ll pull him in as fast as he can swim towards them.”

“How far up the rope is the damage?” called Alex.

Gooshan focused again, traversing up and down the rope.  There was a sudden cry from Xero.  “The net is caught on my hand! They’re pulling too hard, I can’t stop it!”  His waves were laced with fear.  She focused, harder.  She felt along the threads, focused her waves.

“It’s about 2 of your lengths” she called to Alex.  “But hurry, I think they might fire more shots at you.”  She kicked up to the surface and leapt out, trying to see what was happening on the shore.  It was dusk, but they had a fire and there were a few bodies silhouetted. One was holding something long.  “They have another spear or something!  Get away from the surface!”

Our band of adventurers, on the run and outside of society’s bounds, are getting into much more populated areas.  Turns out they have a lot of enemies, and very little in the way of friends.

Just so you don’t think the whole novel is filled to the brim with violence – they make better excerpts is all.  I’ll look for a more conversational or descriptive excerpt to bring you later in the month.

My novel is currently titled “Oceans Die”.  I expect this to change again, but it will do for now.  It is 32,000 words long, or 88 paperback pages.  See the sidebar for my daily wordcount progress, which has gone swimmingly.  Still, this story’s not going to fit comfortably in 50k, and I want to be done by end of November with the first draft.  We’ll see how it goes…

NaNoWriMo Excerpt: Invisible Remnant

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

They’d had a very uneven eating schedule since going on the run. He didn’t see that changing anytime soon, sadly.  Still, maybe he could have a meal ready when she woke up.  Looth nosed around near the bottom, looking for some clam shells or something they could eat.  There weren’t really any edible plants in the nearby area – at least not anything he recognized.  Then again it’d been awhile since their last ‘northern island’ plant instruction session, he thought wryly.  Like never, heh.

Tood and Muuld stayed still, watching carefully.  These two were definitely alone.  Could they be trusted?  They seemed helpless enough – almost too helpless, to be honest.  Muuld quietly mused “you know what confuses me?  They must’ve swam from that Shallower community that is just moving in, right, yet they don’t seem to be thinking twice about trying to go back and sneak in?!”

“They can’t be from that school” Tood said decisively after thinking on this for a few moments.  “Look at them, they’re exhausted and everything they’ve got with them is torn to shreds.  They’ve been on the swim for a lot longer than just a day.  They seem to have no idea what they’re doing out here though.  That bothers me.”

“Shall we introduce ourselves, or do you think we should get some racers ready in case they flip out ’n’ flee?”  Muuld wouldn’t mind a little excitement really…

My novel now weighs in at 19,161 words, or somewhere around 46 pages.  With this excerpt, I finally launched into the main arc of the story (which I only figured out on Sunday, two days ago).  This should carry me all the way to my final confrontation or climax, near the end of the book.

Thanks to my brother Bryan, who is providing these excerpts and giving me a lot of valuable feedback.  Thank you also to my other friends and family who are following along with interest – I hope it is rewarding for you.  So far this experiment, this mission, has been well worth the price of admission to me.  I’m not sure my wife quite agrees yet, so I still have my work cut out for me.

Oh, if any of you feel like designing a book cover or some related artwork, let me know.  I’d like to have some visuals to both encourage me and give all of you something for following this faithfully, and some great art would be just the thing.

NaNoWriMo Excerpt: The Rising

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Another presence was below them. They had felt the blast of bubbles, the brief shift in temperature. Someone had come up. More unsettling, He (Gooshan was sure it was a He) wasn’t even cloaking his thoughts much, which they were more than capable of doing. It was a Deeper, a large one, if young. He was practically pacing, swimming in large laps somewhere down near the elevator.
“How close are we?” Thorn called to the loaders.
“Two fins short of the close line” came the answer from one of those tasked with calling a finish on the load. Thorn and Gooshan were thinking the same thing – can we close it early and take it down? Will that upset him more? Thorn had eased off his line some. Gooshan didn’t sense it quite as near breaking now, but the side of the case was listing and swinging dangerously without Thorn there to fully damp the motions.
The next moment brought their worse fears upon them. Thorn tried to slow the pendulous motion, and his thread snapped completely. As he shot 40 meters away with his net, the load began pulling them all down. Loaders scrambled free for their lives, and everyone had given up damping their waves of panic as they all fled . They would have felt the sinister wave of the Deeper below them, were it not for his sudden physical presence. A blast of cold water rose with him as he caught both the crate and everyone near it with his forehead and upper back. Those loaders who hadn’t scrambled clear, easily 10 or more, were knocked unconscious. Some, probably worse, Gooshan thought detachedly. She was frantically moving, already 1000m clear of the area.

The Deeper was enjoying this…

Raw and unedited for your reading pleasure – gotta love first drafts.

Check out National Novel Writing Month (and my profile there) to see what I’m on about this month.

Short Story: Girl and raccoon

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Note: In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I assigned myself a short story.  Promptly hitting writer’s block, I let my oldest daughter pick the characters and starting storyline.  So, enjoy.  Or skip these storytelling posts, your choice.  Either way won’t hurt my feelings!

She was sure they had been here. And she was not going to stand for it. No, she was going to catch them, if it took her all summer.

Where to start? She had never caught a raccoon before. Fireflies, roly poly bugs, and ants were pretty easy. Star (her cat) was easy to catch also – if mom and dad weren’t around. But that’s cause he doesn’t run much, she thought.

She thought about catching, and thought about cages. “That’s what I need!” she exclaimed to herself. “A cage made out of wood. With a trap door. And maybe some food inside.”  She spun, ran towards the garage.

Wham!

She forgot to look first.  Again. The howling started immediately, and thunderous footsteps let her know mom or dad – or both – had heard the collision.

Walk before you crawl?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Practice. Time. Patience.

These are things we tell our kids. But I bet your first reaction on reading those words was negative. Did they excite you, or did you brace yourself, grit your teeth subconsciously?

I have a 9-month old. He figured out crawling a little while ago, but last week he learned something new. He learned he could stand up on this little rocking chair we have.

Elijah uses rocking chair for standing practice

Elijah uses rocking chair for standing practice

For the last several days, Elijah has spent most of his time at this chair. It’s really quite adorable. He crawls over to it, pushes, pulls, and works until he gets to a standing position holding on to the chair. Then he stands there until he falls over. Lately he has begun moving his feet. For some reason he really wants to climb on the chair, but he doesn’t have the skill. Still, he’s learning the skills he will need to walk, even if he doesn’t realize it.

For those of you who’ve been around young children, I don’t have to tell you how adorable this is.  Inspiring too – he doesn’t know how easy or hard this whole thing should be, that he should give up, or that he’s working towards something he’ll need for a life skill. But he does know how to be persistent in working toward something he wants.

Maybe we forget this later on, maybe we get distracted by too many goals, shiny things, activities. But there is no substitute for “crawl before you walk”.  I unreasonably expect to stand up, and even start running, when I haven’t been practicing or training.  I expect success and perfection when I haven’t worked through the failures.

I enjoy and admire watching my children work hard to – slowly – gain new skills.  Maybe I need to learn to enjoy and admire walking through that process myself.

Should we be quicker to learn as adults rather than children? Or do we expect to many shortcuts and quick fixes?

I’m not who I was

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008
Highway Lights In Motion

Highway Lights In Motion

There’s been a song on the radio lately, with the lyrics:

“I used to sing about love and stuff, maybe cause I want it so much, but I’m not who I was.”

(Brandon Heath, “I’m Not Who I Was” iTunes link Amazon link lyrics )

Very recently, I gave in and joined Facebook.  There’s a lot I can say about that (and don’t you worry, I will) but maybe the first thing to hit me was the reality of establishing contact with people who, until now, were essentially part of my past.

They had gone on with their lives, I had gone one with mine.  When we had crossed, years or decades ago, the intersections might have been pleasant, encouraging, life-giving – or they might have been abrasive, tempest-tossed, fraught with misunderstandings.  Now we’ve “all grown up” as the saying goes.  At least, my first thought and hope is that those I’ve contacted have matured as I have, that there is not some long-held grievance out there against me.  Of course some of this is silly thinking: I don’t remember nearly as much what these people did as what I did; it is probably the same for them; And even what is remembered I wouldn’t hold against them now.  We all make mistakes, and most of us grow, learn from them, change for the better.

Another thing that struck me this morning: I don’t “do” memories.  I don’t live in the past much, nor look back.  In fact, I don’t remember most of my childhood before age 10, and I’m not sad about this at all.  (It is something I don’t care to remember anyway.)  But I do greatly value the many wonderful people I have met, known, and cared for over my time here on earth.  I’m just not a person who spends much time remembering or reminiscing – at least not anymore.

I have been looking to the future lately, realizing it is important for my children that I have a clear vision.  For me, looking forward also requires looking back.  I began to see how decisions (both mine and others) shaped my path through life.  I realized that I’m not who I was.  I’ve changed, grown up, moved on.  Yet so much of who I was still remains in various ways – habits, old goals unfulfilled and unforgotten, even reactions to certain smells all come from where I came.  I can’t move on from things in my past by ignoring them.

How have you changed?  Who are you now, compared to who you were?