Monday, May 18, 2015

Meanderings

Something I'm writing right now that isn't connected to anything else I'm writing, except that it seems to take place in the same world as one of my many stalled novels.  Anyway...read this.


A hail of thaumic bullets.  Glass breaking in slow motion. Eddie Mayne rolled through the wreckage and came up firing.
“Fucking cover me!” he shouted, and the small man cowering behind the brick wall winced in terror as he fired a few wan bursts over Eddie's head.
“You fucking coward!” Eddie noted.
“Sorry!”  The apology ended with a wet grunt as the man's head was neatly destroyed by a pulse.
“Shit!”  Eddie rolled over to a thing he could hide behind and hid behind it.  It turned out to be an easily vaporized bit of wood, which was easily vaporized a second later, leaving Eddie exposed.  A pulse burst way too close for comfort, and Eddie rolled toward a thing in the corner that looked like a good thing to crouch near, and crouched near it.  He was able to pull off a few pulses of his own, and a satisfying squeal of pain told him his aim had been true.  The firing stopped.  Eddie caught his breath for a second and assessed the situation.  He'd been grazed by one pulse, leaving a nasty burn line along one of his arms, but otherwise he was unharmed.
His antagonist, a four foot tall dwarf named Simon, lay rolling around in a ball of pain five feet away, his gun and the hand he'd been holding it in lying in a bloody puddle nearby.
“Now that was an extremely dumb move, wasn't it, Simon?”
Simon's response was a gurgling noise, which roughly translated as “Owwww you shot my hand off” in Dwarfish.
“Yes I did, but you know why I did, right?  You know why I had to shoot your hand off?”
“Mmmmgggrrrrrr,” Simon pointed out.
“You were a naughty boy, Simon,” said Eddie.  “A very naughty boy.”
“Nnnnnnnnghhh,” Simon argued.
“There's no sense trying to explain yourself, Simon.  You're going to bleed to death in a second, and you should probably know why.”
The ragged stump at the end of the dwarf's arm pumped more blood out of it and into a growing puddle on the concrete floor of the warehouse.  Simon gurgled.
“You told the Gray Sisterhood about me, didn't you?”
“Snnnnnrrrrfffgggrrrh,” Simon complained.
“Yes, you did.  And that's not something you should have done, is it?”
The dwarf's battle with consciousness ended with a flutter of eyelids and a sharp exhale.  Eddie tsked his tongue and shot the dwarf between the eyes.  He shook his head, pitying the senseless loss of life.
 “Are you quite finished, sir?”  It was Eddie's valet, a thin gray man called Garreth, who had been waiting patiently with the car while Eddie dealt with this particular unpleasantness.
“Yeah.  Fucking Simon.  I told him a thousand times, I did.  But did he listen?  Did he?”
“I'm assuming not, sir?”
“No.  He damnably didn't.”
Eddie walked back to his car, the aetheric contacts glowing green as they repelled away from the tarmac of the road.  He jumped in and signaled Garreth to head north, toward headquarters, and the car slid away on a pocket of thaumically charged air.
“He fucking knew better, didn't he?”
“Yes, sir,” said Garreth.
“God damn son of a grinth.”
“Indeed.”
“Now I've got to get back to the High Mage himself and report that I killed Simon.  That bugger won't be happy.  He'll blame me for all of this.”
“That is an unfortunate outcome,” said Garreth.
“Yeah it is,” said Eddie.  He watched the profile of the city slide past, impossible skyscrapers poking needle holes into the sky, glittering virescent in the night, lit by the plasmic energy of thaumatic thorium, the miracle cure to the world's energy crisis.
Ahead, the complex of narrow buildings that made up the headquarters of the intelligence branch loomed like teeth, sharp and inevitable.  Eddie was not happy about the report he would have to give.  Simon had been a valued agent, which made his defection to the Gray Sisterhood all the more puzzling.  And now Simon would have no way of finding out what had made Simon switch sides.
Where the fuck is this going?
The air car arrived at headquarters, the steel door soaring fifty feet above him opening with an echo that reverberated across time and space.  Eddie shivered as he stepped out of the car and entered the cavernous hall, lit by steel torchieres set to maximum flicker.  Surreal shadows jumped greenly at him as he walked down the corridor.
At the end of what, due to the distance charm that had been cast on the space, seemed like miles but was actually only about twenty feet, Eddie came to a set of narrow gold doors, which opened portentously for him with a charmed crashing noise that echoed along the hexed space to give the illusion of maximum power.
“High Mage Pertucken, I come bearing a message,” Eddie bellowed, because bellowing was the only way to force sound through the warped dimensions of the High Mage's audience chamber.  The doors rumbled closed behind him, solid like a tomb.
A voice rumbled at an angle to reality, above hearing but within it, impossible yet clear as day.
“WHAT?”
“I, Eddie Mayne, have slain Simon Bunk, dwarf defector from these orders, sympathizer with the Gray.”
“SLAIN HIM?”  The voice echoed impossibly through Eddie's eardrums, as if both backwards and inside out, the sound wrapping itself around him like a black hole in a blanket.
“Yes.  I had no choice, you see.  He was shooting at me.”
“YOUR INSTRUCTIONS WERE TO INTERROGATE.”
“Well, hard to interrogate someone who's blasting aether at your head, isn't it?”
“I REPEAT.”  The High Mage's last statement stabbed at Eddie's ears like an inverted needle.
“Ow,” Eddie said.  “Look...you weren't there.  You...”
The inverted needles began to penetrate Eddie's brain, probing.  Eddie fell to his knees and cried out.
“Look, I'm sorry,” he managed to gasp.  “I should have been more careful!”
“YES,” said the voice, and fresh stabbing assaulted Eddie's brain.  He began to bleed from his nose.
“What do you want, High Mage?  I supplicate myself to your mercy.”  Eddie's eyes streamed, his nose bled, and his brain seemed to be melting out of his skull.
“PENETRATE THE GRAY SISTERHOOD.  FIND OUT WHAT MAKES THEM TICK.  DESTROY IT.  DESTROY THEM.  THEN YOU MAY LIVE...A BIT LONGER.”
“Thank you, High Mage. I will do that.  I honor you.  I honor the Magehood.  Praise be to Thaumia, goddess of the Magehood.  Praise be to you.”
The stabbing stopped.  The doors behind him opened again, rattling and echoing for maximum effect.  Eddie stood, bowed, turned on his heels, and left the chamber.
Because there was no need for drama on the exit, his journey back to the car was significantly shorter than his journey in had been.  A plain gray corridor led to a set of simple wooden doors, which when opened revealed his air car floating there waiting for him.  Garreth stood there, black suited and white gloved, the most reassuring sight that Eddie had seen all day.  He had an urge to give Garreth a big hug, but he resisted.
“Take me home, Garreth.  Got some thinking to do.”
Garreth nodded and opened the back door.  Eddie slid in to the leather enclosure, finding comfort in being ensconced by the solid lines of the machine.  It was the perfect synthesis of technology and magic, this air car, and the techno-thaumaturges had worked for years to get the balance right.  It was a comforting extravagance, necessary in Eddie's line of work, where every moment of downtime was precious.

***

Eddie poured himself a stiff drink and sipped at it, staring at the notes scrolling down the flexiglass screen in his hand.  They were all he knew about the Gray Sisterhood, those fanatics, and they were all he had to go on in hunting them.  He wished he had more, honestly, but he was out of time.
Headquarters: Silver City.  Membership: Unknown.  Purpose: Unknown, but generally anti-magic, pro-technology.  Tactics: Sabotage, terrorism, kidnapping, protest mobilization.  Known agitators:
And here a roster of names unfolded itself, names that Eddie had collected over the years, known sympathizers and anti-magic extremists.  Simon Bunk's name was there, and Eddie marked it red, indicating Simon's death.  The red names outnumbered the black ones on this list, but only a few of them were Eddie's fault.  Most of the Gray sisterhood's dead activists met their fate on failed missions.






Saturday, May 9, 2015

Sinister writers club postponed today

It's way too nice outside to sit and write, so I'm going out!  The none of you who would normally be here will have to write on your own.  :)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Sinister Writers Club - Saturday edition

Hey Sinister Writer(s)!

I know I'm shouting at an empty warehouse with these posts, but hey, this is working for me, so I'm going to keep doing it.  You, for any definition of the word "you," are welcome to join me at any time, and if you say hello, I will say hello back.  Well, I probably won't say "hello back," because that's just useless and weird, but I will return your greeting.

Today's soundtrack: Disparition, the artist who does the music for Welcome to Night Vale.

Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast.  If you like Prairie Home Companion, but you wish it had a little more H. P. Lovecraft and Steven King, and a darker sense of humor, and vague shadowy figures that inhabit a dog park which no dogs, or people, are allowed to enter, then you should listen to Welcome to Night Vale.

Writing prompt: A scientist stumbles on something mysterious lurking at the bottom of his cereal bowl.

Bonus image writing prompt:



I'll be checking on this post for the next hour or so.

Cheers!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sinister Writers Club - After Dark

Welcome to the first Wednesday night edition of Sinister Writers Club.  If you're up for making a blank page less blank, say hi!

Today's soundtrack: Massive Attack on shuffle.





Writing prompt: A giant robot shows up on your doorstep and tells you...

Happy Wednesday!  We're more than halfway to the weekend!




Saturday, April 25, 2015

New! The Sinister Writers Club: Evening edition.

It's been a long day at work.  You're tired.  All you want to do is have a beer and sit in front of the tube and veg out and then do it all again the next day.

Instead, why not join me and bang out some words?

The next Sinister Writers Club will take place this Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 7:30PM Pacific Time.

Shake off the inertia and lethargy of the workweek and join me.

That way, if someone asks you:


You can say, "Hey, I worked on my writing project today!"

The Sinister Writers Club is in session!

Hello sinister writers!  Let's hunker down for an hour and bang out some words, shall we? Comment below with what you're working on, how many words you'd like to write, tell us where you're stuck, etc. Hell, just say hello.

Today's soundtrack: Evil Friends by Portugal. The man.  Digging this band's sound.



Today's writing prompt: A woman wakes up in a desert and finds that she's suddenly got a beeping metal bracelet around her right wrist.

Bonus! today's IMAGE writing prompt:




Inspirational quote:   “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” -Douglas Adams


I'm still working on my new story.  It's up to 11,000 words, and it is my goal to significantly increase that number today.  It's my first real attempt to write a sci-fantasy humor-ish novel inspired by Douglas Adams, Pratchett, Christopher Moore, and the like.  I had the first 10,000 words reviewed by my writing group on Tuesday, and I was given some really good feedback on how to improve it, but early reviews were generally positive.  
Ok, get writing!  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Find me on the book of faces!

I have an author page on Facebook!  You can connect with me there!  Here's the link!

Sorry, got a little overexcited there and used too many exclamation points.

First 10 people to connect with my author page on Facebook get a shiny new connection to my author page on Facebook.  Along with everyone else.

https://www.facebook.com/Ethanthej


New project - Chapter 2

Because I'm having so much fun writing this thing right now, here's Chapter 2.  Chapter 1 can be found here.

I still don't have a good title for it, but it's up to 11,000 words now, which isn't bad.  It's going to be critiqued on Tuesday by my writing group, so I'm sure I'll have lots of changes after that.  Still, sometimes it's interesting to see the raw product, pre-edit, and watch it progress to its final form.  I have no problem sharing that process with you.  


2.


Back at his apartment, Geoff put his keys down on the breakfast bar, shrugged off his blazer and threw it over a side chair in the living room, and then pulled a beer out of the fridge and guzzled it. The Valium...er, aspirin, well, ok, the placebo effect, was wearing off, and Geoff's hands were shaking a little.
The offer from Symon Brooks was absurd. Echelon wasn't ready for prime time. It was just a jumble of code, and a website he'd hacked together to test a small fraction of its capabilities.
And the name wasn't stupid, dammit. It was edgy, techie, nerdy, intelligent. Geoff wasn't entirely certain what the word meant exactly, but he had a vague idea that it had something to do with military formations. Echelon was about organizing data. Regimenting data. It was Geoff's attempt to order, to filter, to make some sense out of an external kind of chaos that mirrored the fractured, half-remembered, unfocused, unending stream of input that assaulted his mind every day.
Geoff gestured at the breakfast bar, and his Air Screen clicked on, the thin projectors built into the ceiling and the bar glowing as they wrangled photons into aetheric submission, filling the space between them with floating data. The image was distorted where he'd put his keys down, so he picked them up again and threw them somewhere else.
The Air Screen installation had been expensive and complicated, a stupid indulgence, really, but Geoff liked the “living in the future” aspect of it. He didn't use it as his primary tech device; the gesture-based interface wasn't intuitive enough for his taste, and the thing was, frankly, buggy as hell. Still, it was gadgety and fun to mess around with, and there were some great games on it.
He swiped over to look at his email inbox. Brooks hadn't sent him the contract yet. He scrolled through the endless morass of spam, catalogues, and mailing lists he kept getting himself on even though he kept hitting unsubscribe on every single one of them. Email had been in wide use for more than half a century, and he was still inundated with crap.
Sure, he could try using one of those organizational bots that promised to clean up his inbox and only show him the important stuff, but he knew enough from his experiments with Echelon that those kinds of algorithms could miss stuff. And he didn't want to miss something important. And he couldn't be bothered. It was fine. He had five million emails in his inbox, of which he'd read maybe a few hundred over the past ten years. That was how it was. His friends laughed at him, with their empty inboxes and neat and tidy e-lives, but he just shrugged it off. It was easier to leave an email in a place than to figure out where it should actually go.
Which was entirely the point of Echelon, really.
Combining Echelon with AI would make it infinitely powerful. Kind of a scary thought, but Geoff wasn't one of those doomsayers who was afraid of the latest advances in AI because it might lead to killer robots and the end of the world. It hadn't so far.
Still, Geoff wondered if it should be his mind that was uploaded into the thing. Geoff honestly worried that an AI based on his brain would spend its time bouncing from subject to subject, distracted and consumed with wonder at every new bit and byte of data but unable to absorb anything in particular, and find itself completely unable to handle the task of sorting the data it was asked to sort. Instead of regimenting the internet, an AI based on his mind might just make it worse.
Geoff knew his own limitations, spelled out in a four-letter diagnosis that had dogged him all his life. ADHD. An AI based on him wouldn't turn into an evil robot overlord. It wouldn't be able to stay focused long enough to figure out the first step to world control. It'd start hacking into a military database and then get distracted by a video file of cats yawning.
But maybe Symon Brooks could edit the ADHD out of Geoff's digital mind, take only the good stuff, and Geoff could see his e-self as an idealized, digital version of the person he should have been all his life, if only there weren't so many damned squirrels and doorknobs and shiny shiny baubles.
Geoff walked out of his kitchen and into his living room. He finished his beer and put the empty bottle down on a side table, where it shared space with two half-full water glasses, a small plate with sandwich crusts on it from two days ago, a book he'd been meaning to finish but hadn't, a tablet computer with a dead battery, a new battery for a different tablet computer that he didn't have anymore, two chargers for phones he wasn't using, and a pack of gum.
His Siamese cat announced herself by meowing a hello and then leaping up onto the back of his vinyl couch and walking across it toward him. She headbutted his hand as he passed, and he gave her a few absentminded pets. Her food bowl was empty, so he filled it, and gave her some clean water.
Geoff grabbed his Baton of his coffee table. Inactive, it looked like its namesake – a black, plastic stick about the size and circumference of a cigar. But when Geoff registered his fingerprint on a panel on one side of the Baton, it split open, and a flexiglass screen unrolled itself from within.
As usual, in grabbing his Baton, he nearly knocked over two empty beer bottles and a martini glass. He really should clean up the place, but bah.
He sat down on his couch and swiped open his social networks. One of his friends had posted a picture of a cat. Another of his friends was eating a sandwich. A third friend was feeding a sandwich to a cat. A fourth friend was very angry about something, and there was a whole long heated argument that had Godwined within twelve comments. Someone else had posted something from a website Geoff knew was full of inaccuracies but was relied on unquestioningly by people who adhered to the No Pepper diet/lifestyle/religion. Someone had posted a comment to the No Pepper post with a link to an actual well-sourced news article disproving the original article, and the original poster had been quick to question the credibility of the news article, claiming that the pro-No Pepper website had “done the research” and that was all the original poster needed to know. Another friend wanted him to try a new VR game that was free at first but required periodic payments to actually advance.
And so on and so forth.
All of these tech devices, and it's still all just cats, inane arguments, and porn, isn't it? Geoff sighed and swiped upwards on the Baton. It rolled itself back up.
Geoff realized he didn't know what time it was, or whether he needed to get ready for his date. He opened his Baton again and was immediately drawn into a web article about a new way to clean your dishes using only air, and then spent another ten minutes scrolling through a forum of people interested in antique scooters, and then was curious about whether there were any old scooters for sale nearby, and then was curious about the difference between four stroke and two stroke scooters, and then saw an ad for a new bar nearby and clicked on that. After a little while he closed the scroll again.
Geoff realized he still didn't know what time it was, even though he now remembered that he'd opened his Baton specifically to look at that. He opened it back up and looked at the clock.
It was 6:30, and he had to be at the restaurant in 30 minutes. Shit. He realized he didn't have time to change, but he figured the corduroy blazer he'd worn to the interview would be fine, right?
Only the cat was now sleeping on it. Damn. He ran to his bedroom and rummaged through his closet. He sniffed the underarms of the shirt he was wearing. He was fine there, and the shirt looked good, it was just sort of a boring and corporate button-down. Not exactly date wear. He needed to accessorize a little bit.
He realized that most of his clothes weren't in his closet; they were in various piles of clean laundry heaped around his bedroom. He was good about doing laundry. He just wasn't great about putting it away.
So everything was wrinkled and unwearable, and much of it was also covered in cat hair.
He decided to keep the shirt and black slacks he was wearing, just add his black leather motorcycle jacket to the mix, and call it good. He also put on a hat. Then he took off the hat. He thought about the hat. He found a different hat. Then he thought he might wear a scarf instead. He wondered if he could take this scarf and use it as kind of an ascot. No. He decided to forget the scarf and the hat. He rummaged around wildly for his keys, found them, patted himself down, realized he didn't have his phone wallet, scrambled around until he found that, opened the door of his apartment, looked down, and realized he was barefoot. He put his keys down, rummaged around for his boots and a clean pair of socks, managed that, and then spent another chunk of time trying to find his keys again.
With six minutes until his date was to arrive at a restaurant that would take him twenty minutes to drive to, Geoff finally had everything. He took a deep breath and walked out of his apartment.

The Sinister Writers Club is In Session!

Greetings, sinister writers!  Let's spend an hour creating worlds out of words.

Today's soundtrack (or, as Cecil would say, today's 'weather'):

"Neon Lounge Seduction" playlist on Google Music.  I can't figure out how to link to it.  Basically just throw on some Portishead, Morcheeba, and DJ Shadow, and you'll be into it.

Writing prompt: You're walking to work when suddenly you see yourself walking toward you, and it looks like you have an urgent message for yourself.

As always, say hello, tell me what you're working on, let me know what you need help with, maybe post some of your work.