Flash Friday: Hell is Hope

Much belated Flash Friday from Chuck Wendig’s prompt: Life is Hell

There’s no devils and brimestone here, only white grey walls and the sterile smell of death. I’m not sitting in a lake of fire, but in a plastic chair that I’d pulled up to the side of the bed.

Hell isn’t what I’d expected.

“Tasha?” My hand curls around my mother’s. It used to be strong and soft and tanned. It used to be magical, the way it could turn bandaids into cures, and do my braid just right. Now I’m holding bones held together by blue ropes and parchment skin.

“I’m here mom,” I whisper. My throat is raw, and every word hurts.

She smiles, and it’s a struggle.

“You look so sad, baby. Don’t be so sad,” Her other hand, just as fragile as the one I hold reaches up to rest against my cheek. But the effort is taxing and soon it droops to rest on my hands.

“I’m going to a better place,” she murmurs. Rheumy eyes close. “I’ll be waiting for you.”

“I’m so sorry mom,” I whisper. I want to sob so hard I throw up, I want to curl up next to her, to go with her. I want to do so much, but instead, I smile through the tears. Or at least I try.

“Sorry for what?” She asks me, opening her eyes, smiling at me. “There’s nothing you have to be sorry for.”

But there is.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help. I’m sorry about-“

“Shush,” she said, patting my hands. “Shush. It’ll sort itself out. You’ve got time.”

Only I didn’t.

“You’re so strong, Tasha. I can’t wait to see what you do.” She smiles again, and closes her eyes. I can feel the life slip out of her hands, draining down her arms to bleed out into the bed.

“Mom?”

I try to swallow, but now the sobs are too large to choke down. I curl around her hands, feeling the familiar hooks of grief curl into my belly, tearing up and out.

“Mom…”

I want to tell her that I’m sorry for not being strong enough. For taking the rest of her sleeping pills when I’d gotten home from the hospital, and chasing it with a gravol/vodka cocktail.

I didn’t think there was a Hell. Who could believe that sinners would wallow in fire and get stabbed by pitchforks for all eternity? But I was wrong.

“Tasha?” My hand curls around my mother’s. It used to be strong and soft and tanned. It used to be magical, the way it could turn bandaids into cures, and do my braid just right. Now I’m holding bones held together by blue ropes and parchment skin.

“I’m here mom,” I whisper. My throat is raw, and every word hurts. I swallow down the sobs again.

My mom smiles. Hell isn’t what I’d expected.

“You look so sad, baby. Don’t be so sad.”

It’s so much worse.

Bad Girls

As part of my on going homework, I read. I should read more than I do, to get a feel for what works narratively, how to pace a good story, because books are effing awesome, but I do read.

At the urging of a friend, I set aside my current books (in no particular order)…

…and downloaded by first eBook, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Jeegus. I was up way too late. I couldn’t help it, Flynn sucked in with the spot on character voices: annoyingly perky (I’ve met people like her) and unnecessarily bitter (him too). The voices of the two characters are a great contrast, so too is how they remember certain events. It really feels like I was listening to two different people talk.

I was hooked.

This morning on the way to work I googled the author and found this article  on her site about how women can be bad, be violent and plain nasty, and something clicked. It’s kind of like the ‘Strong Female Character‘ debate, where women are allowed to be a certain kind of strong but only until the man shows up. Personally I think it’s just a new fetish going on in the fiction industries, but YMMV on that. Flynn mentions that she found a similar dissonance in the mean girls of fiction: women ‘go bad’ because of [insert reason here]. Maybe they’re stressed and lonely and lash out. Maybe they’re jealous of the heroine/Hero’s love interest. The explanation varies, but there’s almost always an explanation, especially if the Bad Girl is supposed to be on the protagonist’s side.

Sure there are women out there like that, (I’ve met some), but I’ve also met a number of women that are just mean and aggressive because that’s who they are. Women that snipe with comments more devestating than hollow points, or twist the knife while asking ‘don’t you think?’.

Flynn articulates what I’ve been thinking about the ‘Bad Girls’ of fiction. Be it movies, prose, or video games. Some people are just mean, like some are sweet. Some people are aggressive, and it isn’t delineated by gender, so much as personality. Female violence is a different beast than male violence, but it’s there. And it’s there in a simmering, lurking prevalence that doesn’t seem to show up much in fiction. Maybe that’s because women are still tokens, or if there’s more than one in a story they are often siblings or rivals. At least in SFF. Where are the frenemies in the fellowship?

Things are changing, and improving, but as a beginner in this world of writing, this sense of full-ness, with it’s sharp edges and sandpaper grit is something I want to pull off. Building a fictional world is complicated and full of pitfalls, but without well-rounded characters and cast, it just feels empty. I don’t want to write empty stories. I want to write stories crammed full of personality and people that don’t necessarily get along.

Like Flynn says, we as women aren’t given tools to articulate the weird aggressiveness/sexuality/violence that many of us go through. But I need to learn how to articulate this, if I want to keep growing as a writer.

The work never stops.

-Alice

March Goals

I have been so bad. I am sorry. I hang my head in shame. Well, not really, because there were a couple family crises (again) but this time everyone’s okay, if sporting a couple new badass scars.

But holy shit-snacks what happened to February? I know it’s the shortest month, but I have to admit not only did I not get much writing done, but I didn’t meet any more of my goals from January! Nor did I post… anything. At all.

I feel much shame. (Not really).

So here’s March’s Slightly-More-Reasonable-Goals

Novel – SpyFi 

  • Chapter 10  - 40%
  • Chapter 11 – 20%

Short Story/Novelette – The Cold ones

  • Draft 1 – 30% To be finished this week

Flash Fridays

  • (super belated) Pied Piper- 2%
  • Describe a thing in ten ways.

January Sprint Update

So the Interactive post will probably show up next week. I got into planning it and realised just how friggen big it’s going to get. I’m probably going to split it up into a series, covering traditional, digital and game media. So for now I’ll just ramble a bit about progress/lack thereof.

Novel – SpyFi 

  • Chapter 10  - 40%
  • Chapter 11 – 20%
  • Chapter 12 – 0%

Short Story – The Cold ones

  • Draft 1 – 30%

Short Story – Rejection

  • Draft 1 - 100%
  • Story pass – 65%
  • Beta/Critique – 0%

Flash Fridays

  • House of Glass – 2%

Flash Friday: Amethyst Angel

by Alice Black

From: Sinclair, John
To: Al-Hud, Mahmud <mahmud.al-hud@did.gc.ca>
Subject: Communications with Namea Michelakis

Good afternoon Investigator, I’ve attached the last communications I had with Dr. Michelakis leading up to the event at Yorkton University’s campus.

Michelakis was by nature somewhat secretive, and rarely shared her findings with her academic peers. While I know something went terribly wrong, I can’t say for certain what triggered the catastrophic failure of the Interdimensional security framework set up on-campus.

If there is anything else I can help you with, please let me know. I’ll be at the vigil tonight until 10pm, but otherwise will be completely free.

John Sinclair
Associate Professor,
School of Summoning,
Yorkton University 

———————————————————————————–

From: Michelakis, Namea 
To: Sinclair, John
Subject: FWD: Your Nomination for Sainte Michelline Francois Award

OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. 

From: “Canada Council for Thaumaturgic Research -Conseil des recherches thaumaturgiques du Canada” <awards-accolades@cctr-crtc.gc.ca>
To: Michelakis, Namea <namea.michelakis@yorkton.ca>
Subject
: Your Nomination for Sainte Michelline-Francois Award

Congratulations Dr. Michelakis! We are pleased to inform you that your proposal on the summoning Judeo-Christian angelics through non-surgical means was nominated for the Sainte Michelline-Francois Award for research into judeo Christian summoning rituals.

To progress towards further consideration, we will be granting you a one-time bursary to bring your proposal to a small preliminary trial. Please see attached for approved funds. In return, we will need your expanded proposal, as well as any specifications that need to be cleared through the Department of Interdimensional Defense (DID) for the purposes of your preliminary trial.

We look forward to hearing from you soon,

Estaban Moehler

Director of the CCTR / Directeur du CRTC

- Namea

———————————————————————————–

From: Sinclair, John
To: Michelakis, Namea
Subject: re:FWD: Your Nomination …

That’s great news! Congratulations Namea! Do you have everything you’ll need for the preliminary trial? If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know. I’ve got a couple grad students that are too bored. They’re not the brightest, but they’re bodies if that’s what you need.

- John

———————————————————————————–

From: Michelakis, Namea 
To: Sinclair, John
Subject: re:FWD: Your Nomination …

I don’t know, I’m still working out some of the Thaum feedback issues. Not that I mentioned that in my proposal, of course. But wow. Ok. Can you send over those students?

Here’s what I need:

  • No prior indications of Psy or Thaum resonance outside of normal levels
  • Stable psychological background with no report of visions in family history
  • Religious background not necessary

Thanks John, I really owe you one. I have a couple of Grad students that work in my lab. I’m thinking of pulling them up. But ugh, Master’s students.

- Namea

———————————————————————————–

From: Sinclair, John
To: Michelakis, Namea
Cc: Hopkins, Bryant; Sandoval, Juanita; Monpetit, Olivia
Subject: re:FWD: Your Nomination …

Just remember to return the favour when you get that grant! And hah, well, depends what you need them for I guess.

 Bryant, Juanita and Olivia have volunteered to help out.

Let me know if there’s anything else I can do!

- J

———————————————————————————–

From: Michelakis, Namea
To: Hopkins, Bryant; Sandoval, Juanita; Monpetit, Olivia; GradGroup[+]
Subject: Mtg Agenda – Jan 10th

Thanks all for meeting on such short notice. I’ve attached the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting. Please review and prepare any questions. A reminder, the meeting is at 9 am sharp. I’ll be providing refreshments.

Namea Michelakis
Fellow, School of Summoning,
Yorkton University 

Attached Files: NSS_Jan10_Agenda.docx | StMartinsCh3.pdf | CCTR_Proposal_Michelakis.pdf | NSS_Prelim_Outline.docx

———————————————————————————– 

Non-Surgical Summoning Preliminary Trial Outline

Trial Date: Jan 16th, 2014
Time: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Location: Helena Cordova Bldg., Room 4028

To be administered via sublingual drops: 

  • Control: 0.25g of glucose solution
  • Group A: 0.25g of AA-351 suspension
  • Group B: 0.25g of AA-359 suspension

During Trial
Monitor: heart rate, REM movements and micro-motor actions of the left hand, any rise in Psy or Thaum resonance

Record: subject’s vocalizations, gestures and encourage subject to narrate his/her experiences.

Security issues […]

———————————————————————————–

From: Sinclair, John
To: Michelakis, Namea
Cc: Hopkins, Bryant; Sandoval, Juanita; Monpetit, Olivia
Subject: Campus Wide evacuation?

Namea what’s going on? Did the evacuation affect your trial? Do you need to reschedule?

Let me know

- John

———————————————————————————–

From: Michelakis, Namea 
To: Sinclair, John
Subject: uneχpecteδ rεsultς

john, I’ve ruN the trial but we had sOme unexpected resultS. we Administered the solution as planned, but the results turned out to be more VolatIle than we Originally thoUght. Right now, i’m NOt sure that my proposal will make it to selection, if i’m HonEst. After what happened, i’ll need to re-eValuatE my assumptioNs. 

YOU might Want to consIder Looking into more resiLient students, i thinK. juaNita and montpEtit are suffEring from unforseen side effects. that shouLdn’t last BEyond Friday OR saturday at the latEst. Here’s the transcrIpt froM the trial. (see Attached). Now to Determine how BEst to Go about avoiding lawsuits.

-nαmeα

———————————————————————————–

From: Al-Hud, Mahmud
To DID-Judeo-Christian-Summnrs[+]
Subject: Re: Namea Michelakis Incident

Final Report

Event Description

January 16th, at 7am, Dr. Namea Michelakis triggered a Class 5 Summoning Event in the Helena Cordova Building at Yorkton University. My investigation reveals that she was attempting a clinical trial into non-surgical summoning of a Judeo-Christain Angelic, class Cherubim, through the use of an amethyst ionized solution.

The video stream we pulled from the lab shows at 8:07am, an Angelic made contact through  the subjects, class Seraphim. At 8:10 the Angelic executed a transdimensional sacrifice, resulting in the loss of 7 students and three of the graduate students. Dr. Michelakis survived, but suffered extensive injury from the event. Transdimensional feed back triggers the Yorkton security system and the campus begins evacuation.

Michelakis sends her last email.

The Angelic, now corporeal, travelled from the Helena Cordova building towards Oppenhiemer Library (see attached map), resulting in 89 injuries, and 12 more deaths.

Assessment

Extensive damage to transdimensional aether shield and lingering traumatic resonance will necessitate a Thaum-sink until further evaluation.

-Mahmud

Gearing up

Okay. later this week I’ll be doing a Nuggets o’Knowledge about interactive storytelling (as in interactive/non traditional stories) but I’m still working on putting that together. Instead you get an update on writing! (because I know all, like, none of you asked for it.)

I did a big post about my goals for 2014, so I thought I’d do mini monthly goals which I call ‘Sprints’ cuz, you know you’ll leave everything to the last minute so this breaks your sprints up into huffing, wheezing weekly events so you don’t kill yourself sprinting a marathon.

Protip: don’t sprint a marathon.

January Sprint

Drafting

Novel – SpyFi 

  • Chapter 10  - 40%
  • Chapter 11 – 20%
  • Chapter 12 – 0%

The Cold ones

  • Draft 1 – 20%

Rejection

  • Draft 1 - 30%
  • Story pass – 0%
  • Beta/Critique – 0%

FF – Amethyst Angel

Chuck‘s Flash Friday – “Roll for Title

  • Draft 1 – 0%
  • Spelling/grammar pass – 0%

Critique Group

Meets end of Jan and have The Cold Ones OR Rejection ready for them.

New Year, New Goals

*shakes off the dust and clingy shittiness of 2013*

Right! New Year, New Goals. I was going to write this post anyways, but saw that David Farland had a post up about Writing Goals, so I modified my original idea to break it down into lists. (yay organization!)

Editor cat

Pre-Writing

Novel 2 – The Novelling Deepens

Research into necessary historical issues: societal, military, organizational and scientific practices.

World Build the nations, economy, conflicts and societies where the story takes place.

Develop the Characters who live in this world: who they are, who they want to be and what’s stopping them from being that.

Outline the major plot points and then work from large to small: breaking down the major events into arcs and then chapters.

Short stories

Research into medical proceedures, nanotechnology and medical complications.

World Build for 1) Gaslight Fantasy, 2) Sci Fi system, 3) Blood Curses.

Develop the Characters and their story arcs.

Outline the major plot points.

Writing

Quality

Style – Work on smoothing out style. Less jerkiness from topic to topic, unless it sylistically contributes to the scene/story at hand. Must be intentional.

Grammar – Break out the ol’ CP Stylebook and do a thourough comb-through of all stories and novels.

Story – Needs to be a story vs a situation. Characters need to have agency, rather than just react to events going on around them.

Quantity

Novel – SpyFi 

Complete Draft 2.1 by Ad Astra (April 4th) [Essentially a full re-write] - 40%

Short stories to Finish

Water’s Way – 50%
Ghak the Great – 30%
Goetia – 30%
Rejection – 30%
The Cold Ones – 10%
Personal Demons – 10%
Rosie n’ Punt Make a Man – 10%
Hollow Girl – 0%
Don’t Know Jack – 0%
Homecoming Queen – 0%

Consistency

Daily

Write between 500-1000 words per day.

Monthly

Draft at least one short story per month.

Revise the previous month’s and submit it. 

Quarterly

Enter WotF until I’m ineligible (either through winning or sales, either would count as a success!)

Finish a draft of a novel. (likely revised drafts)

Editing & Rewriting

Novel – SpyFi

Have a version of the novel that is ready for submissions by Year’s end, either for Angry Robot’s Open Door, or to get an Agent.

Short stories

Use the following system for EVERY short story:

  1. Draft
  2. Story Pass
  3. Beta readers/Critiques
  4. Character Pass
  5. Dialogue
  6. Proof/Copy

Training

Blogs

TerribleMinds‘ Flash Fridays at least twice a month.

David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants

Critique Group(s)

 Continue to work with critique group(s)

Conventions

Ad Astra – Attend as many relevant panels as possible and as many parties as possible and sleep… sometime.
Dragon*ConWriter’s Track (not sure about this website though, looks like it might be out of date)
Can-Con – hopefully be on some panels again, though not sure how I’m going to top last year’s dinner with Derek and David Hartwell. That was kind of awesome.

Workshops

Dragon*con has some workshops listed, and if they’re offered again this year I’m hoping to make it out to some of them.