Friday, May 30, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: DNA

Today's Flash Fiction Friday: DNA

Diane closed the locker using a handhold for leverage as she floated in free fall.  The door clanged and the sound echoed down the long, empty corridor.

"That's the last of them," she said more with sadness than relief.

"That's a billion," Mark growled.  "More than enough."  He was hovering nearby.  He didn't need to be here but it was the last locker.

"Yes, but what about those left behind?"  Diane turned to him, eyes bright with tears.  "Why are we, why are they-" she flung and arm down the corridor "-the lucky ones.

Mark shook his head.  "Over our pay grade, Diane.  Don't worry about it."

"There's six billion who are very worried."

Mark frowned.  "We have to stay focused and we have to stay on mission.  We have a long trip ahead of us.  We have a long trip to Kepler-186f."

"Five hundred light years," Diane grumbled.

"Come on," Mark said, "we need to prepare to leave orbit.  Then we need to get ready for our 13-year journey. Just you and me, kid."

Diane smiled.  They were chosen for this mission because they were compatible, personable, and, according to Earth's top psychological minds, destined to fall in love.  It happened in training.

Then Diane's visage hardened.  "Thirteen years for us travelling at nearly the speed of light, over 500 for Earth .  By the time we get to 186f, it'll be over."

Mark frowned.  "It's best not to dwell on that."

"How can I not, Mark?  They will slaughter every man, woman, and child on the planet and make it their colony."

"They gave us the technology to do this.  They gave us the technology to build this ship.  To clone humans from DNA."

"At what price?  Our planet?"

"Considering we lost the war, I think they were being generous."

Diane snorted.

Mark hoped she wouldn't be like this the entire trip.  "Come on, let's get ready to leave orbit."  Even he didn't dare say "Leave Earth behind."

Diane smiled slightly and using handholds they pulled themselves up the corridor toward the bridge.  It would be nice when they were accelerating at one gee, no more free fall, Diane had to admit.

The corridor was long.  It had to be, to hold one billion humans' DNA.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On the Radio

Today at approximately 4:00 P.M. EDT (1:00 P.M. PDT), I will be on Red River Radio talking about writing, my latest book Gods of Strife, and reading a short excerpt from the novel.  It's going to be fun and informative and I might even sing (okay, probably not.)  "Tune in" at this link:

Don't miss it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Drive Time: Write What you Love

Lamborghini Countach
(This is my 300th post on this blog)

Today is, in the US, Memorial Day.  Yesterday the Indianapolis 500 race was ran (as was the Coca-Cola 600 but that's NASCAR so who cares?).  As is my tradition, going back to 1969, I watched the Indy 500.  And in 1969, I decided Mario Andretti was my hero/favorite driver (and I didn't like the Unser brothers).  Now Mario's grandson, Marco, came in third yesterday and his son, Micheal, is a team owner who owned the winning car.

I'm not a big fan of watching racing on television.  I find it boring.  That is especially true NASCAR which I call "rednecks turning left" and is like your interstate line up going 150 mph.  Yes, the crashes are spectacular but I worry more that someone might get hurt.  I tried hard to like watching Formula 1 (when they show it on US television) but while the precision driving is interesting, there seems to be missing the wheel-to-wheel competition to keep it interesting.  It's sort of like baseball: moments of action separated by hours of tedium.

I've always like cars.  I can't remember a time I didn't like cars.  I didn't want to work on them and I didn't want to modify them, I just wanted to drive them . . . fast.  And I still do, occasionally hitting felonious velocities on back country roads or watching the speedometer brush against 155 at the end of the straightaway on the race track.  I once described driving on the racetrack the most fun I've had with my clothes on.  Talking about driving on the track I wrote a blog post called "Zen and the Art of Driving Fast."  Since driving on a racetrack I have tremendous respect for professional race car drivers, even NASCAR.

In my writing I've not spent a lot of time dwelling on my love of cars.  In my Adept Series novels, the heroes generally disdain cars, don't drive, and have someone drive them if they need them.  They use taxis a lot.

That changed a bit in Gods of Strife, my latest Adept Series novel that is set in 1976.  I indulged myself a bit by including a Lamborghini Countach and a Ferrari GT4 BB (both 1970s "supercars") in the plot.  There's even a car chase of sorts with the good guys in the Lamborghini and the bad guy on a flying carpet (well, it is an urban fantasy).

What is it you love?  Do you include that love in your writing?  You should.  You want your writing to be passionate and if you write about your passions, it will be.  I was frustrated writing some of the Adept Series books because I had to shuttle my love of cars (and other things such as airplanes) to other characters.

They say "write what you know."  But I would add "write what you love."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Mask

Today's Flash Fiction Friday: The Mask

Mike sat in his car, watching the bank through the rear view mirror.  He's staked it out and around 2:00 P.M. was when the bank's traffic was slowest.  There was only one car in the parking lot now.

On the passenger seat were the two things he brought for this job: the mask and the gun.  The gun was an old revolver, snub-nosed, that he'd inherited from his father.  He didn't know if it would even fire; the bullets in it were at least a generation old.

"I guess it's time," he said to himself.  He didn't turn off the car but stepped out into the summer heat with the gun and the mask.  This wasn't what he wanted to do.  But with the economy still in the toilet, job prospects scant, he had to feed his family.  He pulled the hot mask over his head and strode toward the entrance to the bank.  That's when he heard the screams.  They were coming from an alley between two tall buildings to his right.

"No, no, no!" a woman screamed.

Mike turned, hesitated, than ran for the alley.  He saw two big men menacingly approaching a petite young woman.  Already her pantyhose were ripped and there was dirt on her skirt, indicating to Mike the men had already knocked her down once.

"Stop!" Mike yelled, pointing the revolver at the men.

The men turned and looked at him with questioning eyes.  He realized he was still wearing the mask.

"Leave her alone," Mike growled, trying to sound threatening.

The men exchanged a glance, then turn and ran out the alley, past the woman.

The woman gawked at Mike.  "Th-th-thank you," she said in a shuddering voice.  "You saved me.  I don't know who you are but you're a good person."

Mike looked at her.  He smiled.  She smiled back.

"You're welcome," was all he said.

He turned, walked back to his car, took off the mask, and drove away.  He'd start looking for a job again tomorrow.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Free Short Story: To End All Wars

You can enjoy a free short story set in the Adept Series world: "To End All Wars."

Buck Sergeant O'Malley has seen a lot of war: more than anyone in Second Platoon, Boy Company realizes. Because O'Malley is 6,000 years old and, using various names and disguises, has been there from Thermopylae to the trenches of World War I, trying to protect the men going into combat, trying to save women and children, trying to push back the darkness that descends each time men takes up arms against men. And now his squad has been ordered "over the top" to face enemy machinegun fire. Will this be the end of O'Malley's very long life?

Available from the following places:

Smashwords (various formats) (Kindle) for $0.99

Barnes and Noble: (Nook) $0.99

Kobo (Kobo format)

iTunes (iTunes format)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Signing Etiquette

If you're a writer, at some point you might be asked to do a book signing.  I've done a few and here's some things I've learned:

Be Prepared: Have three pens (at least one will walk off, the other die), plenty of books, swag (bookmarks, etc.) book stands (book stores don't always provide these).  And try to look nice.

You need traffic: Make sure the bookstore sets you up where people will be walking by.  If you're in the back corner, people aren't going to seek you out.

Be polite, nice, and friendly: Establish rapport with the customer.  Ask them their name, ask them how their day is going.  Smile, be friendly.  They are much more likely to pick up your book if they think of you as a friend.

Have a "elevator speech" ready for each book: You need a one-sentence description for each book you have there.  For instance, for Hammer of Thor I say "Hitler steals the Hammer of Thor, Thor comes back for it. Bad news either way."  No one wants to listen to a ten-minute dissertation on the plot points of your novel.  Keep it short and simple.

Don't snipe: If it's a multi-author event, don't snipe customers from other authors.  Let them finish with the customer before you talk to them.

Ask how to spell the name: These days, especially, names can be spelled weird.  So always ask "Who do I make it out to" and then "How do you spell that?" or "Is that spelled D-A-N?"  You'll be surprised how many names are spelled very strangely: "No, that's D-H-A-N-N."

Sign and put the date: Putting the date makes it seem more official and special.

Say "Thank you" and mean it: and give them a bookmark (you do have bookmarks, don't you?).

Stay positive: If no one buys your books, or even speaks to you, stay positive, give out swag, and SMILE.  No one will want to talk to you if you're a grump.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: A Thousand Lives . . .

Today for Flash Fiction Friday, the beginning of a story that went no where, title A Thousand Lives . . .
Death doesn't care.
You can be brave, fearful, not go gently, or welcome it.
Death does not care.
Death will come.  Death will take you.  From the battlefield where your shattered body lies alone in mud and blood.  From the sanitary hospital bed with white sheets and your loved ones around you.
Death does not care.  It will take you.
I'm on a first-name basis with Death.
Everyone lives once.  Everyone dies once.  Everyone, that is, but me.
I've had a thousand names.  I've died a thousand deaths.  I am not a coward; I am not brave.  I am not human.
We first came to this planet when your ancestors where finding out that throwing rocks was an efficient way to kill animals.  Or each other.  We were evolved beyond bodies.  We traveled in vessels of pure energy, storing our consciousness in the interlacing electromagnetic pathways.  I was as big as a galaxy.  I was as small as a quark.
We found corporal beings vulgar yet amusing.  Like you keep a goldfish simply to watch it swim in its unknowingness, we watched you.
Until the accident.  Until the one thing that could never ever happen did.
I got lost.
On your planet, I got lost, left behind.
You might think me a spirit or a ghost.  I'm not, I'm just immortal yet I needed a body to live in.  No, I don't understand it.  I'm a billion times smarter than your smartest scientists and I don't know why I am cursed to live on this planet, one life after the other.  I die, and wake up in a new body, a baby, a boy, a girl, black, white, yellow, red.  I've been a slave (more times than I care to count), a king, a peasant, a whore, a prince, a nun, a warrior.
I've died a thousand deaths a thousand different ways.
I think drowning is the worst, at least of the non-violent ways to die.  Holding your breath until you can't hold it any longer.  Sweet relief as you inhale, then . . . death, as your brain is deprived of oxygen.  The bottom decks of the Titanic were probably the worst.  Add your most claustrophobic nightmare with drowning.  I was, to be honest, glad it was pitch black.  I couldn't see the men around me dying, too, sentenced to death for the crime of being boiler stokers.
But I had also died so many violent, painful deaths, sometimes horrific deaths.  Too many to recount, too many to list.
I'd been this man for twenty-five years.
They said I was wise beyond my years.  Had the eyes of an old man.  If they only knew.  Not that I remembered anything from my previous lives when I was alive.  I only remembered when I was dead.  Dead just long enough to relive all the horrors I had experienced over epochs of humanity before I would be shoved into the next life.  And then the next life.  And the next life.
The circumstances you are born in determine more of your life than you ever consider.  The sharecropper's son who becomes a billionaire, yes, it happens.  But most sharecropper's son will be sharecroppers.  Or drunks.  Or join the Army.
I joined the Army.  It was 1939.  The world was secure.  The United States was protected by two big oceans and President Roosevelt promised to keep the US out of the brewing conflict in Europe.  The Army was safe, secure, and I had a roof over my head and three square meals a day. 
I was even happier when in spring of 1941 I was transferred to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.  White sand beaches, warm water, and beautiful women.  I didn't care what color someone was (I'd been that color at some point).  I didn't know why but I always preferred women, even when I was one.
I woke up on Sunday morning early.  It was December.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Out Today: Gods of Strife

Released today, the fourth novel in the Adept Series: Gods of Strife.

They live among us.  We know they are there.  No government can control them; no authority can stop them.  Some are evil.  Some are good.  All are powerful.  They inhabit our myths and fairy tales.  But what if they were real, the witches, wizards, and fairy godmothers?  What if they were called "adepts" and an ancient evil stalks them?

An assassination attempt on the head of the American Meta Association guild sends adept Peter Branton looking for who wants him and his leader dead.  Finding the beautiful, shape-shifting assassin leads him to his real enemy, an enemy that is much worse and much more dangerous: living gods of Atlantis.  Branton must team with up with his would-be killer and a mysterious warrior to defeat the gods of strife that are intent on starting a war that could devastate all mankind.

View the trailer here.

Here's all the places (so far) you can get your own copy:

Smashwords (multi-format ebooks)

Amazon Paperback and Kindle

Square Marketplace (signed by the author paperback)

Direct from the publisher paperback and PDF

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Movies Lied To Us

I like movies, and I especially like science fiction movies.  But if you are writing science fiction, movies are not a good place to learn your science because movies (and television) are generally grossly scientifically inaccurate when it comes to space, physics, and spacecraft.  I tend to suspend disbelief for the sake of enjoying the movie (unless the movie is one that tries to be real, like Gravity).  But when I write science fiction I try to be scientifically accurate despite what the movies tell me.

What are these errors?  Well, ignoring things such as warp drive, hyperspace, teleportation, phasers, and other bits of science fiction, science errors in movies generally fall into the following categories:

1: Ships move as if they are aerodynamic in airless space.  I love the climax of Star Wars Episode IV.  The X-wing and Y-wing fighters of the brave rebels against the TIE fighters and lasers of the Death Star.  But the so-called spacecraft move as if they are flying in air, not moving in space and certainly not reacting to the gravitational field of a massive space station.  Ships in space move in response to gravitational mechanics (see my review of Gravity for details) and/or as their various rockets make them move.  I suppose it might be possible with computer-controlled retro and attitude rockets to make a spacecraft move like an airplane. But why bother?

2: Crew members jostled by ship movements on ships with artificial gravity. It's obvious why so many ships in science fiction movies and television shows have artificial gravity: filming a movie with people in free fall would be very complicated and expensive (viz: Apollo 13).  But if a ship has artificial gravity, no one on board is going to feel the ship's movements, including when it gets hit with a photon torpedo.  I know why they have crew members jostled around by photon torpedo impacts or ship movements: visuals.  But it would never happen.  The gravity tied to the ship would be as steady at the gravity on the Earth.  And you don't feel the Earth's movements (rotation around its axis and orbit around the Sun).

3: In space, no one can hear you scream. There's no air in space, we all know that.  And yet the TIE fighters howl as they zoom by on the screen.  There is gas in space (interstellar medium between stars) but it's not thick enough to transmit much sound (about one hydrogen atom per cubic millimeter).  Inside a spaceship with air you'd be able to hear sounds generated inside the ship (people talking, computers beeping, etc.), but nothing from outside.

4: Yes, Virginia, there is gravity in space and you have to deal with it.  If there were no gravity in space, planets wouldn't orbit the Sun, the Moon wouldn't orbit the Earth, nor would all the artificial satellites.  There is gravity in space and it's not "zero gravity" except maybe if your a couple of light years from the nearest star (micro-gravity would be more accurate).  If you're in orbit about a planet you are in "free fall" not "zero gravity."  (Again, see my review of Gravity for details.)  Ships in space have to deal with the gravitational fields around them.  If you are moving about a solar system, the star's gravity will affect your ship.  You will be in orbit of that star and have to deal with orbital mechanics where you slow down to go faster and speed up to slow down.

5: Momentum equals mass times velocity. Remember that exciting moment when the TIE fighter is zooming toward the Millennium Falcon and at the last moment Han Solo blasts it apart?  In the real world, Han, Luke, Leia, and Chewy would have all died immediately thereafter.  Because now the pieces of the TIE Fighter are careening at the Millennium Falcon like a huge shotgun blast and will rip the ship apart.  Even though you blow up the TIE Fighter, its pieces still have momentum and will still be coming straight at the Falcon with the same speed they had just before they blew up.  That's because of the law of conservation of momentum.  Oh, sure, some will be knocked aside by the explosion, but most will keep going oblivious to the fact they are no longer part of a whole, and will pepper the Falcon with holes.

6: Explosions in space will look nothing like they look in movies/TV.  There's no air in space.  And all that roiling and boiling that explosions do is in response to the hot gasses from the explosion reacting with the air.  Explosions in space will probably be symmetrical: cones or spheres, and will die out quickly because there's no air to support the continued burning of the gasses.  Plus, the big orange/red explosions we're used to Hollywood showing us are mostly gasoline and I don't think starships will have gasoline on board.

I hope these help make your science fiction writing more accurate.  Because without scientific accuracy, you're not writing science fiction, you're writing space fantasy.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Horoscope

Today's Flash Fiction Friday post is . . . The Horoscope.

"Damn," George said looking in the mirror.  What the hell did he do last night?  His eyes were sunken and blood shot, his skin was a pale yellow color as if he was literally full of piss.  His black hair was all a-tussle and some of it seemed to be matted together.  And there was an aching in mouth and blood dried in the corner.  And his mouth felt as if he'd eaten something not meant to be inside a human orifice.  He grimaced.
"Oh fuck!" he exclaimed, which hurt his head.  Right in front of his mouth was a missing tooth.  One of the big ones in front.  The black gap stared back at him like the gates of hell.
"What in the name of God did I do?"
He looked down, trying to think, remember.  There was a lipstick tube on the counter next to the sink.  From its haphazard angle it seemed someone just tossed it down.  He thought about picking it up but he was afraid of it, as if represented everything wrong with this morning.
It started with his horoscope.  It was Friday, last day of work for the week.  And his horoscope seemed to know this.  "A good day for celebrating," it said.  "Enjoy a good time with friends."
Well, if I had friends, George thought.  George read a lot, studied a lot, but friends, no. 
He remembered the bar.  He remembered the shots.  He remembered the dark-haired girl egging him on.  Who was that girl? he growled.  And what happened to my tooth?
He jumped when the hand touched his naked back.  He turned.  She was there: the dark-haired girl.  She smiled sweetly and grabbed the lipstick.  She was dressed in the same outfit she wore last night at the bar.  And she had a five-o'clock shadow on her chin.
She kissed his cheek and he felt the stubble against his dermis.  "You were wonderful last night," she whispered.  He didn't remember her voice being so deep.
"Who are you?" George asked, staring at her, trying to make the dark stubble go away.  It didn't work.
"I'm Chastity," she said.
The woman looked in the mirror.  "Oh, damn, do you have a razor I can borrow?  I can't go out looking like this."
George felt light-headed.  She was, he was, it was a dude!  He fainted, hitting his head on the toilet.  "Chastity" gasped and bent over to pick George up.  She was, he was strong.  "Oh baby," he said.  "You did that last night, too.  Knocked your tooth out."
George looked up at her, at him.  "Did we?"
She smiled.  "We did.  And like I said, baby, you were fantastic."
George felt the bile rise in his throat.  "I was?"
"Chastity" smiled.  "Yes, you played Quixotic on a triple word with the "q" on the triple letter.  I have never played Scrabble with someone as good as you.  It's so great to have a challenge for a change."
We-we-we played Scrabble?"
"Oh yes!  You were bragging how good you were at the bar and I thought it was the shots talking but you came through."
"Then why did I faint?"
"Chastity" smiled sweetly.  "I guess I surprised you."
"I played 'jeez" on a triple word with the 'z' on a triple letter . . . twice."
Chastity looked in the mirror again.  "Really, darling, can I please borrow your razor.  It's bad enough I slept on that lumpy couch and now my back hurts.  You can't send me in public looking like this!"
George stammered out that the razor was behind the mirror.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

I was about to go see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in the theater when it left town.  At first I wasn't going to bother because I was so disappointed by An Unexpected Journey.  But friends kept saying it was better and worth seeing.  But I didn't and had to wait for it to come out on Netflix.  I watched it last night.

I believe that as an entertainer (writer, movie director, singer, whatever) you want to leave your audience wanting more.  For example, in The Empire Strikes Back, you didn't want the asteroid-dodging space chase to end.  You didn't want the speeder bike chase through the Endor Moon forest to end in Return of the Jedi.  And you wanted more when they did end.  Lucas did this beautifully in the first three Star Wars movies (first as in when released, not first as in order they take place).  Yes, sometimes his climatic battles dragged on a bit (especially in Jedi) but he managed to keep them interesting with dazzling special effects.  Lucas seemed to have forgotten this when he made the three prequels.  I remember going from "Oh, that's cool" to "when is this going to end" with the interminable battle sequences of Episodes I, II, and III.  I wonder if because CGI is so much easier and cheaper than live-action or model/bluescreen effects, Lucas was able to make the scenes go on and on when before he couldn't afford to.

And this is the problem that both Hobbit movies suffer.  The chase/fight scenes go on forever.  For instance, as they are escaping the elves' lair and being attacked by orcs and Legolas and that chick elf were fighting the orcs, it started out fun and exciting, but as the sequence went on and on, it started getting boring.  Yes, Legolas shooting orcs with his bow while standing on dawarves in barrels was marginally cool.  But by then I was starting not to care.

Please, Mr. Jackson, just because you can film it, doesn't mean you have to film it.  Please leave us wanting more, not less.  Do not hammer us with your CGI brilliance.  You did this in Lord of the Rings (mostly), why are you not doing this in The Hobbit?

Oh, and an elf/dwarf romance?  Puleeese.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has it's brilliant parts.  But they are interrupted by long, never-ending battles.  The film could have been amazing (despite the violence done to Tolkien's original work).  But it is merely okay.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Not Paying Attention

All through your childhood and even into adult life, people were always telling you to "pay attention."  In school, in our jobs, in our daily tasks were are admonished to "pay attention."  And, yes, there are many situation where paying attention is a good thing.  I wish more people sitting behind the wheel of the car they are driving would pay more attention.

But sometimes, not paying attention can yield results.

My middle son is home from college for summer break.  He turned on the television.  I was in another room where I couldn't see the TV, but I could hear.  He started watching King of the Hill.  Now, I have watched nearly every episode of this show starting it's second season (I had to be talked into watching it).  That's 12 seasons and I've seen most of the first season in reruns (and my kids watching the show on Netflix streaming).  I liked King of the Hill and was sad when the show's run ended.

And every time I watched King of the Hill, I saw Stephen Root's name in the credits.  But I never thought about whose voice he provided.  And I like Stephen Root; he's a very good character actor and I've seen him a a lot of television shows and movies.

So my is watching King of the Hill and I'm not paying attention to it except I can hear it.  I hear Hank HIll, Boomhauer, Dale, and Bill.  And I'm really not listening but for the first time ever, I realize that Stephan Root does the voice of Bill Dauterive because I'm hearing Stephen Root, not seeing Bill Dauterive.  Once I disconnected the image from the voice, I could hear the voice of Stephen Root.

And I got thinking about it.  I specifically remember when I had the idea that turned into Hammer of Thor.  I won't bore you with the details but suffice it to say, I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing but I was thinking about taking my idea of about Adepts into World War II (I'd already written a short story in the Adept universe).

Why do we have our best ideas in the shower?  Because most of us shower on automatic pilot so our mind wanders, is free to grab bits from here, bits from there, and through gray matter alchemy, come up with a new idea.  We need to give our minds time to . . .wander.  We need to spend time not paying attention.  We need time not on task.  We need to not be on Facebook, Twitter, blogging, writing, reading, or doing our day jobs.  We are creative and we are often creative when we aren't trying to be.

So spend some time not paying attention.  You might be amazed at what you learn, or what you think up.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Character Driven Fiction

The other night I was lying in bed thinking about my current work in progress and in a series of ADD bounces* from one subject to the other I ended up thinking about the 1972 movie The Poseidon Adventure.  And I started thinking about the character played by Gene Hackman.

If you haven't seen the movie, it's about a ocean passenger liner that is capsized by a huge wave (they may have called it a "tidal wave") and an intrepid group of passengers that try to escape, lead by a priest played by Gene Hackman.  The priest is a bit of an iconoclast, arguing that you can pray all you want to God but you'd better be ready to help yourself, first.  When I was 12 years old watching this movie I didn't care.  I didn't want to listen to this priest argue theology.  I wanted to get to the fun, excitement, adventure, and a 19-year-old Pamela Sue Martin.  In other words, I didn't care about character development.  And I'm sure my first writings (when I was 12) also didn't have much character development in it.

You may have a grand adventure in mind but no one will care if they don't care about the characters.  Without unique, flawed, descriptive characters you don't have a story.  You might have characters stuck in a capsized passenger liner, but no one will care unless they can sympathize and relate to the characters.  Your characters and their interaction with the environment, circumstances, and other characters must be what your story is about.  Oh, sure, they manage to escape the capsized ocean liner but you're writing a novel, not a travelogue.

Even your villains need to be fully thought out.  Someone once recommended asking "What do your villain's friends like about him or her."  She doesn't have friends?  Then you don't have a character you have a cardboard cut-out.

You hero needs a flaw (or ten) to overcome, insecurities, and a history.  Your villain needs good qualities (to overcome), flaws to exploit, insecurities, and a history.

Now, if your hero speaks to a bartender to order a whiskey I don't expect the bartender to be a fully developed character (I call those "NPCs" from my role-playing game days).  But he could have a unique manner of speaking or a limp or be surly or like to tell jokes.

It's characters that drive your story.  Yes, they might have a grand adventure, but no one will care about the adventure if they don't care about the characters.

*My WIP is a western/fantasy mash-up, and that reminded me of my friend, Judith Ann McDowell's latest book, a pure western.  And I remembered she was talking about a character named Stella who was a nasty prostitute and I was thinking I wished she'd named her something else because I like the name "Stella," I think it's pretty, like Stella Stevens, the actress who was quite pretty in the movie The Poseidon Adventure playing a prostitute who married a cop.  And that's how my mind works.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Pharmacist.

I've started today to start a new tradition: Flash Fiction Friday.  Every Friday I will strive to post a quick little flash fiction piece, something new, maybe something old.  We'll see.

Today's story is entitled "The Pharmacist."

"I need a fix, man," the skinny white guy standing before the counter whined.
Smith looked over the customer with his black eyes.  "You've maxed out your allotment."
"No, man, that was last week; I got five more hours on Monday."
"I loaned you ten hours last week, you owe me five."
"I paid you for those hours.  I paid you black-market rates."
"Yes, you did.  And I'm being audited today.  Your connection, namely me, might get his ticket jerked for loaning you those hours."
"But I need a fix," he cried, twisting his long emaciated body into a near-pretzel.
"Sorry, can't help you," the proprietor said without a shred of mercy.
The white man stared at the pharmacist.  "You suck, man."
"That's not what you said last week when I loaned you ten hours."
The grey eyes that once may have been blue looked at the floor.  "I'm going to take the pill if I can't get hours."
"Then take the pill," Smith said, his voice void of emotion.
The man turned slowly and walked out, opening the door to let in the summer heat and ringing the bell hanging over the portal.  Smith didn't know if the man would take the e-pill or not.  But there was nothing he could do for the man and his choices were his choices.  There was a reason use of virtual reality was monitored carefully as addiction was a virulent social problem.  After all, if you could save the nubile purple-skinned Arcturian princess with a laser pistol and a monoatomic-edged sword, then engage in a little inter-species copulation, well, that beat the hell of out reality.  The white guy was your typical v-head.  He didn't eat, sleep, or bath, he just looked for his next hours.
Another skinny white guy walked in and Smith assessed him in a few glances.  Nice clothes, good shoes, and a very illegal slug-thrower under his jacket according to back-scatter detector.
Smith reached for the alarm button that would call down about sixty heavily armed cops in about thirty seconds.
"I wouldn't touch that button if I were you," the man said, reaching into his jacket where the gun was.
Smith stilled his finger.
"It'll take the local constabulary at least thirty seconds to get here and in that time you will be dead, I'll have what I want, and be gone.  It don't matter to me but I suspect you'd like to keep breathing this stupidly thin air a bit longer.  Either way, I get what I came for."
Smith couldn't help himself.  "Who are you?"
The man smiled, showing good teeth.  Smith wondered why he was in an indigent pharmacy.  "I'm just a man."
"What do you want?" Smith asked.  His finger was still hovering over the red alarm button.
"Your hands where I can see them for a start," the man said.
Smith put both hands on the counter, his dark skin contrasting with the white surface.
"Good," the man said, pulling his hand from his jacket.  It was empty.
"Anything else?" Smith asked.
"The pill.  Not many, ten should do."
"One is sufficient."
"Well, yes, if you just want to kill yourself, I suppose."
Smith's eyes widened.  He thought quickly.  "I'm about to be audited.  The authorities will show up any moment."
"Then I suggest we hurry before I have to kill you and anyone else who shows up."
Smith turned and got down ten doses of the pill.  He set them on the counter.  "There, now go."
The man gave Smith a predatory grin.  "That easy?"
"And what of your audit?"
"I'll tell them I was robbed."
"Will they believe you?"
"There's vid."  Smith regretted it the moment he said it.
"How do we delete the vid?"
"You don't, it's immediately uploaded to the Ministry of Health's servers.  I can't access it."
"Then how do you loan hours to v-heads?"
Smith frowned.
"You've hacked the system," the man said as a simple fact.
"Yes," Smith growled, understanding how this man chose to rob him.  His reputation for dealing out hours under the table for cash was well known in the city's dark underbelly.
"Then we'd better hurry before the auditors get here," the man said.
"And if I refuse?"
"I kill you."
"And it's all on vid."
"I'll be off-planet before they find me."
Smith frowned.  "I know who you are."
The man smiled.  "I see my reputation precedes me.  So you know I don't care.  I'll kill you like you swat a fly."
"Fly, huh?"  Smith smiled.
The man looked at him.  "We need to take care of this business."
"Yes, we do," Smith said keeping his voice low and even.
The white man, the man whose reputation was that of a callous, heartless, ruthless kill hesitated.
Smith's chest opened up and the toothed appendage shot across the counter, across the space between him and the killer, and bit the face of the man.  The fellow screamed until His face was gone and he flopped on the floor like a fish out of water, a red puddle of blood spreading out from his headless body.

Smith sighed as the bloody appendage sucked into his chest through the hole ripped in his smock.  Now he really needed to edit that video.  But first things first, he had a body to eat.