Writing: Novel in Progress Part 3

Chapter 2

Talia looked around the room where she waited while Goodla checked the other rooms for dangers and traps.  She wandered, looking at the furnishings – so unlike anything she was used to.  The multi-legged ogalla rarely bothered with furniture anything like this.  As Goodla checked each room he checked in with her, Safe.  Clear. Weird but not dangerous.

Of course it’s weird. It’s alien.

Once Goodla cleared the rooms and rejoined her she lifted a hand.  He held it against his head and she closed her eyes, an old concentration trick as he connected to the ogalla commander on the ship.  There was the instantaneous bonding between the two ogalla and then Talia was allowed in, but she could not reach the depth they did.  Emotions seeped in, but to be clear she had to use the language, We are in a safe room.  We have been welcomed.

Could you establish any contact with another like you? the question wasn’t entirely words, there was depth of hope and fear and disgust that the commander could never quite remove when he spoke to her.  Talia sent a negative and for a moment the depth between Goodla and the commander was out of her reach.

Disgust. You are only acceptable for this mission to find a suitable alternative.

Talia felt water against her eyelashes, an instinctive reaction she hated.  Goodla was so intertwined with the commander that Talia sensed their sparks of disagreement – even if she couldn’t follow the “conversation” that had in the instant.

I shall send along to the princess. the commander cut Goodla off sharply, sending twinges of pain across the ogalla’s sensative nerve cluster.  Talia was shielded from that abrupt departure.

Don’t let him discourage you. The king and the princess ordered this mission for a peace treaty.

But if I can’t prove others are capabable of intelligence…

Goodla smacked his minor arms down to become a six-footed ogalla and made a noise through the cavaties along his spine.  It was a rude gesture and noise, but made Talia smile.  Yes, Goodla was right.  There was a change since the science teams had learned that the noises Talia made watching human vids correlated to her thoughts.  It took a long time to figure out the language in a way that was natural, and the ogalla were still trying to figure out ways to communicate without Talia’s talent for hearing them.

You will be fine.

Talia nodded with false confidence. She knew she was leaking her doubts all over the cabin, but she still did not have the individualism that an orgalla child could manage.  Goodla settled on the floor in the main room on several cushions and soon his thoughts faded into dream mutters.

In the room clearly designated for her own sleep, Talia looked around curiously.  She had been able to see some things like this in the vids the orgalla had on humans, but this was her first time exploring them herself.  Slowly she explored the drawers, pulling them out and watching them slide back and click closed.  It took her a few tries to figure out how to use the waste disposal, and it wasn’t worse than what the orgalla had figured out based on the few vids they found where it was referenced.

The desk was plain and simple.  Talia tapped its top like she watched humans in vids and it sprang to life.  Even knowing that was supposed to happen, she jumped back from it.  So many human vids were false, she had wondered which of these things might be real and which were the falsehoods.  The orgalla were fascinated and horrified by the human ability to tell lies.  Apparently, when she was very, very small Talia had tried it, but her thought process always gave her away.  She didn’t remember it, but her mother loved to tell the story to new acquaintences.

The rotating image was speaking aloud, “Welcome to the galaxy starship Sunburst’s entertainment and studies library.  As an ambassadorial guest you will have limited information on the layout or operations of the ship at this time.  We certainly hope as our friendship grows, we will be permitted to grant you greater access.  Please input or speak for preferences.  Welcome to the galaxy starship….”

When it had repeated twice, Talia tapped the top of the desk twice and it vanished.  She looked around with a surprising guilt at the curiosity she felt to learn more about human culture.  The orgalla had given her access the thousands of educational, ambassadorial, and even military classified documents, vids, and programs to help her learn more about her own species.  As she had learned more about the audible language, the orgalla had been fascinated.  As a child she had sometimes been seated in front of vids and as she watched and listened, the orgalla rode intrusively on her mind.  The benefit was that when she grew petulant and wanted something fun her mother knew instantly and could demand they allow her one of the recreational vids instead of military.

Sitting down in front of the desk, Talia tentatively tapped it’s surface again.  It sprang up and she asked her first question for humanity, “Who are my parents?”

Writing: Agency

I was trolling through YouTube and stumbled across this video about Phantom Menance and because I love burning buildings, I watched it:

Here’s the thing, it does a GREAT job of breaking down the plot issue that plagues this disaster of a movie.  My mind (ever narcissistic) went “whew, glad don’t do that!”

And then I realized I did.

I have a novel I finished and I like the world and the characters- but I hated my plot.  Oh, it’s not the shit-show Lucas put out.  But I also never put it out.

But my main character sucks at agency.  She does have her own dreams and ambitions, and she is constantly having to balance her personal desires with the needs of her role as a Duchess and a political creature.  But I rarely allow her to drive the plot- the plot kind of manipulates her.

And rewriting the plot is going to be hard.  It might require some pretty significant tweaks to the character, her family, and even the world itself. I can’t just have her suddenly say, “I want to be the ambassador!” when that hasn’t been her dream.  I’m going to have to do some test scenes to figure out who she needs to be to drive her own choices instead of being driven by them.

Even in the 2 days since I watched, chewing on this thought, I’ve got some ideas I’m going to try out.

This is going to be a huge rewrite.  I was planning on doing it anyway because I just knew something was wrong, but since I didn’t know what was bothering me – I’ve just had it sitting in the back of my head festering with all the other half-finished or finished novels I knew had glaring issues.  Granted, most of the plot issues I have are “shit, I just tried to redeem my villain and now I don’t have a villain. Well… shit.”

Now I have at least something I feel like I can fix and just playing with it in my own my mind I can’t help but go, “Yeah, I think this IS the plot wound I’ve been sniffing in this particular book. YAY.”

Because honestly, I do think this is one of the better stories I wrote world-wise, character-wise, and there are definitely big elements of the plot I like – but Faline really needs to drive her own story instead of just reacting to people telling her what she needs to do.  I mean, hell – she has the option of becoming Queen and she just huffs and puffs about how that wouldn’t let her go into the underbelly of the capital and heal poor people. She’s a damn duchess. Yeah, even I think she’s whining.  I can fix that!

Writing: Novel In Progress Part 2

Click here for Part 1

So I’m not 100% happy on the conversations or introductions of characters.  But I barely know them yet.  All I know right now… well before I wrote this all I knew was it was in space and there were ambassadors.  I still don’t actually know where the plot is going to go… or who the “villain” will be.  We’ll find out!

Part 2:

Now they assembled in the docking bay to await the first orgalla ambassador in history.  Communication itself had proved nigh-impossible with the species; the war had never been officially ended.  The orgalla had withdrawn when the combined human, kikital, and devallo forces which created a barrier of fighting to a stand-still.  The orgalla had simply stopped attacking and after much argument the joint forces had agreed not to pursue the powerful race.

Twenty years passed and then the silence was broken with the first radio signal from orgalla space in history.  They requested – in Standard no less – a meeting with their ambassador to work out a peace treaty.  It took two years to establish a secure place and the appropriate team who would attend.  The orgalla communication had assured them that there were no special considerations required for their ambassador, who would arrive with only one guard.

The shuttle landed and Captain Chou straightened, surprised at how nervous he was to meet the strange creature.  He had only ever seen dead orgalla or vids of them during combat.  He had only just been drafted when the fighting ceased. Now was going to be his first in-person encounter with a species that had threatened not just humanity but three species.

The shuttle did not dock in the bay but abutted the side of the bay and clung with leg-like appendages to the end.  A ramp unfurled like a monkey’s tail into the space and opened into the shuttle bay.  There was a shift as the darkness within was lit with light and then the orgalla stepped down.

Orgalla were thin, reminding most humans of insects like a preying mantis but were a single body part – not having separate heads, thorax and abdomen.  They had a variety of long appendages, two on their top-most piece being eye stalks with a third near their tail-region being another eye stalk, but the third usually remained closed unless they were standing still.  Generally they had between four and six “leg” and to or four “arms” which they could adjust as needed.  Their skin was actually very soft and supple the vids claimed, and alive they looked irridescent.  Many kids thought that was a production value, because in death they faded to a dull grey.  Their “uniform” consisted of a similar material which was vaccum-sealed.

Behind the orgalla a young woman stepped down from the orgalla ship.  The entire delegation burst into a buzz of talking except the three ambassadors and Captain Chou.  The woman was probably in her mid-twenties, brown hair braided back from her face in a very simple military-style braid. Her clothing was a similar to the orgalla’s military uniform as well, clearly vaccum sealed around her throat.  A small blinking light along the collar was the mechanism that could allow the material to snap like a venus fly trap around the head and face.  The orgalla in front of her wore its “face” covered.

The three ambassadors slowly moved forward with Captain Chou, watching the young woman cross with confidence towards them.  She held out her hand and spoke in standard, “My name is Talia Lost.  I am here to represent those you call orgalla.”

Captain Chou took her hand and found her grip to be just slightly tight for polite company, he slowly spoke, “I am Captain Chou.  On behalf of the Earth-human alliance, welcome to the Sunburst.”

“Is this a proper noun or the scientific term? Should I have concern of electromagnetic pulses?” the young woman asked.  He blinked in surprise.

“No, the ship is just named Sunburst.”

“But it is not alive.”

“No.”

Her face showed no expression, but after a bare moment she nodded and said, “Like the Santa Maria or HMS Beagle.”

“Yes,” again the captain was surprised.  She looked him in the eye and said, “An honor to meet you Captain Chou of Earth alliance.”

Ambassador Poul had pushed himself forward despite his rather junior stance so he was introduced immediately after Ambassador Irvine.  The kikital were next and lastly the two devallo ambassadors.  To each the young woman listened intently and then had a minute pause as though translating this information.  She then would nod and tell them it was an honor before going to greet the next.

The captain led the young woman to an ambassadorial cabin they had situated near the shuttle bay, a six-room suite larger than the captain’s own quarters.  The orgalla held up two appendages and moved into the rooms first while the young woman waited.  She didn’t seem impatient while the guard pulled out a small mechanical object and went over the rooms.  The guard disappeared into a second room and then Talia stepped into the main room.

“Thank you very much captain.”

The captain led the ambassadors to the meeting room and they all sat down.  Ambassador Irvine spoke first and said, “Well, I see why we were told their ambassador didn’t need any special considerations.  How the hell did she…”

“Are we sure she is human?” one of the devallo asked sharply.

Captain Chou blinked and asked, “Do you think she’s a shapeshifter or something?”

“Perhaps.” Ambassador Risyk was almost certainly the one doing the speaking although devallo could be difficult for humans to tell apart.  “Or a clone injected with inhuman dna.  We all know orgalla do not communicate like us.  Their ships have few radio-based devices and it has long been assumed there is some kind of telepathy or something. A trait which is not known in humanity.”

“At least not that has ever been proven,” Ambassador Irvine said calmly.

The young man Poul scoffed and said, “And just what are you implying.  This girl is some kind of gypsy?”

“Earth still uses such offensive terms?” Irvine replied with apparently curiousity, but there was an undertone which silenced the earth-man.  Captain Chou ground his teeth silently, embarrassed that Earth had sent this stupid boy.  Irvine continued as if the comment was not worth more, “No, what I mean is that there have been centuries of odd skills within humanity- the ability to remember detailed events or count all the objects dropped in nanoseconds.  Perhaps this girl has a similar odd genetic trait which the orgalla were able to exploit.”

“So you think she was an experiment?” Ambassador Yewoul  asked.

“I don’t know,” Ambassador Irvine said.  “But I think we shouldn’t assume anything yet.”

Writing: Dream last night

I have vivid dreams sometimes. Last night was especially interesting and honestly, I kind of want to write it out because it WAS so interesting.

So the dream is in third person, like I’m watching a tv show or reading a book with a good imagination (ahem).  The setting is a weird mix of classical Indian and Japanese.  And there are things that call out that it is a weird mix.  Most of the people in the room think nothing of it, but there are 2 men dressed as Middle Easterns but clearly fake beards (I mean, pretty good – but in modern terms “clearly fake”) who make comments about stuff being unusual.

The room is set for a party.  And there are several young women who are considered to be psychic who will be “summoning the dead to speak” tonight.  Of course my foreign men scoff at this witchcraft nonsense, but the two young women most involved are quite serious.  One is considered one of the greatest beauties in the land as well as an extremely powerful psychic.  The other is also beautiful, but not AS beautiful and much more demur about her power.  They had names in the dream and they are already fading.  So we’re going to call them Haughty and Demur.

So Haughty is bragging that she is going to bring back some powerful general or king or demi-god  (the language is such that it kind of means all three?).  Demur doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but doesn’t argue enough and sets up for the ritual lighting the candles the six psychics are going to use as shields or something.

The two foreigners are wandering around trying to find the trick at this point and pointedly being told by onlookers not to interrupt or disturb the ceremony.  It begins and it’s as weird and lovely as anything on TV.  A doorway hovers in the center of their circle – golden gilt edges that move and twist and roll.  Like snakes or vines on moment and then rolling waves of water the next – it was a cool effect my brain made.

AND – this is where the dream got weird and special.  One of the walls in the room turned clear – and on the other side of the glass – ALIENS.  The two foreigners swear, the onlookers all start talking.  Haughty yells at her acolytes to concentrate but several FREAK OUT.

And then the mystical door opened and a demon came through.  Not as cool as some of the other stuff my brain made up – this was like a minotaur kind of thing with lots of green slobber.  All hell breaks loose.  The two foreigners pull six-shooters and open fire.  Haughty is grabbed by the head and something sucked out of her (soul? I dunno).

Demur is the one who saves her, stepping in and using weird language to drive it back.  As it steps back through the door though – it becomes a GORGEOUS man and winks at her.  It/he (Demon) blows her a kiss of yellow flame and it emblazens on her shoulder (uncovered – I wish I could draw so I could recreate the mixture Indian sarong and Japanese kimono outfits)

So Demur collapses and her father (no idea her dad was in the room!) comes over yelling and hollering – turns out HE’S kind big and powerful…. anywho.  Everyone is freaking out. Demur gets put on a couch alone in a room and the two foreign dudes come in – one of them has his beard kind of sagging on one side right now.  Demur confronts them about not being “arabs from the west” and they finally admit they’re not.  She offers to help get them out of the palace through some secret tunnels she knows of.

Turns out these are the passages the ALIENS use to “tend” their “zoo” (these people).  The foreigners are space-men.  The dream moves to the alien environment there and gets way more confusing (and it’s already fading!! noooo!)

The demon now can cross because of the mark he left on Demur.  He offers her powers to save the 2 dudes (she might have a crush on one of them).  They pick up a red-headed chick.  Demur ends up having these awesome psychic golden chain-things she can lash people/aliens with.  One of the space-men was more techy, the other more the weapons/sharp-shooter/sneaky dude…..

And too much of that second half has faded but it was COOL.  To me.  I’m not saying my imagination is a healthy place all the time – but dreams like this…. damn they’re just fun.

Writing: damnit!

The downside, as I’ve said before, to writing “the story I want to read” is when I notice an old file, open it – have an inkling of what I intended and go “damnit. I wanna know what happens!”

I totally did that with a ~1 pg document.  There is a teaser.  A tiny, itsy-bitsy teaser that is driving me crazy.  I don’t remember who the villain was going to be, I have just enough to be curious.  I guess it wasn’t my worst beginning…. You tell me.

Prologue

It is so small and weak. The voice was quiet, pleading.

Their species is not weak. It is almost a bark, with an angry edge to it.

Our younglings are just as helpless. They are not as loud. A third tone, almost a soft musical chime to the worlds.

Do as you wish your highness. Keep it as a pet if you so choose, but if it ever looks the least harmful, then we will kill it on sight. A final, fourth voice said.

The pink mewling creature was lifted up and carried off the hulk of the ship.  As they left they passed the crews that were dismantling the pieces of the ship.

You must admit, came the fourth voice¸ they are good with machines.

They have already integrated too much of our technology the harsh and angry voice said all we can do is win by attrition.

Not all the quiet voice said, Please give me a chance. I am sure there is a way to make it work.

The plan has merit the sing-song voice added.  What can it hurt?

The creature suddenly opened its mouth and let out the most horrendous noise.  All four stopped moving and stared at it.  Then they looked to one another and the chiming voice said, It is hungry.

She is hungry the voice which had been angry no longer was, instead sounding shocked.

So be it, the fourth voice, As king I decree that we shall no longer seek them out.  Princess Risha’lla will raise the thing.  It is not deaf and her plan will be given the time needed to see possible success.

I will not fail you father the soft voice, Princess Risha’lla said.

Chapter 1

“Sir, the orgalla have entered the system,” the helmsman said.  “Shall we meet to escort them?”

“No, wait for them to reach us,” the captain said and moved from his seat on the bridge to the view port at the gunner’s station.

The ship he saw was massive with three smaller ships around it.  His own vessel ran a crew almost a thousand men and women with space to spare for recreation, a dome garden and three sets of quarters which could be used to expand for families if the ship ever was placed on local patrols instead of being on the border patrols.  The ship approaching was at least three times the size of his vessel.

“The price of being good at my job…” the captain muttered as he looked at the ship.  He then went to his chair and sat back down, “Lieutenant, please let the ambassadors know that the orgalla have arrived and we will be meeting them in approximately an hour.”

“Yes sir,” the communications officers quickly turned and began to relay the message to the ambassadorial team on board.

“Captain Chou, the orgalla are requesting to link to our nav comms,” the communications officer reported.

“Link them in so they can follow us into the port,” Captain Chou said firmly.  The young man took a deep breath and sent the signal.  The orgalla were still the monsters parents told children about to scare them.  Some of the colonies still had massive damage from the orgalla almost twenty years before.

“Commander Lorant, you have command until I return,” Captain Chou said.  “Lieutentant, please make sure the ambassadorial team isn’t running late this time.”

The captain did not have to rush to get to the docking bay which would allow them to access the orbital planet access point, but he did not pause to think or talk to anyone either.  The collar of his dress uniform was a little loose, but he didn’t try to figure out a way to tighten it now.  When he arrived two of the attachés were waiting, but none of the ambassadors had arrived.

“Was an hour not enough to time for the ambassadors to be able to dress and assemble?” he asked the attachés with a frown.

“I apologize sir, I know that Ambassador Irvine is on the way,” one of the two said.  As he spoke, a woman swept into the room.  She had chosen to wear a formal gown instead of a suit.  It was appropriate that she had chosen the historical garb of her people, but the long sweeping sleeves trailing across the floor behind must be heavy and hot.

“Am I truly first to arrive?” she asked.  “This is a disgrace!  Ashley, call Poul and you should get Yewoul too.  It is not like any kikital to be late.  I’m sure he’s been detained by Poul.  Oliver I want you to call Etcorm, Deneph and Risyk.  Find out where they are.  I apologize Captain, I thought an hour was more than enough time.  Especially because Deneph doesn’t need to put on clothes or brush fur in anyway.”

“Thank you Ambassador, it is appreciated to know that it is not a lack of protocol,” Captain Chou said with a smile.

“No, I agree with you that we need this peace,” Ambassador Irvine said.  “If my ancestors hadn’t gone to Mars then we would have been destroyed by the Chinese, I understand better than most that we need to expand safely.  The orgalla are too powerful not to make sure they are on our side.  I just wish Earth had sent someone other than Poul.”

“It doesn’t help that the North Aligned States never really saw much of the fighting in the last war,” Captain Chou said.  “Hence they had the power to have Poul selected.”

“Well, he is here now, so we’ll have to make it work,” the woman said firmly.

It was only a few minutes before the other ambassadors arrived.  Ambassador Poul Westmire represented Earth itself, while Ambassador Johanna Irvine represented the human-colonized planets everywhere else.  Poul was wearing a white tuxedo with a white turban around his head.  His thick beard had been combed and greased into a pair of points down his chest.  Johanna was wearing the long blue and silver kimono she had brought which had once been worn by the last royal princess of Japan as she fled to Mars, the ships built and piloted by Australians and then flying to help Australia and Japan escape the Chinese invasions which turned half of Earth into a single empire almost three hundred years ago.  The princess had died on the trip to Mars because of a terrible pregnancy combined with seven months in space.

Short Story: Mastermind or Not?

I look out over the city.  There are cheers.  I hate it.

You see, the problem is that I tried to be a villain.  I never actively tried to help people.  In fact, the problem with my city was the morass of super-heroes.  It was actually a problem because you had “heroes” like Betsy Bobcat – a literal bobcat that had been given human intelligence.  Her thing was people illegally feeding pigeons.  Did you know it was illegal to intentionally feed pigeons?  I didn’t.  Then there was the strongarm-super-fast Mr. Thumbs.  Something about his thumbs was special I guess.  He was annoyingly particular about people speeding through lights.

I hated them.  I hated that one of the speedsters gave my dad a jaywalking ticket and when my dad tried to argue it in court he was given 30 days in jail for “anti-superhero actions.”  A misdemeanor that not only lost him his accounting job but made it nearly impossible to find another.  He died two years later because of an accident at the construction site where he’d found work – but you know, where was a superhero to make sure the working conditions were actually safe or whatever?

So I began tinkering with gadgets that year.  I was studying to be a superheroes’ gearhead theoretically.  I lied.  A lot.  You see, they have psyc tests to try to weed out anyone who might turn villain.  I knew this and so I lied.  I told a hum-ding-whopper of a lie and even when there were supers who supposedly sensed or smelled or whatever lies – I passed right through.

You see, my super power is unique. I am technically super powered you see.  I negate a certain amount of super power.  For some like Betsy the Bobcat I could mostly negate their power.  I don’t mean to.  It isn’t something I can turn on and off.  But if it’s a power like Mr Thumbs’ strength, I bring him back to human-range. I didn’t know this until way later though.

So you see, the normal people – non super heroes – actually kind of hated the supers.  They were obnoxious BUT they did “good” and everyone was a little afraid of them.  Well, I hated them too and I wasn’t normal. And I convinced my teachers I wanted to be super’s gearhead.  So I learned and I plotted.  I had a plot to remove the government and replace it with myself, but I knew I would need to deal with the plethora of superheroes who would try to stop me.

It wasn’t until I had the bulk of them neutralized, many of them now normal people themselves, that people began treating me differently.

You see, every time I robbed a bank or broke a supposedly villain out of jail – and by “villain” I mean it was non-violent criminals of stupid things like “anti-hero activities” – well, apparently I wasn’t alone.

And then I went against Mr. Thumbs.  He was tough.  Beyond his super-human strength he wasn’t an idiot and he did his research.  He had figured out where I had been educated and was prepared for most of my usual tech.  I actually broke out a villain named Mastero to help me beef up to deal with Mr. Thumbs.  It was really Mastero that taught me I had power not just luck.  You see, his power was psychic shock, but he couldn’t do it to me.  Mr. Thumbs threw him through a wall with steel beams and broke his back.  I made him a special chair later, but it was also rigged to suppress his powers.  But he did teach me what I needed to know that let me defeat Mr. Thumbs.

The mayor tried to give me the key to the city.

Damnit.

So now they are having a party.  For me.  I can see young people dressed as me.  Wearing the dark black and purple I adopted when I turned villain.  Wearing the little tophat at an angle.  They all seem to have it on a headband.  Mine isn’t, but they don’t realize there’s a spider-shaped piece under it which contains my distilled blood.  I’m pretty sure it will subdue most supers, but I haven’t really been able to test it.

The school is closed.  I made sure of that. And as soon as it was closed the government said they couldn’t afford to rebuild so they will be watching for super-powered children in normal schools and giving them “alternate educations” there.  I might have had one of my lackeys take the job heading that team of teachers and they will be making sure those kids just want to be normal. Or gone.  I don’t care which.

But damnit, now my plan is ruined. The government loves me.  It’s supported and sometimes even gone beyond my own desires to make sure the city is managing rather than overrun by superheroes.

I am supposed to be the villain damnit.