“Tantrums” and other tales

The Storytime Blog Hop is here, so welcome, blog hoppers. If you’re coming through from one of the other writers’ blogs, you know the deal.

Does anyone else think a blog hopper sounds like a type of shoe?

If this is the first you’re hearing of the blog hop, here’s how it works: this post contains a short story that I wrote. You can read it, and then follow the links to over one dozen other stories. Every story is either short or flash fiction, and somewhere in the genre of speculative fiction—fantasy, sci fi, horror, or any crazy cocktail of those three. Stories in the blog hop are all somewhere around PG-rated: no graphic sex or violence.

I’m excited about this. From what I’ve seen, there’s a nice variety of speculative fiction represented in the link list. Also, it’s probably the closest I’ll come to having a miniature library installed on my website.

My own story is about a powerless noble in the frigid city of Yauglesk, a place where an uneasy two-hundred year occupation is beginning to falter. The story universe is a secondary world fantasy with a sprinkle of gears and steam. Within it, I’m currently working on two novels, Stars Fall Out and Bitter Machines. This story takes place between them, and is one of five telling how the principal characters of Bitter Machines come to be involved with a rebellion in Yauglesk.

[EDIT 5/16/2016: “Tantrums” has been removed from the site, at least for the time being. Feel free to check out “Banshee” and “Smithereens,” as well as the stories below from other authors.]

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Now read on…

Virginia McClain: Rakko’s Storm

Grace Robinette: Georg Grembl

Elizabeth McCleary: The Door

Dale Cozort: Two Letters In A Fireproof Box

Katharina Gerlach: Canned Food

Rabia Gale: Spark

K. A. Petentler: The Twisted Tale of Isabel

Shana Blueming: Paper & Glue

Amy Keeley: To Be Prepared For Chocolate

Cherie “Jade” Arbuckle: After I Died

Karen Lynn: The Family Book

Angela Wooldridge: An Alternative to Frog

Thea van Diepen: Are You Sure It’s That Way?

Paula de Carvalho: Body Double

Kris Bowser: Tantrums

Pumpkin Goblins–Coming Fall 2015

There’s been a glaring omission on my part. Though, it’s not so much glaring as it is a one thousand dollar fireworks display that some guy sets off in his yard at midnight. The omission is a book, one that I’m revising and trying my hardest to publish this fall. I’ve mentioned to it, and alluded to it, and even wrote the blog post “Halloween Profanity—for Children!” about a process I’ve been using in the revision.

I announced it on my mailing list. But I didn’t announce it here, on my blog, as one is supposed to do in this situation.

Pumpkin Goblins is a middle grade chapter book in which a Halloween-deprived child and a squad of pumpkin goblins work to generate Halloween spirit when a mysterious source of summer magic threatens to destroy Halloween for good.

Check out the Pumpkin Goblins page for the full summary.

Scribbled-on manuscript.

My revision manuscript, a survivor of the Traumatizing Coffee Spill of 2015 and also the horrible, disfiguring plague known as My Handwriting.

I’ll be honest. It feels nice to say, “Coming Fall 2015,” but the fact is that I set my deadline for September 20th, and “Coming Fall 2015” is a cheery way to obscure my deadline. September 20th may be slipping out of my grasp. I’m worried that Fall 2015 could slip away as well. But I’m trying. I’ve cut some bad habits as I work to find the remaining revision time I need. Even better, my TV actually broke.

Unfortunately, I can’t quite kick the habit of “having a full time job.” I’ll be cutting my hours in September and October so I can take a course. That’ll net me some Pumpkin Goblins time as well.

Despite all that, I’m ridiculously happy with how the revision is coming along. Every aspect of the story is becoming a story I want to read myself. It’s funnier, scarier, and more goblinish, with stronger characters and better descriptions.

Every now and then, I mention my writing to people. They often say something like, “So, you enjoy writing, huh?” And sometimes, when this happens, it’s a frustrating writing day and I’m irritated with a draft. I’ll shrug and say, “Yeah, I guess,” because at that moment, I can’t muster the enthusiasm.

I think if anyone ever asked, “So, you like revision huh?” my answer would be more excitement than they want to deal with. Like the fireworks of my glaring omission. And that’s how I feel about the Pumpkin Goblins revision: fireworks and excitement, fall leaves and that chill in the wind that makes you feel alive.

Here’s an excerpt of some dialogue I like:

“What’s your name?” asked the first goblin.
“Amber.”
“Ember?”
“We like embers,” said another.
“Because we like fires,” said the third, all of them talking so fast that Amber could hardly tell which one was speaking.
“No, Amber. Like dead bugs that were fossilized a million years ago.”
“Oh.”
“Amber.”
“Like dead bugs.”
“That’s a lovely name for a girl.”

The really cool part is that a friend of mine is doing some illustrations for the cover and the chapter headers.  I’ve improved my drawing a lot in the past few years, and the process no longer seems mystical to me.  But I still can’t do figures well, and I’m always impressed by his characters.  They have an awesome cartoon style, and they really look like they’re moving around on the page.  I’ll definitely post some sketches if he lets me.

“Checklist,” a blackout poem

What I like about blackout poetry is that it’s sort of an inverted version of pinhole cipher, where a hidden message is concealed in printed matter by pinholes under the words of the real message. I used to make pinhole ciphers on discarded newspapers in cafeterias and coffee shops, just in case someone noticed.

checklist

“Checklist. Smile smile smile smile. Imagine the lie.”

If I had nine lives, I’d use one of them to be a spy who retires and opens a coffee shop.  Preferably, the spy part would be in the early half of the twentieth century, before analogue cryptography was completely outmoded.

With blackout poetry, I can just sort of pretend that someone sent me a secret message and pick out whatever words or syllables interest me.

I didn’t have any particular plan when I did this one, but it’s clear to me that this poem explains how I deal with a lot of social niceties, particularly being asked how I’m doing when I’m not doing well, but I don’t want to say so. Smile, smile, find some sort of lie, and try not to sigh depressively.

Not that I would put on such a charade at my spy coffee shop. I like to think I foster an atmosphere of erudite grumpiness.

Why Tarot Cards are Awesome

For someone who’s decidedly not into New Age* things, or into spending money on anything, ever, I own a lot of freakin’ tarot cards. Three-hundred and twelve, to be exact. Four decks. Why do I own so many tarot cards? Because they are awesome. Here’s why.

Tarot cards are like a right-brain pro-con list!

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Well, tarot cards, when you put it like that, I am NOT sorry for what I did, and I will NEVER apologize for eating the last of the chips.

Usually if I need to make a decision about something, I will make a pro-con list. And I don’t mean just for big decisions like: “should we take that apartment?” and “is it worth the money to buy a new computer?” and “face tattoo?” No, I will even make pro-con lists for things like: “brownies or cookies?” and “play KOTOR or read a Star Wars novel?” and  “draw sketch of face tattoo, or excise the thought from my mind?”

Usually, the pro-con list works for me. When things come out a little too even, sometimes tarot cards can help me make the decision. By throwing out a bunch of cards, all the different images and meanings can give me a new angle on whatever I’m mulling over. It’s like talking to a friend to get a new perspective, only you don’t need to have a friend.

In the same way, if I’m stuck on a piece of writing, tarot cards can throw some new angles into the mix.

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Three interpretations, one card. These are the Two of Swords from the Archeon Tarot, the Steampunk Tarot, and the Dragon Tarot.

A deck of tarot cards contains 78 miniatures pieces of artwork.

I like artwork, and also can’t afford artwork, aside from whatever I’m able to make myself. What fascinates me about collecting different decks is that every deck has the same cards, so it’s interesting to compare different artists’ interpretations. Or even multiple interpretations by the same artist.

Tarot cards are mystical!

Finally, on a good day, I can trick myself into thinking that tarot cards are actually mystical occult tools rather than mass-produced pieces of card stock. I’m a skeptic, but would rather live in a world where ghosts are real, and the mysterious forces of the universe can communicate with me though rectangles of tree pulp.

For maximum tricking, make sure to conduct all your tarot activities atop occult fabric.

 

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It’s ok if your “occult fabric” is actually just some scarf you bought at Target one time. Again, the Steampunk tarot.


 

*In  editing this post, I noticed the typo “Sew Age.”  If you are so inclined, I think this would make an appropriate title for a fanatical magazine on sewing, one that takes the view that the apocalypse is nigh and the age of sewing all our own clothes is upon us.  Features could include the column “Notions on Notions” which discusses the best way to stockpile zippers, and whether two-hole buttons or four-hole buttons are likely to become a valued currency.

Halloween Profanity–For Children!

What if you’re writing a book for children, but you want a character to swear profusely?

In my upcoming middle grade chapter book, Pumpkin Goblins, I have a goblin character fond of “swearing.” Like so:

“Right, right.” Hobkit clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll join you. Could use a break from all this chaos and malarkey, batdarnit.”

Hobkit has a bigger role in the revision than he did in the rough draft, and the more he speaks, the more time I spend trying to think up creative new phrases…

“Dagnabbit. Of all the bat-plagued, magic-cursed rotten timing!”

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Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin.

…because using “bat” and “pumpkin” repeatedly was getting tiring. I wanted to come up with a bunch of options at once. So, inspired by The Terribleminds Profanity Generator, I made my own word lists to generate Halloweeny, child-safe invectives. Actually, I drew a lot of my own words from his lists, but I needed a certain number of Halloween words thrown in there also.

So get out your d20 (or your Online Dice Roller, for those that don’t have twenty-sided dice on them at the moment) and join me in some long-form, clean profanity. Which can be easily dirtied!

Noun list one:
  1. Geist
  2. Donkey
  3. Turnip
  4. Radish
  5. Rat
  6. Bucket
  7. Bag
  8. Wizard
  9. Witch
  10. Fruit
  11. Squirrel
  12. Ghoul
  13. Trowel
  14. Vampire
  15. Lackey
  16. Monster
  17. Ghost
  18. Bat
  19. Pumpkin
  20. Spook
Noun list two:
  1. Scum
  2. Barf
  3. Vulture
  4. Mold
  5. Mildew
  6. Elf
  7. Corn
  8. Human
  9. Crumb
  10. Gourd
  11. Jelly
  12. Soup
  13. Biscuit
  14. Thorn
  15. Widget
  16. Badger
  17. Grave
  18. Owl
  19. Broom
  20. Twig
Verbs, -ing
  1. Cursing
  2. Plaguing
  3. Gargling
  4. Nobbling
  5. Crying
  6. Chomping
  7. Crunching
  8. Roasting
  9. Creeping
  10. Beeping
  11. Snatching
  12. Cavorting
  13. Spooking
  14. Haunting
  15. Licking
  16. Rocking
  17. Boiling
  18. Clipping
  19. Mapping
  20. Gumming
Verbs, -ed
  1. Buried
  2. Tossed
  3. Nobbled
  4.  Kicked
  5. Tumbled
  6. Dangled
  7. Cursed
  8. Smacked
  9. Spackled
  10. Crackled
  11. Rustled
  12. Plagued
  13. Smoked
  14. Blighted
  15. Scrabbled
  16. Creeped
  17. Haunted
  18. Spooked
  19. Snatched
  20. Trotted

Using the formula (Noun list 1) + (Verb, -ing), (Noun list 2) + (Verb, -ed) I got:

Elf plaguing, twig-smacked

And

Turnip gumming, jelly-haunted

My goblin character tends to curse in adjective form, already having specific things in mind to rant about. Things like other goblins, wizards, elves, and pumpkin cars.

“You turnip gumming, jelly-haunted wizard! Are you trying to destroy Halloween?”

I could also do something like:

(Noun from either list) + (Verb, -ed) – ed

To create the compound expletive wizardspackle.

“Wizardspackle! Are you trying to kill us all?”

On the one hand, I’ve now saved time on curse creation.

On the other hand, I’m now likely to waste revision time by doing this. Gourdrustle!