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Archive for the ‘How We Write’ Category

How We Write – Crossroads

This is a strange piece. Orion wrote it either before or while we were writing Dreaming of Xeres, creating the character of James Brendan Cavanagh. After that, James did a walk-on in Dreaming. Then he pushed his way into being a major character in that book!

That happens when a character becomes three-dimensional. We have extensive spreadsheets on information about all our major characters, as well as many of our minor characters. It helps to round out the characters and often gives us jumping off points for stories or actions in our novels and short stories. Those spreadsheets (in Google Docs) are a combination of arbitrary determinations, like, he/she likes the color purple or things the characters or stories tell us about the characters, such as, what things Alex’s college friends are into and what career choices they made after college (CITE STORY HERE).

When we need a minor character, we can dip into the spreadsheet of science fiction convention attendees from DOX (Dreaming of Xeres), pick a city or an occupation we need, and hit the ground running with a name and other information to personalize the story.

We highly recommend spreadsheets!


Photo by Duke Cullinan on Unsplash

CROSSROADS

Around him the airport swirled and muttered and clamored, but to Tin Man, all was quiet. The wall of ice he’d built about himself kept out any trace of the humanity around him. None of them mattered. Not to him. His heart did not beat for them. His mind shut out any attempted emotional contact from them.

The doors from the passenger tunnel opened, disgorging the latest airline passengers: harried parents with children, rumpled businessmen with slim briefcases, and young men and women with backpacks and ear buds that spilled out thin drifts of music as they passed.

A gaggle of Asian students eddied around him, chattering in high-pitched voices, the cadence of their language falling strangely on his ears. A reunion broke out at the front of the waiting crowd, all balloons, hugs, and tears. The prodigal son or daughter was wrapped in relatives and well-wishers like a Christmas present. (more…)

How We Write – Meeting On A Cold Winter’s Night

Our prompts for this one were: Hotel for Single Women and May I See an ID. As you have probably deduced from previous sets of prompts, there is no telling what will come up when you get several prolific writers together and ask them for prompts!

When Orion started thinking about the prompts, she envisioned a beat cop. That led her to think of her character, James Cavenaugh, who she created for a couple of other short stories. He would later bull his way into the main cast of Dreaming of Xeres, the first book in our Third War series.

(Kyros: He was only supposed to be a bit player. We needed a cop and he was perfect. Then he just wouldn’t stop showing up. He demanded to be a bigger part of the story.)

(Orion: That sometimes happens, when you create a character. They become real to you, then they start dictating their own actions and reactions!)

Anyway, after delving a bit into his history, Orion decided he’d do perfectly well as the policeman for this story. That set the location as Boston, James’ hometown, and gave her the general time period (the mid-2000s).

So, who would James meet? And why would he need to see an ID? To satisfy the Hotel for Single Women prompt, it seemed obvious to make the person a woman and the story grew from there.

When Orion originally wrote the story, the woman pulled out a cap gun like the ones Orion grew up with in the fifties. You know, the ones that looked like Roy Rogers just drew it out of his holster?

When Kyros first read it, he shook his head and got a good laugh out of it, saying, ‘They don’t make cap guns anymore! And the toy guns they do make all have orange plugs over the end of the barrel to denote that they are fake.’

Orion was apoplectic. (Orion: What? Does that mean I can’t get caps for my toy guns? AARGH!)

(Kyros: Don’t worry, she can, she just has to find an antique toy dealer who still carries them. Though why would she wanna shoot off a cap gun? Who knows?)

So, in the original story, the gun was a cap pistol, but a quick shot of reality meant that, for the story to work, the gun had to be real.


Photo by Annie Niemaszyk on Unsplash

 

MEETING ON A COLD WINTER’S NIGHT

“May I see some ID, please?”

The young woman hesitated, then pulled her bag off of her shoulder and began to dig around inside. She shivered in the cool night air.

Jim Cavanaugh shifted from one foot to the other as the chill penetrated his stiff boots. Gods, I hate working the night shift. It wouldn’t be so bad if the streets were better lit. He glanced down at the uneven cobblestones under his feet. Or less treacherous to walk on.

And why does everything squeak when I move? It’s like I’m a walking police advertisement. ‘Hey, look at the rookie. Brand-new uniform and he makes funny noises when he walks.’ He mentally shook his head. And I get stuck working the overnight shift dealing with all the drunks and hookers.

He sighed, still waiting for the woman…no, girl, he amended.

“Miss?” he prompted, raising an eyebrow. (more…)

How We Write – The Cookie Conspiracy

The prompt was: The Cookie Conspiracy.

That immediately brought to mind children and fresh-baked cookies. But how do the kids get the cookies? And where are they?

Following those questions led Orion to a new ship and introduced a new cast of characters into her Farseeker Chronicles. The ship, Sun’s Glow, created for this story, would become the home of Kieran Thorgood, whom you met in last week’s short story, Eros Day.

We don’t know what adventures Kieran and the children and crew of Sun’s Glow will get into, but we do know they are (former and probably current) rebels. Kieran was a rebel hired to teach this brood of children. He’s also connected to Gayan Villson, of another covert rebel ship, the Tempest’s Kin.

In all probability, Sun’s Glow will turn up for the climactic space battle that Orion has been plotting for several years now. Stay tuned!


Photo by: Chocolate Monster Mel

THE COOKIE CONSPIRACY

“Do you smell it?” Ruby demanded, popping around the bulkhead at the top of the stairs. “Mom’s making cookies!”

Chase inhaled deeply. The scent of baking cookies filled him, borne on the ship’s currents of recycled air.

Such blessed change from the reek of oil, people, and machinery, Chase thought.

Chase nodded, dropping his pencil, homework forgotten. “As if I could miss it! I sure wish I could get one while they’re hot.” His mouth watered at the very thought. Chocolate chip, if his nose knew anything. His very favorite kind in the whole universe.

“Me too,” she said. “But you know Mom.” Her voice took on the tones of their mother in dictator mode: “No cookies until after supper. That’s the rule!” (more…)

How We Write – Eros Day

The prompt was: You bump into an ex-lover on Valentine’s Day—the one whom you often call “The One That Got Away.” What happens?

Orion knew immediately that her Farseeker character, Gayan Villson, had to be involved in this story, since he’s one of her favorite creations and he already had several past lovers. What’s one more? But who did he meet up with? Where did they know each other from?

And in marched Kieran Thorgood, complete with a new ship, Sun’s Glow, and several new characters (SEE next week’s story, The Cookie Conspiracy)! Given Gayan’s military background, it was a safe bet they’d been in the war together and had history. And the plot was off and running.

When we edited this, we knew we had to amp up the sexual tension between the two men, and move a lot of the expository information into our main character’s thoughts. We also added a couple of hundred words to the story, making it much stronger.


Photo by Jriphoto

EROS DAY

 

“Excuse me,” Gayan mumbled, as he shouldered through the cluster of people just inside the doorway of the crowded saloon.  

“Is that all I get?” A deep baritone called from behind him. “After all these years?”

That voice! (more…)

How We Write – The Green-Eyed Monster Goes to the Circus

The prompt for this little piece was, It’s Not Fair.

At the time she got this prompt, Orion was writing exclusively in her WIP (Work In Progress), the Farseeker Chronicles. She heard this line delivered by the character of Xander, a boy that Brigid Farseeker met when she joined a space-going circus many years after the events of last week’s story, Vitandus. This is the story that Xander and Brigid told Orion.

By the way, Xander’s real name is Alexander Maximilian Caesar. He was meant for greater things than just helping with the circus animals. Stay tuned for more stories of Xander and the Farseeker universe.


Photo by Mysticsartdesign

THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER GOES TO THE CIRCUS

A Tale from the Farseeker Chronicles

 

“It’s not fair,” Xander muttered, grabbing a second piece of apple pie as the plate was handed to him. Around them, the sounds of cutlery and muted conversation filled the great dining hall on the Circus Ship Roustabout.

“What’s not fair?” asked his auntie, Brigid Farseeker, glancing up at him while she neatly laid out her throwing knives in precise rows. As Cougar’s Daughter, Mistress of the Knives, she was the star of every show.

“That isn’t.” He gestured down the long trestle table to where Marcos the Magician and little Greta the Flying Girl sat, heads bent over a checkered game board. An ebony tower-shaped piece rose, moved slightly, then settled gently upon a black square, all in silence and without any movement by Marcos. As her crowned alabaster piece levitated and took a position on a white square, Greta crowed, “Checkmate!” (more…)

How We Write – Vitandus

Orion was selling her jewelry at a small belly-dancing event in Tacoma, WA. While the dancing competition was going on, there wasn’t much to do, so she started writing. This story was the result.

The character of Brigid came out of nowhere and Orion just wrote down what she saw in her head. Bright, Brigid’s twin brother, coming out of the shadows was a complete surprise. Anyway, this is how and why the twins, around 14-15 years old, came to be living on their own in Port Town. When Orion first started working on this, it was sort of a Firefly fanfic, but as the stories kept coming and the characters took on lives of their own, with worlds and backstory that didn’t match up with Firefly, she realized her people and stories were in their very own universe.

Thus was born the Farseeker Chronicles. This work-in-progress, including stories, character sketches, and planetary system notes, now amounts to over 300,000 words!


Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcbeth/

VITANDUS

 

“Brigid! Come with me! Now!”

A shape like a great bear filled the tent’s opening. Bright, in the shadows, heard the man’s roar proceed him as he strode towards his sister. The crowd parted before him like startled birds.

Brigid, lost in the heavy beats of dumbeks and djembes, and the melodies of the flutes, electronic keyboards, and fiddles, continued dancing.

The man came to a halt at the edge of the dance circle. He glared at Brigid, taking in her small slender body, from her bare feet up across her blue work denims. His gaze ended on her red hair, bound at the nape of her neck where a few escaped curls swung about her freckled face like children freed from school.

*Brigid, it’s Father,* the familiar voice of her twin, Bright, spoke in her head, insinuating itself into her reverie. She slowed to a stop, facing her father where he stood arms crossed, anger clouding his face. (more…)

How We Write – Damned Fire

Our prompts were: fire, stripes, and stuffed animal.

In the first draft of this story, it was all about the fireman. But once we realized what a special little girl Lucy was, she became the main character of her own short story collection (The Damned Kid anthology will be forthcoming at a later date). In editing this for the blog, we realized that we needed to make significant changes to still tell the fireman’s story, but make it fit as part of the larger story cycle belonging to Lucy. In the process, we chopped over 200 words from the story.


Photo by Michael Held on Unsplash

 

DAMNED FIRE

 

Our engine company arrived just in time to see the first house in the subdivision flare up like a torch.

I shivered.

The fire seemed to have a life of its own. I’ve never seen one move so fast before. Or at right angles to the wind.

Jack finished pulling the hose down off the engine then hooked it up to the hydrant.

This whole area has been blanketed in smoke for days. These poor people probably don’t even realize that the fire’s snuck up on the greenbelt behind their houses.

Chief Johnson grabbed me. “Let Avon and Blake take that hose.” Pointing at a large home on the corner, he ordered, “You get that house cleared. The rookie and I’ll take the next one.”

I ran up the curving walk and pounded on the door. I was about to break in when it swung open.

There was no one there. (more…)

How We Write – Raise A Glass

Our prompts were: Fishing, into the wind, last place, haunt, drivers license, and glass.

The prompt glass, from my M3 writing group. There were several ways to go: a glass cup, window glass, a pair of glasses, someone being transparent as glass, or even someone with a glass eye. But, as usual, we didn’t take the easy way out. The prompt became a character’s last name.

One of the characters, Red Tom, first appeared in a short story based in our Dreaming of Xeres novel called The Infamous Couch Story.

Red Tom himself is based on a real person Orion knew called Red James. At one point in her life, she had just too many people named James in her life, so she renamed them Red James and Black James. As you do. Red James made such an impression on her, going from a long-haired flamboyant young man to the crew cut and three-piece suit wearing gentleman that showed up after many years away, that she keeps dropping him into stories.


Photo by Yutacar on Unsplash

RAISE A GLASS

He’d been watching the attractive woman for several minutes. She sat all alone at the bar, surreptitiously tossing glances at a group in the far corner. When they stood and raised a toast, she turned away with tears in her eyes.

“Hey, are you okay? You look really sad.”

She focused hazel eyes on him, tilting her head like he was a specimen in a zoo. (more…)

How We Write – Hell To Pay

Our prompts were: lost and found, off limits.

This is just a little piece of Gothic Horror. And when the word count came in at 664, of course, we had to add two words so that the count would be 666, the Number of the Beast.

We both like Lucifer on TV, so whenever we write Satan into a story, we see and hear the actor Tom Ellis in the character. It was fun to imagine that tall, dark eminence as a cherubic child.


 

HELL TO PAY

“He’s all yours!” The matron plopped the boy on the counter. “It’s the end of my shift and I’ve got a train to catch.” She adjusted her clothing, picked up her purse, and waddled off.

“Hey, wait. What am I supposed to with him?” I called after her.

“He’s lost. Someone found him. You work for Lost and Found, so he’s your problem.” (more…)

How We Write – Shadows of the Past

For the month of October, we thought we’d treat you to scary stories. This is the first one.

Our prompts were: Art of the state, after the gold rush, sex at sixty.

Orion originally wrote this one by herself. Here’s some of what the prompts brought to mind: Old, deserted gold-mining town, detour off Interstate, wizened gold miner as the caretaker of the town, no businesses left, there used to be a brothel (called Sex at Mile Sixty-Nine, which refers to an old stage stop), shiny metal statue on its side poking up through the wind-blown sand at the entrance or center of town depicting a minor politician or the founder of the town that the miner calls ‘Art of the State’ because it was put up by the state with no okay from the citizens. Maybe the town doesn’t like the person represented. Maybe the caretaker/miner makes a pass at the traveler, saying “Sex at 60 is a real bang, yes, sir!”

She used some of these ideas in the story, but it evolved wayyy beyond those ideas! Hope you the finished story that resulted.


Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

SHADOWS OF THE PAST

The road sign popped up out of nowhere, the first indication of life we’d seen in countless miles of prairie. At some time in it’s past it had probably been bright green, but now it was a weathered mossy-gray. Tilting every so slightly to the right, it proclaimed, “Treasure Trove, population: 2,117.” A barely visible arrow pointed off to the right.

Looking over at my husband, Alex, I winked. “Care for an adventure?”

The driver of our air-conditioned home-on-wheels fixed me with that lovely lazy smile of his. “Why not?” (more…)