Month: August 2014

Costume completed…

Young Robert Baratheon, prior to winning the rebellion, becoming king, and getting fatter and hairier. ;)

For those confused, it’s from the Game of Thrones universe. Yes, antlers on a helm are ridiculously silly for armour worn in combat, but it’s what the books describe! Same with the fantasy warhamner!

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Trope-Tastic Thursday #002 – “Never Was This Universe” – #WOEGTTT

Howdy all, and welcome back to Trope-Tastic Thursday, my weekly writing challenge, where we explore the world of fiction through tropes!  What is a trope? I’m glad you asked! Here’s what our pals at TVTropes.org have to say about it:

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.

In a way, tropes are like cliches (but not boring), in that they define what a reader has come to expect of certain elements of fiction. That could be the normal expectations of what to expect of an Evil Overlord, or the standard elements found in a type of fiction, like, say, Steam Punk! The point is, a reader will naturally expect certain things, and those things are defined as tropes.

And my challenge to you, each week, is to take this week’s trope and use it in a piece of fiction that is 1,000 words or less in length. You can use that trope however you wish, either playing it straight (using the trope as it is described, more or less) or turning the trope (going against the expectations defined by that particular trope). Either way, the goal is to explore the trope and see what kind of awesome fiction we can come up with. Don’t feel restricted by genre, either – just because a trope is common in, say, Fantasy, doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to use it in a drama!

Last week’s trope was “Vocal Dissonance” – check out the awesome stories that came from it:

“Songbird” by Quietude’s Junction

“We Are Roma” by Naomi Harvey

“The Wake of Pappy O’Bannon” by Mark Baron

“Zit-Faced Idiots” by Helen Espinosa

“The Boat” by Kate Spyder

“Vocal Dissonance” by Kate Loveton

And wow! Let me say, I am so glad we decided to open up this challenge a bit. What an awesome response from some excellent writers. If I missed your entry, let me know, and I’ll pop it in there – and remember, tag your stories with #woegttt to make it easier for me to find them! :)

And now, for this week’s trope….

NEVER WAS THIS UNIVERSE!
(follow the link for examples)

From TVTropes.org:

Alternate History provides a method for creating a setting which is almost like our world, but varies in large enough ways that they couldn’t plausibly actually be ours.

This trope covers settings which feel like Alternate History in this way, but don’t actually have a specified point of divergence: no matter how far back in history you look, their history has always been different from ours in some way (frequently, though not always, because it contains un-Masqueraded fantasy elements). In Spite of a Nail is necessarily in effect, in order to keep the setting approximately similar to the real world—indeed, sometimes the histories of these settings are more different from reality than their presents.

Compare Alien Space Bats; it’s nearly always possible to Retcon this sort of world into an alternate history with Alien Space Bats, by adding in a point of divergence that’s earlier than any other history you’ve introduced. Also compare Historical Fantasy. See also Close Enough Timeline and Rubber-Band History. Contrast Plausible Deniability.

What a fun trope! Definitely be sure to look at the examples given – this kind of thing covers comic book universes, parallel dimensions, and so much more.

Your challenge is to write a story in 1,000 words or less. Your deadline is next Thursday, August 28st, by noon Eastern time. Play with the trope, have fun with it, and when you are done, post it to your writing site, and come back here with a link to your post. If you can, include the hashtag #woegttt in your tags, to make it easier for other writers to find and read your challenge. Next Thursday, I’ll include a link back to your blog so that everyone can get a chance to read your story!

And one final caveat – next week, I will be at DragonCon, from Wednesday night through Monday afternoon. I should still be able to get a challenge post made, but if I get delayed by the biggest nerdfest on the East Coast of the United States, I do hope you will forgive me. ;)

Oh! And if you happen to be going to DragonCon too? LOOK ME UP! I’d love to meet some of my writer friends there!

If you have any questions or need clarification, let me know here! I’ll help however I can!

On your marks….

Get set…

Trope!

 

“Jacob’s Ladder” – Song Lyric Story Saturday prompt from Naomi Harvey!

This week, the lovely Naomi Harvey of So I want to be an author… created an intriguing new flash fiction challenge! Called Song Lyric Story Saturday, the idea is a fun one – Naomi posts a random lyric or two from a song, and our job is to create a story in 1500 words or less inspired by that lyric. It doesn’t have to use the actual words of the lyric, but the story should be clearly influenced by it. I thought this was a fantastically fun idea, and couldn’t wait to throw my hat into the challenge.

This week’s lyric?

When the end has come and buildings falling down fast, when we’ve spoilt the land and dried up all the sea…

So here, at 1500 words, is “Jacob’s Ladder”

“Your persistence is admirable, I’ll give you that,” said the man in the impeccable suit, “but really, Jacob…don’t you think it’s time to call it quits?”

Jacob sighed, and put down the binoculars. He turned to look at the man in the suit, the man that had no name. The man that wasn’t actually there.

“Shut the fuck up,” Jacob snarled. He reached down for his canteen, shook it. Empty. He turned his gaze back to the horizon.

Up ahead, he could just see through the haze of heat and dust the remnants of an old office building. It swayed in the never ceasing wind like some sort of giant, manmade reed, and even here, from so long a distance, he could hear it creak and moan.

Fuck. There was supposed to be a lake here! He looked down to his tactical bag, opened it, dug through the pockets and pulled out an old, worn map. His fingers, grimy with dry, thick dust, scanned across the lines and creases, trying to determine which was which. The groan of steel, bitterly complaining about its burden, filled the air.

“Fuck,” he said aloud. It was getting harder and harder to find water. This place, this building, should have been on the edge of a large lake. He looked through the binoculars again and for a moment, the dust cleared just enough for him to see a long, deep hollow beyond the tortured high-rise, its surface cracked and crumbling. And dry. Bone dry.

The impeccable man chuckled.

“I told you there wouldn’t be anything there,” he chided, “but would you listen?”

“I said, shut the fuck up.”

“Is that what you really want, Jacob? Honestly? Because I think you might regret saying that later.”

Jacob pulled the binoculars from his eyes, squeezed them tight, and rubbed them hard. He blinked several times, then turned back. The man was still there. The impossible man. Wind and dirt and grime blew all around him, but his suit remained clean. Perfect. Unruffled by wind, untouched by dirt.

Imaginary.

He couldn’t quite remember when the man had first appeared. He had vague recollections of it being after he had wakened from a fevered dream. His eyes fluttering, his head throbbing, and then, there he was. The impeccable man.

A rollercoaster of emotions swept through Jacob at that moment. First, fear, panic. It had been a long damned time since he’d seen another human being, and that had not been a pleasant encounter. His side still ached from the memory of the club that had probably broken a rib or two. Then, befuddlement; the man’s incredibly fine, tailored clothes were incredibly jarring in the post-Fall world, where one scavenged what one could, regardless of cut or style or fit. And last…relief. Much as he hated to admit it, he was relieve to see another human being, to have someone to talk to, argue with, listen to. Even if he was a figment of his mind.

Jacob remained silent.

The man nodded, sagely. Jacob wished he could smack him. Instead, he tucked the binoculars away, pulled his worn, old scarf up over his face to block the dust, and began walking towards the building.

“What are you doing?”

He nodded towards the building.

“Could be something left inside. I need water, and a lot of buildings were only looted on the lower levels after the Fall. That one’s tall enough, there could be an old water cooler tank or case of bottled water or something.”

The man frowned. Even his frown was perfect, balanced, symmetrical.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. Doesn’t look very safe.”

“What do you care? You’re imaginary.”

The man stopped.

“Perhaps I am. Perhaps I’m not. Either way, and end to you could mean an end to me. Shouldn’t I get a choice?”

“Sure,” Jacob said with a huff, “Let’s thumb wrestle for it.”

The man’s face went cold. Jacob felt inwardly pleased at calling him on his lack of physical form.

“You know what? Do it. Go in there. I don’t have to go. I can make the choice not to. So go, get yourself killed. As I said, maybe it’s time to call it quits.”

“Maybe it is.”

Silence.

Jacob looked again. The man was gone. Not unusual, entirely. There were plenty of times he’d vanished in the past. He’d be back, no doubt, to gloat if Jacob found nothing or to sulk if he scored big.

Time to find out which.

***

He’d spent at least an hour looking for any other way up but the fire escape, and failed. The ground floor had been, predictably, well looted, but he guessed from the look of the barricaded stairwells that there may well still be something worth having on the upper floors. Plus, it wasn’t like he had much of a choice. He was already getting a little woozy from dehydration.

That fire escape, though. Rusted, rickety, swaying in the breeze. He could see how it pulled away from the wall every so often as it wobbled. And the ladder was so far up. Still, he might have a chance. He opened his pack again, rummaged around, and pulled out his rope and the makeshift grappling hook inside. It was ugly, pieced together from old car parts, but it worked. He tested the weight, gave it a few spins, and sent it sailing.

It hit with a clatter. A quick tug confirmed that it had caught, and he began heaving it towards him. The metal groaned, low and loud at first, then a higher shriek as the rust began to give way to the relentless tug of his rope. Then, with a final desperate shriek, the escape ladder shuddered and surrendered, crashing down with a bang. Jacob coiled his rope, and walked over to the ladder. He gave it a few shakes, gingerly set a foot on the first rung, then the second, and bounced a few times. It held. Good.

He went up, up, up. The first three floors were completely inaccessible, the windows completely boarded up. Further still, then. The same for the fourth, the fifth. By now, he could feel the sway of the building with every gust of dust-laden wind, and once, the fire escape pulled away from the side of the building entirely, leaving him grasping the ladder with knuckles gone white with stress and pressure. But then the building swayed again, and the rickety old ladder smashed against the side of the building with a bone rattling clank. Jacob had to catch his breath. His heart pounded ferociously beneath his chest, and for a moment, he wondered if the impeccable man had not been right after all.p

“Of course I was right,” the man said, sitting calmly on the platform just above Jacob.

“I thought you weren’t going to come,” Jacob growled, but he couldn’t fully hide the gladness he felt at not being alone.

“I couldn’t leave you here, Jacob. Not alone. Not so far up from the world below. How far are we now, Jacob?”

He’d lost count. Jacob looked down, and saw only swirling clouds of dust and ruin, the microscopic remnants of the spoiled land below. The building teetered. He looked up, and saw the fire escape climb and climb, only to disappear into another cloud of dust, the dehydrated remains of a sea bed now gone. God, he was so thirsty.

“I think you’ve gone far enough, Jacob,” the man said, but this time, the edge to it, the sarcasm was gone and in its place, something more akin to…concern? Tenderness?

“Can’t stop,” Jacob said, gritting his teeth as the ladder swayed again, “Gotta find a way in. Find water. I’ll die otherwise.”

The impeccable man stared at him for a long while, silent. His eyes, a strange, watery blue, seemed fit to burst with tears, but none escaped. He just sat there, watching Jacob, who clung to the ladder and could not find the strength or courage to move against the swaying, blowing storm. Finally, he nodded.

“Very well. I can do no more this time. Good bye Jacob.”

He stood, walked to the edge of the platform, and leapt.

“NO!” screamed Jacob, and he instinctually shot out a hand to grab for the man who wasn’t there. As he did, his body weight shifted, and a horrible, deep cry shook through the entire building. Timbers creaked and snapped in thundering cracks, as brick began to crumble. Jacob cried out, but his voice was lost in the tumultuous crash of the high rise.

***

“We were close this time, Phillip. We almost had him free.”

Phillip turned to the impeccably dressed man, and nodded.

“Perhaps next time, Doctor Jennings? Perhaps next time, we can bring him back to the real world, and out of this fantasy he’s built.”

Jennings, dressed impeccably, looked in at Jacob as he thrashed against the padded wall. His watery blue eyes swelled with tears.

“Perhaps.”

“Wayward Son”– #FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 33

flash-fiction-badge1A super-short tale this week for Thain in Vain’s #FFC52 Flash Fiction Challenge! For week 33, we have a fun little prompt –

Open the book you are reading right now (or a favourite if you aren’t reading anything, oh, and shame on you!), turn to page 33 (or 33% on e-readers) and write a super flash fiction about the first proper noun (person, place or thing) on the page! Word count is 500 as usual, but feel free to use 33 as your word count for this week!!

What did I choose? Stick around after and find out. Here is “Wayward Son” in 33 words.

 

She rose before me, high atop Kolvir, her legendary stair winding up her steepest cliff.

I’d ridden hard, through hells and heavens and all the Shadows in between.

Amber.

Soon, she would fall.

Though I’m actually reading a couple of different books at the moment, I knew from the moment I saw this prompt that I would return to my very favorite, the amazing universe of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. Imagine my delight when the very first proper noun was Amber herself! I was tempted, SO tempted, to write a 500 word piece for this, but I enjoyed the challenge of telling a story in far fewer words. Here’s hoping I did her justice.

“The Wake of Pappy O’Bannon” – Trope-Tastic Thursday #001 – #WOEGTTT

Greetings, fine readers! Today I felt inspired to write to my own challenge, Trope-Tastic Thursday! This week’s theme trope was Vocal Dissonance…but I decided that, since I never did write a story for the final Turn-a-trope Tuesday challenge, I’d combine that one’s Verbal Tic Name with this to create a story that challenges both. Mostly played straight this week, though the use of the former nicely turns the latter on it’s head.

Here is “The Wake of Pappy O’Bannon” at 1,000 words on the dot…and an introduction to another character in the Pinky Black universe (though Pinky himself is absent from this tale).  I do hope you enjoy!

Ugh was not Ugh O’Malley’s actual first name. No one really knew what his given name was, save, perhaps, his poor departed mother, but even she may have forgotten it by this point were she still living. God rest her. No, Ugh got his name by the sound he made in response to near any verbal communication directed his way; with a strange, guttural growling grunt that was as brief as it was gruff.

Not that anyone questioned his monocabulary. Ugh was the kind of man that one did not try to speak to, if one could avoid it. He was a towering brute of a man, hard bodied and a face that looked like rough poured asphalt, all craggy and scarred. It was a wide, flat face, his nose barely poking beyond the vast plain of pockmarked meanness, and where it did, kinked in odd directions from innumerable breaks he’d gotten from his chosen profession.

You see, Ugh was the right hand of Pappy O’Bannon – though, it was more like the right fist. And the left. There wasn’t a place Pappy went that Ugh wasn’t his shadow, and a menacing one at that. Rumor had it that Ugh didn’t have a tongue at all, that Pappy O’Bannon had removed it because Ugh was the only one who knew all the family secrets, besides Pappy himself. Where that the truth, though, one would think Ugh would be more resentful towards his employer, but that clearly wasn’t the case. Ugh served the old man with a devotion of a favored son. Far more likely, then, that Pappy merely encouraged the rumor, taking advantage of his monosyllabic henchman’s fierce reputation to enhance the ferocity of his own.

Not that he needed much help with that. Pappy O’Bannon was one of the most feared crime lords on the East coast. His family, the O’Bannon mob, was known for the swiftness of their anger and the honest brutality at which they pursued their idea of “justice.” Pappy was particularly known for the zeal in which he went after his Italian adversaries – the man hated them with a keenness and fury that was, in a word, remarkable.

No one quite knew why; some said it was on account of his first wife running off with an Italian. Others, that the Italian mobs had not shown Pappy proper respect when stepping into his domain. Still others, that her was part Italian himself but that he hated his dad, or granddad, or whomever it was the speaker alleged bore that Mediterranean seed. It was even said that Pappy took his hatred as far as the dinner table; Jesus, Mary, and Joseph be with the man who laid a plate of pasta in front of Pappy. But, there was one thing Italian that Pappy loved, and that was the opera. It was, in fact, one of Pappy’s favorite sayings – that opera was the only thing the Italians did right. Old man O’Bannon went to every possible one he could attend, and by his side, faithful, went his good man Ugh.

It was quite a shock, then, when Pappy passed away in the night, that Ugh was not present to attend his body from the start of his wake. It was a fine wake too, sure, and well attended. The women all a-keening and the men whispering their condolences, to then find solace and comfort in a stout whiskey and a quiet laugh of days gone by. Someone had even thought to place a big plate of spaghetti out with the rest of the reception’s food, and while some might have found it distasteful, there were plenty who knew Pappy would have appreciated the humor there. So it went, with tales of bygone glories and mad adventures, of Pappy in his youth and his rise to power over the East side districts. Songs were sung, laughs shared, drinks downed and filled and downed again.

And then, the door flew open with a start. Standing there, almost perfectly framed within the door, his broad shoulders nearly filling the passage and his wild, red hair brushing the door jam, was Ugh. His rugged face was red and nose a-blossom with drink, no doubt, and his eyes puffed and sore from tears gazed slowly about the room, taking in an account of every face he saw. There was an emptiness to his stare that chilled the very air.

The room fell silent. Not even a glass clinked as Ugh made his way to Pappy’s side. Large men, strong men, quivered slightly and shrugged aside, unwilling to face that stare. The behemoth stopped just shy of his late master’s body, and for a moment, the silence lingered. All eyes were on that hulking, red-headed form. A tear rolled down through the canyons of his face. His mouth opened slightly, and from it…sound.

The most beautiful sound any one there had ever heard, soft at first, like he had forgotten how to produce any noise, then louder. His voice was clearer than a crystalline lagoon, his tone, perfect, unwavering. He grew louder still, and then it became clear that what he sang…was opera. His voice roared now, with fury, passion, sadness, loss. It was torrent of sound, the lamentation of an angel, so beautiful and pure it nearly hurt to give listen. Then, he peaked, the crescendo came and crashed into the hearts of all that gathered like a great tsunami on a hapless shore. Tears fell freely, from Ugh and all who gathered there. Then it was over. Ugh turned, sharply, and paced from the room as if a man on a mission from God.

And perhaps he was. Ugh never returned to the O’Bannon mob. Rumor was he’d caught a boat back to Ireland, and there, found his way into the priesthood. No one dared to follow him. No one dared to check. For they had long feared the demon that never spoke…but feared more the angel that did.

WordPress occasionally pisses me off. :P

My reader is so damned glitchy. More often than not, as I scroll through to see who has posted what since I last read yesterday, I will find that it goes from showing me works that are a few hours old to suddenly showing works 16 days or more old. And nothing in between! :(

Highly, highly irritating! 

So my friends, if you have something you think I’d like to read and I haven’t commented or liked it yet, it could be I just haven’t seen that it was posted. :(

 

 

Trope-Tastic Thursday #001 – “Vocal Dissonance” – #WOEGTTT

(OOPS! This was supposed to be a scheduled post, but I hit the wrong button. *blush!*  Since several have already seen it, I’ll leave it up – but next weeks will actually post on Thursday!)

Howdy, my writerly friends, and welcome to the first edition of Trope-Tastic Thursday! As explained in yesterday’s lead up, Trope-Tastic Thursday is my weekly writing challenge, where we explore the world of fiction through tropes.

What is a trope? I’m glad you asked! Here’s what our pals at TVTropes.org have to say about it:

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.

In a way, tropes are like cliches (but not boring), in that they define what a reader has come to expect of certain elements of fiction. That could be the normal expectations of what to expect of an Evil Overlord, or the standard elements found in a type of fiction, like, say, Steam Punk! The point is, a reader will naturally expect certain things, and those things are defined as tropes.

And my challenge to you, each week, is to take this week’s trope and use it in a piece of fiction that is 1,000 words or less in length. You can use that trope however you wish, either playing it straight (using the trope as it is described, more or less) or turning the trope (going against the expectations defined by that particular trope). Either way, the goal is to explore the trope and see what kind of awesome fiction we can come up with. Don’t feel restricted by genre, either – just because a trope is common in, say, Fantasy, doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to use it in a drama!

And this week’s trope is….

VOCAL DISSONANCE!
(follow the link for examples)

From TVTropes.org:

While it may be wrong to judge a book by its cover, it’s something that happens. You see a person, you expect certain things. This extends even to their voice. If you see a muscular man, you expect a deep macho voice. The Vamp will have a sexy, sultry voice. A child’s voice is high pitched. And so on.

This trope is about when those expectations don’t match up e.g. when the muscular man has the sultry voice, The Vamp has the childish voice, and the child has the deep voice. This trope is generally played for comedy, since the idea of a squeaky voice off a big person or vice-versa is generally seen as absurd.

For better or for worse, this can sometimes come about by chance, depending on how casting in a voiced work goes. It also can occur because people tend to expect all the inhabitants of a given country to look basically the same, so hearing, say, a British accent and then realizing it’s issuing from the mouth of an ethnically Chinese person can be quite a shock.

Cute, but Cacophonic is a subtrope of this, specifically referring to when “an extremely cute and/or tiny animal turns out to have a surprisingly loud cry.” Instant Soprano, another subtrope, occurs when the Vocal Dissonance arises in response to a Groin Attack. Not to be confused with Larynx Dissonance, which involves an actor attempting to impersonate their opposite gender, or Lyrical Dissonance, which involves song lyrics.

So there we have it! Your challenge is to write a story that involves Vocal Dissonance, in 1,000 words or less. Your deadline is next Thursday, August 21st, by noon Eastern time. Play with the trope, have fun with it, and when you are done, post it to your writing site, and come back here with a link to your post. If you can, include the hashtag #woegttt in your tags, to make it easier for other writers to find and read your challenge. Next Thursday, I’ll include a link back to your blog so that everyone can get a chance to read your story!

If you have any questions or need clarification, let me know here! I’ll help however I can!

On your marks….

Get set…

Trope!

Coming tomorrow to a writing blog near you: Trope-Tastic Thursday! #WOEGTTT

Howdy all, and welcome to the lead-up to the first edition of Trope-Tastic Thursday! Yes, this is a blatant attempt to keep the #woegttt hashtag I started with the now defunct Turn-a-Trope Tuesdays, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me that, won’t you?

After much thought and feedback from you, my friends and fellow writers, I’ve decided to make some changes to my weekly challenge. For one thing, a lot of folks expressed confusion over what a trope is, exactly, and what it meant to turn it. That’s my fault entirely – I think I explained it once, but should have included a reminder in each prompt. We’ll change that, this go-around. Second, after getting through some easier tropes to turn, I actually found my original concept to be almost too restrictive – some tropes, it appears, are damned near impossible to turn. Third, I wanted to change the day to Thursday, as I was consistently missing Tuesday deadlines due to a need to catch up on work after my weekends.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do. We are going to start a new challenge. Every Thursday, I will pick a trope (more on that in a moment), and the challenge will be simple – write a story that uses that trope, either playing it straight (doing exactly what the trope describes) or turning the trope (delivering a story that acknowledges the expectations of the trope but takes it in an unexpected direction).  Each week’s challenge will be 1,000 words or less – don’t feel you have to use up all that space if you don’t need it, and if you go a little over? I’m sure we’ll forgive you.

Now, to the meat of the issue…what exactly is a trope? I’ll let the fine folks at TVTropes.org explain it, as they do it best:

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means “stereotyped and trite.” In other words, dull and uninteresting. We are not looking for dull and uninteresting entries. We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them.

So, in essence, a trope is a tool in a writer’s tool box. It is a commonly understood expectation for different aspects of fiction. For example, a writer who is working on a High Fantasy story knows that his or her readers are going to expect certain common elements to be present; perhaps a Dark Lord with his evil hordes seeks his Artifacts of Doom, and is opposed by The Chosen One and his (or their) mysterious wandering wizard friend. These common elements (all linked above) are called tropes, and define what a reader is naturally inclined to expect in that kind of element of fiction or from that kind of character.

Now, tropes can be played with in a number of ways; they can be played straight – that is, delivering exactly what the reader expects (with your own unique voice, of course). The wizard character, for instance, may be a wise and valuable mentor. Or, you might decide to turn the trope, and deliver the opposite of what the reader expects – that same wizard may actually be a bumbling idiot who threatens the entire story with his poor guidance! As the writer, you choose which direction you want to take each week’s trope – the challenge is, can you play the trope straight, and still entertain your reader with a stunning plot? Or will you turn the trope and deliver something they never saw coming?

I can’t wait to see what kind of stories we can generate here, and to introduce those of you new to the idea of tropes to an extensive new tool box for your works of fiction. Understanding tropes makes us better writers, and better writers write better stories.

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow, and take up the Trope-Tastic Thursday Challenge!