Still writing…

A site guest visit to an old post compelled me to re-read it. Painful is the only way to describe it. The bad news is the ideas were all over the place. The good news is that the story I posted along with it had a little bit of merit to it. So, instead of writing new fiction, I tried to whittle down an old story.

Originally, it clocked in at over 6,000 words. I trimmed it down to 1,700. The ideas are still insane – I’ve no problem with crazy ideas – but the story is there. It’s an absurd story to be sure, but I’m okay with that, too. Let’s call it “The Promise” for now.

“I promised not to kill anyone today,” Decker said. “and I don’t intend to break it.”

He stood, hands palms down on the polished, black marble bar, staring at his reflection in the mirrored wall of glass shelves stocked with assorted, multi-coloured bottles of booze.

“I could give a shit,” the muscled man behind him said, biceps bulging in his short sleeved Henley shirt. “Put on your fucking mask.”

The bartender couldn’t back away fast enough.

“Where you going, Jimmy?”

Jimmy pulled back his mask slightly so his low voice could be heard.

“It’s the law, Decker,” Jimmy said, slinking back.

“Pardon me?” Decker said.

“You heard the man. It’s the fucking law.”

He watched the man in the mirror as he looked to his friends for support, each of one as bicep-bulging as the other, all of them dressed like they came to a style decision on a conference call before going out. Sitting among them was a blonde hair, blue eyed girl with smoky mascara, long fake eyelashes, lips like a cut fig above a midriff baring tee shirt and a denim mini skirt, heels of her pink accented, tanned leather cowboy boots hooked on the rung of her barstool.

Absurdly, he took note of deep tan – trying to puzzle out the design behind the coloured ink of the tattoo that curled around her hip.

Looks like a wing.

She sipped away absently at some neon pink concoction that Decker thought looked like liquid bubble gum.

“She’s not wearing a mask,” Decker pointed out. “And neither are your buddies.”

“We’re at a table,” he said. “Together. You’re alone. At the bar. Put on your fucking mask.”

Tears from Jupiter

               Didn’t think I would actually consider writing MORE about this ridiculous idea, but I couldn’t get it out of my head all night. And this morning, my zen-a-day calendar conjured an inspiring quote from Dizzy Gillespie.

               “It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.”

               Couple that with other bloggers following my crazy ideas and their wonderfully crazy, beautifully written ideas, I figured “Why not?”

               So. Here’s goes nothing. You can read here if you want to see where this started.

               One blink later, the genie transported him to the past at the usual cost of one day of his life for every hour he needed to go back. A day and a half didn’t amount to much but using it over the course of a problem-filled journey on the Jovian run, he’d acquired more grey hairs than living thirty-three years warranted.

               “Ellida?” He called out. “You there?”

Justine chose “Ellida” when baptizing The Ringhorn’s AI.

“Online,” they answered.

Mission control configured his ship to account for the unique characteristics gifted to him when all the ice melted and opened a Pandora’s Box of organisms that transformed to human race, so it didn’t confuse his time-travelling self with the mainstream one.

“Level one kaptroller diagnostic, please. It’s going to fail in about an hour and a half.”

“Anything specific? A level one takes several minutes.”

Damnit. I jumped the gun. He didn’t think to check for details. And he didn’t have time to waste. But the kaptroller wasn’t that complicated.

“No.”

“Beginning scan.”

Ellida woke him to fix the failure while they navigated and managed routine. Keeping him in stasis conserved energy by not having to support him for two-year journey, which allowed them to ferry more supplies to the colony on Callisto. In the meantime, messages from friends and family would be stored for him to read during deceleration to the moon’s surface, and to be briefed on the lifeforms they found under the crust. Now that he was awake and waiting for a scan, it was as good a time as any. Plus, even though he was awake for only a few minutes, he already missed Justine.

Time Travel Genie

This is one of those days where I don’t want to write a thing. But I’m treating it like exercise. Sometimes you don’t want to do that last rep, but you feel better for it in the end. Just 100 words. That’s all I’m asking of myself.

Israel Bolt, Space Trucker

Israel Bolt cursed his ancestors for setting him on a path that lead to him serving on the Earth to Calisto milkrun, but it was honest work.

               “Kaptroller failing,” the computer intoned. “Cutting propulsion.”

               “Goddamnit.”

               Without the kaptroller extending the lifetime of the breakdown of the nuclear pellets that fueled the low-impulse ion thrusters, he’d never make it.

               With time running short, he called on his genie.

               With a poof of acrid, boysenberry coloured smoke and a cough, a miniature version of himself appeared on the dash.

               “Weren’t you just cursing your ancestors?”

               “That’s besides the point. I need your help.”

               The genie locked and cracked his thin fingers and rolled his neck like his head was on a gimbal. “Alright. How far do you want to go back?”

               “Two hours?”

               The genie removed a cue card from his sash, took a deep breath and repeated the contract in a monotone voice.

               “You have the right to travel through time. Anything changes you make will effect your future. You have the right to change your mind right now before we go any further. You have the right to ask one question about the outcome of your actions. If you cannot think of that question right now, you may not use time travel to affect a question after experiencing the outcome. If you decide not to ask any questions, you have the right to kiss my ass.”

               “What?”

               The genie stuffed away the card. “Just checking to see if you were listening. Do you accept these conditions as I have stated them?”

               “As have all of my ancestors before me,” Israel said. “Aside from the kissing your ass part.”

Bad Decisions

Writing every day is hard. Putting it online makes me uncomfortable. If I pause for a day, now you know why.

Edit – Oh. My. God. I had to fix a typo from you’re to your. I’m so sorry.

               Sandra checked under the sink before answering the phone.

               “Hello?”

               “You okay?” Amelia asked. “You runnin’ laps or something?”

               Sandra moved to pace the hall outside the kitchen to talk to her sister and keep an eye on Mackenzie playing with his miniature action figures. “Know that thing, when you think your phone’s ringing when it isn’t?”

               “Phantom something or other.”

               “I have the same condition, only it’s with mousetraps.”

               Mackenzie stopped abruptly to shoot her an anxious look.

               “Don’t worry,” she said, as much to him as to her sister. “It’s a live capture. We’re not killing them.”

               “Is that Animal?” Mackenzie asked. Growing up, ‘Animal’ was as close as he could get to Auntie Amelia and it stuck. “Tell her we made peanut butter crackers for Reece.”

               “You’re making snacks for a mouse named Reece?”

               “Yeah. He named it.”

I’m gonna step outside.

Once out of earshot, she explained that no, they weren’t be invaded. “And no, I wasn’t running a race. I ran to the phone once I realized that’s what was vibrating. I thought for a minute I caught the little bugger.”

“That’s what you get for moving to God’s country.”

“You calling to bust my balls?”

“Among other things,” Amelia conceded. “I’m keeping score for shitty choices. I tried to make out with my ex-brother-in-law. How’s your day going?”

Sandra peered through the front door’s frosted glass to see Mackenzie playing. “Just trying to make sense of it all. Sarah back at school?”

“It wasn’t easy, but we took a chance. Her bubble of friends is small and it’s just me and her. Tom’s back from Malaysia, but he’s not part of our bubble.”

“Is that why you went tongue deep with Sammy?”

She lost sight of Mackenzie. The glass made it hard to see through.

It’s not like he’s juggling chainsaws.

She took the opportunity and sat, careful not to trigger Amelia by sighing too loudly.

“Oh, no. That was for totally different reasons.”

Banter with her sister was always congenial, easygoing, and in times like this, very welcome. Before she could ask the other reasons, she heard Mackenzie.

“Hey, Mom?”

She opened the door, phone held to her ear with the other hand, forcing her to awkwardly cross her arms. “Yeah, buddy?”

“Remember how I wanted a little brother?”

“Not today, Mack.”

“What’s he going on about?” Amelia sounded excited for something new. “Are you pregnant?”

“Now now, Amelia.”

“I think Reece is someone’s little brother.”

“Oh, shit,” Sandra swore, dropping the phone and racing inside.

The Bowl

Almost didn’t get to write anything today. It’s been very busy. I’m very lucky to have people who work for me that do a great job of getting ready for a vacation so I don’t have to panic too much.

Cedarbrae sign, summer 2006

I don’t know why Cedarbrae came to mind today. It’s a real place and the cinema is real – I watched “Return Of The Jedi” there. I lined up with my friend who faked an asthma attack so we got to the front of the line. I stood at the back the whole time to watch it. As God as my witness, I don’t remember where I saw “Batman” for the first time, though.

Sidney visited Michael with a large water jug she brought with her on the bus. The long trip turned the water warm but he drank deep enough to nearly give himself a cramp.

She refused his offer to share. “Drink up,” she said, and looked down the tall steep, grassy bank of the Cedarbrae bowl that framed over half of the four hundred metre track which surrounded the football field.

“You have to mow the whole thing?”

Michael nodded, breathing hard and enveloped in sweat. “How’d you find me?”

She shrugged. “I called your house. Your mom told me about The Bowl. I don’t get how you do it.”

 “Let me show you,” he said, putting down the empty water.

He went to the orange Flymo his father left, along with a thickly coiled thirty-foot greasy, oily rope and a red jerry can of unleaded gasoline, before taking the truck and trailer to the next job.

 “Teach me, don’t just show me.”

He had started accumulating layers of grime at five a.m., collecting garbage from townhouse complexes his dad managed, then taking it to the transfer station before being left at eleven to mow The Bowl on his own, yet she still asked for a hands-on demonstration.

“Are you sure?”

She stood at the top of the hill, long blonde hair tied back, knee length jean shorts and ratty old shoes, looking like she came more to work than to quench his thirst.

He guided her through the steps, careful not to get too close.

“The idea’s to wrap the rope around the handle then slowly lower it to the bottom of the hill, then pull it back up, move over half the width of the mower, and do it again.”

After three lengths, they were as much out of breath from working as laughing. He worked twice as hard, protecting her from injury, but it was the greatest day he’d ever had working for his dad.

“Batman’s playing at the Cedarbrae,” she said, pointing to the cinema marquee cube perched on a pole across the street. “I mean, unless you’ve already seen it with the guys. It’s been out for, like, a couple weeks now, I think.”

“No,” he blurted. “Yes! I mean, no. No I haven’t. I’d love to. He’s my favourite.”

“Oh, okay. Well. Have fun. Don’t worry. You can keep the jug.”

“Wait!”

Snaring Readers in your Fictional World

It’s hard snaring readers into a fictional world. I’ve always thought a dramatis personae or glossary of words and terms superfluous and annoying. But here I am, prefacing a science fiction story with them. But I like Tanelia and I feel they’re worth it.

And I admit, this is a weird story. But I can actually see the place in my head. I want to see where I can go with it.

On my third day of writing, I’m reminded of Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote “one page at a time”. When he finished, he didn’t have to rewrite anything. It’s hard work, but I can see its appeal.

karenic: a framework for linking the elements in a complex system, especially one involving large spatial and temporal scales

skinpassteel: artificial skin of unstable molecules that can adapt to a changing endoskeleton (this one is my word – created from an email exchange with a friend)

            A humanoid shadow stood in the light of the chapel’s stained-glass window, interrupting the ritual offertory.

            “What is it?” The ceremony dispelled, Sabiel spoke common, his voice still full of static.

            Omylia came around, through the double door of Sabiel’s chamber to properly present herself – only their smooth skinned, placid face framed by bland Femex vestments.

            Thank goodness, Tanelia thought. No thong.

            “More travellers, Sabiel,” Omylia stated.

            Sabiel’s eyes clouded while he internally reviewed every security feed from the thousands of scanners throughout the seven minarets framing the chapel compound. Arun gasped when the endoskeleton beneath their master’s skinpassteel churned to form Bebium the Karenic.

            “Let us go,” Bebium said, his voice smooth and polished. “We must greet our newest members!”

            “With your permission, milord,” Tanelia said, looking to Arun. “I would like to remain a moment. To exchange with Arun.”

            “You are our favourite,” Bebium said, orange eyes welling up, his rusty extension tip caressing her cheek. “We will wait for you in the courtyard. Come Omylia! I will show you the way.”

            Tanelia turned on Arun, demanding to know if they lost their mind.

            “Akøzha kazh kakkøzho!?”

            Before being able to regret checking if they were overheard, Arun clutched their cheek, the metallic clash of Tanelia’s strike ringing through the chapel.

            “Bebium, doesn’t speak Kazozhian,” Tanelia spat. “Only Sabiel does.”

Going To The Movies

Kowloon City Aerial View

I watched “Bloodsport” this morning during breakfast among the things I noticed (other than the terrible acting and classic eighties music and montages) was the setting. I thought it incredible they filmed in Kowloon City. I’ll leave you to your own internet rabbit hole, but I had notes on it for research on another story I wanted to write.

This is not that story. I can’t be sure I’ll ever get around to writing “Deadfall“. But, in the meantime, I do have this.

Thank God no one heard the concession stand clerk welcome him back.

“Where’s your dad?” the brace-faced, freckled boy asked.

“Ha,” Michael replied. “Good one. I’ll just have some nibs and a large coke.”

“That’ll be three fifty.”

His stomach turned outside out and his guts turned to water when Geena asked if she could sit next to him so they could share.

“Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade,” the ticket taker said, tearing his ticket a little. “Theatre three.”

Last week, theatre three showed “Bloodsport” with Jean-Claude Van Damme and his dad’s reactions stuck with him until the end.

“Dad? Didn’t you like it?”

Ung Lieu, a man who would eventually work two full time jobs, eat the same meals for years on end, to make sure Michael went to art school, looked as though he would cry any moment said, “Kowloon city.” “

“What about it?”

Ung shook his head. “I didn’t think they could film there.”

“Did you live there?”

Ung nodded. “Delivered mail.”

“You delivered mail to the Kumite?”

Ung, turned to put his hand on Michael’s head, smiled and said. “Not exactly.”

Michael shared with Geena who shared with Bobby the whole time, laughing and giggling in the darkness about Indy complaining in a terrible Scottish accent about how he caught a sniffle. Mindy and Cindy joked behind them with Joe. Only Michael seemed to be watching the flick.

He walked ahead of the group, listening to the plans where to go next. The twins had their licenses and their own cars, no one needed a bus scheduled to get about and it wasn’t like they were little kids anymore that had to be home before the streetlights came on.

“Kumite!” He shouted, jump kicking open the door and holding it for the group.

Geena passed by, her hand over her mouth, followed by Bobby, who clapped him on the back.

“Thanks, String Bean,” he said. “You just did me a huge favour.”

“Have you seen Bloodsport?” Bobby started calling him Bean in the second grade.

“I’m starting to think I should.”

The Femex Oblates of Sabiel the Wapeless

Credit for the image is given to Justin “Coro” Kauffman. Found it on reddit. It gave me the inspiration to take a page from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and frame my ideas around images. What I’m going to do is build a rabbit hutch of plot bunnies that I can hopefully make use of someday.

With that in mind, here is The Femex Oblates of Sabiel The Wapeless.

FYI, wapeless, femex and sluthing are completely made-up words courtesy of This Word Does Not Exist. And the language of Kazozhian is as real as I can make it and was created by Vulgar highly recommendedin the first draft it was Zhikzen but I changed it.

wapeless ; lacking enthusiasm or confidence; slack-jawed

femex ; androids of no fixed gender

sluthing ; femex slang for thoughtless or meaningless sexual advances

Tanelia smelled the ozone from Sabiel’s connections and the lubricant from his joints over the incense in the electronic censer. In their peripheral vision, Arun lay prostrate in ritual response to the offertory from their master. While training granted them the grace and strength to maintain reverent attention, they couldn’t help but think, “A sluthing thong?” It risked dispelling their lord’s revered wapelessness.

“Køzzəz køz ˈkøkøzɔ?” Sabiel asked in the white static Kazozhian language of the Oblates . His hooded, electric blue eyes glowed above the olfactory slits and immobile jaw of his skin sheathed cranium.

“Your Femex is ready,” Tanelia replied in the common tongue, feeling his rusty extension press between their legs.

For the curious, I think I might expand this story. I’m really liking Tanelia. I’ve wrote a second block here

https://fourbeanscreative.wordpress.com

“Hey, just so’s you know,” my wife said. “My parent’s neighbour is subscribing to your blog. He wanted to let you know”

“My what?”

It stunned me to learn there were real people I knew actually subscribing to my content.

That lead to dread, knowing it had been ages since I last posted.

So, I thought what better to do than to start all over with a new blog, https://fourbeanscreative.wordpress.com.

Give me a couple of minutes before I get it rolling. I’m migrating my content and making a commitment, for the next 30 days, to write at least 100 words a day. The 2019 winner of the NYC Midnight Short Screenplay contest inspired me to do this.

M. Rowan Meyer wrote a book called “Tiny Fiction“, a collection of short works ranging from a few sentences to a few pages – 300 of them. I figured I could do much the same. Plus, he has a host of awards to his credit and his tenacity and skill inspired me to give it a shot. His entries into the contest were also amazing – I encourage you to check him out here.

I assure you, I never met the man. I’m pimping him out because he’s really good.

Gallium OS on Acer Chromebook 11

As a Chromebook, all I had to do was Search+Shift+P and it would toggle the touchpad on and off when I typed.

As a GalliumOS computer, it far surpasses it’s former function as a Chromebook, except for the touchpad. I can get around not using MS Word – Libreoffice Writer does a decent job of emulating it. I’ve visited Abiword in the past but haven’t used it lately.

The touchpad is my only barrier to using this as a fulltime writing machine.

It continues to mis-read the cues from my palm and send the cursour all over the screen like a whirling dervish. It’s annoying.

There is a GalliumOS wiki for it located here –> https://wiki.galliumos.org/FAQ/Touchpad

(EDIT – make 100% sure that you back your shit up. There’s a note my wife keeps on a whiteboard in the kitchen that reminds me “Not to fix things that work” because she has lived through many a frustrated weekend of me trying to fix something that worked perfectly fine until I frigged with it. I am not a Gallium OS Expert, I am not a programmer, I am not Linus Torvalds. I am just a guy who likes to fiddle with perfectly fine Chromebooks.)

It’s a good start. You can read it through. But if you have an Acer Chromebook 11 with an Elan touchpad, it’s not quite enough. You can stop when it tells you to do this:

xinput --set-prop 10 'libinput Accel Speed' 0.2

Everything for that instruction is perfectly fine and very well written. But for my particular machine, “Accel Speed” is not a property of the Elan touchpad. To find that out, you need to open the terminal (CNTRL+T) and enter in the next command.

xinput list-prop

You will get a HUGE list of properties you did not even consider as being properties for a touchpad. I generated a huge sense of empathy towards the people involved in coming up with these properties. So much so, that I felt bad for being so annoyed by something so petty as a touchpad. I can so much see the team of touchpad designers flipping me a collective bird, saying “Live with it, you mewling quim”.

In addition, when entering the code for making the adjustments, use the following syntax (where the “prop 11” is the property code for my touchpad and the properties I am adjusting are “Palm Pressure” and “Fat Finger Min Move Distance”) this line works.

xinput set-prop 11 ‘Palm Pressure’ 90

xinput set-prop 11 ‘Fat Finger Min Move Distance’ 20

When you see all the myriad of properties, you can fiddle with what’s there and see what works for you. I chose “Palm Pressure” and “Fat Finger Move Distance”. You can see the set values for yourself and adjust them accordingly.

For example, “Palm Pressure” has a value of 100. I’m assuming that’s a percentage value (yeah, could’ve Googled it, but I was impatient and wanted to get something accomplished and figured that Googling would only take me down a terribly deep rabbit hole). And “Fat Finger Move Distance” has a set value of 15, which I figured had to be how many milimetres (1.5) it would have to move before it would register a touch and actually move (again, no Google, just a guess).

So far, not bad. I’ve since set the Palm Pressure to 75 and the Fat Finger Move Distance to 20 and the pointer is a little sluggish to the touch but it hasn’t mussed up too much so far. I’ve been able to type this blog post with no incident. But moving the pointer around to engage other functions has been a little problematic but not impossible.

Once you’ve fiddled with it and found your zone, if you log out of your machine, you’ll lose the settings. So you need to go back to the GalliumOS FAQ and follow the rest of the directions.

nano ~/.bashrc

Press control+v a few times to page forward, until you are at the end of the file. On a new line, simply add the same lines you were fiddling with in terminal

xinput set-prop 11 ‘Palm Pressure’ 90

xinput set-prop 11 ‘Fat Finger Min Move Distance’ 20

Good luck.

Drop me a line with how it goes (or how it didn’t go). Wouldn’t mind hearing from you.