The Ballad of Right & Wrong

Stumbled upon this awesome, solo role playing game concept. I like solo role playing games only because I miss group roll playing sessions. I fiddle about with the simpler ones because it’s easy to slip in an out.

I found a really cool one here that actually helps design a story. And seeing as how I cut my writing time down to the wire (I’m actually 15 minutes late) I figured this was a good time to try it out. I honestly like the results. I could be accused of it being a little too Kill Bill but I’m okay with that. What you see below are the cards I drew and how it helped form the story.

Past

  • 2CLUBS
    • Duality – morality and social themes
      • In the past, the world was caught between doing what was right or following the will of the crowd. The absolute right – the moral right – of a person to live was at odds with the group choice whether someone should die. Even if a man was found innocent of a crime, if their death would serve the common good and to make people feel secure, then that man would be put to death and he would not argue. It would be an honourable death.

Present and call to action

  • Jack of hearts
    • Neutral (character) emotional and relationships
      • A gang kills a man for the contents of his shop. The man could not protect himself. He was at the mercy of the mob. The gang took his store and killed him. None of them are charged.

Future and conflicts

  • 9 Hearts
    • Morality emotional and relationships
      • The woman declares it a crime and wants to takes the law into her hands and kill the gang. The law finds her in the wrong, for she has nothing to gain except revenge, and that’s not an acceptable reason to kill them.

Conclusion

  • King of Hearts
    • Active emotional and relationships
      • The woman doesn’t kill the gang. She attacks the police and takes them over. That way she can determine what is right and wrong.

Sonny Say You Will

The older I get the more music effects me. I wish I listened more closely when I was younger. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me as long to appreciate it.

A song came over the radio on my way home and I had to change the channel immediately.

“I’m not ready for that right now,” was the first thing I thought. I knew it would bring about too many feelings. So, instead I decided to write about it.

I caught the phone on the third ring.

“Hello?”

“Hey,” he said. “What are you doing?”

Eli? In Windsor? Holy shit. Keep it together.

“Uh, watching The Jungle Book,” I said, telling the truth. “What are you doing?”

I should have been studying, reading, doing something relating to school, but I couldn’t muster the motivation. Instead, I went for an old standard. The other VHS tape handy was “Monty Python And The Holy Grail” but that would only make me want to go home even more. I always watched that with Dad.

“Happened to be in the neighborhood,” he explained. “Thought I would drop by.”

I find that hard to believe.

“Well, good to hear from you,” I said.

Before I could hang up he blurted, “Coffee.”

“Coffee?”

“Yeah, did you want to go for a coffee?”

“Sure,” I said. “Is it with you?”

“I figure, you know, as long as I was in the neighbourhood.”

I could hear that maddening, shit-eating grin through the phone. God help me, I loved that smile.

“There’s a coffee shop in town,” I said. “It’s called The Eclectic, but we all call it The Epileptic.”

“Sounds like your kind of place.”

“Give me a minute to get changed. I’ll be right down.”

“Really?” He asked. “No need to get all dressed up for me.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I’m still in my pyjamas.”

“I’m on my way.”

“Pump your brakes, Turbo. You still driving that piece of shit Monte Carlo?”

Titles Are Hard

I’m comfortable with titling my stories. I’m not comfortable with titling blog posts. I don’t know why this is. If I were to take a shot in the dark, I would say it’s because I’m self conscious about my blog posts but I am completely comfortable writing fiction despite one being no less revealing than the other.

Going forward, I’m titling my blog posts by the name of the story (or story fragment) I’m writing. Not today, though. Because this blog post title speaks for itself. The story below (not a fragment – actually a whole story) is called The Burning Bush. That’s because, messages from God are supposed to come in the form of a booming voice from the sky or a burning bush. And my character received a message from God and she didn’t need a burning bush to add any meaning to it.

I remember locking myself in the dark bathroom and racing to the toilet. At breakfast, I’d dreamed of pancakes on Sunday. As I held my hair back and vomited Friday night’s hotdog dinner, those visions felt thousands of years old.

Dad pounded on the bathroom door, each thunderous hit making light from the hall pulse through the doorcrack.

“Downstairs! Now!”

“I want Mom!”

I heard slow, soft steps and imagined her standing behind him, letting him have his way.

“I don’t care what she says,” he said, his voice low and threatening through the dust falling from the now loosened hinges. “You’re going to church. You’re getting confirmed.”

He stormed to his bathroom to sulk and smoke under its wheezing fan.

“You know, your father built that church, Cricket.”

Cricket. Even then, lying on the floor, I resorted to rubbing my calves together, like I did as child.

“I was baptized in that church, Mom.”

My father saw value in baptism when he became a catholic church contractor. So, every Sunday for a year, we attended mass in a high-school gymnasium during its construction.

“In Grade One, all my friends talked about first communion. They thought I was weird I’d just been baptized.”

 “You’re Dad is proud of his work. This really upsets him.”

Because people would think something’s wrong, I thought as I lay steadfastedly refusing to leave the comforting pitch-black room, fearing when Dad’s assault would resume.

“Mom, why didn’t Uncle Virgil say hello at church?”

I heard a single, sharp inhale followed by a pause.

Uncle Virgil had been Dad’s sponsor when he was baptized along with me. Last Sunday, he refused my help up the church steps as he struggled on his crutches.

“Is that why you don’t want this?”

Just that week, I’d interrupted Mom and Dad as they sat at the kitchen table, secretively scraping the insides of shoes, boots and secret boxes, for five hundred dollars to pay some guy that “did some work for them”. The thin walls of the small townhouse we moved to after going bankrupt when the family business folded made sleeping difficult when they fought. Asking to help only kicked off another tirade from Dad that drove me to tears and back to my room.

 “That’s not it,” I said.

I leaned against the door, feeling the cheap plywood against my hand as I tried to sense Mom’s presence through it. “Does going to church make it so what you do is right?”

“No.” She paused. “That takes time and learning from your mistakes.”

“I don’t need God for that. Do I?”

Mom said it was okay to come out and I did.

Since then I’ve supported Mom, brought two children into the world, married a husband I love, pay a mortgage I loathe, refused to talk to Dad on his deathbed and have not attended a single mass.

I’m a slow learner but I don’t need a burning bush to get a message.

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.”

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