Friday, May 27, 2011


I am now back from Sweden. However, this week, I will not be participating in Friday Flash because I will be at BayCon this weekend and therefore won't have time to participate and read the other participants stories in Friday Flash this week. For those in the US, enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend and those elsewhere hope you are having fun.

If you will be at BayCon, leave a comment or email and we can try to meet up while I'm there.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Terra Australis

John Davis squinted against the bright sun reflecting off the snow. His boat, Cecilia, bobbed on the Southern Ocean's waves. His first mate slipped on the ice and John grabbed the man's arm before he slid into the water.

"Thanks. We might be the first ones."

John grunted.

"Terra Australis."

"Shush, you'll scare the seals."

"We'll be famous. You heard those russkies claims to have found the southern continent. It don't matter you just see something. You got to put boots on the ground, claim this place for America."

"Our business -- seals."

"Celebrity makes its own money. Just think about it. When we return to New York, any man will stand us a drink."

A dark shape flitted against the snow as if some smooth-bellied critter had belly-flopped on the ice, moving like a broken mast, riding the glacier. John itched the back of his neck. "You see that?"

"A blur," said the first mate. "Wait. Come back. It was too small to be a seal."

"There's something about this island --"


"Whatever. It's like the place watches you."

The first mate's eyebrows shot upwards. He hunched inwards, bunching his shoulders forward, crouching as if he could hide from whatever lived upon this land. "It's the seals. Their spirits must go somewhere. We... we got to get out of here. Now." Snow crunched as the man fled, falling into the boat. The sound of the boat's hull creaking against the ice carried on the wind. The first mate waved his hands as if he was fearful of shouting.

Finally, peace and quiet. John crested a ridge and saw hundreds of penguins shuffling their feet. So much for seal. John smiled, returning to the rowboat.

"Let's get out of here," the first mate said, pulling at the oars, rocking the boat back and forth, the motion knocking John to the floor. Once some distance separated them from the shore, the first mate asked, "What'd you see?"

"Foggy wisps."

The first mate's eyes grew large and his oar skipped over the water.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bolonchén Mysteries

Ysalane's steps faltered on the black basalt. She trespassed in the feathered serpent's sacred temple, but she'd had to come when she'd heard the rumors. Kukulcan, the high priestess, guarded the entrance to the room like a simple warrior. Ysalane grasped her left wrist with her right hand in the formal greeting. "Your highness."

Kukulcan wore a ceremonial cloak, its black vulture feathers gleaming in the torchlight. "You intrude where you don't belong."

"I heard a rumor --"

"Rumors are like a flock of swifts, swooping through the air, separated into two kinds, bits and pieces of truth, and the misunderstandings of those who don't understand. It is best to ignore them."

"But, Chiam..." Ysalane hadn't seen her husband in a month. Something had happened in the Bolonchén vault.

"Is not here."

"In the city, they speak of a disaster in the vault. They say the survivors are being nursed in the temple. I didn't mean to trespass. But, I needed to see."

"Do not worry about Bolonchén. The water flows. Kukulcan's energy suffuses the sacred city even now." The high priestess gestured at windows in the temple wall and the flickering of lights could be seen in the city. "Go home and return to your life and offer the sacred prayers at the prescribed times."

"My husband."

"It is not --"

A voice moaned from the room the high priestess guarded. Ysalane knew Chiam's voice. Quickly, before the priestess could block her way, Ysalane darted into the room. She gasped. Chiam lie glowing on a bed. She ran to his side, taking his hand.

The high priestess shouted from behind the wall. "Do not touch the man that glows. He is not your husband. He is other."

Chiam's blood glowed like sick starlight, sweat staining his sheets, his skin sloughing from the body, leaving bloody sores. Ysalane dropped to her knees, pulling his hand into hers. "My love, my love. What have they done?"

He moaned again. Ysalane pushed the hair out of his eyes. "You're so hot."

"Don't touch him. A false god's energy poisons him. The poison spreads through touch and can traverse through the air infecting anyone not protected behind rock. You must leave before it is too late."

Ysalane pulled Chiam's head towards her. He wasn't dead yet even if his skin was peeling. "No. Someone must ease his passing."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Adept Do Chen

I meditated in the main yard under the plum tree, my eyes closed, listening to the approach of White Hare, the only one of my father's servants I'd kept after his death. The servant's footsteps rustled on the rice paper.

I gripped my left wrist with my right hand and bowed to White Hare. My eyes remained closed. His shenyi robe rustled and I knew he bowed deeper than my own. "I asked not to be disturbed."

"The ice has arrived."

"Leave it, like usual, in the outside yard." I waited, soaking the Sea Breath deep into my lungs, purging my annoyance at White Hare. He hadn't moved. My eyes flicked open. "What is wrong?"

"The one delivering the ice is not the usual man," White Hare said. "I thought you'd want to deal with him."

"You are right." I rose, my hands clasped in front of me, smoothly rising from my crossed-legs position, feeling a slight ache from this morning's tumbling.

The wagon-driver wore simple cotton and bowed when I passed the screen wall, I did not return the honor and the man's eyes widened. "Where is the usual man?"

"Sorry, Adept Do Chen. He is sick. I --"

"I left strict instructions."

"He is bedridden, he couldn't deliver."

"No ice is better than betrayal."

The driver retreated several steps, his shoulders slouching, his hands twitching at his side. "I'm only doing what I was asked to do."

"Unload the ice, and be gone."

The driver lifted the silk wrapped ice from the back of the wagon and moved to enter the secondary gate.

"Where are you going?"

"You'll want the ice in the main house."

"No. Leave the ice on the ground. The normal driver next time, or heads roll."

"Y... yes, my adept."

White Hare stood outside the secondary gate. A smirk touching the edge of his cheeks. "You are dismissed," I said. "Leave the house for a few hours."

"Yes, master."

I moved the ice into the main house, settling on the floor beside the paper screen. An image of a sinuous dragon was etched on the paper and backlit by the sun. I nodded, remembering my father's spirit. I could see him in the strokes of his art.

I cut the block into long rectangles and opened the icebox inserting the ice around Liu's head. The lips had turned blue, frost coating them in thin tendrils trailing towards the stump of Liu's neck resting on the ice. My father's killer's eyes moved slowly. The cold keeping him alive, keeping him slow.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On the Writing of: Wyrm Cult

Ideas are everywhere.

Sometimes a trigger creates an idea and then drifts into the background, shy like a teenager at his first dance. That happened with Wyrm Cult. I was reading The Economist's "Vox populi or hoi polloi?" article on direct democracy and ran across the word ochlocracy or mob rule [1]. This intrigued me and I immediately realized I wanted to envision a world ruled by the mob.

I initially considered what happens with mob rule midwifed by technology. However, I'd written a brief scene on something similar based on a Write Anything, Friday Challenge prompt, and needed something fresh. Therefore, I researched ochlocracy and came across a reference to the Salem witch trials. This created a core (a cult). I knew what I wanted to write about, but now I had to find a story.

I needed a character. I knew I was going to have a cult leader who was going to feed the mob; but I needed someone who would stand up to that person. Someone, who didn't understand people very well. That led me to Ned and I liked the idea of a man somewhat introverted yet someone regularly facing complex problems and finding solutions to them quickly.

Of course, always interesting to me was the way the story twisted as I got it on paper. I'm more of a planner, I often know the arc of the story and many of the scenes. However, here, the arc I knew was for both of them to be expelled into the worm's gullet. Ned twisted things around, refusing to die.

Do your stories twist and refuse to go where you planned? Or am I the only one who's crazy?

[1] Swedish note: the Swedish word for bullying is mobbar, which makes me think of a mob and I am fascinated by the way those two words connect.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Languages; Or It's a Small World

I don't have the elegance to describe the sounds of languages like Stephen Watkins did with his discussions on Turkish and Greek. I lack a theoretical basis in linguistics. Yet, I am on the cusp of knowing two languages. Or dozens.

I'm only fluent in English. I'm decent in Swedish. I read my news in Swedish and listen to a Swedish podcast. I read fiction and a number of Swedish blogs, everything from photo journals to young adults discovering their life-path. But, my vocabulary could still improve and I'm not very good at constructing my own sentences written or spoken.

Yet, once one moves beyond an initial language, the others become easier. Swedish is part of the family of Scandinavian languages all of which have a lot of similarities. I first realized this early in the process of my learning Swedish. I waited at the Paris de Gaulle airport, reading a newspaper. It was in Danish, but the words were similar to Swedish. In fact, I remember reading Meg Whitman from eBay had decided to run for California governor after Arnold Swartzenegger's term ended. I particularly enjoyed the article calling Arnold a muskel bøffen (or something similar). I also found it ironic that I was traveling halfway across the world and learned something about home. [1]

One of my Swedish colleagues is amused that I've learned Swedish because he thinks it's pointless. Most Swedes learn English as a second language and many of them know several languages. Yet, Swedish crops up in the most unusual places. I read a blog post on revisions and in the comments, the trackbacks had a link from someone in Sweden who had found the blog and linked to it on their blog. Yes, I found a new Swedish blog to read.

For those of you who know other languages, what are some of the strange occurrences you've had? What languages are you interested in learning?

[1] Another odd Swedish encounter was listening to Swedish radio and hearing them talk about the love life of two male penguins at the San Francisco zoo.

P.S. I'll be traveling for the next three weeks in Sweden, soaking in the language, enjoying the culture, improving my Swedish. It's a small world. You'll probably see me around ;)