Monday, April 29, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Through the Bramble, part three


Sunday, July 8th, 2012

                Della’s mind races with the possibilities.  The revenant, asking for her help?  She had thought that being a bloodkin would give her that sense of the extraordinary she had been seeking, but it was turning out to be a colossal disappointment.  Sure, she saw things and knew things that would have flabbergasted her in mortal life, but this was another thing entirely.  If the revenant was looking to turn the very world on its head – well, Della wanted to be there to see it.  And she wanted to be on the side doing the turning.  Look for the ravens, she recalls, glancing at her watch.  It was something Jamie had gotten for her, after her cell phone was taken for the faking of her death.  The watch took its time and date from cell phone towers, so it should tell her the date.  It was clear that the bramble path she had been walking with Samantha took them not only through space, but through time as well.  Sure enough, the watch told her it was the 19th of July, 2012.  Less than two weeks into the future.
                Lots of things could change in two weeks.  She thought of her brief romance with Edward, of her martial arts training with Jamie, of their confrontation with the Hunters that had gone from “casual night out” to “cat and mouse” to “face-stomping hunt” in the space of a single night.  She had options upon options, and even if this raven thing turned out to be a bust, she at least had some intel to share with Thomas while still keeping the best parts to herself.
                However things ultimately turned out, tonight everything was coming up Della.  She smiles at the thought as she jogs back to Sam across the catwalk.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Into the Bramble, part two


Sunday, July 8th, 2012

                As Della approaches the door, she sees a darkness through it that is most certainly not her bathroom.  She follows Samantha, uncertain but excited, then feels the world turn inside-out around her.  She’s been drunk a couple of times, hung over once, and the sensation as she steps through is remarkably like the whole process compressed into a single second that seems to last forever – except without all the partying and peeing and wishing you were dead.  She goes dizzy, loses her sense of space and time, feels like she’s been hit in the back of the head with a brick – then she sets her foot down, and she’s through.
                “So this is my place,” Samantha says warmly, gesturing at the open living room as she flips on the light switch.  Bookshelves dot the walls, every one of them filled with volumes of varying height and thickness, their spines perfectly aligned except for the odd gap.  A dining table, the kitchen counter, two coffee tables, and a desk are all covered with books and papers, manila folders piled and arranged here and there.  A few filing cabinets stand stoically in a corner.
                “You sure seem to keep busy,” Della says.
                “Yeah,” Sam says, cocking an eyebrow.  “I don’t eat or sleep.  Made of wood, you know.  So I read and do some, um, ‘filing’ for Jennie.  She’s sure bright, but she can be a bit flighty at times, so I help her keep things in order.”
                “I see,” Della says, taking in the scene.  “So, what do we need?”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Into the Bramble, part one

I'm eight pages into this "vignette," but still haven't finished it.  So here's a chunk, more to come.  :)

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

                She was made of wood.
                That was the first thing to hit Della, and the thing she kept coming back to.  Thomas had summoned her to his office just after she’d had her nightly pint, and inside had been him at his desk, Herman standing to the side, and what looked for all the world like a six foot wooden doll.
                “Della,” Thomas greeted her as she entered.  “This is Samantha Rose.  Miss Rose, Della Swain.”
                “Pleased to meet you,” Sam says, rising to her feet to shake Della’s hand.  She was a rich brown, like mahogany, a shade or two darker than Della’s own skin had been when she’d had a tan a month and a half ago.  Her joints were held together by fine brass springs where tendons would normally be, and she was bound and fastened with brass pins and wires.  When she spoke, her jaw moved up and down like that of a ventriloquist’s dummy; her teeth and tongue were carved and painted, her green eyes made of glass.  Her hair was a dark lustrous brown that shone golden when it caught the light just right, and all her movements were accompanied by the hum of metallic tension.  She wore a red camisole, blue jean shorts, and leather sandals, so Della could see that she was covered from the crown of her forehead to her toes in a tangle of deep and ragged gouges, like stylized thorns in relief, that had been inlaid with gold almost – almost – flush with the surface.  When she turned to sit down, Della saw that her right shoulder was painted with a single rose blossom, untouched by the glimmering tattoos.
                “Please, Della,” Thomas says after a moment, “have a seat.”  She realizes that she has been staring, and clears her throat as she composes herself and sits down in the remaining leather chair.  “Samantha is here from Miami to assist us in locating the Sandstorm Hourglass.  She has a knack for finding things that have been lost or stolen, Alice assures me.”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Enter the Monkeysphere!

Working on Tooth and Claw some more, I'm across the 60K mark now and I just want to get this vignette all out before I decide whether to divide it up into parts or not.  But in the meantime!  I was talking with a friend about the monkeysphere, a term I've been tossing about as a casual way of referring to Dunbar's number, the sciencey term with which I'm more familiar (but which doesn't quite capture the oomph in its phrasing).

Tonight, I just found out that the term "monkeysphere" was coined by David Wong, senior editor of Cracked.com and the author of John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders (the reading of which convinced me, incidentally, that the supernatural weirdness and big-brain ideas of Tooth and Claw might actually be able to achieve some manner of commercial success... if I just write the fucker).

Anyway, his original article, What Is the Monkeysphere?, is fascinating reading.  You should check it out right now.  :)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Tail of the Scorpion, part three

Prologue, Tail of the Scorpion, part two

Saturday, July 6th, 2012


                “This’ll go a lot smoother if you stash your pieces,” Carter says, head high and eyes narrowed.
                “I hope so,” Jones says as she thumbs her safety back on and holsters her pistol.  At her nod, the other Hunters follow suit – Vernon and Patricia share a knowing look and a pointed delay, but they ultimately comply.
                “All right,” Carter says with a respectful nod.  “You want to talk.  So talk.”
                Vernon blurts out, “Do you confess to using shape-changing magic and consorting with spirits?”
                The moonkin look sidelong at each other and suppress their laughter, as Jones snaps at him, “Can it!”
                “So, OK,” Carter says after composing himself.  “No stupid questions, right?  But I think we all know you could be asking some more productive things right now.”
                “No shit,” Jones agrees.  “For starters, what exactly are you doing here?”
                “We’re cleaning up a mess,” Carter answers.  “A big, ugly, bloody mess.”
                “That’s a little vague,” Jones says.
                “That it is.  So how about you tell me how you spotted us?  A little quid pro quo, eh?”
                Jones straightens her back, looks Carter over as though sizing him up for the first time.  “Quid pro quo.  I can handle that.  But I believe I asked for some specifics up front.  So:  you tell me what you know, I’ll tell you how I see.” 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Tail of the Scorpion, part two

Prologue, Tail of the Scorpion, part one

Saturday, July 6th, 2012

                Vernon Christopher leans against an electric ATV past the Winslow city limits, gazing out into the desert for any sign of activity.  The dogs had just run out a couple of minutes ago, as the Sun was setting; the Hunters had learned that wherever this criminal force had struck, they were soon to follow.  So the Hunters had set up two watch points just outside of town, on little hills where they could survey most of the surroundings through binoculars.  Vernon would have liked a tighter perimeter, but Patricia only had the two ATVs, and waiting for two others to catch up on foot from even a few short miles away would force them to choose between letting the trail grow cold and stringing themselves out.
                Patricia opens up the compartment beneath the vehicle’s seat to double-check their supplies:  extra magazines, bottles of water, a first aid kit, and a small bag of tools.  Vernon doesn’t turn around, but can hear her rummaging; he knows there’s no point, the kits were checked and double-checked before they headed out, but he understands that she’s restless and needs something to do.  Fine.  It would be nice if her “something to do” involved keeping a lookout, though.  David and Michelle would only be a few minutes, anyway.  It wasn’t the end of the world.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Tail of the Scorpion, part one

Prologue, Three Pair of Eyes, part three

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

                Tonight’s the night.  Elias can feel it in his bones as his very own moon shines down on him.  They have been hunting the fugue in the desert, closing in around it like a noose, for over two weeks – but tonight, it all comes to an end.
                For its part, the fugue has led them on quite a chase.  When the moonkin found that it was coming from the West, the fugue would change its route into town, striking at the outskirts from unexpected directions.  It knew it was both predator and prey, and the inchoate streams of fused consciousness all agreed that this was the way to strike back at the invading dragon and its bastard half-breed children:  corrupt their own flock, raise a small army, and bring them to the crater to finish what was started under the eclipse.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Grr, argh...

Had some shit, but didn't like it.  Tried revising, didn't work.  Writing from the fugue's "perspective" is neither as easy, nor as fun, nor as... intelligible as I'd like it to be.  Though I suppose I expected that last one.  It is the fused consciousness of several distinct and dissimilar spirits who only banded together as a last-ditch effort to not die while trying to drive out an eons-old alien from their territory, after all.

I know I said I was gonna try to get over this hang-up I have about writing things out of order.  But it just bugs me that Whispers at the Window and Showdown in the Desert are... well... they're out of order.  So that whole roll I was on is just fragments of scene ideas, plot elements, a few snappy lines, and hastily-scribbled notes... which, I mean, really helps with the whole "plunge headlong into insanity" aesthetic I've got going on, especially with the coffee stains on my zodiac chart & everything.  But I can't post that and have it make sense, dammit.  At least, not until I post a couple intervening things, first.

Ooh!  I do have this, though, looking through my "ramblings of a crazy person" notes.  I won't end up using it after all, as it's from back when Ferraille was a much different character - she wasn't even named "Ferraille" back then, and though I updated the note to reflect that, it never got updated to reflect her newer personality, and now I think this bit's just not a good fit any more.  I guess now is as good a point in time to share it as any, as it was one of the earlier bits I wrote for this book.  Like, before I even picked it back up again, meaning this is about a year old here (I know it was after reading this, published 6/12/2012, but not long after, as the document containing this fragment was created 6/5/2012).  So yeah, below the cut is half a page of actual deleted scenery that's definitely for the cutting room floor, though I wish it would've worked out somehow.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

50K!

Just looked at my word count, and last night I crossed the 50K mark!  Woo-hoo!  At this point in TQM, I was looking to wrap things up, as I was on a rather tight-ish deadline... come to think of it, pretty much everything in that book was tight.

This one is a bit more complicated (as I'm sure you've seen, Dear Reader).  I mean, it's not "a thousand years and two galaxies" complicated, but there are more characters, more relationships to establish, and with Three Pair of Eyes, I'm really just getting started on the action.  TQM was very much an executive summary fairy tale, more about the big ideas than the little details (I once described it as "reverse-Candide, but with superpowers"); T&C is shaping up to be the opposite in many ways, especially considering that there aren't really any white hats.

I had some other things I wanted to write this weekend... but dammit, I'm just getting on a roll and I wanna strike while the iron's hot.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Three Pair of Eyes, part three


OK, this is the last bit of this vignette.  These three will probably be their own chapter all together, I have them as one continuous bit on the .doc file.  But it's complicated, and each PoV has to be coordinated with the other two!  :)  Anyway, this one's considerably shorter, but it's got a sweet little game-changer at the end, and I hope you enjoy.

This was partly written because of a situation I'd frequently run into with my Pen & Paper gaming group:  some event would crop up where players J and K knew what was going on, but couldn't inform player L until after things had settled down.  So player L would obviously want to arrive on the scene as soon as possible, right?  So the storyteller, usually Jack, would react to L's "I rush to the scene" declaration with, "OK, it takes you twenty minutes to get there."  Player L then says, "Well, I'd try to weave in and out of traffic."  Replies the storyteller, "Do you break traffic laws?"  "No," L says, "I get there as fast as possible without attracting police attention."  "OK," the ST responds, "It takes you twenty minutes."  "Ugh," player L would sigh/grunt at this point, "Fine.  Can I make a 'driving' skill check?"  "Sure," the storyteller replies, waiting out the die roll, then replying regardless, "It takes you twenty minutes."

Unless, of course, a critical success was rolled.  Then it would only take fifteen minutes.  But I'm assuming that, because it literally never happened.  So here you have what player L should have done the whole time.

Z, you may or may not be happy to know that I originally wrote that as "players X, Y, and Z," but then I realized that you never pulled this shit.  One player L most certainly did, though... so I rearranged a bunch of variables to exonerate you and incriminate the guilty.  :)
Friday, July 6th, 2012

                Evan Lawrence lays on his back beneath his car, pulls the plug free of the oil pan, and starts to twist his filter counterclockwise.  His phone buzzes on the workbench, and Evan nearly bangs his head on his car’s undercarriage out of a conditioned reflex to immediately respond, but he gets himself under control.  Whatever it is, it can wait – he’s not going anywhere until his oil is changed, anyway.
                After the oil has drained and his filter has been replaced, Evan replaces the oil plug and tightens it with a torque wrench, slides out from beneath the vehicle, and wipes his hands on a rag.  His phone has buzzed regular reminders to him during the intervening minutes, but he’s put it out of mind; his focus is on the task at hand, and whatever’s going down can damn well wait until he’s got his vehicle back in driving condition.  Five quarts of oil glug-glug-glug their way into the engine, replacing what has been removed.  After screwing the cap back on, Evan starts his car, and checks his transmission fluid:  nominal.  He shuts off the ignition and clips his keys back to his belt, then checks the oil level:  right on.  He takes a sip from a can of cola on his bench.
                Buzz.
                Oh, right – Evan looks at his phone:  Facebook has pushed a notification.  “Jim Reynolds posted to Gravediggers Poker Club.”  Evan presses the “View” button as he takes another pull from his soda.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Three Pair of Eyes, part two

Prologue, Three Pair of Eyes, part one

Friday, July 6th, 2012


                Jim Reynolds sits at his table, morosely pulling at his beer.  It wasn’t… fair?  No, fair isn’t the right word.  Life isn’t fair.  Just?  Nahh, same thing.
                It didn’t make any goddamned sense, fairness and justice be damned.
                He and his fellow Hunters had just started to get a solid trail on this bloodsucker, Cochran.  He’s moving in on a high-schooler, which was depraved even by bloodsucker standards.  They tended to avoid anyone under the quarter-century mark, probably (Jim supposed) because missing minors tend to be a lot more noticeable in the media than full-fledged adults.  Then, on an odd Tuesday, they both fall off the face of the map.  What, did they fuckin’ elope or something?
                He had seen straights get turned before.  Night owls, shut-ins, overnight workers – pickings were easy in Las Vegas, the party never stops and normal people tend not to notice when their mostly-nocturnal friend becomes entirely nocturnal.  Friends are understanding like that.  Loners tend to be missed even less.  Whenever Reynolds and his crew managed to bring down one of those pests, it seemed that three more would spring up in its place.  Hopefully there were other Hunters in the area “raising the stakes,” so to speak.  But if there were, they sure weren’t part of Jim’s Poker club.
                It was pretty rare in Jim’s experience for a vampire to turn a mortal and then just disappear, though.  “Rare,” as in, “never happened once.”  Vampires were territorial to a fault, and while Jim had heard stories of them being driven out by rival clans, that sort of thing only happened out in the sticks.
                Then there was the faked death.  While it wrapped up the girl’s disappearance into a neat little package, the deception was more than obvious to an experienced Hunter like him:  the body wasn’t exsanguinated, the time of death was in the wee hours rather than the early night, and the cause of death was pretty clearly exhaustion rather than anything more immediate.  While mortals could die like that any day of the week, it didn’t make sense for a bloodsucker to go to such lengths to make a kill – there was clearly something else going on.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Three Pair of Eyes, part one

Prologue, Alice Takes a Road Trip

Friday, July 6th, 2012

                “So how much does a fake ID cost,” Della asks Jamie as they stroll East along Sahara Avenue.
                “Depends on how many you need,” Jamie answers with a shrug of her shoulders.
                “What do you mean?”
                “Well, if you just need the one, you’ll have to pay someone to do it for you.  You probably won’t know that person very well, so you’ll pay a premium for that.  But if you’ve got contacts in that line of work, you’ll probably need it pretty regular.  That drives the price down.”
                “I see,” Della says, thinking on the matter.  “And for us?”
                “Psh, when you need that kind of thing regular as we do, you score your own gear and do it all in-house.”

Friday, April 5, 2013

Random things and stuff!

My new computer, which wasn't "supposed" to show up until the 16th, actually got delivered today.  Hooray!  But now I'm moving everything over, which is gonna take for-god-damned-ever.  It's easy, thanks to the aptly named Easy Transfer, which more or less amounts to a magic spell:  I wave my hands around and say, "You!  New 'puter!  Be just like my old 'puter!  Go!"  But Christ on a bike, this spell has a long-ass casting time!  I'm gonna be watching the progress on my sweet fuckin' 23" monitor until the wee hours, and until then I'm instructed, "Do not use this computer during the transfer."  Huh.  I sure hope blogging and blasting mp3s doesn't count as "using this computer."  :\

Anyway, I'm not up to any super-creative writing.  I'd meant to write another vignette for Tooth & Claw, I have it all planned out (more or less), but I just can't stop wanting my new 'puter to be ready.  So here are a few neat tidbits with no central organization.  First, scientists are hard at work decoding the visual experience of dreams from brain scans.  Here's a link to one article, focusing mainly on Japanese research.  And here's another one from Gizmodo, focusing mainly on what's been done at UC Berkeley (with video!).  An important note is that the constructed video is not a reading of the visual cortex, but actually a composite constructed from pre-existing video clips.  I caught the headline over lunch in USA Today (I think).  Those articles above are just what I was able to dig up in two minutes, but I have some more to say below the cut.

Second, here is a cool little infographic submitted to me by Allison on the visual IQ of Americans, showing how well (or poorly) we can identify certain people, symbols, and geographic regions on sight.

I was able to identify Boehner purely based on hatred of him as a person,
pick out the Euro, the Star of David, and the Twitter logo.  That... was it.

Third, Amina Tyler recently went missing after posting topless photos of herself on the internet in order to show that her body was hers to do with as she chooses.  The going speculation seems to be that her family kidnapped her, in direct contravention to Tyler's thesis, out of some bass-ackward idea of honor where "tits is bad" and it's somehow less embarrassing to abduct a member of your family than to let her do her own fuckin' thing.  Because Tyler's disappearance is probably going to be tragic, but it might not necessarily be just yet, (NSFW photos!) FEMEN recently organized a load of topless protests at a bunch of European mosques in order to say, "You think photos on the internet are bad?  Wait'll you see this all up in your fuckin' streets!"  OK, I was paraphrasing there, but here is an actual quote:  "We're free, we're naked, it's our right, it's our body, it's our rules, and nobody can use religion, and some other holy things, to abuse women, to oppress them... And we'll fight against them, and our boobs will be stronger than their stones."

Actions such as this were described as "evacuating" protesters.  Boy, those men
with truncheons sure evacuated the living daylights out of those half-naked protesters.

Fourth, some scientists seem to believe that they're on the cusp of experimentally confirming the existence of dark matter, which would quite frankly be rad as Hell.  What gives me pause for thought, however, is that they're looking at positrons in space - and positrons are antimatter.  The difference, briefly, is that antimatter is normal matter with its polarity reversed (protons become antiprotons, same mass but opposite charge; electrons become antielectrons or positrons, same mass but opposite charge).  We use antimatter in routine medical procedures - the "PET" in PET scan stands for "positron emission tomography."  Dark matter, on the other hand, is simply stuff that has mass and takes up space, but "doesn't shine" in the way that everything else in the Universe does - it's there, it exerts gravitational forces upon whatever's around, but we just can't detect it since it's not shiny like "normal" matter.  However, this positron/dark matter connection gives me faint and tenuous hope that Douglas' exclamation that dark matter (rather than antimatter) cancels out regular matter is actually oddly prophetic rather than a stupid fuckin' typo on my part.  Whatever, I'll probably change it anyway because I also have a few other infelicities to remedy for the next edition.  They're the scientists, I'll trust 'em until I hear better.  :)

OK, by way of wrapping up, here are some of my thoughts on the decoding of the visual elements of dreams.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Thoughts on Virtual Worlds

So Guild Wars 2 recently released a fake April Fool's joke:  the Super Adventure Box.  I need to stress that this is a fake April Fool's joke, by which I mean that it looks like an April Fool's joke, but is actually entirely real.  I promise I am not making this up.

For the month of April, players will be able to use Moto's Super Adventure Box, a training device for young children learning to make their way in the world which uses games as a form of educating with entertainment - edutainment!  Of course, it's only "for young children" in the game world of Guild Wars 2; for players in the real world, it's a nostalgic romp through a neo-retro mashup of old video games united with a decidedly Minecraftian aesthetic.  Fuckin'... sign me up!  Why am I writing this and not playing right now?!


Look, they even made an 80s-tastic commercial for it!

Oh, right, because I thought about it for two seconds.  And now I have to write those thoughts down, or pretty soon they'll pile up and my head will explode (yes, this is actually why I write).  Then I can play.

And what will I be playing?  I'll be playing a game... which will be about my character playing another game.  I suppose this is just another mini-game in a way, but what got me thinking was considering it as not "just another mini-game."  Yes, yes, there are plenty of games with mini-games wherein the character you play then plays another game (a game within a game), and this is nothing special.  What's special about this is that I'm entering a virtual world, and in that virtual world, my character enters another virtual world.

It's not just a game within a game, this time; it's The Matrix within The Matrix.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Just gonna slip this under the door here...

Wow!  A lot happened last month, some good and some bad, and I wanna share some of it before returning to the subject of this evening's symposium.  Let's just dive right in, shall we?

First:  I got accepted into grad school!  Yippee!

So I'll be doing that in the fall, and then we'll see where that goes.  Suuuuuper excited!  Like, I can't write text that is me jumping up and down and whooping and giggling and pumping my fist in the air - but rest assured that I actually did that for a while when I found out.  :)

I'm also applying for assistantships, because I'm poor & stuff, and need to support myself as I work my way through.  I was doing that, and then I finished, and I was like, "Wow, I'm tired.  OK, bedtime.  Hmm... it feels like I'm forgetting something, though... what could it be?"

The second thing is that I discovered I have a hidden talent.  Well, it was hidden, and now it's not any more. You see, I can't dance.  I'm not merely bad at dancing, I mean that I physically can't do it.  I really don't know what it is, but in my more defensive moments, I claim that it's because I've taken martial arts since the second grade and I've been so thoroughly trained to break and interrupt rhythms that I can't really get into them.  But of course, that's not really true:  I do rhythmic things all the time, like sing, or play Rock Band, or go running.  For some reason, though, dancing has just never clicked with me, and it's not fun, so I don't do it.

Well, I was at an equinox party this weekend, and it turns out that I actually can dance - I just need a stick that's on fire at both ends.  My friend tried to hand it to me, and I was like, "No way, I'ma light my ass on fire," because I was in an altered state of consciousness.  He replied, "Just try it, I've seen you wave a stick around before, I think you'd be good at it."  I countered, "Yeah, but that stick wasn't on fire."  So I picked up a not-on-fire stick and went and waved it around for a while in the dark, and when I was satisfied that I could do that without clocking myself in the face, I tried it on fire.  And it worked out awesomely!  I can't wait to do it again!

So I guess if the goal is just "move to the music," well, I can't really do that.  But if the goal is "keep the fire moving and don't get burned by the fire," I can rock out!

This last one... is not so good.  It's behind a cut for absurd levels of racism.  Oh, also:  TRIGGER WARNING for racist slurs.  I'm not censoring it, because first, they're not my words and I'm simply reporting them; second, I kinda want you to get the "full impact" if you decide to read, which will help drive home the overarching point.