Fiction (Excerpts)

T&M: deleted scene 2

Another deleted scene from the Tanner and Miranda story I’m working on at the moment. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, but it didn’t fit with the pacing for the story.

As much as I wanted to complain about it, it was impossible to deny that the Outlands were beautiful. Harsh and unforgiving if given the chance, but truly stunning. In the simplest terms, the whole area is a tangled network of canyons running between steep red cliffs and narrow mesas. Fortunately for us, most of the canyon floors were flattish and relatively simple to traverse. Unfortunately, there were some that weren’t, and those were the ones that seemed most likely to take us towards the drone’s last coordinates.
Of course, if it were that easy, no one would pay us.

It started out well enough. Part of that was the fact that the first stretch was downhill, not so steep that a missed step would send me rolling to my death, though plenty steep enough for me end up windmilling my arms several times, to Tanner’s audible amusement. Something about me spending too much time on space stations with boring, flat floors and no way to practice my dexterity. Lies, all of it, not that the truth did me any good.

I didn’t get into any real trouble until it evened out for a bit and lulled me into false sense of security. One second I was stepping forward, trusting the tread of my boots to keep me from slipping. The next, the rock I’d assumed would hold my weight didn’t, and the whole world spun. I careened past Tanner. Only a miracle kept me from cracking my head open on the way down. And despite what it felt like, the tumbling and spinning didn’t last long either. I skidded to a stop in a sort of awkward crouch and tried to convinced my heart to slow to a couple hundred beats a second.

A scrambling sound from the direction I’d just come suggested that Tanner was following as quickly as he could, probably for better teasing opportunities. And to make sure I was still functional. But mostly for the teasing. That was my fault. If I’d let myself fall flat on my face, I might have gotten some sympathy. Though I suppose I’m grateful my thick duster and boots kept me from anything worse than ugly bruises and wounded pride.

“You know…”

I squinted upward and towards my brother’s voice. I’d meant to glare, but the sun was brighter than I expected. “Don’t say it.”

“You shouldn’t do that. It hurts.”

I growled. “I know.”

“Any real damage?”

I shook my head. “Nothing I can’t walk off. Tell me it’ll even out soon?”

Tanner laughed, and I shot him another scowl.

“What?”

“This is the easy part.”

At least he had the good grace—or the common sense—to look a little sheepish. And to reach down and offer me a hand up.

“It should get flatter, though. More rocky, but you won’t roll as far if you fall.”

In reality, it wasn’t even that bad, though I didn’t mind being pleasantly surprised on that count. Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t difficult, but the flash of adrenaline I’d gotten when the whole world spun out around me was enough to flush most of the remaining lag from my veins.

Not that it was easy, per se. By the time we were another hour into the trek, every bruise from my fall had decided it was too easy for me to ignore the ache and throb, and I felt it with every step. Sure, the damage was minor, especially when compared to what I’d dealt with in the past. It still hurt. And Tanner was setting a brutal pace. If we hadn’t been in relative shade beneath the canyon walls I wouldn’t have made it. Not that I was about to tell him that. I could push through just fine and save myself the trouble of admitting how much I’d been spoiled by my years on the Stations.

Unless he already knew and was waiting to see how long it took me to give in. In which case it was a toss up for which of us would win. Battles of stubbornness in the Griff family never had a foregone conclusion. They were always funny, though.

This time, I got lucky. Tanner got hungry (meaning ravenous) before I gave in and asked him to slow down. Just before. If he’d held out another couple of minutes, I’d have admitted defeat. Instead, I got to use the precious seconds he spent digging a ration bar out of his pack to catch up and tramp along next to him, red-faced and panting and pretending he hadn’t almost gotten me.

He grinned at me through a mouthful of food. “Almost had you. Good thing I didn’t over-commit and pass out. You’d have had to drag me back home.”

I grinned back. “I’d have left you. You jerk.” My breath came out in little wheezes. “We’ll regret this tomorrow.”

“We’ll be fine. You recover fast and I’m used to it.”

“I used to recover fast. Eight years ago. I’m out of practice.” Then again, the slower pace had already worked wonders.

In fact, for the time being, our greatest delay was going to be caused by the fact that we needed to find somewhere to refill our water. We were still in the shade, so it was cooler than it would have been anywhere else, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t hot and dusty. And between that and our impromptu race, we had emptied our canteens steadily through the morning. I might have been worried, but Tanner said he knew a place. A spot, really, since the little spring of cold, sweet water was nothing any human could take credit for.

Technically, it was out of our way. Not by much, only a half hour detour or so, but enough that it was an even more natural point to stop and take a break and eat something more than the trail bar Tanner had. Once we got there, I told Tanner this was enough to make it all worth it. The spring was beautiful. I think I’d know that even if I hadn’t spent so much of the last decade on something as thoroughly artificial as a space station.

This would be something I learned about this planet. It looked like as much of a desert as anything on Earth, like the places they filmed for all those old Westerns, all dry dust and red dirt, harsh and inhospitable. But huge stretches of this planet were like that. And, as near as the scientists could tell, they had been that way for centuries. Or possibly millennia. Maybe it was harsh, but it was not so harsh as you might think by looking at it. Water was never that far away, not if you could reach the underground rivers.

The spring trickled out of the red rock and fed a pool cut into the stone below. I had never seen such clear water. I had never seen much naturally pooled water. But even if I had, this would have surpassed it all. It was almost circular, three or four meters across, and hip deep at the center. And there was green. Plants clung to all the rocks beneath the surface of the water, and things like bushes grew all around it. It was incredible.

And I must have been staring.

“Bet you’re glad I made you hike out here now.”

“Hush.” But I smiled. “Maybe.” It was just a shame I already had some idea of how much I was going to be hurting the next day. And the next three days after that.

As much as we would have liked to, we spent less than an hour there. Just long enough to eat our rations (dehydrated meals are nasty, but they feed you) and rehydrate ourselves. It was peaceful. So peaceful, and in a way that it couldn’t ever been on a space station. It was peaceful even though there was a strange moment when we were both convinced something was watching us. I couldn’t say why. I might have heard something, or it might have just been the prickling feeling on the back of my neck. We looked around. My hand reached for my gun. But we didn’t see anything. And the feeling went away.

“I thought you said there weren’t aliens out here,” I said.

“There aren’t,” said Tanner, but both of us were questioning that a little. Only a little. But enough that neither of us minded getting moving again. And fortunately, the feeling faded quickly. Just not quickly enough for either of us to be anything less than fully alert for at least the next hour.

Musings

[Blog] Character Voice

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to do some text-based roleplaying* again, which has been amazing for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s a return to my roots, as it’s absolutely the hobby that kept/started me writing throughout most of high school/college. For another, it’s phenomenal practice for writing character voice.

I think I’ve bemoaned the difficulty of that particular skill in the past, particularly when I’ve spent too long away from one story or another, and especially when the story in question is written in the first person. With this particular brand of roleplaying, it’s all done in third person, and I have four or five different characters that I write at various points, all of them with their own personalities, quirks, and feelings. Even in third person, they come across in wildly different ways, and getting into the habit of switching back and forth between them all rapidly is a skill in and of itself.

For example, there’s Shovar, the sensible and somewhat laid-back Admiral. To some extent, writing her is the easiest, because she’s more or less who I want to be like, and her values general line up with mine (she’s just way more patient). Then there’s Evva, the 14-year-old daughter of (essentially) a crime lord, who asks way too many questions, has no filter, and is, generally speaking, Trouble. Writing her is just fun. Then there’s her mom and the aforementioned crime lord, Thrinn, who also happens to be one of my oldest characters, as she was the one I was writing most often during high school. She’s gotten even sneakier in her old age.

If nothing else, the character practice has been more helpful than I’d realized or expected. Progress on Tanner and Miranda, while still slow, has been moving faster than before, and I’m more or less happy with what’s appearing on the page. The narrative sounds like Miranda, at least, and I’m happy to call that a win.

* On a little site called The Vulpine Imperium. Started out life as (more or less) a sort of Redwall fansite. Has taken on a life of its own (think PotC meets anachronistic Victorian-esque society, only it’s all anthropomorphic animals) and only recently come back from the dead, to my great surprise and joy.

Fiction (Excerpts)

[Excerpt] The Shattered and the Infinite

One of several possible intros for The Shattered and the Infinite, my project from last November. Enjoy!

Complexity Jones must have slept, because the soft green numbers on the bedside clock read 6:12 AM. It had been just after three-thirty the last time she had looked and given up hope of getting any rest, but maybe that had been what did it. Besides, these days two and a half hours was the best she could hope to get. Even so, her body ached. Whether that was because of the physical work she had thrown herself into the day before or just the wages of however many months of lost sleep she couldn’t say. And it didn’t matter. Either way, the result was the same.

On the other side of the bed, Kemp still slept, his breathing slow and even, a comfort in the quiet morning. She’d given up envying him for it. Better that one of them get a little rest than for both of them to exist in this miserable, exhausted haze. And she was used to it. The nightmares had started shortly after the Distortion had first appeared, and she hadn’t slept well since then. Five years, give or take. No wonder the dark circles under her eyes made it look like she’d lost a fist fight. No wonder her body rebelled whenever she had a day off, and she spent twelve hours in dreamless blackout.

But this wasn’t her day off. And there was no reason to try to beg and borrow and steal another useless moment with her eyes shut and her mind spinning and awake when it wouldn’t do her any good. Better to start the process of coaxing her body back to something functional.

She swung her feet to the floor, ignoring the complaints from her back, her neck, her shoulders. They always fussed. The pain always eased with movement. Coffee helped too. It would have helped more if it was the real stuff, but that didn’t exist anymore. Not here.

Her foot brushed against a pile of clothes as she moved through the bedroom. The twinge of guilt and the impulse to clean were quiet these days, a trivial concern at the end of the world. All things considered, it seemed better to use every chance she had to lie in Kemp’s arms and talk about the things they had thought they would have a lifetime explore. Let the apartment be a little messy. It would be the least of her regrets. Nothing compared to what she would feel if the end came and she thought she could have spent more time with anyone she loved.

In the living room, the big picture window looked out over Loborough. It was still dark, still predawn for a few more minutes, but not dark enough that she couldn’t see the scars the Distortion had left on the city. There were so many swaths of barren ground. Voids where there should have been buildings. Empty flats where there should have been parks. A shattering world where it should have been whole.

Musings

[Blog] Wonderment

I walked outside at dusk the other day, just in time to see a pair of bats swooping and flittering a little way from the house. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen bats. It wasn’t even the first time I’d seen them recently– they’re always around, eating bugs like the awesome pest controllers they are. But something about them just struck me this time.

Bats are really, really cool.

Think about it. They’re basically mice that fly. Sounds like something straight out of a fantasy world, right? But they’re real. As real as you or me. *

There’s so much about this world that’s fascinating like this. Like wind: sometimes the air just moves. Sometimes just a little, just enough to toss your hair or shake a few leaves; sometimes so much that it destroys everything in its path, an invisible force of destruction. That sounds pretty crazy too.

And then there’s the fact that we’re all spending our time walking around on the surface of a large (or small, depending on what you’re comparing it to) rocky sphere that’s going in circles around a huge ball of fire that is millions of miles away but also just so happens to be our main source of heat and light.

Or take gravity, the invisible force that is the only thing keeping us on the surface of the planet, along with everything else, including the atmosphere that we need to breathe. And that keeps the planets all orbiting around the sun. And our whole galaxy spinning around its center.

If you ask me, it’s all pretty amazing.

* Maybe that’s a blog post for another day. Ha!

Fiction (Excerpts)

T&M: deleted scene 1

(If you happened to read last week’s blog, this is one of those deleted scenes I mentioned. For the pace of the story, I spent way too much time here on characters and events that have no real impact on anything else, but I still enjoyed them. I’m cutting the vast majority of this out of the next draft, but I still like what I wrote. So I’m sharing it here.)

We reached the top of the track leading to Rockmouse in another half an hour as flat plains gave way to the first red Outland cliffs. The friendly transport hauler we’d paid to let us tag along dropped us at the edge of the road and continued on his own way, leaving us to go the rest of the way on foot with our gear— camping things, rations, scanners, and our weapons— slung over our shoulders.

Despite the fact that we couldn’t see the tiny mining town from the road, it was a short walk to get there, only five or ten minutes at the most. And while I wasn’t about to admit it to Tanner, I was pleased to find that my legs and feet adjusted to the uneven dirt faster than I’d expected. I could only hope that the hike up into the wilderness would treat me as kindly.

As far as towns went, Rockmouse was less than impressive. It boasted no more than a dozen buildings, the largest of which was the modified warehouse that functioned as a sort of community center. Another appeared to be a supply and equipment store, though I was surprised they saw enough business to be solvent. The rest were various bunkhouses and cabins and other small residences to house the working population.

“Not much to look at, is it?”

Tanner laughed softly. “No. It’s more a base camp than an actual settlement. Still nice enough, though.”

And it was. It was dusty and sparse and not particularly pretty, but I noticed a certain reckless camaraderie in the air here that I recognized and appreciated. If nothing else, it made for interesting stories, and the small knot of scruffy looking townsfolk lounging in front of the community center looked like they already had several each.

“Is that who we’re meeting?”

Tanner squinted and peered down the street before shaking his head. “I don’t think so. She’s probably inside.” He squinted again. “I think I owe that big guy money, though.”

I raised one eyebrow. “You owe money?”

He shrugged. “Ah, not much. Fifty credits or so. I borrowed his hovermule last time I was out here.”

I was about to ask whether he’d asked for permission before he commandeered the vehicle when the large man in question happened to look up the road and notice us. As soon as he recognized my brother, his face split in a grin I could see even across the thirty yards that separated us. Or if I couldn’t, the enthusiastic wave he sent in our direction was enough to fill in the gaps.

“Hey, freelancer! Wondered when you’d be back on this side of the colony! Good to see you!”

Tanner returned the greeting with at least as much animation, and they caught each other in an exuberant handshake as soon as they were within reach.

“Oh, you know, there’s always something bringing me out here. How’s the place?”

“Dusty! But better since you chased those gangboys out. We managed to open up that south branch of the mine again, and we think we hit a new vein. What’s got you out here, though? And,” the big man nodded in my direction, “who’s this?”

“My sister,” said Tanner. “Came out here to watch my back and keep me out of trouble.”

“Miranda Griff,” I said, extending my own hand and just barely stifling my surprise as his massive hand engulfed my own. I’m not a particularly large woman, but I’d always considered myself roughly average when it came to size. Just then, I found myself revising my estimate downwards.

“Good to meet you, Griff. Sam Sawyer. Your brother here’s a good guy. Helped us out a few months back. Glad he’s got someone out here to help him out. Means he might be a little less likely to catch a bullet in the back someday.”

My lips quirked in a lopsided grin. “My thoughts exactly. Though he can’t be that bad, I suppose. He’s been out here by himself for a couple of years and he’s still in one piece.”

Sam leaned back and let loose with a belly laugh that made me think he doubled as Santa at Christmas-time. I couldn’t help it; I grinned too.

“I’m glad you two have hit it off so well.” Tanner’s look of mock chagrin didn’t hold up well against the twinkle in his eye. “But happy as I am to see you, we’re actually looking for Hildy. Has she gotten out here yet?”

Sawyer nodded and jerked his thumb back over his shoulder, towards the community center. Though now that we were closer, I had to admit it looked a lot more like a saloon than anything else.

“In there. She’s probably been here less than half an hour, so you shouldn’t be in too much trouble.” He grinned.

“Technically, we’re still early. Unless you and the boys put her in a bad mood?”

Another of Sawyer’s belly laughs got loose. “We’d never.”

“Sure you wouldn’t. But just in case you’re getting ideas, here’s that fifty I owe you.”

Tanner dug into his pocket and pulled out a pair of coins, which he tossed to Sawyer.

“Oh, hey! I’d forgotten about that. Knew you were good for it, though!”

“Gotta make friends somehow, now, don’t I?”

Sawyer chortled again. “Good to see you, Tanner. And glad to meet you, Miranda.”

Musings

[Blog] Wordcounts and Wondering

In one of my recent searches for estimates and guidelines for how long drafts and novels tend to be, I found that some of the advice suggested that most rough/first drafts are significantly shorter than the finished product. Which surprised me. As I think about it more, it probably shouldn’t have, because I know how quickly I end up glossing over things when just trying to get words on the page, but there’s so many other times when I end up waxing eloquent on things that really don’t need an explanation, just to keep the words flowing.

Right now, for example, I’m working through one of the Tanner and Miranda stories, doing a pass that’s more or less a second draft (yay!). The thing is, the first draft got bogged down because I kept getting distracted and writing in scenes that murdered the pace and, while fun to write, did next to nothing for the actual story. Scenes that I will need to cut out wholesale this time through, which will probably halve the word count for this particular story.

Hence my confusion. Because this is what my writing always looks like in the early stages, leading me to believe that a completed first draft (one that doesn’t end up suffering from the end of NaNo I’m-running-out-of-steam-so-I’ll-just-do-glorified-summaries thing) would probably come in at almost double the size of a more polished draft.

Clearly, the answer to my question can only be found by finishing more drafts and then actually finishing the editing. You know. For evidence.

Those of you who write, what does your drafting process look like?

Musings

[Blog] Checking in ’22

Technically, this post is a little late. Not the most auspicious start to the new year, perhaps, but that’s okay. Now that we’re almost two weeks in to 2022, I can already say that my reading life, at least, is much more robust than it was last year. Also, apparently I’m on a Brandon Sanderson kick; I can’t believe it took me so long to finally get around to reading The Bands of Mourning, and the wait for the fourth Wax and Wayne book is going to be a bear. I guess I’ll just have to distract myself with more books.

As for writing, I’m still puttering along, doing definitely more than nothing and yet never enough. I’m still trying to beat out the general structure for Tanner and Miranda, which is going way slower than I’d like. Mostly because I have some decent ideas but not enough depth to them that they feel full and real.

More or less accidentally, I took several weeks off from planning and structuring both that and last November’s NaNo, which was actually rather needed. I was edging up on burnout. Oops. But I’m feeling refreshed and ready now, and once I kick off the faint accumulation of dust, I’m looking forward to digging in to both with new eyes and a fresh perspective. Which is what I’m off to do right now!

Musings

[Blog] Farewell, ’21

As I write this, there’s right around sixty-three hours remaining in the Year of our Lord 2021. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but here we are. For me, as for so many others, it has been A Year, and I’ll admit to being tired (though that’s also partially due to plain old sleepiness), though hopeful and a bit excited for the year to come and its changes and challenges both known and unknown.

To send out the year here on my blog, I want to share a few of my favorites from the past twelve months. Books, movies, songs, whatever it was that I enjoyed or that struck a chord with me and burrowed deep.


Favorite Book (fiction): Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
Why? Because reading it was like taking a break from the twenty-first century to go hang out on a British navy ship. And sometimes that’s just what you need.

Favorite Book (non-fiction): Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
Why? Because it’s an incredibly important and intelligent take on something that we desperately need to be talking about. It’s a difficult read in places due to the nature of the beast (death, mortality, aging, etc.) but I can’t recommend it enough. Go read it.

Favorite Song: The Light Will Stay On by The Walkabouts
Why? Just click on the link and listen! Oh, more specifically? Well I found this song while hunting for musical inspiration for NaNo, and this one slotted in like it was written for my main character. But beyond that, the entire mood of it– the almost wistful, almost resigned yet still pushing on just resonated with me.

Favorite New Music Group: The Hound + The Fox
Why? There’s a ton of amazing cover-original-independent-whathaveyou musical artists on YouTube, but these two have to be my favorite. Their stuff is gorgeous, and they’ve got a great mix of originals, folk songs, and nerdy covers. I can (and have!) listen to them all day.

Favorite Video Game: Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Why? Because the storylines are ALL MAKING ME CRY. This game is unabashedly over the top epic in places, and I love it, in part because it’s driven by a huge cast of well developed characters to whom you will get thoroughly attached.

What about you guys? Any new favorites from the past year? Anything exciting coming up for you in 2022?

Musings

[Blog] Looks Like I’m a Planner

So! The first takeaway I have from the grand experiment that was me actually planning the project I worked on this past November is: I must be a planner after all. My friends. I cannot overstate just how much easier it was for me to write throughout the month. I didn’t get stuck. I didn’t waste time wondering where I needed to take the story next. It just didn’t happen, and that was weird and wonderful and I’m never going back.

That being said, it wasn’t without its hitches, which is why I’m not actually sitting here with a complete first draft of my new novel. In fact, if I’d had to go past 50k this past month, I almost certainly would have gotten stuck. And despite the wordcount I reached, I didn’t get all that far into the story. (That, at least, is normal: my first runs through new stories always run long as I figure out what I’m doing.) The difference being that I know why I got stuck. I didn’t have a clear vision of the weird, wacky world I was throwing my poor character into, which, naturally, made it difficult to write about.

And the other half of knowing why is knowing how to fix it. Roughly speaking. It’s meant that I made the decision to step back and return to the structuring/outlining phase, and I may or may not be able to repurpose the stuff I wrote during November, so in some ways I’m sure it doesn’t look all that different from previous years with regards to what I actually managed to take away from the event. But instead of having a huge mess of words and no clear idea of where to go with it, I have a huge mess of words and a much stronger idea of where my planning went wrong and what I need to do to fix it. If nothing else, I’d call that progress.

Additionally, it’s made it clear that all my other projects could benefit from the same treatment. Specifically, Tanner and Miranda. I’m not gonna like, I’m currently in the thrall of this shiny new plotting/planning thing, so there’s absolutely a huge part of me that wants to say that this is exactly what I needed in order to finally finish the darn thing. And who knows– maybe it is going to make all the difference, and I’m not just making like James Garner in Support Your Local Sheriff (I refuse to let this story become my own personal Australia).

In short, I’m excited. So excited. I write better when I plan like this, and reaching the “end” of a project seems like it’s within reach as opposed to just being some mystical, theoretical state of existence that my projects have no real hope of ever reaching. I suspect I’m going to have to learn how to balance some elements of both– half of the excitement of writing comes from the times the characters take over and decide to do their own thing (this November his name was Locksley and my sister got all kinds of texts of me complaining about his hijacking of the story)– but I think this is another one of those “you have to know the rules in order to know how to break them” cases. And it’s really, really cool to be getting a better handle on the rules of my craft.

Musings

[Blog] Hey look it’s December

Hey guys! Apparently it’s December now. 2021 is all but over. Weird.

Anyway! So, NaNo is over and I hit the 50k goal on the day before Thanksgiving (yay!) despite work busyness and such. The whole planning thing went remarkably well, to the point where I’m pretty sure it’s going to affect how I write novel-length things from here on out. More on that next week!

I hope all of you are well as we head into the holidays, and that you get to spend good time with friends and family. Merry Christmas!


((Technically, this is not something I wrote last month. However! It’s currently the first three paragraphs from that project, so I thought I’d share them here with you.))

Complexity Jones must have slept, because the soft green numbers on the bedside clock read 6:12 AM. It had been just after three-thirty the last time she had looked and given up hope of getting any rest, but maybe that had been what did it. Besides, these days two and a half hours was the best she could hope to get. Even so, her body ached. Whether that was because of the physical work she had thrown herself into the day before or just the wages of however many months of lost sleep she couldn’t say. And it didn’t matter. Either way, the result was the same.

On the other side of the bed, Kemp still slept, his breathing slow and even, a comfort in the quiet morning. She’d given up envying him for it. Better that one of them get a little rest than for both of them to exist in this miserable, exhausted haze. And she was used to it. The nightmares had started shortly after the Distortion had first appeared, and she hadn’t slept well since then. Five years, give or take. No wonder the dark circles under her eyes made it look like she’d lost a fist fight. No wonder her body rebelled when she had a day off and she spent twelve hours in dreamless blackout.

But this wasn’t her day off. And there was no reason to try to beg and borrow and steal another useless moment with her eyes shut and her mind spinning and awake when it wouldn’t do her any good. Better to start the process of coaxing her body back to something functional.