For those of you who have been following this blog/reading the stories that show up here every now and again, you’ve probably noticed that, despite the fact that I’m more than happy to use the shorthand of “science fiction” for the genre of number of them, even though it would usually be far more accurate to go with “space opera” instead.
And that’s okay! A perfectly valid choice. I love space opera, and despite the distinction I made above, I have no problem throwing it under the broad umbrella of sci-fi, if only because the popular understanding of the term often boils down to “adventure in space”. Overly simplistic? Definitely. Helpful enough? Yes.
All this to say that I’m lately finding a ton of enjoyment in actually reading up on various topics pertinent to the worlds I enjoy creation. Like, for example, The Case For Mars by Robert Zubrin, a book that presents the argument that we could actually put human beings on Mars within ten years using technology that already exists or could be developed in that time period. Aside from being a fascinating read all on its own, the number of ideas the book is giving me for the Tanner and Miranda stories is nothing to sniff at. From a general history of how humans made it out to colonize other planets to the infrastructure that they would have set up on all their colonies, including Verdant, it’s giving me the tools to help fill out the universe of the stories.
AND IT’S SO MUCH FUN.
Does this mean I want to turn the Tanner and Miranda stories into hard science fiction? Heck no. I’d be the first person to tell you my favorite part of writing about their shenanigans is exactly that: the shenanigans. But if drawing from the real world science (ish) that relates to the setting I’ve created helps me create a more immersive fictional world, gives me more ideas and, forces me to come up with interesting and different answers to the questions raised by the plot, then I am all for it.
Slowly but surely, I’m settling in. This last week in particular has seen me neck deep in boxes, with the end result being a (mostly) unpacked room. After all the chaos of moving, it’s so nice to have a space that’s starting to feel more like my own.
I’ve also been managing more writing! It’s a slow slog back to where I want to be, but it’s definitely progress. So far, most of the words have been more a random scattering of ideas than anything connected to a specific project, but it’s proving to be a decent way to get myself back into the practice of regular writing, so I’m more than happy to go with it.
Also! Since deadlines and I seem to get along so well, and since September is starting tomorrow, it seems like the perfect time to give myself a wordcount goal for Tanner and Miranda. If all goes to plan, expect to see snippets from my work on their next adventure in the coming weeks. Until then, all the best!
Just a quick check-in this week! After a stretch of time with the writing just coming slow and difficult, things are starting to move along a little more easily again, which is so nice.
Part of it, I think, was just the fact that I was changing gears to start the next story/chapter. I’m enjoying the very episodic nature of this particular project, but it definitely comes with some of its own special difficulties. Like finding a good way to work the pacing.
I also think it was working a lot better than I thought it was, because when I opened up a new document and essentially retyped the 1400 words or so I already had just to get back into the flow, it wasn’t half as bogged down as I thought it was. So yay!
This one’s from the second story in the collection. Specifically, it’s my first attempt at an opening. It didn’t quite work the way I wanted it to, but it was fun to write and I think it had some amusing parts, so I’m sharing it here! Enjoy!
The four hundred credits Hildy paid into our account for the single day of work were enough to pay our rent and buy food for the next week— and not much else. Certainly not enough to start paying off the debts I’d left behind in Sol, and when we paid Doc Amil for stitching Tanner’s leg back together it was painfully obvious we couldn’t wait long to find our next job. Not long enough to Tanner’s leg to finish healing, despite the limits that put on what sort of work we could take.
For example, hiking all over the rougher parts of the Outlands was out of the question. I called that a silver lining. Tanner grumbled and pointed out that it wasn’t my leg with eighteen stitches in it.
“So, what did you find?” I asked, tossing him a bottle of painkillers and a fresh bandage before retreating back to the bathroom to brush my teeth while he doctored his thigh. We were back in our rooms on the third floor of Teddy’s, the large boardinghouse and hotel on the eastern side of Coville. Tanner and the eponymous Teddy had come to some agreement in the year Tanner had spent here on his own, which I suspected was the only reason we could afford the monthly cost for the place. The rooms were both small and comfortably furnished, and connected by a small shared bathroom, giving it the feel of a full suite.
“Lots of jobs we can’t take until I heal up. Three that would have the Rangers on us before we were halfway through. Eight—” he broke off, pausing while I imagined all his attention went to wrapping the bandage around his leg, “—eight that would pay us pennies and drive us out of our minds with boredom. And two that look promising.”
He knocked on the door as I finished brushing my teeth. I opened the door and stepped back to my room to throw my hair into a lazy braid. “Only two?”
A mouthful of toothpaste muffled Tanner’s voice. “Two’s lucky. It told you most of the work’s in the Outlands.”
I made a face. “You did, didn’t you?”
He grunted and spat. “Commpad’s on my bed. The one I like is on the screen.”
Squeezing past him through the bathroom, I snatched the device from where it lay on the pillow and scanned the message displayed on the screen. “Where’s Oriole?”
“Southwest,” said Tanner, appearing over my shoulder. “Technically in the Outlands, but you can get there by vehicle. Hovermule, in this case.”
“And who is…” my eyes tracked back up to the line containing the sender, “Ava Loesan?”
“No idea. Never met her. Teddy said she came by a few days looking for freelancers, though, and he referred her to us.”
“Nice of him,” I said.
“The rent comes on time when I have more work. And he likes me.”
Tanner aimed a slap for the back of my head, but I ducked out of the way, cackling.
“Keep that up and I’ll have him charge full price for your room. Then where will you be?”
I sighed. “Slumming it in some cheap flophouse. Can’t be worse than when I got to the stations.”
“Oh, but it can. The stations don’t have rats.”
“Shows how much you know. The nastiest rats I’ve ever seen were on the big station around Luna.”
“The only rats you’ve ever seen,” said Tanner.
I continued unperturbed. “This long,” I said, holding out my hands a foot apart for reference.
“With or without the tail?”
“Big, sharp teeth… a taste for human flesh.” I paused, grinning. “So, kinda like your sheep.”
Tanner aimed another strike for the back of my head, but I was already out of reach. He settled for a dirty look instead.
“Then in the interests of staying in lodgings that don’t have a large rodent problem, I’ll tell her we’ll take the job.”
“Sounds good to me. Wait— you said there were two possibilities. What was the other one?”
Tanner shrugged. “Some guard job down at the Landing Fields. Usually means you’re working for some offworld snob who thinks it’s the Wild West out here. They’ll pay alright, just not enough to offset having to talk to them.”
“Oh,” I said. “That kind. The Oriole job it is, then.”
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.
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.
“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.
(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.”
Somehow, this will be the two hundredth post on this blog. Cue the gasps– I know I’m surprised! It’s been just over three years since I started this venture, and though I’ve hit a few bumps in the past nine months or so, it’s been an incredible experience so far and I’m already looking forward to the next two hundred posts.
So, first of all, thanks to everyone reading these things. I’m so grateful for every single one of you, especially those of you who keep coming back.
Second of all… I don’t have anything to post up yet, but the writing front for Tanner and Miranda has been going better lately than it has in a long time, which is so exciting! I think I complained a while back about the fact that I was having a hard time re-remembering how to write Miranda’s voice, but I seem to have passed that hump, and the snarky banter is coming along quite well, in my opinion. So, keep an eye out! If all goes as planned, I’ll be posting up some excerpts again sometime soon. Because I’m a writer, and it’s SO nice to be able to prove that again. Ha!
Anyway! Thanks again for sticking around thus far, and I hope you’re as excited as I am to see the next two hundred posts.
As you might have noticed if you’ve read any of the excerpts and stories from Tanner and Miranda’s adventures, Miranda is unapologetic and tends not to waffle. As you may have noticed from reading pretty much any of my blog posts… I am not. Certainly not to the same degree, at least. We can read more into that later. For now, I’ll just add that this makes writing from Miranda’s perspective (which I’m doing– I swear!) occasionally tricky, particularly when I’m out of practice (which I definitely am). My prose keeps ending up with extra words that I would say, and Miranda never would, and I end up glaring at my screen and deleting the offending phrases, only to realize that I still haven’t said what I need to say. I know I should just accept the rough draftiness of it and just push through, content to ruthlessly chop out said phrases later, but the part of me that wants to go slow and get it “right” the first time is still winning out.
On occasion, I have been known to draw maps for stories I never actually write, if for no other reason than it being part of the world-building process that I particularly enjoy. The irony, of course, is that I don’t always manage to draw them for the stories I do write. Don’t ask me why. I’m sure I have no idea.
(Though. I should probably figure it out at some point, since I have been told by reliable sources that my track record on writing consistent and believable travel is… less than stellar.)
But, that’s beside the point. The point, such as it is, is that I’ve actually managed to scribble something together as a visual representation of the Verdant colony. It’s all heavily subject to change, of course, but even in this state it’s already helped solidify some ideas for the Tanner and Miranda stories, including giving me a better plan for an overarching and coherent story arc between stories.
What I mean is that I’m actually pretty excited.
So! Without further ado, I give you the current map of Verdant.
At the best of times, I am not the most patient of people. This was not the best of times. I was cold, wet, and hungry. I was tired– exhausted, even. I had watched a weekend that was supposed to be a welcome shred of rest go from bad to worse to something so unfathomably, irredeemably ridiculous that I could feel the hysteric laughter bubbling up the back of my throat. If someone said I looked like I was at the end of my rope, I would inform them that my rope had snapped sometime last week. Or I’d just cut to the chase and bite their head off.
Sometimes it’s just fun to write Miranda. Okay, scratch that. It’s usually a whole lot of fun to write Miranda. And the bit above is no exception. There’s a certain catharsis to getting inside her head when she’s about ready to start (or finish?) a fight, and if you said that might reveal more about me than anything else, I’d smile and shrug and admit that you’re probably right. And then I’d remind you that that’s half of what makes it so much fun.