The Monster in the Middle of the Road is Me, by J.P. Romney

monstermiddle

Aside from having a name long enough to make my post-title formatting sensibilities cringe, this was a pretty good book. I had some other thoughts about it too, which I’ll address after the break, but at first blush it’s good fun: a young adult paranormal mystery set in Japan. I’m glad my friend gave it to me when I asked for something new to read.

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Child of a Hidden Sea, by A.M. Dellamonica

Wheee, portal fiction!  When done well, this stuff is great.  I got this book for free somehow, though I can’t remember why.  I’m glad that I did.  It’s quite enjoyable.  I’ve already seen the next book in the series in my local library, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it.

I don’t want to spoil the fun for you, but I do want to say a few more words in favor of you reading this book.  It’s got a female protagonist and non-hetero characters, it’s got lots of sailing and boats, and it has a climax that I found very appealing.  Lots of fun.  It’s intrigue and sea-adventure wrapped up in a portal fiction premise.  What’s not to like?

Flash Fiction: J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations – Variation 14

This is goofy.  I’m writing a new piece of flash fiction from Chuck Wendig’s usual challenge (I’ve skipped a few, my apologies), and, well… I’m not sure what to do.  The challenge involves using a random song as both your title and as inspiration for the piece itself.  I’ve done that before; so far, so good.

I shuffled until I got a named track (my first result was “Track 9” from an untitled trance album), and now (as you can see) I’m writing a story called J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations – Variation 14.

In case you don’t know what that sounds like, here’s a video (the piece is roughly two minutes, though the video continues afterwards).  I’ve tried embedding it, but the time-specific feature doesn’t seem to be working.

My version is played by Glenn Gould, at roughly twice that speed, clocking in at 59 seconds. Please excuse me while I stare into space and figure out what the hell this means story-wise.

Right.  Got it.  This might be a little odd, but I think it works.  Enjoy!

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Playing with Monster Stories #2

Last Friday I mentioned that I was trying to write something for Molotov Cocktail’s Flash Monster contest, but that I wasn’t sure I had what I wanted.  Well, last night I wrote another thing I enjoy and this time I’ve submitted it.  As I said before, if you’re associated with Molotov you should probably wait on reading this.  If you’re not, enjoy!

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Flash Fiction: The First Is The Worst

Bloody.Hand.with.knife

This week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig involved a 1000 word story that starts with a dead body.  I ended up with this piece without even knowing where I was going, but perhaps you’ll like it.  In case you’re wondering about the setting, I think it takes place in my Elven Progenitors story-world (though I still feel like it desperately needs a punchier name).

Enjoy!

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Flash Fiction: Mustn’t Bother Mummy

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I’m doing Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge again this week, as I have since January, and I’ve had some trouble.  This week’s prompt is a new version of the same subgenre blender that inspired me to write Dreams of Drowning.  I got a very different combination this time (it’s a different random table, after all), and now I’m supposed to write a whodunit / comic fantasy.  In 1500 words.

I’m about 3/4ths of the way to stumped.

I have written this with the whodunit firmly in mind.  But trying to intentionally make comic fantasy?  I’m really not sure what to do with myself.  I’ve written pieces that I thought were comedic, or which people told me were funny, but that’s always been an incidental sort of thing; I guess the truth of it is that I don’t write those moments thinking “now it’s time to write some comedy.”

Anyway, I don’t know that I’d call this particularly comic, but I do hope you enjoy it. Continue reading

Last Days of Loneliness: Crucial Exposition

I’ve solved some of my problems in Last Days of Loneliness, I think.  If you read my earlier posts about how things were terrible and how I couldn’t figure out why Amanda knows to kill the eggs with fire, rest assured, I’ve stumbled across an excellent workaround.

I had very similar conversations with Ben and my brother Nate about how to solve my narrator’s knowledge problem, in which they basically said that I should make someone else in the town or cult tell her to use fire to kill the eggs.  I, of course, resisted their advice at first.  I’d had similar thoughts many times previously, and always dismissed them because I thought it made no sense for someone to break the cult’s taboos and try to warn Amanda.  But after talking with both Nate and Ben, who both made it sound so plausible, and then reading some of George Buckenham’s rules for making games on Rock Paper Shotgun, I decided what the hell; I’d go ahead and do as Buckenham suggested.  So I tried the stupid/simple solution.  And I liked it.

Go figure.

What follows is the scene that I thought wouldn’t work, but did.  It comes some time after a scene in which Amanda goes to the police station and overhears an interesting conversation, and long before her ultimate recognition of the information that she is given in this scene.  Enjoy.

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Flash Fiction: Blood in the Desert

moon

This week’s dose of flash fiction comes inspired by Chuck Wendig, as per usual.  This time around, I was supposed to start a story with one of the sentences submitted last week as my prompt.  I chose the edited version of a sentence submitted by The Story Hive.  After realizing that I had to rewrite what I’d initially created, I used this week’s project to experiment with timing in narration.  I also tried to continue with a character that you’ve seen before.  You’ll probably still enjoy it. Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Cosmo Katie

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This week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig involves a random cocktail generator and 1000 words of pure imagination.  I got the Cosmo Katie, and took it to a dark place.  I mean, space is pretty dark most of the time, right?  Enjoy.

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Work In Progress: Last Days of Loneliness

I’ve shared my thoughts on this with you before (here too), but I have some more material.  It turns out that I still haven’t solved some issues I was nattering about back in November:

So, I’m still seeing this big problem looming in front of me.  I’ve got this wonderful ending all set up at the moment, with Amanda and Doug Felber working together to try to burn the eggs in order to destroy them.  I really like the whole idea of the flamethrower, and think it’s pretty awesome.  But WHY THE HELL WOULD THEY KNOW TO USE A FLAMETHROWER?

That’s one big issue: I don’t presently have a reasonable path for them to follow to even discover that fire would be necessary to kill the stupid eggs.  Nor do I have a reason for why anyone would tell them this.  Nor do I have a reason why they would think that the whole town might be destroyed, nor do I have a reason for why they might find out that destroying the eggs would result in destroying the town.

To sum it up:

  • No reason to know to kill the eggs with fire
  • No one with a reason to *tell* them to kill the eggs with fire
  • No reason to know that killing the eggs destroys the town
  • No one with a reason to tell them that killing the eggs destroys (or might destroy) the town.

In some ways, that last one is the easiest to solve.  If one of them tells someone that knows the Mother about the plan to destroy the eggs, that person might wig out and tell them that it’s a stupid idea.  Problem is, anyone who did tell them it’s a stupid idea would also then know that they were thinking about destroying the eggs.

All of that is potentially solved through sufficient idiot-balling, with Amanda fooling Rick/friend into thinking that she’s going to join the cult and getting a tour of the eggs and asking questions (“If they’re so important, why aren’t they better protected?  What would happen if someone broke them?”).  But that feels like it could be more than Amanda would be willing or able to pull off, and it would require the other person not to twig to the very suspicious questions.  Don’t like that idea.  See top for previous intro of this concept, which I’m now mostly dismissing.

Should I just kill my darlings and do away with killing the eggs with fire, and even do away with having the town be destroyed?  What would that look like?

Ditching both schticks

Amanda goes to town on the eggs with a sledgehammer, breaks them open and kills them, the town’s covenant is broken and the cult’s connection to Mother is destroyed (or maybe the cultists were all just crazy to begin with and that was all just them being super fucked in the head).  There’s a big anti-climax in the massive-wreckage department (have to rewrite the beginning again).  Amanda then has to burn down her house or something in order to ensure that her parents don’t try to come home, and flees town.  Another option would be going home and hoping that no one knows that she’s the one who broke the eggs, but that seems really boring because it doesn’t resolve the panic and tension of risking being discovered.  Which has been building since the middle of the book.

Ok, this seems possible, but the only interesting version of this that I can see at the moment is having Amanda burn down her house to force her family to move afterwards, and there’s just not as much horror there (unless, maybe, she murdered some people in the course of breaking the eggs, in which case now she’s also wanted for murder).

Quick question: what’s freakiest?  I think the most horrific option, and the one which best showcases her determination and how far she’s gone in terms of leaving conventional morality, is for Amanda to KNOW that she will (or might) kill everyone in town if she carries through with her plan.  She could find this out at the last minute, which wouldn’t change how bad what she does is, but knowing further ahead of time leaves more of the blame on her.  There’s no argument for the “heat of the moment” defense or whatever.

But “accidentally” destroying the town is pretty bad too, especially if she appears to feel little remorse.  And that opens up some potentially interesting scenes.

So then…

Keeping the “TOWN IS DESTROYED” schtick

I could keep the whole ‘town is destroyed thing’ and instead have it come as a surprise to Amanda.

Maybe she still planned to leave town because she thought she’d be discovered and killed, along with her family, so she sent her parents to NYC for their date, and then planned to burn down the house.  Turns out she didn’t have to burn down the house and tries driving away instead of sticking around for an earthquake that seems like seriously bad news.  Not as horrifying because Amanda doesn’t intentionally kill the whole town, but still pretty good overall.

OR

She thought she could get away with it and didn’t have plans to leave the town, so she just set up a date to distract her parents while she runs around all night.  If the date was in town, she finds them and hustles them into the car or desperately tries to convince them to leave (maybe at gunpoint).  If the date wasn’t in town, she just books it from town?

The ‘parents at gunpoint’ scene sounds pretty good, but the rest of it doesn’t feel like it has as much tension.  This would extend the physical threat of the climax, but (apart from holding her parents or others at gunpoint) wouldn’t do much to heighten the emotional climax.

One thing I definitely *don’t* want is for Doug to know that the town will be destroyed while Amanda does not.  I also don’t want him to know that it could happen and then inform Amanda.  That makes him as much (if not more) a villain as she is, and makes him just as complicit in the destruction of the town.  Besides, if he knows all these things, why hasn’t he acted on them?  If he would destroy the eggs himself, Amanda becomes at worst passive and at best an instigator rather than a decisive actor.

I do like the ‘holding parents at gunpoint thing, and I like the ‘town is destroyed’ thing, and I especially like her knowing ahead of time that the town will be destroyed (though I still would have to solve that stupid problem of it making no sense).  What about killing it with fire?

Pros / Cons of KILLING IT WITH FIRE

First of all, the scene (which has changed a good deal) originally came to me as something that involved a homemade flamethrower.  There was something almost too horrifying about having Amanda kill people with the flamethrower, something that really made the scene stand out in my mind.  Plus, if you’re looking at Cthonian eggs according to the relevant source material (which is fictitious bullshit anyway, so who cares), it’s made pretty clear that fire is definitely the best way to kill them.  Thinking about what you’d have to do in order to break a round, smooth-ish, and occasionally squirming rock… you’d be pretty likely to see your sledgehammer bounce or deflect in some possibly vicious ways.  For all that it requires more work beforehand and is more complicated overall, killing it with fire is definitely a lot simpler in the actual execution.

Are there any real story or scene benefits to having Amanda use a flamethrower vs. Amanda using a sledgehammer or something?

I guess I had an easier time imagining her using a flamethrower just because it would require less active upper body strength, but I already know that she does martial arts and has for quite a while, and I’ve definitely had female friends who are quite capable of and enjoy using sledges.  So using a sledgehammer certainly passes the plausibility test.  It also fits with the whole “Amanda is a hardcore badass” thing I’ve got going.  Fighting people with one is a little more difficult, but she’s still got the same things going for her.

I would be sad to see the flamethrower go, because it’s a fear-weapon as much as anything else.  There’s something especially upsetting about having Amanda kill people with the flamethrower in the course of achieving her goals, and I like that.  It isn’t as easy as using a gun, and feels more personal while still being scary.

Thinking a little further, I was going to mention that a sledgehammer allows for Amanda to use her martial arts in the middle of the fight while the flamethrower doesn’t, but that isn’t quite true.  It would certainly make it easier for someone else to rush her and for her to then get in a physical fight with them, but that’s still possible with the flamethrower; her having a flamethrower just means that the people facing her have to be more desperate, or the situation has to allow them to get next to her without her burning them.

What if Amanda and Doug plan to use the sledge, but bring the flamethrower as a fallback plan?  This is good, and gives an opportunity for Amanda to try breaking the eggs in the mine and fail… but it doesn’t serve tension in any meaningful way (if there’s a flamethrower, the writer will *use* the flamethrower, thank you very much).

This reminds me of a side problem, namely that I’m not sure why Amanda isn’t trying to break the eggs while still in the mine.  My original thought on that involved her taking them elsewhere to kill them in a special way or with a time delay that would let her escape town, but *that* was predicated on knowing that killing them would result in the destruction of the town, which is still a problem that I haven’t solved.