Classwork: Write in a genre you haven’t written before

I struggled with this one.  In part, I blame the flash fiction I’ve written.  I had a really hard time finding a genre that I hadn’t at least played around in before.  I suppose I should have written some magical realism, but I … well, I chickened out.  Instead, I threw together the first two pages of a short romance, which is a genre that I think I haven’t explored very much.

Maybe it was cheating?  I don’t know.  But you can read it after the break.

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Short Story: Rum Luck

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Rum Luck: Bad luck, esp. in a certain circumstance or series of events

This one came about through an odd (actually, pretty typical) series of circumstances: I was starting another story and realized partway through that I really needed to know what came before it.  Like its predecessors, this takes place in a fantastical alternate history setting, with geography (and some place-names) much like our world’s.  And again, this is a fairly rough draft.  Other stories in the same setting can be found here, here, here, and here.  Enjoy responsibly.

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The night air was fresh and clean, carrying the scents of salt and the sweet tropical grasses that grew along the beaches here.  It wafted up from the shore, dancing across the slopes of the hills and tickling the back of Jerome’s neck as he and Andre drove their wagon along the well-traveled path.  Stars dotted the sky above them, and a rising moon left a glimmering trail on the water to their right.  Andre’s lantern cast enough light on the trail ahead for the horses, both of whom had traversed this path many times before.  The hefty dwarf smiled up at Jerome, his teeth gleaming as they caught the moonlight.

“You know, Jerome, sometimes,” Andre gave a happy sigh, “sometimes this really isn’t so bad at all.”  His free hand swept to encompass the hillsides around them, the trail, the sea, and the rising moon.  He glanced behind them at the bed of the wagon, eyeing the casks which he’d so carefully secured.  They sloshed as the wagon creaked and rattled.  From where Andre sat, Jerome’s answering grin was silhouetted against the rising moon.

“I told you this would be a good job.”  Jerome risked a glance at Andre, looking away from the team for a moment.  Andre snorted in response, and Jerome chuckled.  Trying to keep a straight face, he continued, “And have I ever led you astray before?”  The two of them burst out laughing.  They laughed so long and so hard that Andre was soon wiping tears from the corners of his eyes.

“Never!”  Andre lied with a guffaw.  The two of them burst into a new round of laughter.

Jerome took the reins in one hand for long enough to wipe his now wet cheeks.  “Well!  I’m glad we’re in agreement then!”  He chuckled some more for the next few minutes, watching the bends in the path as it took them down the shoreside route.  It was several miles from the sugar mill and distillery where they’d picked up their load to the town where they’d been hired to deliver it, and in weather such as they had tonight it was a true pleasure to travel.

“I still don’t see why that man wanted you to do the delivery instead of whatever drivers he normally uses.”  Andre returned to their earlier debate, though he sounded far more goodnatured than he had while they were arguing over it in the bar.

“He said his usual drivers were sick or something.”  Jerome peered ahead at the dimly lit path.  He slowed the horses a little further, glancing to either side.  “Play that light across those rocks, will you?  I don’t like the looks of them.”  Jerome nodded as Andre complied, then added with a grin, “And besides, he said it was a pleasure to be doing business with me again!”

“Pffffft.”  Andre made his opinion of that idea clear.  He shook his head, running his free hand through his beard as the wagon rattled slowly towards the rocks that he’d illuminated.  “He just said that so he could screw us with lower pay than he’d usually give, and all of it at the end of the job too.”

Jerome winced a little.  He allowed as to how that might be true, though he wasn’t likely to agree with Andre out loud.  Certainly not just now.  He looked over the rocks again, largish things that lay to either side of the trail, and had a sudden flash of memory that helped him place why he felt so uncomfortable.  “You know,” he began, “I’ve been ambushed near stones like these before—,” and then he saw the figures rising from either side of the road, guns in hand, while a small log was heaved into place across the path from the lower slope to his right.  Jerome gently brought the wagon to a stop.

“Have you now,” Andre muttered darkly as he raised his hands.  “I never would have guessed.”

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Read Aliette de Bodard’s Short Stories

Thank you Spaige, for recommending Aliette de Bodard to me.

I don’t usually feel compelled to read short stories online (amusing, given that I create short stories which I post online), but I’m totally sold on Aliette de Bodard‘s work.  This post isn’t so much a review as it is a public service announcement; I’ve only read a few of the pieces that she has up so far, but I like all of the ones I’ve seen.  If you aren’t already familiar with her work, I encourage you to take a look at them.

de Bodard repeatedly creates fascinating new worlds and touching tales, each a brief brush with the unknown that promises much and delivers more.  I’m not sure how to put this, other than to say that each of the stories that I’ve read feels full of potential even when the story feels as though it has drawn to a close.  I’m very impressed.

In other news, I’ve finished a full rough draft of another short story.  It needs editing and commenting and may yet need to be entirely rewritten, but with a little luck I’ll have something new for you here soon.  That’s all for today.  I strongly encourage you to take a look at Aliette de Bodard’s short stories, they’re really good.

1636: Seas of Fortune, by Iver Cooper

I read this book in halting installments; not because I couldn’t get through it quickly, but because I read each section as it became available, starting two months before its ostensible publishing date.  I don’t know whether that says more about the book or about my love for the series started by Eric Flint‘s 1632.  I can say that I would certainly recommend this one to anyone else who has enjoyed the previous books in the series.  Read on past the break to find my more nuanced thoughts on Iver Cooper‘s 1636: Seas of Fortune.

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What You Want To Read

I have been moderately derelict in my duties: I’m in the throes of a book.  1636: The Devil’s Opera caught me late yesterday and hasn’t yet let go.  I am also partway through two others (Hide Me Among The Graves, The Quiller Memorandum), but I don’t have a review of any of them ready for you.

I’ve been making progress on the next Jerome short story, with several thousand words down already and a good number more to go.  I’ve been having some trouble with this one, but it’ll come around eventually.

What I want to know, though, is what you next want to read from me.  Specifically, are any of you interested in seeing more material based on that flash fic piece which I wrote?  I’ll include it past the break so that you can refresh your memory, but here are a few questions to get things started:

  • Do you want to see more in this setting?
  • If yes, whom should I follow?  Who and what seem most interesting to you?  How long should I make it?
  • If no, what sort of thing would you like to see instead?  Do you have any ideas that you’d like to see explored?

Please put any responses in the comment section.  Once again, the flash fic piece in question follows the break…

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Short Story: Jerome’s Tropical Vacation

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Alternate title: Dude, Where’s My Boat?

Dear readers,

It’s taken a bit longer than I had expected, but I finally have another installment for you.  This goes along with two other pieces in the same setting.  I won’t claim that this is the final version of this story, but I do think it’s ready for your eyes.  It might even, according to some of my proofreaders, be fun.  Enjoy!

***

Jerome lay on the sandy hill, exhausted.  He had pulled himself up to the line of trees, above the high tide mark, and fallen to his knees before slumping over onto his back.  The sun was slowly lighting the sky from beyond the horizon, turning the east pinkish gray in anticipation.  Lifting his head, Jerome could see the ship breaking apart on the reef.  Much of it was still afloat, but it was all wrong.  The wood was holding together, but it had been so battered by the waves and rocks that the only piece he could recognize was the bowsprit.  That jutted into the sky, waving back and forth like a flagstaff whipped by wind as the swell dropped it time and again in the shallow water.  It had separated a while earlier, breaking off the forward hull with a sickening crack that he had heard across the water.  Soon enough there would be nothing but fragments and scattered driftwood, carried off by the rolling waves.  Jerome found the fate of the ship a fitting metaphor for all civilized accomplishments.  Who could claim that they had made something which would last more than a few heavy storms without being constantly repaired and rebuilt?  Everything slowly fell apart, even as people tried to hold it together.

His head dropped back onto the sand.  This was probably just his fatigue talking.  He knew that he wasn’t usually this unhappy.  He watched as the darkness of the night sky fled across the heavens towards the western horizon.  Then again, he reflected, he usually hadn’t just been shipwrecked and marooned, likely to die far from home on an island in the New Sea.  It was enough to make him want to cry, but he was just too tired.

***

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Choose Your Own Adventure!

Edit: Part 2a has been written, and can be found here.  Part 2b has been written as well, and can be found here.

I made this short choose-your-own-adventure story a while back, and only just realized that I could try to put it together in a functioning format on this site.  I haven’t managed to separate the sections as much as I’d like, so if you want the full experience try to avoid reading more than one segment at a time. The uppermost section is the one to keep your eyes on. Have fun!

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You come to your senses after a long night of studying in the library and find yourself standing on a narrow dirt path running through the woods. You don’t know how you got here, and it doesn’t look like any place that you’ve ever been before. After wandering along for a brief while, you hear hoofbeats behind you. Do you:

a) Hide behind a nearby tree. Paranoia is the best survival trait after all.

b) Stand on the side of the road. Horses move quickly and you don’t want to be in their way.

c) Look for the horsey! You’ve loved horses for as long as you can remember, and you haven’t gotten to see any recently.

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Short Story: Jerome Goes North

A second story in my fantastical alternate history world; this one follows Jerome at a younger age, as he travels to trade with the Northmen.

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It was one of those late summer days when the weather somehow thought it was late fall, and Jerome huddled into his wool cloak as the wind forced rain into his eyes.  A truly miserable day to be riding north into the hills on a narrow and winding dirt trail.  He had to manage the wagon as his team of oxen laboriously pulled it over every rut and stone they could find.  The rain had soaked through to his skin several hours back, shortly after he had broken camp with his retainers, and not one of them looked comfortable.  His uncle had neglected to mention anything like this.

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Short Story: Paying the Tab

I wrote this first draft of a short story over the course of one week, as a morale-boosting project.  You might think of it as fantastical historical fiction.

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Andre sat with his back against the tavern’s wall, his legs draped down the length of the bench.  They didn’t go very far down the bench, since he only ever reached four feet three inches on a good day.  The portion of the bench that he did cover he clearly dominated with his muscular bulk, as might be expected of a healthy dwarf of his respectable age.  He and his drinking companion were a study in contrasts.

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