Archive for February, 2010

Feb 27 2010

Links for your weekend

Getting the bad news out of the way first, here is an incredibly concerning article about the latest battle on the women’s equal rights front. I’ll get sterilized before I’ll live under any “pre-pregnant” laws if they actually start passing them…and if you know anyone who lives in Utah, get them to write the governor to veto!

In more pleasant news, I finally got around to joining the Horror Writers Association. I qualified as an Affiliate member with the publication of “Memory Box” in the Stoker Award-winning Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet, by Dark Scribe Press. It slipped off my list of priorities in the busy-ness of the last several months, so I’m glad to have finally taken care of that.

Related to that, I found out this week that the World Horror Convention will be in Austin,Texas for 2011. How cool is that!

For those of you following the Callie posts, I’ll put up a separate page when we get a little farther along in the story, collecting them in one easier-to-read place. In the meantime I’ll post a link collection every 5 entries or so, like now!

Inside the Box
A Box Has No Windows
Opening the Door
At The Bar
Finding help?

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Feb 25 2010

Finding help?

Published by under callie,characterization,Writing

She paused again to scan the horizon. It was harder to tell at night, but the street had grown larger and with more commercial and industrial blocks for some time now. She thought the pattern of street lights ahead showed an overpass intersection not far off. She pulled out the paper and unfolded it, holding the sides firmly with both hand to protect against the errant breezes.

It began the way Z’Aria had always envisioned it would:

She accelerates carefully up the ramped access, breathes calmly and evenly as her car makes the first curve with no incident, just like every time, and now she is coming around the second curve, she can see the down ramp, but she’s no longer turning, there must have been an impact pushing her forward yet she can’t hear anything can’t feel can’t see anything but the looming expanse of concrete and such a lovely blue sky, and then there’s nothing but the sky expanding endless and forever and oh if only she could keep soaring up up up and away from crappy jobs and ended relationships and failed expectations and deathtrap overpasses

and it’s still cresting, still peaking, and she must be out in that sky for the end of this. Quickly now, her fingers work of their own accord easily and it’s freefall, baby, as close to space as you can reach, leave the metal casings and the boxes behind and if at no other moment than now own this blessed given body in one glorious endless rushing instant

she can see the concrete far below and the car falling and knows she is falling too but turns face upward to bathe in blue and white and now she is not falling but flying, soaring, cresting as she lives every inch of her skin in full beauty and she matters.

No one could have been more surprised than Z’Aria when she opened her eyes to a sliver of new moon against a backdrop of unknown constellations above her, as she lay sprawled upon the hard ground.

She was operating on the presumption that, however disguised, it was this madhouse’s version of a set of directions. It was perhaps a more bold and rash assumption than she usually made, but this didn’t seem an entirely logical environment. And the paper had shown up as she’d followed Carrie’s directions to be on the move. And there was a similar intersection just ahead. And that was entirely enough doubt and self-justified reflection on her own actions for now; she shook her head slightly and replaced the paper in her pocket. She’d decide what to do next when she learned what the overpass held.

Deserted overpasses at night gave an eerie sensation when one stood near them. Though it wasn’t her first time to learn this, she enjoyed the reminder as she surveyed the soaring concrete pillars and arcs interweaving the night sky above her. She checked the stars quickly to confirm that there were no visible familiar constellations, then turned her attention to ground-level. At the overpass nearest the ground, she saw what appeared to be a homeless crash space nearly hidden in the shadows under the right side of the bridge. When a second scan of the immediate area brought nothing more interesting to inspect, she moved close enough that she could more clearly see what the shadows held.

Whoever squatted here had been around for quite some time. In addition to layers of salvaged cardboard and blankets making up a nest of a bed, there was a little kitchen area, with an overturned milk crate with an unlit Pepsi-can stove set on top, and a closed cooler. Another milk crate held several dumpster-scrounged paperbacks, all stripped covers and crinkled edges and missing pages. A quick glance through the stacks showed mostly romance novels and pulp fantasy. A trash bag next to the books held changes of clothing that hadn’t seen the inside of a laundromat in weeks. No panhandling signs that she could find, however. She scanned up near where the slanted concrete met the underside of the road, and could just make out a bucket covered with a board where it wasn’t easily visible from the ground — probably where the missing book pages ended up when they were done being read.

There was nothing in view that she thought a human could adequately hide behind, and no one in sight, so she moved back far enough from the overpass that she could more widely scan the area. After a few moments she noticed a strange outline on top of the crash barrels at the gore of the exit ramp. No vehicle had passed on any of the deserted intersecting highways since she’d arrived, so she felt no sense of immanent danger as she walked up the long slope. She kept to the inside rail anyway.

The odd outline resolved into definition: a person, stretched out prone on top of several barrels, staring up at the stars overhead. The sand-filled barrels were the mix of worn and newer that indicated an old accident. Before she could check for signs of life the person spoke, the voice recognizably female.

“The Moon won’t be out until later, but I like waiting for Her up here.”

She shuddered at this, now worried that she’d trekked all this way to find another Carrie, which she wasn’t sure she had the fortitude to tolerate twice. “Is that your place under the bridge?”

“Yes.” The person sat up and climbed down off the barrels. She was dressed in enough layers to keep warm against the slight chill of the evening, the clothes at least marginally cleaner than the ones in the trash bag. Curly black hair wisped around her reasonably clean face from where the rest was pulled back into a loose braid. She had the sort of sturdy curvaceous frame often found on healthy farm-raised girls, and hadn’t been indigent long enough to lose her body definition to an inevitably poor diet.

“You have a nice set-up.”

“Thanks!” The woman beckoned her to follow back to the crash pad. “Come on, we can sit on the crates down there and talk. I’m Z’Aria.”

She followed Z’Aria after checking to make sure the paper was still secured. Z’Aria became more energetic the closer to the ground she was, and seemed positively burbling by the time she reached her squat, humming as she arranged the milk crates for better seating.

“I didn’t get any ice today so the sodas aren’t cold, want one? What’s your name? How long are you staying? I don’t usually get visitors, especially not these days.” Z’Aria held out a Sprite.

“Most people call me Callie,” she replied as she took the offered drink. She waited until Z’Aria had opened hers and started in before pulling the tab and taking a sip. “If you want to talk, I certainly have some questions.”

“Oh yay, questions! I like being Answer Girl.”

Callie guessed that Z’Aria would likely end up as irritating as the bartender, given time, but at least for now she seemed more helpful — and more tolerable. She pulled the creased paper out of her pocket.

“Let’s start with this.” She held out the paper to Z’Aria. “What exactly is this? Can you explain why I was able to find you with it?”

Fun Research for this entry:
beverage can stove
gore (road), gore (definitions)

3 responses so far

Feb 22 2010

World-building wanderings

Published by under set and setting,Writing

I was having a conversation with Nathan yesterday about a potentially collaborative series project, and we came fairly quickly up against one of the first questions that will decide a major piece of the story’s setting. Does the idea premise in question happen more scientifically (where it could be our Earth but later than now or earlier than recorded history) or more magically (where it’s more of a parallel-Earth setting or a clearly fantasy world). Obviously, if you aren’t writing some form of speculative fiction, this might not be the first sticking point in building your story’s world, but I thought it an interesting example of some of the weird fun that crops up when creating worlds for stories to live in.

One of the interesting bits is that in this example, it doesn’t really matter to the overall arc of the story which path we choose, but the specifics of how the story takes form — the details — are hugely affected by the world-building choices we make here. The choice might not affect the basic story concept, but it affects nearly everything about how the story manifests.

Sometimes you start with a sketch of a world, build some details, and then find an interesting person or people in that world to create a story around as you learn more about the world. Other times you start with a strong character that is obviously not of the world as we know it, and you have to discover the world that character comes from through exploring that character. Both approaches, in the end, can net you a finished story set in another world, but the process will be different along the way depending on which you choose.

Have you tried either of these approaches? What worked well, what was difficult?

Also, just because you’re creating a world from scratch doesn’t mean you can haphazardly create whatever you like to fill it. Readers can often sense when something is pieced together without a lot of coherency backstage, and it’s an avoidably easy way to lose your reader’s interest. Do your research! You’ll often do even more research on a project of this type than you would for a story largely set in the Earth we know.

Why? Well, think about it. If you’re doing a standard medieval-fantasy world, instead of reading all the other published fantasy authors who likely also skimped on their research, read things like A Medieval Home Companion, or any number of other books giving historical or cultural data from around the time in Earth history that most closely mirrors the development of your fantasy world. And how about that warfare, so common to both science fiction and fantasy settings? Unless you’ve had some decent military training, watching war movies on DVD will not fill in the required gaps in your knowledge, nor will an introductory Wiki article. (No, not even the very pretty Lord of the Rings trilogy.) Make yourself go research accounts from war leaders of the time period similar to when you’re writing (when possible), as well as read more general books like Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War.

An excellent link to finish this off for now is over on David Walton is a writer who has compiled –and organized by topic category — dozens of articles from several talented and published writers spanning most aspects of the writing-and-publishing industry. There are over a dozen articles linked in his “Ideas: World-Building” section. (NOTE: Some links are broken.)

What are your thoughts or questions about world-building? Stuck spots, cool creations, favorite methods, etc?

3 responses so far

Feb 20 2010

Weekend reading links

Published by under follow the link chain,Writing

First up, Geoff Manaugh, on whom I have a massive intellectual crush, writes the very excellent BLDGBLOG, combining architectural design niftiness with a futurist perspective. Here’s only the latest example of why I enjoy reading, especially the food-for-thought questions near the end. So many story possibilities!

On a more specifically writer front, Neil Gaiman linked to a two-part article in the UK’s Guardian containing “top ten tips” for new writers from published authors. I agree with Neil that Phillip Pullman is probably the smartest, though my vote for second-smartest advice are numbers 1 and 10 on Hilary Mantel’s contribution. Seriously folks, if you want to do this for a living, set up the financial support structure ahead of time. You really don’t want to be worrying about bankruptcy when a deadline is due.

Part One
Part Two

2 responses so far

Feb 18 2010

At The Bar

Published by under callie,characterization,Writing

The sign above the door was soot-stained and swayed gently in the same breeze that scattered litter across the landscape. “The Bar” was stenciled in block letters under the dirt: campy yet convenient name, that. Nice balance. Her main interest in the establishment at the moment, title critique aside, was the equally dirty window that seemed to show a light on inside. She angled her head to correct for the possibility that it was simply a reflection from the nearest street lamp, but moving didn’t change the perception of light coming through the window, however dimly.

The other buildings she had checked in her walk along the street had been either locked and dark, or empty and dark. An abandoned house she’d found in a cul-de-sac even had the dining table set with an uneaten meal, though the food had decayed into unrecognizability. A modern Roanoke, right in her own neighborhood. She reached for the solid wooden bar door and was unsurprised to find it unlocked.

The light she’d seen from the window was over the bar itself; the rest of the tavern was as empty as the other buildings. The tables were clean and ready for the customers that didn’t come, lacquered surfaces glowing dimly blue in the after-hours security bulbs set into recesses in the ceiling. A single spot of red over the door she’d just entered marked the only visible exit. She made the obvious choice and moved toward the bar.

Its surface was scarred from visible years of high use. She ran her hands across the rough grooves and scratches, the edges worn so rounded that she was safe from splinters. She cleared her throat to speak out, but the small sound was enough to draw someone from the shadowed doorway behind the bar: an average-sized woman, probably around ten years younger than herself, brown hair pulled tightly into a small bun at the base of her neck, lightly stained white apron covering black pants and matching long-sleeved shirt. The sleeves seemed a bit off, for a bartender, but it isn’t like this one was going to be busy enough to stay warm on the job, from the looks of things.

“Hey there, what’ll you have?”

She looked sharply at the bartender; while the question seemed normal for the setting, it certainly wasn’t for the current situation. The bartender sounded pleasant enough, but there seemed to be something a bit off. Perhaps it was just that she kept avoiding eye contact, staring around at the door and tables with an almost confused look.

“Information, if you’re serving. I’m not really thirsty.”

The bartender blinked a bit, as if the deviation from routine had caught her attention momentarily. She glanced toward her patron and answered, “We might have some of that left on tap.” She set a glass on the bar, as clean as the pristine tables, and drifted back to staring at the entrance.

She examined the bartender closely and thought quickly. There was no mirror behind the bar, another oddity, so she picked up the empty glass and moved enough to one side of the angled bar that she could watch the entrance as well as the bartender. Setting the glass back down in front of her, she learned forward so that she could read the bartender’s nametag.

“So, ‘Carrie’. Rather quiet in here tonight, isn’t it?”

Carrie looked over at the glass, but didn’t raise her gaze. “When it’s this quiet, you can listen to the hum of the electric lights. Sometimes I can hear songs hidden in that sound.”

“And do those songs tell you where your customers have gone?”

“Not really. But I know some of that, too.”

She gripped the handle of her thick glass, briefly, but made her fingers relax. Frustration wouldn’t help this situation get any more understandable. “Where, then?”

“Some of them are sleeping. A few faded away. Most can’t get past the blocks.”

“And where are those?”

“They don’t really look like blocks. But the people don’t visit me anymore.” Carrie picked up a towel and began wiping down the clean bartop.

“Where did they come from?”

Carrie looked up just long enough to meet her eyes, then back down at her empty cleaning. “They aren’t signed by the builder. Maybe they grew.”

She let go of the glass that she couldn’t keep herself from clutching tightly, and folded her hands into her lap. “What about the other people on this street? I haven’t seen a roadblock.”

“They left. Or maybe they were taken. I couldn’t see anything.”

“Did you hear anything?”

“Silence has its own songs, have you noticed?” Carrie ceased her wiping motions and stood still, head slightly angled so that one ear was turned upward.

“Yes.” She found herself staring intently at the wooden baseball bat propped against the back wall, and shifted her focus before her thoughts could take further shape. “Where do I learn more?”

“Not here.”

“I noticed.”

“Activity is the currency of the day. Keep moving and you’ll likely find more of the songs you seek. There are nothing but echos left here.”

She took Carrie’s advice immediately, as she wasn’t sure how much longer she was going to be able to sit calmly in that conversation. As she passed under the exit sign, she could hear Carrie ask, “Is an echo its own song or a memory?” and she hurriedly pulled the door shut behind her. At least now she had some clue of just how bizarre things had likely gotten elsewhere.

She decided to continue down the street away from the already-explored areas, though that way showed only more of the same dark and deserted structures. Another gust of wind blew a piece of crumpled paper against her foot and she retrieved it, smoothing it out enough to read under the glow from The Bar’s outside light. She frowned, and read it again. She carefully folded it and placed it into her right pants pocket, then moved off down the road in her chosen direction with more confidence.

2 responses so far

Feb 14 2010

Juno Februa

Published by under short story sharing,Writing

[Free flash fiction in honor of the holiday for your enjoyment. Hope your VD went well!]

There was a knock at Alexandra Wright-Phillip’s bedroom door. Alex left her other two friends to their sorting on the floor rug and got up to answer it.

“Hi, Kas.”

“Hello, ladies! Gym class was grand, I got 33 just from them. Check it, my box is full!” Kasturi gave a gleeful shake of her crinkly pink shoebox.

“Oh stuff it, Kas, we all have full boxes. This school is so very friendly, after all,” said Charity Horne from her spot on the rug, surrounded by untidy piles of little cards.

Tamisha Jones was too busy counting to herself to greet Kasturi. Her cards were sorted by size, color, and shape so that each stack was perfectly aligned.

Alexandra waved her inside. “Hurry and catch up, Kas. My mom is at her steam-room aerobics class until 6, so we’d better be done and cleaned up by then.”

Kasturi Patil shrugged off her coat and tossed it with the others on the bed, then took the spot on the rug that would complete their little circle and began counting her shoebox contents.


“Misha, what’s our total?”


“Wow, we are totally empowered!” Kasturi clapped her hands as she said this.

Charity rolled her eyes and said, “How many did we miss?”

Tamisha looked back at her paper before she replied. “256, according to the latest school enrollment.”

Alex nodded firmly. “That’s close enough for what we need. Have you all made your choices for the ritual?”

The others all held up a single card they had each set aside from the larger stacks.

“Then let’s begin.”

Alexandra reached under her bed and pulled out a book. It looked like a diary, but old; the edges were yellow, paper peeling back from the posterboard covers. She’d showed it to the girls last week when she’d told them about the ritual, and how she’d found it while looking for a book on her mom’s bookshelf. She’d used that and her mom’s old yearbooks to convince her friends to go along with the plan for today.

She’d marked the correct page beforehand, so she could open right to it. She did so and directed the others to pile all their cards into a large mound in the middle. “Now I’ll start, and then we go around the circle and you do what I do, just like we talked about.”

She didn’t wait for them to agree but picked up the card she’d set aside and showed it to them. “Sweets to the sweet,” she read from the front where the words were spelled out in candy dots on the icing of a huge cupcake. She turned it over. “Best wishes to one of my favorite students, Mrs. Tilsen.”

“Hey, that’s what she wrote on mine!” Kas actually looked upset.

“Quiet, idiot, that’s what she wrote on everyone’s, don’t screw up the ritual!” hissed Charity.

Alex ignored them both as she positioned the card against her finger, then slid the edge rapidly past her skin. She grimaced but didn’t make a sound from the sting of the papercut, and squeezed her finger hard to make the blood well up. “Approval is important.” She smeared it across both sides of the card, then held it up to show everyone again.

“I want to be popular.” With that she dropped the stained valentine into a bowl she’d set next to the heap of cards, and nodded to Charity on her left.

Char sighed, and held up her card. “Be my valentine.” She read from the simple white script angled across a red heart, then flipped it over. “It’s just signed ‘Heidi’. Heidi hates me.” She didn’t even flinch as she cut herself and said “Appearances are important.” She mashed her bloody finger especially hard against Heidi’s signature before throwing the card in the bowl. “I want to be popular.”

“I will forever be true.” Tamisha looked a little sad as she read from the back, “Bestest friends forevers! Love, Alina.” She looked up at the others. “Since I was 5 years, 3 months, and 17 days old, when her folks moved next door from overseas. It’s been fun, but she won’t ever be anything other than what she is.” Misha cut herself and watched the seepage of red appear with detached interest. “Ambition is important.” She placed a neat fingerprint in the same position on either side and lay the card gently down on the stack in the bowl. “I want to be popular.”

Kasturi made a face. “I hate blood, ladies.” She picked up her card without further protest, and smiled as she read first the front, “You stole my heart,” then the back: “Hey let’s hang out and play again soon! Love Jeremy.” She learned forward and whispered, “He was my first kiss, three months ago when we were playing house.”

Charity hissed, “We know. You’ve told us 57 times since then.”

Kas tossed her hair and said, “Now who’s interrupting, Char? Anyway, adoration is important.” She whimpered as the sharp card edge slit her finger. She looked away from the wound as she marked the sides, then completed the stack in the bowl. “I want to be popular!”

Alex picked up the lighter she’d set next to the bowl and caught the edges of the bloody cards on fire. They sat quietly watching until the smoke had filled the room enough to set them all coughing.

Alexandra got up to open the window. “That should be good, thanks. See you all at school tomorrow, oh and don’t forget to wash your hands on the way out. I don’t want you getting blood all over Mom’s stuff.” Alex made scooting motions with her hands as she pulled bandaids from her pocket and handed them out. She put hers on, then started her ceiling fan to let the smoke out.

The rest of sixth grade was much better after that.

4 responses so far

Feb 13 2010

How far will you go, artist?

The question of how far down the rabbit hole to fall, when working on a creative project, is rather an interesting one. The possibilities are legion for hacking, warping, and weirding the mental processes to create art. However, an artist of whatever stripe often runs up against their own self-boundaries, in such explorations. Sometimes they’re self-imposed limits that should probably be pushed against; other times they might be coping mechanisms for biochemicals that really need to remain at certain levels, thankyouverymuch. Finding the line between what to give to yourself and what to give to that art can be difficult; even for how many artists have gone before, there just aren’t universal roadmaps for making good, deep, provocative art and staying “sane”.

So where do the compromises come in? There’s a wide range of individual choices. We’ve all heard stories of the people who ultimately lost themselves — either the qualities that made their work stand out or their life itself — to the imbalance between care of self and creation of art. And if you aren’t willing to take at least some risks with your own psyche, you’re likely to have a shallow or surface-level artistic end-result.

For me, it’s usually about finding the balance point that allows me to push forward. If I’m going to be doing some crazy internal meanderings, delving into the Shadow self, finding the locked-box memories that are still raw with emotion and creative potential and dragging them out for a look…then if at all possible, other areas in my life should be as stable and least-disruptive as can be. If everything else in my life is chaos, or my own internal landscape is unstable, and I’ve already considered and rejected taking a creative break for whatever reason, then it might be better to steer toward the more “brain candy” level projects. I can keep creating but not get so locked up into my work that I lose myself in the rest of the instabilities. It’s why I don’t believe in the myth that every work must be a Masterpiece For the Ages. Heck, even the master painters of the Renaissance and other eras still took portrait commissions to pay the bills, it wasn’t all frescos and finery.

Sure, they were Really Good portraits, and taking a brain candy creation path during stressful times isn’t license to avoid doing the best work you can, either. But hey, if all you get written during a rough time is a silly zombie story (to pick an Entirely Random Example), you still maintained the creative drive so that it’s available for “more serious” work later. That is definitely good work done.

And when you do give yourself the opportunities and stability to peer into the abyss…how far will you look? How deep can you go and still come back to yourself, or at least a version of you that creates and with whom you can live?

12 responses so far

Feb 12 2010

Cycles of science

One of the very common ways we humans learn things, from infanthood on, is an “engineering mindset”: we first break things down into enough component parts that we can gain a measure of understanding about the parts and how they work, then the cycle moves to the phase of putting the pieces back together to see what they now make (which is never quite the same as what it was, of course), then testing and studying and learning from the more complex concept. Physical, mental, emotional, even philosophical learnings can all follow this path of knowledge acquisition (not the only path available, but the one we’re discussing here).

Since the explosion of scientific progress from the Renaissance onward, it seems as if scientists have been engaged on a nice little run of reductionist scientific methods. This is not being criticized in and of itself; as anyone can see, we’ve exponentially increased our knowledge and understanding of ourselves and the world and universe we inhabit, in numerous different knowledge areas. My theory is that we are at or incredibly near the point where in order to make further large leaps in greater understanding we need a long period of interdisciplinary scientific explorations, where multi-discipline groups aren’t just allowed but actively encouraged, and a trend of larger-picture learnings is actively sought (and funded).

I think there are already the first signs of this trend now visible in some of the scientifically and technologically innovative research fields. I hope the rest of the 21st century brings the start of the synergistic renaissance. What do you think?

6 responses so far

Feb 10 2010

Opening the Door

She awoke with the last dream image still in her mind — an empty street, all the buildings along both sides with their doors standing wide into the road, irregularly spaced night lamps illuminating a light mist. More open doors. She knew her subconscious would eventually get its full message through; the obvious interpretation was that it was time for another adventure outside, but it didn’t hurt to wait and confirm such intuition. Reading more would help shift mental gears, and thankfully it seemed like there was nothing currently stopping her from enjoying her book.

The prose was delightfully vivid, and she was enjoying the interweaving of metaphor around jailer and prisoner, parent and child, insanity and the fight for sanity, the power exchange and attempts at same. She caught herself staring through the words after reading the scene with the first escape attempt, her fingers absently stroking the smooth page as her thoughts took her back through the street of open doors. She closed her eyes briefly to erase the image, and returned to the text. After a while she set the book aside. It was engaging her interest but not enough to banish her dream, and she could not ignore the rumblings of her stomach any longer. With a little sigh and a last pat on the cover of the closed thriller, she arose from her couch and went to the kitchen.

She was definitely in the mood for violently chopping vegetables, and not of a mind to wait long for food, so stir-fry was an easy choice. She started a single serving of rice in the cooker, then pulled out a strip steak, an onion, a red and an orange bell pepper, and a bag of fresh-frozen green beans. The slicing and dicing was as viscerally satisfying as it always was, and she found herself humming as she combined the ingredients with her favorite custom sauce blend in the hot skillet. She didn’t recognize the tune, but that had happened before. Just as she felt the stir-fry was ready, she heard the clicking sound of the rice cooker completing its cycle.

Dinner preparations always helped repair her mood, especially when the timing worked out just right. She carefully arranged a perfect circle of pristine white rice on a dark blue dinner plate, and then scattered two scoops of the colorful skillet contents across the top. That, chopsticks, and a simple clear glass of water were all she carried with her to the table in the dining area that filled one end of the kitchen.

After her satiating meal, she did the necessary clean-up — putting the leftovers into a storage container in the refrigerator for lunch tomorrow, rinsing the dishes and putting them in the dishwasher, giving a quick wipe with a sponge to the counters and stovetop. She decided a dirty martini with her after-dinner reading would complete her evening nicely, and retrieved the appropriate glass from its place next to the cereal bowls in the cabinet. She set the glass on the kitchen counter and went to the refrigerator for the jar of olives. As her fingers closed around the cool cylinder hidden behind other bottles in the door compartment, she brushed something hard under what felt like a piece of tape, and her eyes widened for a brief moment in disbelief. She pulled out the olive jar and turned it around to confirm her suspicion: the key was taped to the back, over the nutrition label so the tape would hold.

One corner of the tape had peeled back where it went too far onto the glass, and her fingers played with the curled edge for a bit before she peeled off the key, taking bits of the label with it. She ran her fingers over the key’s surface but stopped when she encountered the sticky tape residue. Washing it was the first priority then; half a minute at the sink with soap and water and a good rinse were sufficient.

She thought for a moment about having her drink before trying the door, but decided it would make a better end to her adventure than a beginning. She left the glass on the counter to remind herself, but returned the olive jar to its place so it could remain properly chilled. She thought about leaving the key on the counter while she changed clothes, but that had failed her at least once before, so she kept it folded into her palm.

Now dressed more appropriately for the outdoors, she checked the window in the door to ensure that no one was near, but the visible area was as deserted as usual. She tried the key in the door lock. It slid in easily and turned smoothly on the first try, also not a given from past attempts. She didn’t hesitate as she turned the knob.

The door opened onto a shadowed path, made darker by the presence of full night. A cone of light from a street lamp at the end of the way seemed to show that she was down a short alley off a larger road. A brief burst of wind carried a crumpled piece of paper past her ankle. She moved to where she could see the main road better, and wasn’t surprised to find it was the street from her dream. More discarded paper littered the roadscape than she remembered, and there were less lights here, but those were minor variations in detail.

Here, unlike her dream, all the doors were firmly shut.

2 responses so far

Feb 08 2010

3 Links to read

Published by under follow the link chain,Writing

If you are interested in writing, editing, the publishing industry, speculative fiction, writers talking about writing, and other tidbits involving politics, the world around us, or semi-random well-written observations, then check out the following links:

Making Light — The online webspace for Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden (and guest bloggers). Excellent resource: current information and essays about most of the above-listed points. — I’m only on the newsletter version of this so I don’t get over to the site every day, but the largest spec-fic publisher in the US has a wide selection of quality authors blogging regularly or occasionally on their website, as well as other enticing features for visitors such as free stories!

Storytellers Unplugged — I’ve mentioned these folks before. It’s a shared writers’ blog that features an author for each day of the month, blogging monthly about whatever comes to their minds about writing, writing process, publishing, and related topics. They seem to have mostly speculative fiction and horror writers blogging for them so anyone interested in those fields specifically might especially want to take a look.

2 responses so far

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