Saturday, December 15, 2018

An Excerpt from Crewkin--a holiday in unknown space

This round robin is about the spirit of the season, which everyone knows can be wonderful or painful or an odd combination of both.

This 'holiday' excerpt comes from Crewkin, a sci-fi story set in a space-time warp where a beleaguered ship, the Vagrant Spirit, meant only for short hauls, now travels. The crew knows little about what is happening or how it happened except for the engine they were hauling to reclamation, which has come online in an extraordinary way to take control of the Vagrant Spirit. The new crewman who came aboard at the start of this trip, Renna, is what the crew calls a podder or crewkin--bred, raised,and indoctrinated from birth into certain behaviors by the Markham Company to serve on long-haul spaceships that spend years in space. Renna knows she doesn't fit in with the short haul crew and leaves them to celebrate their New Years Eve celebration without her disturbing presence, but she is interrupted by Jake, someone the rogue engine has injured in some inexplicable way.

~ Excerpt from Crewkin ~

A subdued snick from the hatch announced someone entering. Renna quickly switched the file off where she learned of her creation for the first. She rose when Jake entered the flight deck, grabbed the container plate, allowing him to sink into the command seat. His hands grasped the wide armrest in support as he lowered himself.

“Thanks.” He spoke in breathless rasps. He looked aged, off-color with lines of exhaustion graphing his face. A week’s worth of stubble covered his face. It was strange to see him scruffy after he had been so neat. At least he is nothing like Dukan. [Her hated captain aboard her crew-kin ship.]

“Are you here to relieve me?” She regretted the disbelief in her voice.

“No, just brought you dinner.” He grinned, panting his answer. His crooked smile disappeared when he noticed her face. “Why are you crying?”

“I’m not. Emotion on duty is forbidden.” She placed the plate on the broad flat service arm of the co-pilot’s chair, wiped her face the best she could, and amended her answer. “I am crying over what is lost and unrecoverable. I told Lock I was not hungry.”

Jake’s smile appeared weak and askew as he caught his breath. “Not true—you’re always hungry.”

“Today is Kin Day.” They were all dead. An unexpected, painful gasp broke from her throat, and Renna sobbed in an uncontrolled manner. Calmness, professionalism, duty. The harder she tried to control herself, the louder the harsh sounds grew, and the more rampant her tears fell, both deafening and blinding her. Jake rose and wrapped his arms around her. She hid her face against his chest.

“Hush, it’s okay,” he said.

She knew it was not.

“I’ve tried so hard. Now I know Markham tried to kill you, because they wanted the engine destroyed. They want me dead. Today is a crewkin traditional celebration. I have no kin left, and I don’t belong here, so maybe I should be dead. I failed you, failed the Vagrant Spirit. Even Zak named me Markham when he renamed the CS9 [the engine].”

He gave her a gentle shake, saying in an uneven breath, “Hush...Ren. I’m sorry. I have to sit down.” He sank back into the roomy chair, sliding to one side, pulling her down with him, and letting her rest against his chest.

“I’m sorry for my unprofessional display,” she said when the spasms stopped, leaving her empty and ashamed.

“Not unprofessional. Cried a few times myself lately.”

The small tinks and whirs of the flightdeck somehow soothed her along with Jake’s breathing and warmth. She took a deep calming breath.

“You belong here whether by the manipulation of Markham Company or by pure chance. Tell me what Zak said.”

She explained about the priority change, Zak giving the CS9 Vagrant Spirit status. “I understand. I am Markham, although I don’t wish to be, and I will always be Markham. Your kin believe me capable of betraying the ship, of endangering you and the Vagrant Spirit. Crewkin would have the same doubts.”

“You’re wrong. You’re part of this crew.”

“Part of the crew, yes, only temporarily. Not like Ezry, Lock, and Ship Dog, never kin, but I swear to you, I wouldn’t cause harm to the Vagrant Spirit or to anyone on her.” 

“I know, Ren. Maybe stress affects norms more than Crewkin, makes us irrational.” He patted her arm. “Don't fret. You’ve helped us in ways you don’t even know.”

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Writing's Outlay

You have to love writing to write, and this obsession probably started because you loved to read.
Writing means spending hours lost in concentration, immersed in your mind’s story, often frustrating or emotionally involved time. Time not spent with family or friends but with only mental ones. Time not spent doing household projects needing completion, but struggling with plot and characters. 

Of course, digital means you can write on work breaks or while vacationing, or even while traveling if you are not driving a vehicle--every cloud has it's silver lining! Yet again, you ignore the driver and the ever-changing views.

Writing mean you have to plan time to communicate with family and friends, time to keep the boat of your life stable and floating ahead. Yet, it is the frustration of not moving a story along in the time you have allotted that disappoints the most.

Other frustrations occur.

Frustrations over what to name a character. Have you used that name in a previous story? Is the name similar to already famous names in fiction or other media that might make readers think you are borrowing that fame? Is the name too close to someone you know, like a friend or family member? Is your new character too much like a previous character?

Frustration over dialogue. Does the talk between characters sound like what might actually occur in such a situation and in the reality being described in the story? Does it sound too obvious to the viewpoint being put forth, or is it more subtle, giving the reader hints of what is to come without revealing it? Both can be correct in the right situation, or it can sometimes hinder the reader's interest in continuing with the story.

Frustration with the plot. It’s stalled and you don’t have a clue on how to move it where you want it to go. Frustration when you realize that what you’ve written isn’t the least logical. Of course, logic doesn’t always play out in life, either, but will the reader believe and accept the irrational?

Frustration with the setting. Have you described it adequately or over describe it? 

Frustration with style. Is it consistent or is your style constantly changing? Is the wording lush and lyrical in description, or is it dramatic and straight forward?

Frustrations with editing. You could have sworn you corrected that misspelling, that sentence, that bit of dialogue, on your third or fourth or fifth go through. Where is that scene you know you wrote? Didn’t you save it? Why did you use three characters whose names start with the same letter and sound so much alike? What can you rename them now that they seem like real people to you?

This list goes on. If you want to write you persevere until you reach a point of ending where the story has what you think is a reader catching beginning with an interesting progression of incidents leading to a satisfying ending. You’ve edited it repeatedly, and now a publisher has accepted it. Satisfaction alleviates all you've spent in creating it.

Skye Taylor
Judith Copek
Beverley Bateman
A.J. Maguire 
Fiona McGier
Dr. Bob Rich  
Connie Vines 
Diane Bator
Victoria Chatham 


Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Fifth and Final Excerpt from Home World Reax

In this excerpt, the two protagonists final meet as the ship's second officer introduces Jencet's delegation (really a capture & return team) to the crew.
“Here we are,” the second officer said as they reached an enclosed ramp leading to the vessel’s main hatch. Monitors in the walkway showed images of the ship’s exterior. Jencet stopped briefly to look. The exterior view showed the gigantic tethers holding the ship in the port’s assigned berth.

He looked around the docking area. Large plasmetal overhead supports secured the interior docking area with obvious strength. Kinem’s elbow in his side caught his attention. His brother-in-law nodded at the hatch and gave him a warning look. It was unnecessary, for he had observed the cameras. Lloyds never noticed his preoccupation.

The smile he offered Kinem answered the man’s doubts. Even if assigned to Raven House, a former Eagle knew how to handle not only this ship, but how to take over command if it became necessary. Once through the ship’s main portal, the second officer noticed the crew awaited their arrival.

Lloyds spoke in a buoyant voice. “Oh good, you’re here. Let me introduce our crew. This is Les Fordel… he serves as our chief engineer. He served in the Rangers with the captain.”

Jencet noted the crews’ name tags which he guessed also served as communication devices, before he sized Fordel up as a shorter version of a very muscular Eagle type. Darker haired than most Eagles, Fordel had a similar piercing gaze. The man obviously sized up the impending passengers, too.

Lloyds moved on to introduce a woman, Reed Syznet, the technical and life support officer. As tall and muscular as Fordel, the comely but not beautiful brunette’s pale blue-green eyes held suspicion. The last crewmember Lloyds introduced as Nemil Korkran, the maintenance officer. The man’s dark face held a deep scar running from ear to ear across his face disfiguring his nose. A second scar forked down across the edge of his mouth. Even with obvious reconstruction, scarring still covered the face. He looked threatening.

While the second officer looked defenseless, the rest all showed hard muscle and blank-faced assessment of their passengers as Lloyds introduced the delegation members.

Lloyds ended his introductions saying, “Our Bridge Officer, Boone Adler, of course, presently works on the flight deck, along with Yates Turner, our communications officer.” He turned to the crew. “Have you secured their luggage?”

“Hotel said it’s on its way,” Korkran said.

Jencet judged Korkran’s glance at his superior officer lacked respect. If Lloyds noticed, he ignored the slight. Just then the hatch they had just passed through unlocked and opened.

“Ah, Captain Lacklan,” Lloyds said in a pleased voice.

Jencet adjusted his facial muscles into a neutral, even pleasant regard, while Lloyds introduced the Falcon renegade. Her name tag of Maera Lacklan touched his temper, but not for long. Familiar with how she appeared from his investigation, he felt unprepared for the force of her intense regard and personality, and knew as certain as he stood close enough to grab her that she sensed his purpose and recognized him. Her attractiveness without straggly hair, a bruised face or tattered clothing, startled him as much as the stark silver eyes judging him.

As the second officer introduced them to the captain, Kinem gave her his thanks, and the delegation’s thanks to the Alliance for their help, extending his hand to her in Alliance custom. A motion that angered Jencet. Kinem should not touch his target. He mentally rebuked himself while she took Kinem’s hand and smiled in greeting, an expression Jencet had never seen in any image of her. The expression further increased her allure.

“I’m glad to offer our assistance,” she said in a calm but pleasant voice. “The Endurance’s mission requires we see you safely back to Reax. Show our guests to their cabins, Abbot, while we prepare to leave port.”

He felt her watching his team as the delegation walked away.