Lady Castilla came home late from a tiring night at the office to find her assistant Geordi still on the phones.
She waited patiently until he hung up the call, taking the time to strip off her business-wear and slide into a robe and her favorite slippers. Only when she heard the click of the phone did she click the leash onto the back of Geordi’s collar.
“How long have you been on the phone today?”
He may have been property by law, but he was her most valuable assistant. There was no groveling in his voice when he answered her. “Twelve hours.”
“Don’t you think it’s time for a break?”
Now, he hesitated. “There’s still the calls for the Mansfield problem to deal with…”
“It’s time for a time-out, Geordi.” Lady Castilla tugged on the leash, pulling him back in his chair. “Clothes. Off.”
“I’ve really got to get this paperwork done…” He was not so pampered or valuable as to directly disobey; he was already unbuttoning his shirt.
“The paperwork will be there when we’re done. You’ve been overworking yourself.” She gave him enough slack on the leash to work, but not enough that he forgot it was there.
“There’s always more work.” He draped his shirt over his chair and moved on to his pants.
“Then I’ll buy you an assistant.”
“They’ll just mis-file everything, like the last one.” He dropped his pants and knelt to finish with socks and shoes. “The work has to get done.”
“Later.” He was already on all fours; she gave the leash another tug. “Come on.”
“But the paperwork…”
“No more words, Geordi.” The closet was well-appointed, the cage inside it even more so. “Your mistress is telling you it’s time for time-out.”
“But the Mansfield problem…” He tugged back against the leash, as futile as that was.
“Later.” She put her slippered foot on his bare butt and gave him a firm shove into the padded cage. The leash, she threaded through the bars and hooked above his head, leaving him just enough slack to curl up comfortably. “Rest.”
She padlocked the cage door and stepped back, watching. He looked at the lock, and back at her. “But…” The tension left his shoulders. “Yes, Mistress. Thank you.”
“No more words now, Geordi. I mean it.” She passed a sippy-cup of Merlot through the bars. “Rest.”
She closed the closet door on the cage, leaving him relaxing wordlessly with his wine.
If you’d like to see more of this story, I bet there’s more to be written. Just drop a tip in the the tip handcuffs:
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The below is a guest post from Jeff Cook:
First, Lyn, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear on your blog. I really appreciate the opportunity.
Now for the details. Here’s the things I’ve learned about the process of taking a Nanowrimo project to publication. Now, I’m not a best-selling author, but I have published two books, with two more coming out early next year (one self-published, one traditionally published.) I’ve also been accepted in a number of anthologies. I can’t tell you how to hit it big, land the high end agent, and retire… but I have learned a few things about putting out a book that will garner pretty good reviews from reviewers I’ve never met, getting past the gates of the publishing world (there’s a lot of them), self-publishing vs. trad-publishing, and putting out a book you can be proud of. I have a long way to go, and a lot to learn, but within a year of publishing, the books are at least helping make a significant dent in the bills. So take from this what you will.
First, other authors are NOT your competition. We’re in this together. Trying to bring down anyone else’s work does not benefit you. Most authors that I’ve met have become my biggest resources. We network, we help each other find places to submit short stories to build our readership, we work on projects together, and we give each other advice based on experience. A lot of people much further along in this process than me have been a tremendous amount of help. I belong to a group of authors who help share the costs of tables at street fairs, book events and conventions, and sometimes give each other bits of editing and critique help. I push other writers that I’ve worked with and come to respect every chance I get, and while it doesn’t go both ways every time, sometimes it does. (And when it does, you’d be amazed how much more impact recommendations from others have on making some sales, instead of people trusting the author. Of course the author says their book is great. But when one of their friends, or an author they like says it, they’re more prone to check the other book out.)
Second, Nanowrimo is fantastic. Writing is such a lonely thing, its great to have that community and people striving for the goal right along with you. However, remember that your Nanowrimo project is not a novel, even if you hit way more than 50k words. What you have is a first draft. The number of first drafts in the world that were truly ready for publication right off are very, very few. Jack Kerouac could do it. You are not Jack Kerouac.
If you really want to reach publication, take your book seriously and treat your ideas with the love they deserve. Edit them viciously. Trim the fat: get rid of things that don’t advance the story. Kill characters, or consider letting characters live after all if they still served a purpose. Revise and rewrite, then read aloud, and do it again. You’d be amazed what you’ll catch when you’re hearing your work. After you have the big chunks cut out, fix your grammar. Do multiple read-throughs for grammatical mistakes.
Ok, so you’ve done three or four editing passes and major rewrites. Now you have something you can show to an editor. Now, a few people can edit their own work. Two authors I know, James Baldwin and Kennedy J. Quinn are phenomenal at this. I wish I had their skill at it. I’m just not a good editor. My talents lie with putting lots and lots of words on a page quickly. I can revise and rewrite, and I can help pick out parts I’m not happy with, but I know I need help. I’ve found that the vast, vast majority of writers I’ve met either realize this same thing about themselves, or should. Be brutally honest, and get unbiased eyes on your story. This is for 3 reasons.
1. You HAVE missed things. You’re too close to your story.
2. Because you’re too close to the story, you may be too in love with it, and gloss over scenes without a purpose, or that don’t read the way you’re picturing in your head.
3. Because you’re too close to the story, you probably hate parts of it. A lot of people are their own worst critics. Get fresh eyes that you trust on it, or eyes that have experience at this stage, professional skill, and no attachment to the story, and let them find their favorite parts.
Next, please believe your editor, and eventually your beta readers. Too many people rush to publication with terrible material because they only let biased people read their work, or people who would just tell them what they want to hear. Find people who will be vicious, then at least take a serious look at what they’re talking about. This doesn’t mean change every single thing they say. Its still your story, but if you ask them to be rough on your story, don’t hate them when they are.
Additionally, tell them to also tell you the good things, aiming for about one positive for every 3-4 negatives. Nothing, and I mean nothing hurts more in edits than having people who read the beta draft later ask why you cut their favorite scene – and having to tell them that it was because they didn’t tell you it was their favorite scene, or you’d have not cut it to make other edits easier.
Finally, look at your cover art. Are you a professional level visual artist? If not, find someone who is, whether a friend, or someone you pay. Yes, the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” is popular, but most people do. At the very least, looking at a cover makes the first impression on a reader, answering the question “Does the author think enough of their work to produce a professional looking final product?”
I think I’ve run out of space here, but I hope this helps a few people in taking the immediate next steps once they have their draft done for the month. Good luck, everyone!
Jeffrey Cook is the author of Dawn of Steam: First Light (http://www.amazon.com/dp/149427650X/ ) and Dawn of Steam: Gods of the Sun (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N5D9BK4/) His third book, Mina Cortez: Boquets to Bullets (a YA science fiction novel) will be published through Fire & Ice Press in February, while the third and (for now) final book of the Dawn of Steam series will be out in April. He has also contributed to publications for Steampunk Trails Magazine, Free-Flowing Stories and Disaster Strikes anthologies, and Deep7 Games out of Seattle.
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“It can’t be done.”
Asta looked at the pile of books, then at the broken lightbulb spread across the table. She looked back at the books, and then, finally, she looked at her cousin. “It has to be done, Maeve.”
“You know what the Humpty Dumpty rhyme really means.”
“I know.” Asta bit her lip. “Once something is done, it is done. Once someone is cursed, he is cursed. Once a vow is vowed, it is set in stone.”
“And yet I need to break the vow, un-curse the curse. I need to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”
“And what makes you think you can succeed where all the king’s horses and all his men could not?”
Asta lifted her chin. “Because I am the Aunt.”
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“There’s no water under the bridge.” Geoff stopped midway across the plank structure to stare down at the stones. “I mean, there’s a lot of rubbish, and some moss, but there’s no water at all, even standing water.”
Before Elora could stop him, he’d vaulted over the railing – nearly ripping it off in the process; it wasn’t very well-built – and started digging in the rocks with his shovel. “The bridge isn’t recent. But if this was a streambed, there should be some sign of water under here. I mean, we haven’t seen any evidence that the stream has moved.”
“Well, one, it could have moved further ahead of us. Two, it could be the dry season. And three—” Elora was growing very uncomfortable having Geoff down there. “—they could have built the bridge for some other reason than water.” She offered him a hand. “We don’t know why they didn’t want to walk over that area, that area you’re standing right on right now, but we know it was important enough for them to waste rare timber on it. Come on, please?”
Geoff didn’t move. “I. I think I know why they built a bridge. I’m… I’m sorry, Elora.”
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“I’m going to ask you to imagine…”
The classroom, as a single individual, shuddered. They all closed their eyes obediently; they grasped the padded edges of their desks carefully. They began to imagine, as they were told. But they did it all with the air of someone being told to walk themselves to the electric chair.
The teacher either did not notice or did not care. The lights went down, certain switches were flipped, and the electrodes attached to the students’ skulls began to do their dirty work.
“…that you and your tablemate were partners in a crime. A theft. And you are now in separate rooms in the jail, while the DA speaks to you about confessing.”
None of them opened their eyes. They could not if they’d wanted to, and they didn’t need to. They knew who their tablemate was; that never changed. And the scene was already playing out in their heads.
Carrie looked around the interrogation room. The DA was a tired-looking man in his late fifties, his trenchcoat old, his hands older. “We know you did it. The question is if you’ll confess first or if your partner will.”
She could feel the handcuffs around her wrists. She could feel the cold seat pressing against her bum. She could feel, more, the panic making her heart race, thump-thump, thump-thump.
The DA looked at a monitor. “Looks like your partner panicked and died. You’re off the hook this time.”
In the front row, one student slumped. The teacher flipped two switches.
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Let some vampires lurk in the shadows. Let some of them hide in dark alleys, creeping along for their prey. Let some of them scrabble from day to day for their blood, hoping to get enough to survive, hoping not to be noticed.
Antonius had decided many, many years ago that he would not lurk, he would not scrabble, and he would not creep. He had decided that he would not leave his prey wounded and dripping in filthy alleyways. He wouldn’t sneak into vigins’ bedrooms to steal a sweet taste. He was not going to be the one you didn’t want to go home with from a bar, nor the one that showed you why good girls and boys didn’t walk home alone at night.
Those vampires were monsters, beasts, creatures. Antonius was a gentleman, and he was blessed well going to act like it.
But, of course, he was still a vampire, and as such, he needed blood to live.
He studied human physiology for decades, practicing on volunteers and “volunteers,” learning how much he could take from any donor without killing, then how much would cripple the donor, and then how much would leave him sated and the donor still walking.
It was long work and hard, but it gained him status among scientists. He learned how to handle blood transfusions when it was still an infant technique among human doctors. He learned how to screen for blood-borne diseases, and then, because he liked having a clean food source, he learned how to cure them. He learned how to keep a sanitary environment, so that his donors did not grow sick from associated contaminants – and because he enjoyed working in a well-lit, clean environment.
Not for Antonius the back alleys, not for him the grubby lurking in the dark. No. He would take his blood with science, not violence, and he’d do so in the shining halls of the laboratory.
After all, he was a gentleman, and no monster at all.
Written for the Three Word Wednesday prompt Blood, cripple(verb), lurk.
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“I never thought this would come in handy. Those underwater basket-weaving classes you took in college, your ‘easy a’s’…” Amelie shook her head. “I thought you were coasting.”
“Everybody thought I was coasting.” Brent finished the repair with an elaborate knot. “It’s hard to explain that you know you have to learn something. So I went with Liberal Arts because it allowed me to dabble…”
“And used your psychic powers to take classes you knew you were going to need?”
“Well…” Brent swam up. Below, a basket wrapped around a shifting seal, holding an Old One in their place. “Yes.”
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to the Thimbleful Thursday prompt from 2 weeks back “For XYZ reasons;” 393 words
“So, she went right into the middle of a Blank zone. Just walked through it, like there weren’t Creatures still in the air and only the skies know what sort of trouble on the ground. Not to mention falling walls and all that standing water….” Grace shook her head. “Who knows what goes through the mind of someone like that?”
“We’re talking about Lisette, right?” Rose pursed her lips. “Who knows why she does anything? She’s the one that rode below an airship all the way across the Blank Plains. She’s the one that brought home an Other just to see what made it tick. She does what she wants, for x, y, and z reasons, and the rest of us just have to stay out of her way.”
“You just put up with here?” Grace had only been in the compound for a few months; she’d been a refuge from a lost town, Mortin, one of only three survivors. Rose tried to remember that when Grace got… difficult. Judgey. “It seems like she’s putting the whole compound at risk.”
Rose took a breath. Remember what happened to Mortin. Remember the bodies. Remember the Blanks. “The thing about Lisette is… yes, she does her own things, for her own reasons, reasons that are best not asked about and not worth speculating on. And when the compound was attacked by a wave of Blanks last year, it was Lisette – Lisette, on her own – that saved us.”
“But you let her just wander into Blank zones. What if she came back blanked out? What if she contracted some disease?” Grace leaned forward. “What if she let the Blanks in?”
“Lisette is not going to do something like that.” Although Rose was beginning to see a picture of how Mortin had fallen. “Lisette does what she does, for Lisette’s reasons – but she protects the compound. She’s never failed to protect the compound.”
“But what if she’s wrong? What if, worse, what if she’s doing something wrong? You can’t just let people wander around for mysterious reasons, and not expect them to turn on the compound! You can’t!” Grace’s voice was getting louder and louder, shriller and shriller.
Rose kept her voice low and quiet. “Lisette has her reasons for doing what she does. And we have our reasons for letting her.”
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Do you want to end a world?
Not this world; that would be messy. Not to mention, if you end the world, you don’t have anywhere to sell your stories. Or to buy coffee.
So let’s end some other world, shall we?
When I started writing Monster Godmother, I didn’t need to end the world; I already had the Faerie Apocalypse rather well set up. I already had lots of apocalypse settings, actually.
But say you need a tailor-made apocalypse for a story idea. Where do you start?
That’s a good question: where are you going to start? When is your story going to take place?
Some stories start before the apocalypse – think disaster movies. Day After Tomorrow. War of the Worlds. Some start in media res. 28 Days Later is the only one that comes to mind quickly. Some start just-afterwards, while you’re still reeling from the disaster. The book for Postman was like that. And some are so long afterwards that you’ve gotten new cultures. Waterworld.
Where are you going to start?
Faerie apocalypse, by the way, starts either 2000 years before the apocalypse or even further back, and, as of now, goes approximately 50 years into the future. Past is easier, what can I say?
If you’re going to start before or in media res, you’re going to need to know more about the apocalypse. If you’re starting long afterwards, you can fudge as much as you need to. And if you’re starting just after it, you’re going to need to think about the scope of your story.
Does your story span the whole world? Several worlds? Is it two people in a cabin? Six people in what used to be a city? Each of these requires a different level of backstory – for two people in a cabin, you only need to know that civilization has fallen. For a world-spanning story, you’re going to need to know what cities fell, which survived, and how much destruction is still going on – at a very minimum.
Monster Godmother takes part in the middle of a battle. If I’d been building the apocalypse from scratch, I wouldn’t have needed much – a couple notes here and there about nearby destruction. If I continued her story further… then, I’d have needed to build more.
And you? Well, if you want to ruin a world, you’ve got to do a bit of homework. Where does your story start? How much of a span will it have?
Once you have that (next time) we can talk about how we’re going to end the world.
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