Tag Archives: writing

Here There Be Dragons – Pt. 4

Cont. From Pt. 3

“Welcome back to the land of the living, my dear.”

I looked around the little room furnished with objects from another century. Warm woods and fabrics in earth tones dominated. Lace doilies covered every flat surface and the arms and backs of the couches and chairs. I’d never seen or heard him talk about a Mrs. Looper, but there was a picture of him with a woman both a good deal younger than he was now. It had been taken somewhere snowy with nothing in the background. Both of them had immense smiles on their faces and she looked to be holding a rifle of some sort, though it looked like one from really old science fiction movies.

“Thanks for…” I stopped, still not sure what role he played in saving me. “For your help. What was that thing on the roof?”

He patted my hands and then stood, not gaining much height in the process. “Just a little helper I built.” He looked to the picture. “I’m not as spry as I used to be.”

I looked more closely at the eight by ten. He had a bandolier across his chest, filled with ammunition that looked fatter than shotgun shells. He also had an odd looking set of goggles strapped to his forehead, like the night vision ones on television, but bulkier. More like the ones the Ghostbusters wore.

I finished the tea, more for the warmth than the taste and put the mug down. “You built that? I’ve never seen anything like it.”

He looked and nodded at me. “Most of my creations are unique. It’s a… gift I was given.” He moved to the chest of drawers that the picture.

I stood and looked for a clock, suddenly remembering that I was long past due at home. “Well thanks again, Mr. Looper. I should really be getting on home now.”

He opened the top drawer and pulled out a box wrapped in plain brown paper. “I called your father, Ms. Perez. He was alarmed, but I set his fears to rest. I told him that I would return you safely home later this evening.”

A tiny warning gong went off in my head. I didn’t know for a fact that he had talked to Dad. He could be lying. I wasn’t sure that he would be satisfied with someone else bringing me, even someone I had worked for for the last year. Mr. Looper was hardly a family friend and while neither of my parents would admit it, the fact that he was white probably deepened their distrust.I trusted my gut though.

He sat the box down on the couch beside me and returned to his place directly across. “I have a gift for you, Ms. Perez.”

The warning gong got louder. They warned us kids about taking gifts from men, even those we knew somewhat. There were often strings attached. I glanced to the door, gauging how quickly I could leave and if I could make it past him.

Mr. Looper sighed deeply. “I know, my child. I’m a strange, little old man and am not to be trusted. I would say that this world has become a dark place where such things are questioned, but it was no different in my time. We just did not talk about it.” He gestured to the box. “Unwrap it. It will not harm you and neither will I. I will make no demands of you.”

I looked at him, really examining him closely for the first time. I was young and likely more than a little naive, even for a kid with a dangerous amount of street smarts. And I don’t mean dangerously broad or deep. Still, I saw something in his bearing and in his eyes that I hadn’t noticed before; a core of steel that even now I don’t expect from most people, let alone people of his age and stature. Here was a man that was used to being not just trusted, but entrusted. It probably explained why I had been less worried about him over the past year than I should have.

I took the box in my lap and unwrapped it. The paper crinkled, the noise filling the room. I didn’t know what to expect but the plastic box wasn’t it. I turned it over in my lap a few times, looking for a button to press or some other release. I didn’t look up until I heard Mr. Looper’s chuckle.

“It’s not that sort of box Ms. Perez. I was given this by some friends of humanity, from a very long way away. Rather than you unlocking the box, it unlocks you.”

I felt my eyebrow slowly crawl up my forehead.

“Look at it again the way you looked at me a few moments ago.”

I did as I was told and noticed a blue light pulsing at the box’s core. It gradually drew me in until my whole world was the light.

Creative Commons License
Here There Be Dragons by Scott Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.scottroche.com.

Here There Be Dragons Pt. 3

Cont. from Part 2

My sight dimmed as the loud thud filled my head. That brief sound was replaced by a mechanical whirring noise reminiscent of a bee’s nest I’d knocked out of a tree once run through a distortion pedal.

“Flee, interlopers.” The voice was made from that same distorted bee sound. It came from somewhere far above.

Whining sounds filled the air followed by dull thuds and the girlish screaming of a few of the young toughs.

“That means run, you ignorant ruffians.”

That was how Mr. Looper always talked. The boys must have gotten the message if the scuffling noises were any indication. I kept my eyes screwed shut, praying for the pain in my head to end. Warm wind, too strong to be called a breeze, blew grit against my face. The gravel embedded into the tar of the roof crunched under something incredibly heavy just a few feet away.

“Ms. Perez, are you able to stand?”

The only person to ever call me that was Mr. Looper. A harsh light shone on me. I slid my eyes open and saw three toed feet formed from scrap metal. They looked for all the world like a robot chicken. I wouldn’t find that funny until later.

“My apologies, Ms. Perez.” The light dimmed and the wind died down.

I slowly got to my feet, still a little dizzy from everything that was going on. When I got the full view of what I faced I nearly fainted. I’d never been a fan of science fiction, but even I had seen the Terminator movies. This thing looked like one of the T1 with its skin scraped off, if they had been modeled on an owl instead of a person. The eyes where huge and its ears were pointed. I could see wings folded against it’s back and huge turbines sticking up over its shoulders. The light came from a chest mounted lens the size of a hubcap.

I didn’t realize I was backing up until the heels of my shoes touched the roof access. “Mr… Looper?”

The construction lowered itself so that its eyes, that looked for all the world like headlights, were even with mine. “Yes, my dear. Or at least an extension of me. If you will return to the store, we can talk about this.” He paused for a moment. “You will find that the ruffians are suitably frightened for now. Or if you prefer I will ensure that you return home safely and we can discuss this tomorrow.”

I didn’t have it in me to walk home, even under the protection of Mr. Looper’s creation. The idea of getting home this far past dark and paying that penalty warred with my hurt shoulder and possible concussion. They won. “I’ll come with you, but I don’t think I can climb down. I’m still a little diz…” My head wound, the adrenaline, and the notion that I was talking with a giant robot all came crashing down around me. My vision blurred for the second time that night, but I didn’t feel myself hit the roof.

A rushing noise covered the city’s night sounds. This time the breeze was cool on my face. When I fully came to, I was swaddled in an ancient afghan and cradled a mug of hot, fragrant tea in my hands. My hands were in turn held by that of my boss, Mr. Looper.

He was a funny looking little man. I was a good foot taller than him and his head was ringed by a fringe of fine white hair.

Continue to Pt. 4

Creative Commons License
Here There Be Dragons by Scott Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.scottroche.com.

Here There Be Dragons – Pt. 2

Cont. from Part 1

“Not so fast you little c…” The boys voice turned into a whoosh of air as my foot caught him in the midsection.

It was a lucky kick and I knew I’d probably regret it later, if I let another one get their hands on me. I recovered, a little more clumsily than I would have in Tae Kwon Do class, but street fights are the same as ones on the mat. His friends weren’t far away and they were caught short by my reaction. I was glad, and not for the first time that night, that these weren’t real gang bangers.

I ran as fast as I could, finding more speed somewhere deep in me. It wasn’t much further to the store. Then it hit me, the metal grate was down. There was no way I could get that up in time and get behind the safety it offered. Blood thundered in my ears, but now I could here every angry voice and catcall behind me.

The store came up on my left and I ran past it and cut into the alley just beyond. Angels must have given me a push giving me just enough speed and bounce to make it onto the lid of the dumpster. From there it was a short jump to the fire escape. Miraculously, I didn’t miss a step and climbed to the roof of the three story building in a flash.

It hadn’t bought me much breathing room. The ones right behind me didn’t realize I had gone up and went down the alley looking for me. I had a minute, maybe two. I looked around for the roof access. Mr. Looper talked about his roof garden and I knew there had to be a way to get downstairs. Then I realized I had gone up the wrong building. I’d seen action heroes make the jump from building to building, but they were trained athletes and I was just a scared little girl. At least, that’s how I felt.

The iron bars on the fire escape started grinding against brickwork. Heavy boys, nearly grown men, were climbing up here. My eyes darted around the rooftop and I saw the access to a stairwell near the center of the plane. I rushed to it, trying not to trip over anything in the dark. I grabbed the handle and pulled, only to be rewarded with nearly pulling my shoulder muscle. My scream was a mix of rage, fear, and disappointment. It fought with the wind for sheer volume and won hands down.

Shaking, I turned to see how close the Dragons were. For once something played in my favor. In going to the door’s side of the access, I was hidden from them. There was no other way down except for the long jump, so my freedom wouldn’t last long. I made myself small, but kept on the balls of my feet. With any luck they would all come around one side as a group. They weren’t very bright, so I felt it was realistic enough.

“Chica, come on out. We won’t hurt you. We just want to play a little game.” The boy’s voice wasn’t long out of puberty and cracked once to the amusement of his friends.

“Yeah,” another one yelled, “we just want to play a little touch football.” The next to the last word was emphasized and she could nearly feel the leer.

She balled her fists and relaxed them in a rhythm. She’d touch them alright. If she could draw blood on one of them then whatever happened next might be worth it. The way her stomach felt, she might even get to puke on them while she was at it. It did seem like they were all coming around to her left side.

As softly and slowly as she could, she circled around to the right. In the dark she couldn’t tell if hat she tripped over was a pipe or a string of cable. Whatever it was, it put her down on her side just as one of the smarter boys was sneaking around to intercept her. She lay at his feet and had a moment for her predicament to register before his black Chuck caught her on the side of her head.

Go to part three.

Creative Commons License
Here There Be Dragons by Scott Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.scottroche.com.

Here There Be Dragons – Pt. 1

This story takes place in the same universe as X Marks the Spot and will be my own take on a super hero universe. It will owe a little bit to the Wild Cards series of books. This is a WIP and is covered by the Creative Commons License below.

I locked up the door on Mr. Looper’s PC Emporium and jumped as high as I could, snagging the gate and using my body wait to pull it down. With it locked in place, I knew that it was as safe as any store in this neighborhood could be. In spite of the fact that this was a computer store, most of the stuff he carried was way old. He tinkered with his stock and fixed any electronics that customers brought in. No matter how useless or broke down the TV, radio, or remote controlled car was, he was always able to coax life out of it.

I pulled my black nylon jacket’s collar up around my neck to try and keep warm. If I hurried I could make the three blocks home before it got dark. This was the Dragon’s turf and anyone caught out in it after dark, especially a girl my age, was like fresh meat. If we didn’t need the money I wouldn’t clean Mr. Looper’s store, no matter how much he paid me and he payed me way too much.

Mom thought he wanted something more than money. She’d never say that to my face, but I’ve heard her end of phone calls. She’s also always asking me how the old man makes me feel or if he ever touches me. I don’t think she knows that at thirteen I know what she’s asking and it made me sick to think about it. He never did and I don’t think he even has thoughts like that. He doesn’t like people much. Oh he treated his customers and me well enough, but he loved his machines.

Wind picked at my jacket and cut through the legs of my skinny jeans. We moved to North Carolina from New Jersey five years ago, but the winters are still pretty cold, even this far south. I broke into a jog, hoping it would warm me up. It almost had too, until I heard the whooping and jeering from up ahead. I knew that it was a group of the Dragons. They weren’t a real gang, not like the Ochos or the Strangers. Mostly, they were just older teens who smoked dope and stole lunch money from younger kids. Ricardo, whose brother was an Ocho, said that they couldn’t cut it in an actual brotherhood, but wanted the excuse to act tougher than they were.

I didn’t know about that. I’d known a few kids that got their share of bruises and cuts, and while Mr. Looper might not be interested in my girlhood, these boys might be. It wasn’t much further to get home, but going the long way around I’d risk running into some tougher groups. There was no safety except to go back to the store. Mr. Looper lived above it and I could probably get him to take her home, or at least she could call Dad to come and get her when he got home.

I hated to bother him, but he had invited me upstairs once or twice early on for cookies. Thinking about Mom’s advice, I said no, respectfully, and it never came up again. I think he knew why I said no, cause he looked a little embarrassed and sad.

I hurried, but the wind was in my face. It seemed to be blowing faster, making it hard to take steps. I didn’t weight much and the spaces between buildings focused the winds. That must have been why I didn’t hear the voices behind me. I didn’t know there were Dragons behind me until one grabbed my arm.

Go to part two.

Creative Commons License
Here There Be Dragons by Scott Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.scottroche.com.

Semi-Professional Editing

I’ve been thinking a lot about editing lately. I’m an editor for Flying Island Press and I’ve been doing some self-publishing (though not everyone agrees that that’s what I’m doing) which, best case scenario, involves no small amount of red-lining. The critics of self-publishing point out that there’s a lot of sub-par product out there. They assume, and in large part are probably right, that that’s because they aren’t professionally edited, as they would be if they were published “professionally”. It’s certainly not because authors are unaware of the need to have good eyes and skills applied to their work. One of the things that I hear again and again from my fellow creators is, “I know I need an editor, but those don’t come cheap.” So, we do the best we can and put our stuff out there.

I’m curious about a couple of things from my writer peeps. Have you used an editor for your fiction? If so, who and how much did they charge? Were they “pros”? Setting aside the raw definition of that word, I’ll define it to mean “someone who does it for a living”. Were they “semi-pros”, defined by me as “someone who charges a below market rate”? And if you did, how long did it take you to make back your investment?

If you decided not to use an editor and it was because of the perceived cost, how much would you be willing to spend? What is it “worth” to have someone look at your work if it will, to a degree, ensure a better product? I ask, in part, because I know there are people out there, in our community that are semi-pro/pro editors and I’m sure they’d like to know. I know two personally, Jenny Melzer and Allison Duncan. (Semi-pro is not an indication of quality or rate, but is based on the notion that I don’t think this is their primary source of income. No judgment on them.) I have no idea what their client base looks like, so I don’t know if the semi-pro, self-publishing authors out there are using them.

I do know that at present Allison’s rates are beyond my budget. Jenny’s are closer to the mark, but I haven’t sent her anything, yet. I’m just not sure I can justify paying her either. I’m actually kicking around the idea of forming a group to give us another, inexpensive option. But would someone, who charges less, be perceived by you as lacking in the necessary skills to justify any outlay? Is a semi-pro someone I can trust my manuscript to? What do you think?

Week One Updates

So here we are at the beginning of week two of November/Movember. I figured I’d do a little update here to let you know where I am in my various endeavors (anything to duck writing on my NaNo novel I guess).

Thing One, Movember – As you can see in the picture, I am growing a mustache. Why am I growing a mustache? Well so fair it’s made my kids giggle. Reason enough to a degree, I suppose. But that’s not all. If you’ve been paying attention to ether my Twitter feed or my Facebook posts I hope you’ve seen a like to my Movember page. What the heck is all that about? Well, I and a bunch of other people around the world are raising money to benefit prostate cancer research. I hope that you’ll donate. As of today, no one has. I know things are tough and so while I’m tempted to let that get me down, I won’t. If I don’t raise any money I will be disappointed, but it’s early days yet. It’s important to raise awareness so even if you don’t or can’t give, go here and learn what you (if you’re a dude) and/or the men in your life should be doing to stay healthy.

Thing Two, NaNoWriMo – I’m (in theory) writing a novella this month. My progress on it, thanks to familial illnesses and helping to get issue three of Flagship out, not to mention some laziness, has been less than I had hoped. This time last year I was at 12,857 words. My plan was to be at 14,000 both this year and last year. If you’re on target you should be at 10,002 by the end of day seven. My word count is at 6,585. Again, the temptation is to be frustrated/worried/annoyed. I’m working really hard not to give in to that. I have a good plan and I like my story so far. I just need to work it. Now that issue three has been put to bed and everyone is healthy I think I can surge forward.

So that’s what’s going on. Thanks for reading and feel free to kick me in the butt when you see me around the net or in real life!

Gettin' Paid

So one of the things that makes its rounds in my circles is how difficult it is to make a living as a writer of fiction. I once bemoaned that fate to Mr. Sawyer and he, once again, called bullshit on it. It can be done. It takes dedication, hard work, and a few other things (not to mention a dash of luck) and we talk all about it in this conversation.

Let us know what you think, particularly if you disagree and why.

PS – Here’s part one.

Moving Ass – Literarily Speaking

Dan Sawyer laid down a challenge back in June of this year. He called it The Great Ass-Moving Experiment. He wanted to get off his backside and send his written works out to publishers and he wanted to take some people with him, make it interesting.

Here’s the proposition:

We’ll go from now till the end of the year (or perhaps we should go to next Balticon?). Everyone bets $10. Every story we submit gets 3 points. Every novel proposal we send in gets 4 points. Every nonfiction submission/query gets 1 point. Every sale – of any fiction – gets 8 points. Every sale of nonfiction gets 3 points. Any sale that pays money and has a contract counts. Non-paying and/or clickthru and/or under-the-table markets do not count.

At the end of the year, the person with the most points wins the pool (which will operate on the honor system – those of us that lose will paypal our $10 to the winner).

I, and several other authors, took him up on it. Recently he skipped way ahead and I wanted to know how he did it, since it looked like he was bending “the rules”. (Not the rules of his game, the rules of the publishers’ game.) I wanted to know why and this conversation resulted.

If you want to know how to move your ass, give it a listen. You should also check out the Association’s website too.

Free Beer!

I had the pleasure of going to the first Great North Carolina Beer Festival in Clemmons, NC this past weekend. Overall it was awesome. It was hot and there were literally around nineteen-thousand people when all was said and done. I had beer from the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Thomas Creek, and Foothills. There were also big names there that you’d recognize and they all had out what passed for (and in some cases what I’d consider) craft beers.

A craft beer, in my opinion, is a product that the manufacturer truly put some time, energy, and passion into developing. Maybe they take a BIG chance (as one home brewer did with a smoked Weizenbock that was awesome) or maybe they were just wanted to do something a little different (as Newcastle did with their Summer Ale). Regardless, in most cases they tried to put their best foot forward and they were doing it for free.

“So Scott, is this the beer blog now?”

Well maybe from time to time, but this post is about passion. A few of these people had it in spades. I think that the homebrewers that were their had it the most. There was nothing for them to sell. They literally couldn’t legally sell their products even if they wanted to. All they can do is give it away for free. Why? Because they want to share something they made and believed in. So these guys were standing in the only shade around, pouring their beer for the thirsty public (who may or may not give a darn about what they were drinking), and having a grand time.

The next step up were the microbreweries. In quite a few cases the faces you saw at those tents were owners. In some cases they were employees, but there was more of a connection there. They wanted you to know about their beer, their brewery, and in what time they had available would tell you all about it. Yeah they wanted to sell stuff. A few local breweries were selling full pints or glasses and other nick-knacks. They wanted to spread the word and incidentally sell some beer.

There was less passion from the Big Beer tents. The people pulling taps their were likely employees hired just for the day. They had no connection to the process of making the beer or selling the beer. They were just pretty faces. No need to spread the word so much since most of us consumers already know about Guinness or Leinenkugel or Bud. So I guess they were just there as sponsors and in a few cases to get out the word about a particular new product. It was one hundred percent a business arrangement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So here we are, three “tiers” if you will and all giving away all the free samples you were willing to queue up for. Sure it cost you $25, but my feeling is that that went to the music and other expenses (designated drivers still had to pay $20).

This whole day struck a chord in me. There’s a great deal of passion in the podiosphere for giving away stuff for free. Those that choose to do it are doing it for the same reasons that the homebrewers and microbrewers are doing it for. In the one case maybe they can’t sell it (or haven’t tried) and are just honing their craft until they can take the next step. In other cases maybe they have started selling, but they still feel the need to build some name recognition. Regardless, there’s still that passion in creating and putting out their wares for people to sample.

The part that’s missing from this analogy are the big boys. While there are some “big names” out there giving away free samples, it doesn’t sound like that’s catching on with the bulk of big story business. There’s a fair amount of fear (perhaps founded, perhaps not) of things like piracy or watering down the brand. And big publishers put a lot of money into developing and selling what they have and want to recoup those costs. It’s all about the business for them.

So, is there a lesson to be learned in this? I think if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, if there’s a way for you to give some of it away without cutting your own throat, do it. I understand the notion that if you’re writing short stories, you don’t want to give them all away if your short term goal is to sell those particular stories. So maybe you write a story or two just to give away? Share your passion with people and once you’ve hit the “big leagues”, where it most cases it’s still hard scrabble when it comes to making a living from wordsmithing, maybe drop a freebie from time to time. Remember that you got into this writing business not do much to make a million dollars (cause that just ain’t gonna happen for most of us) but to tell that story that made your brain itch. Pour a pint every now and again for your fans and I think you’ll find it will pay off in the long run.

If at First You Don't Succeed

Well, in case you haven’t heard (and if you’re reading this you probably have) I have my first publication credit! I have a short story called “Power in the Blood” for which I’ve been paid (in pounds sterling!) and you can find it it at Hub Fiction.

I wrote this story years ago and actually podcast it as an interstitial podcast episode between Valley of the Shadow and Legion. I submitted it to PseudoPod before I did that and it got rejected. The editor was very kind and gave me some feedback. When I recently decided to get serious about getting published, this was one of the first ones I picked to send around. As you can see, persistence sometimes pays off.

So that’s what I want to tell you. If you’re gonna write and try and get that writing published, don’t let the first few rejections throw you off your game. Keep plugging away at it.

And if you read the story (fair warning, it’s graphic) and feel like dropping a comment, here’s the place to do it.