Wayne Cole

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A Thanksgiving to Remember

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks Fiction Fragment Friday is something brand new that I just wrote. It is something of a slice of life SciFi story set during Thanksgiving. This year has send traditions out the window so I wanted to write about someone struggling with an out of the ordinary Thanksgiving. I hope you all enjoy.


I never truly understood what dry turkey was until I bit into my dehydrated Thanksgiving Day meal.  It was nice to have something different for a change and I was grateful they thought to pack us something special for the holiday.  It really was a nice gesture, but all it really did was remind me that my family was back home sitting together at a dinner table worrying about whether I would make it back or not.  I did take a little comfort in knowing that without me there to cook it their turkey was probably pretty dry too.  Making the perfect Thanksgiving Day bird is more of an art than a science and in that one area I am an artist. 

“You know I was dreading this because thought it would taste kind of like a turkey jerky.”  I looked up to see my mission commander Genevieve Norton floating in the mess compartment with me.  “Now that I’ve tasted it, I wish it tasted like turkey jerky.”

I laughed.  “I guess it’s the thought that counts commander.  Are you missing a real dinner back home?”

“Yeah.  Normally we would be gathered around my brother’s table digging into the full spread and making plans for Christmas.  You?”

“My wife and I have hosted the last few years since the kids were born.  It’s a big meal with both my parent, both my brothers, and my sister.  Plus, all of their families of course.  I have to make two of the largest turkeys I can find every year and no matter how much mashed potatoes I make it never seems to be enough.”  I laughed a little remembering my nephew holding the empty wooden spoon to tell me we were out of ‘tatos’.  “We have a family rule of no Christmas talk until after the meal.  The meal is about sharing stories and catching up on the past year.”

“I’m not sure if that sounds really nice or just really crowded.”

I chuckled.  “A little bit of both actually.”  I sucked on my squeeze pouch of mashed potatoes and was grateful that they were not dehydrated too.  “You know when I signed up for this mission, I knew I would be missing some holidays, but I don’t think I realized just how hard it would be.”

“Yeah, there is a difference between logically knowing and actually experiencing.  You probably also never thought you would really be going since you were an alternate.  I couldn’t help but see how you looked after our morning report and figured you could probably use some company for dinner.  I’m not your family but I’m here and I’m told I’m a good listener.”

“That you are commander.  Don’t sell yourself short though.  We are on the first mission to Mars together.  According to my Bernice if you bring me back home safely that makes you family, and she expects to see you over for dinner on a regular basis.”

“Well then I best make sure we all get back because I have heard stories about your cooking.”

“Well commander after twenty-one months of food like this I think I could cook you a shoe and you would enjoy it.”

We both laughed and continued to share stories of our families back home.  The food was horrible, and it might not have been the most traditional Thanksgiving Day Meal, but it was still a Thanksgiving that I would never forget. 

Updates, Updates, Updates

Fiction Fragment Friday

I’m so happy to report that I am currently at 31,592 words on my Ricochet NaNoWriMo project. It has been an interesting experience just pushing myself to get the story out there. There will be a lot of edits and rewrites to come, but I think this might be a new method of writing for me. Plan, Outline, and then sprint my way to a first very rough draft just to have something to work with. It is exciting times for me.

Another announcement is that a Kickstarter has just gone live for a flash fiction project that I am included in. It is called Worth 1,000 Words and my story in it is based on one of my Skies of Glass: Metropolis characters that I created when I did serial fiction for a while. It works as a purely stand alone story with no setting needed, but adds some depth if you have read that. You can find and support it at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brickcommajason/worth-1000-words-a-flash-fiction-anthology

With my announcements out of the way time for Fiction Fragment Friday. I struggled to pick something for this week. I didn’t want to just keep grabbing out of context parts of the Ricochet novel because I don’t want to share spoilers and it really will need some rewriting when it is done. So instead I’ve picked out a small section from the very first time I tried NaNoWriMo. I was in the middle of a datacenter move that year and failed miserably. The backstory here is that an event has occurred overnight that unleashed an EMP like effect killing all electronics in a small rural down.


There was only one grocery store in Silverton Missouri.  The town was far too small to attract a chain of any kind and most people didn’t mind driving the 20 miles to the next town over to shop.  Well, that isn’t entirely true, but there really wasn’t anything they could do about it so they at least accepted it.  The one store they did have was really nothing more than a convenience if you ran out of something at the last minute.  In fact, if it wasn’t for beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets it would have gone out of business years ago.  Even that couldn’t keep it open much longer.  In the entire store’s history, it had never had over five customers in it at any given time.  The middle-aged clerk certainly wasn’t ready for a line stretching down the street waiting for her to open.

“Sorry I’m late everyone, my car wouldn’t start this morning.  Just give me a few minutes to get set up and then I’ll unlock the doors.”  Jan tried to hide the fear in her voice.  She had never dealt with a crowd of this size and just kept wondering why they were all here.  The fact that the power was out in the store just made her even more nervous.  “Great, not only do I have a line from here to New York, but I have to check each one out by hand without the register.  I knew when my car didn’t start that I should have just stayed home this morning.”

Jan unlocked the door, and a flood of people came rushing in.  She was knocked back into a pyramid of soda cases and hit her shoulder on the way down.  “This morning just keeps getting better and better.”  The swarm of people continued to enter the store until there was barely enough room to turn around.  People were bumping into each other and the tensions just seemed to be growing.

“Everyone please just calm down!  I don’t know what is going on here, but this is still my store and I won’t have this kind of behavior in it.”  Jan rubbed her sore shoulder.  “We have seen our share of power outages around here before and you’ve never acted like this.”

One of the customers came over to help Jan up.  “You don’t understand.  All those times we were able to drive into Augustus and get supplies.  None of our cars are working this time.  Well, I have seen a few old, rusted trucks and Luke’s 69 Charger go by, but other than them nothing is on the road.  I don’t even know how that’s possible.” 

A young girl came over with her cell phone in her hand.  “Even weirder than that, everyone I’ve talked to has a dead cell phone.  Not like it isn’t picking up a signal, but like the batteries are dead.  It’s really weird and everyone is all freaked out.”  Suddenly a loud crash came from the bottled water isle.  “No way, Principal Anderson just decked Mr. Brown.”

Jan’s face had a look of fear as she watched what was unfolding in front of her.  “The police office is two blocks down; somebody get the sheriff now!”  She screamed as loudly as she could, but no one seemed to be listening.  Even if she would have been willing to leave her store the front door was blocked and the crowd was between her and the back door.  The screaming and shoving seemed to be intensifying by the second.  Jan turned to the man and the teen girl that had come over to help her.  “Look you two seem to be the only sane people around here right now.  If we don’t do something quickly to calm this crowd down that fight is going to turn into a riot and people are going to get hurt.”

The man who had helped Jan rushed behind the counter and grabbed the fire extinguisher from the wall.  Before Jan realized what was happening, he had unleashed a burst of it above the heads of the unruly crowd.  The deafening sound and falling white cloud shocked the crowd into attention.  “Look at yourselves.   We have been without power for less than a day and you are already going crazy.  Principal Anderson, how would you treat your students if they were behaving like this?  How would all of you treat your kids?  I know there are some strange things happening here, but this is unacceptable.  Look we don’t even know how widespread this is.  Now I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m going to head over to City Hall and try to come up with a plan to find out just what is going on and how far it reaches.” 

The crowd parted as he walked towards the doors.  He paused only long enough to hand Jan back her fire extinguisher and then he was on his way.   Jan watched in shock as half the crowd followed the stranger out the door and down the street.  She certainly didn’t envy the mayor, but at least he had the police force in the same building.  The remaining crowd rushed in to fill the vacuum created by those that left.  Jan realized that the crowd was far more than she could handle by herself.  She turned to the teenage girl still standing besides her.  “So what is your name?”

“Samantha”

“Hi Samantha, I’m Jan Williams.  How would you like a part time job?”

Fountain Drink

Fiction Fragment Friday

Hey everyone. Today will be day 13 of NaNoWriMo and I am currently at approximately 20,000 words. I have no doubt I will hit my word count today and continue to be on track to complete the challenge. I have been very happy with the story as it has developed and I can’t wait to get rewriting and editing. I’m sure some of these snippets I share for Fiction Fragment Friday will be shared again in an edited form months down the line. I wanted to share a scene today that is a bit more action oriented.


               I sat perched on the corner of a building looking down a convenience store.  I really wanted a fountain drink but this costume didn’t have pockets for money.  I was just about to give up on the idea when I saw a man step out of the alley and pull on a ski mask.  He was heading right for the front door of the store.  I smiled under my mask.  “Time to get to work.”

               The man stepped into the store and pulled his gun out of his pocket.  He aimed it right at the clerk.  “Empty the register now and if you reach for anything else I’ll blow your brains out.”

               Leaping from the roof my mind was racing trying to come up with something witty to say to announce myself.  I slipped in the door trying to be as quiet as possible.  I wanted to and make a memorable entrance.  It didn’t matter if there were only two people to witness it I needed the practice if I was going to be a big time hero.  What I didn’t know was that the door had one of those chimes on it so the moment it opened the robber spun around and leveled his gun on me.  I leapt on instinct and just barely missed being shot as the bullet shattered the glass front door.  I did a twisting somersault and landed behind the gunman facing his back.  As he turned I grabbed his gun arm with my left hand to keep it facing away and then punched him in the face with my right fist.  He flew through the air and smashed into a spinning rack of potato chips destroying it.  His gun clattered on the floor next to me.

               It was hard to make out his words when he spoke,  “You bastard.  I think you broke my nose.”  He went to get up, but I did a spinning kick and hit him in the stomach.  Grabbing the chip rack I bent it around him as a restraint. 

               I looked back at the clerk who was wide eyed.  “Uhm thanks, but did you have to break the door and rack?  Do you know how much that will cost?”

               “Oh come on insurance has to cover that and the door is totally his fault.”

               “Yeah but I bet they will raise the premiums.  Still he could have shot me so I guess I do owe you.  Any way I can say thanks?”

               “Oh yeah, a 32oz Dr. Pepper would be the perfect thank you.”

               “Oh, uhm sure go ahead.  You do know that’s just something people say to be polite.  They don’t actually expect you to take them up on it.”

        I grabbed a cup and started filling it with the crushed ice.  I moved it to the Dr. Pepper spout.  “Hey you offered.  Don’t go offering if you don’t mean it.”  I stuck the straw in and pulled the cup up to take a drink.  The straw poked into my mask instead of going in my mouth.  “Aw damn.  Ok, I think you got this from here,  I gotta bounce.”

               “You are just going to leave me here with him until the police get here?”

               “What can I say,  I’m thirsty.”  I stepped through the broken front door without opening it and leapt up to the roof.  I found my perch on the corner, lifted my mask so I could drink, and kept a watch over the store until the police got there.  As they were loading him into the car my straw started making the annoying slurping sound of an empty cup.  “Ahhh.  A drink well earned.”  I tossed the cup off the roof at a trashcan and was kind of surprised when it actually went in on the first try.  “Oh yeah three point shot.”  I jumped around making cheering sounds.   

               As I started home I found myself singing.  The theme song from the Gummi Bears, or at least it’s chorus, had somehow gotten into my head so I made a theme song for myself out of it.   

“Ricochet
Bouncing here and there and everywhere
Super hero beyond compare
He is the Ricochet”

Ricochet Beginnings

Fiction Fragment Friday

I am hard at work at NaNoWriMo and doing well so far. I am over 8,000 words in and have hit the goals needed so far. I hope to get some extra writing in over the weekend so I have some slack in wordcount. I tell you all this to setup this weeks Fiction Fragment Friday. I’m going to share with you the first thousand or so words of my project.


I can usually tell by the second joke if an audience is going to respond to my set or not.  There is just an energy in the room that you can feel.  Sure it is always possible that I can turn the night around but when I feel that lack of energy it starts to get into my head.  The voice that sounds like a cross between my own and my parents’ tells me that I’m not really a comedian.  That I should have gone to college and learned something more practical.  This mental spiral is like an anchor dragging me under while I fight to get my head above water and build some sort of momentum.  It is a sinking feeling knowing that the next forty-five minutes of standing in the bright spotlight are going to be painful, but I have no choice.  I have to keep going because I am a professional and these people have paid to see my act.  Some nights they enjoy the act and other nights they wonder why they paid to see me.  This was one of those second kind of nights. 

Most people think that bombing means silence, but that is not the case.  There are multiple ways a bad night can go.  First if the audience just isn’t feeling the show you will still get some sympathy laughs.  That sympathy is more for them than for you.  It is awkward to sit in silence so letting out a forced laugh or chuckle helps to break it up.  The second kind of failure is when you have a heckler who is loud and just will not shut up.  The worst part is sometimes they are actually funny and that is just like salt being poured in the wound.  That night was a third kind of failure.  When you step on a land-mine you didn’t realize was there and the audience turns on you.  A single heckler is bad but a crowd of boos and groans is worse. 

Really people are just too judgmental.  So I told a joke about Mayor Allen being an idiot.  It wasn’t my fault I didn’t know that he had been killed by a super-villain earlier that day shielding a little girl.  Did they expect me to watch the news or something?  No I slept until around one and played video games until my girlfriend called me to make sure I wasn’t late for this gig like last time.  That joke would have killed on any other night.  In hindsight telling the audience that after they told me about the murder was probably not the best reaction I could have had.  It’s a good thing I get paid per set and not by the laugh because once they hate you as a person you are not going to get a laugh.  It is a good thing I know I’m funny or a night like this could really hurt a guys ego. 

At the back of the room I saw the emcee lift her phone up and wave the lit screen at me.  This was my cue to start wrapping things up so the main act could take the stage.  I glanced down at my watch and noticed that she was signaling me ten minutes early and made a mental note to buy her a thank you shot.  Jessie had been a good friend since high-school and she was the reason I had gotten my foot in the door at the Reignsborough Laugh Shack.  She even introduced me to my girlfriend Courtney who if I was honest was way out of my league.  Of course in high school Jessie was Ethan so a lot had changed in the time we had known each other.  Still buds have your back and she was trying to cut my pain short and I was very grateful. 

I got off stage and headed to the bar where she was waiting with a beer.  “Ouch that was painful to watch.”

“You are a life saver as always.”  I chugged back the beer.

“Seriously though man you had to start off with the mayor is distracted by shiny objects bit?  Today?  What the hell did you think would happen?”

“Welllll, first of all I didn’t know.  Secondly..  I guess there is no secondly.  I just didn’t know.  I have got the worst luck ever.”

She stood there shaking her head at me.  I knew the look she was giving me.  It was disappointment mixed with pity.  “It’s not luck it is you living oblivious to the world around you.  Most comedians watch the news and try to be relevant you know.  Also most comedians don’t show up with a big salsa stain on their shirt.”

I looked down and sure enough she was right.  There by my collar line was a big red stain.  I groaned and slumped onto the stool. 

“Carl when are you going to get your life together?  You have such potential if you just…”

I cut her off and could not keep the frustration out of my voice.  “Great now you sound just like Courtney.”

“Well she is my best friend,” she said ignoring my frustration.

“Wait I thought I was your best friend.”

“Are you kidding me?  After that set if anyone asks I don’t even know you.”  She chuckled and I realized she was giving me an out again.

I put my hand over my heart, gasped, and fell to the floor.  “Ouch a mortal wound.”

Between the laughter she choked out, “Now that was the funniest thing you have done all night.”

Laughter filled the club hitting me like a hammer to my self esteem.  “Well I think that is my cue to get out of here while the crowd is distracted so they don’t wait for me in the parking lot.”  I pulled myself up and gave Jessie a goodbye hug.  “Thanks again Jess, I really do appreciate everything you do for me.”

“Get out of here funny man before I hit you.  You know I don’t do well with flattery.”

NaNoWriMo Day 2

I got a late start to writing today and when I actually sat down to do it I found myself staring at the blank screen and not being able to think of anything. I wrote and deleted the first two sentences for the day at least four times. I kept thinking about doing something else and coming back to it, but I knew that if I did I would not come back to it. Writing needs to be something I do regularly and if I’m working on a project with a deadline I need to do so whether I am feeling it or not.

So I sat there staring at the screen and made a decision. I was going to just start and that is what I did. I wrote two horrible sentences and then I kept going and started to get in the groove. I went back and deleted those sentences once I was and replaced them with something I am happier with. I just had to get over that hurdle and start writing something.

I am happy to say that I surpassed the word goal now for the second day in a row. I am currently at 3853 words which puts me 500 words above the goal for day 2. I have in my scrivener for the project been creating character profile sections for each character as they are introduced, but I do need to fill those profiles out still.

NaNoWriMo Day 1

I started my National Novel Writing Month project today and I am happy to report that as of writing this I am over 2,000 words in which exceeds the daily goal they set. I know that I won’t reach the goal every day so the more days I can go over the goal the better.

For a project this year I am writing a novel about my Knights of Reignsborough character Ricochet. Specifically I am doing his origin story and I outlined the novel using the “Save the Cat” method. I wanted to talk a bit about that because I am not usually an outliner. I had three projects I was debating on doing. Each of them are novels that I want to write, but I couldn’t make up my mind. I found by working through the outline it made me think about the story as a whole and not just my concepts for the stories.

For one of them I realized that my science was bad and a lot had changed since I first thought up the concept. The world I created just didn’t work and I needed to spend a lot more time working out how the technology should function, how the political dynamics should work, and basically world build before I could truly tell the story. I had started that novel once before and got 10,000 words into it before I realized I had lost my way. Outlining it helped flesh out the story and while it gave me a path I am not completely happy with that path yet and the flaws are now glaring.

I found that my outline for the Richocet novel was very detailed and realized that I had put more thought into it than the other two concepts. I knew this character already and I had no problem outlining the book. I’m not completely happy with the outline, but I don’t need to be. I can change things as I go. It is just a framework to keep me from getting stuck like I so frequently do.

My third concept is the first book in a series. I have a real desire to write this series but as I look at my work I don’t think I am ready to take that on yet. I want to improve my writing more, research more, and generally take more time. It is not a good project to write in a month if I want it to be hard Sci-Fi. I also have doubts if the series will be sellable. It is about a generation ship and each book would focus on a different generation. I don’t know that new characters for each book is something that would sell or not.

With my project decided I started writing today. I was struck with the desire to go back and edit or to pad things to fit some artificial idea of what a chapter size should be. I had to keep reminding myself that editing and formating comes later. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to just write it and to achieve the goal I need to turn off my inner editor for now. That doesn’t mean I can’t make minor fixes or maybe add a new paragraph later in the month, but if I want to complete it I can’t get into the editing loop.

I really feel like this is my year to complete NaNoWriMo. Please wish me luck.

Vampire Story Part 2

Fiction Fragment Friday

This is the next part of the Vampire story I posted on October 8th. I thought this part was completely lost, but found the notebook that it was in recently. It was still hand written and had to be typed up. Since it is Halloween season a vampire story seems fitting. I had quite a few rules thought out for how my vampires worked.


“Ahhhhhhhh” She woke to a stream of cold water pouring against her back.  Thunder cracked and echoed through the tunnel.  With great effort she stumbled from the drain onto the ground.  “Eeeh” Her back arched as she reacted to the rain pouring down on her.  She was drenched and had no idea where she was.  Wrapping her arms tightly around her chest she tried to fight the shivering, but it was overwhelming.  It wasn’t just being wet and cold; hunger shook her to the very core. 


            It was about noon, but you couldn’t tell by looking at the sky.  The sun was completely hidden by rain clouds.  Wind roared through the forest and threatened to rip the trees from the ground root and all.  She screamed in frustration and smacked her hands down into the puddle around her.  The water splashed high into the air.  The frustration could only hold the tears back for so long and when they came, they rivaled the rain pouring from the sky.

With the tears came memories.  They were jumbled images, but one face kept coming back to her.  She focused on the strange man who had helped dig her out of the ground.  “Help me,” she whimpered.  She found that this thought comforted her and with great will power she forced the tears back.  She imagined him in a car driving.


            The ground slipped out from underneath her as she tried to stand up.  “Of course, it couldn’t be easy.”  She grunted as she slowly pushed forward on all fours.  Despite splashing and more slipping she was determined and forced her way out of the puddle and onto her feet.
As she stumbled through the woods, she realized that she had nowhere to go.  No memories of a name also meant no memories of a home.  She couldn’t remember any friends or family that could answer these questions either. for lack of anyone else her thoughts kept coming back to the man from last night.


            The rain had finally started to die down and the sun started to peek through the clouds.  A flush of heat ran over her, her heart started racing, and she could hear herself breathing heavily.  There was no denying that she was terrified.  “Why would I be scared of the sun,” she wondered to herself.  With the fight or flight instinct kicking in she started to run.  She had no real sense of direction, but a strange feeling told her where to go.


            A final push through a line of brushes dropped her into a parking lot.  I was completely empty except for a single car.  The man from last night got out and rushed to her side.  He was speaking, but her mind was too blurred to make out the words.  He put his coat around her, and she let him help her into the back seat.  As the sun shined in the windows, she curled up across the seat with the coat over her.  “I’m glad the dog isn’t here,” was her last thought as she faded to sleep.



            William had relived last night’s events in his head a dozen times.  He was second guessing what he had seen.  Surely, he didn’t really help dig a woman out of the ground.  She couldnn’t have really had fangs.  He decided that if she was real, he had to help her.
He thought about calling the police but was afraid of the questions they would ask.  The one that scared him most was the one he didn’t have an answer for.  Why didn’t he call them last night?


            “Pacing around the apartment second guessing myself isn’t going to help anyone.”  William grabbed his coat and headed for the door.  “Hank, you be good while I’m gone.”  As thunder loomed, he grabbed his umbrella and left the apartment.


            As William turned on the car, he suddenly had an overwhelming certainty of where he needed to go.   The night before he had exited the woods into a park.  There was no reason she would be there since she ran the other way, but the closer he got the more it felt right.
William pulled into the parking lot and found it empty.  “I guess not to many people want to go to the park in the middle of a storm.:  Not for the first time he wondered why he was there.

 
            The storm had started to die down and William could see the sun peeking through the clouds.  For a second, he thought it would help his search, but then remembered all the mud the storm would have created.  As he glanced at a line of bushes he decided to finally get out of the car.


            The woman from last night burst through the line of bushes.  She was covered in mud and her cloths had even more rips than the night before.  Even from across the parking lot William could see the water dripping off her.  She stared at William as he got out of the car and ran towards her.  He could see a look of shock on her face.  “Please don’t run.  I just want to help.”


            He could see that she was shivering and her hands where over her stomach like she was hungry or in pain.  He took his coat off and was pleased that the woman let him slip it over her shoulders.  “Come on, let’s get you somewhere warm.”  William knew that he should take her to a hospital, but for some reason he decided to take her home instead.  He didn’t want to answer their questions.


            She still had not said a word and William began to wonder if she could speak.  He put his arm around her shoulder and started to walk her towards the car.  She leaned into him and didn’t seem to have any issue letting him lead.   “I’m going to take you back to my place.   We will get you cleaned up and then I’ll get you something to eat.”  He looked at her expecting a reaction, but only got a blank stare.
    

        As he opened the back door and she slid right in.  He couldn’t take his eyes off her as she curled up into the fetal position and gripped his coat tightly.  “What have I gotten myself into,” he wondered as she shut the door.  The strangeness of his situation finally hit him.  “I have a woman who was buried alive sleeping in my backseat and I’m taking her home.  How in the hell am I going to explain this to anybody?”

Before and After

Fiction Fragment Friday

Something little different this week, but I think very interesting. The first story I had published was called Sick Day and it was in Sojourn Volume 1. You can find links to it on my published works page. What very few people know is that Sojourn was not the first place I submitted that story. The first place I submitted it was to an anthology themed around exploration. I got general feedback that it did not fit their theme. For Sojourn I worked with the editors and they helped me really bring out the story that I wanted to tell. I learned a lot from that experience.

This week I’m going to share the first few paragraphs from both the original submitted story and the one that eventually was published. I wanted to show just how different a story can be after editing while still at it’s heart being the same story.

Before

            I sat on my back porch listening to a car alarm going off in the distance.  The wind blew through the trees and I could hear the occasional sound of birds chirping.  Basically there was nothing really out of the ordinary except for me.  I enjoyed the time I got to spend outside.  It was one of my few relaxations, but I had never been outside at noon on a work day before.    

            Workaholic didn’t begin to describe me.  I never used all of my vacation days and it took near death for me to take a sick day.  That should give a person some indication about how I was feeling on my second straight day away from work.  To be honest though I wouldn’t have taken either if my boss had not forced me to for fear of infecting the whole office.  Even staying home I couldn’t help but check in periodically to see how everything was going. 

            The wind hit my face as I shut off my laptop and leaned back in my chair.  There was something about the fresh air that just made me feel better.  I could breathe easier and actually put work out of my mind for a few moments.  It wouldn’t last for long so I had to enjoy it for as long as I could.  I wondered to myself, “Why can’t everyday be like this?”  Then I remembered the mortgage, food, bills, and other responsibilities that required me to work. 

            Those thoughts would normally have led me to check back in with work, but my dog had other ideas.  As I reached for my laptop to check my e-mail she came up between me and it to lick my hand.  She looked so cute and her face just screamed for my attention.  I sighed and rubbed her behind the ears.  She had been around me all morning, but I hadn’t really given her a moment of attention.  “Come on girl, let’s get your leash and go exploring.”

After

The tree branches swayed as the wind blew through them, causing the shadows on the ground to dance wildly. I could hear birds chirping, dogs barking, and a car alarm going off in the distance. In other words, it was a perfectly normal Thursday—with only one exception. I had never been sitting on my back porch in the middle of a workday before.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like being outside. Quite the contrary; I loved being outside. It was one of the few things I could do to relax. Long hours at work and a list of projects around the house just didn’t leave time for it. I had plenty of vacation time saved up at work, but I never took much of it because returning to work after time off just meant a larger stack of work waiting. That thought led me to refresh my e-mail and see five new messages waiting. I sighed as I worked through them.  

I had to be near death to take a sick day, and while I felt horrible that morning it was not my choice to take off. My boss was afraid that I would infect the whole office when I showed up the day before and couldn’t go a half hour without a coughing spell so he had sent me home with strict instructions that I could not return until my fever broke or I could hold a conference call without needing my mute button to avoid coughing in people’s ears. Instead I went to an Urgent Care and spent a half hour on a breathing treatment before being prescribed a round of pills and an inhaler.  That didn’t stop the e-mails and I spent most of that morning constantly checking in to see what was happening without me and if I could keep work from piling up.

I felt the cool breeze against my cheek and leaned back in my chair. It felt good. There was something about the fresh air that just made me feel better and helped fight off the coughing spells. I shut the laptop and set it on the table next to me. Tilting my head back, I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath. “Why can’t everyday be like this?” I asked out loud and then immediately answered my own question after a small coughing spell. “Because I have a mortgage, car payments, bills, and all those other responsibilities that need money.”

That thought process naturally led me back to my laptop, but as I reached for it a cold nose stuck itself in my palm. Chloe, my black boxer/lab mix, had decided that she had enough of my work for the day. She put herself directly between me and the laptop while proceeding to lick my hand. Her big eyes stared at me and she lowered her head. Her face just screamed for attention and as I rubbed her behind the ears my resolve melted away. “Come on girl, let’s go for a walk.”

Exodus

Fiction Fragment Friday

In 2016 I attended WorldCon 74 hosted that year in Kansas City. This was my first writing and fiction convention and I found myself incredibly inspired. I came up with the idea for a book series about a generation ship with each book focusing on a different generation. The first book would have been about those that chose to leave Earth and why they did so. It would focus on the struggles of adjusting to a life in space and giving up everything you had ever known. This is a series I am still working on from an outlining and research standpoint. The final version I’m sure will be very different than what I present here.


 “Mom the mail is on the counter.  There’s a big envelope from something called the Mayflower Project.”  My oldest son had no idea that with these words he was announcing that our entire lives were about to change.  Jeremy continued upstairs like it was any other day and probably didn’t even notice me rushing to the kitchen. 

 I grabbed the packet off the counter and stood there with my hands shaking.  The pile of bills under it taunted me, but for the first time they couldn’t bother me.  The big yellow envelope was indeed from the Mayflower Project and I knew that a simple rejection letter would not be nearly that thick.  I could feel my stomach twisting and turning with nervousness as I pealed open the envelope. 

Pain shot through my finger as I sliced it on the flap and I dropped the packet to the floor spilling its contents.  Blood pooled on my index finger and I instinctively sucked on it to stop the bleeding.  The coppery taste filled my mouth, but my eyes were focused on the floor.  A white folder filled with forms was laying spread open.  Next to it was a letter and I could clearly read the first sentence.  “Congratulations you have been accepted into The Mayflower Project.”   I dropped to the floor and grabbed the letter.  As I read I could feel the first tears start rolling down over my cheeks.

I don’t know how long I sat there crying, but the letter had splotches all over it.  I looked up and saw Jeremy standing there asking me something.  He looked worried, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying.  He looked so much like his father and I could feel the pain in my chest at that realization.  I missed Henry so much.  He trusted me to take care of everything after he was gone and I had failed so badly.  In less than a month we were going to lose the house.  What hope did a 17 year old and his 14 year old brother have with me as a mom?

“Mom what’s wrong?”  How was I going to tell him that in about a year I would be joining approximately 25,000 other people on a top secret spacecraft and he would never see me again?  How was I going to tell his younger brother?  I was no good for them, but I could give them one last gift.  A fully paid for college education and a real chance at a future here on Earth.  What more could a mother ask for?

**** Six Month’s Later****

“Ahhh,  I just don’t get it.”  I slammed the book on the table in frustration.  I had been studying for the Engineers certification test and just didn’t understand the underlying math.  Ten years experience with secretarial work had not prepared me for this.  If I didn’t figure something out I was going to be stuck in Janitorial because that was the only certification test I had passed. 

“Then stop trying.  Mom you don’t have to do this, we can figure something out.”  Jeremy started the same speech that he gave me every few days.

“No we can’t.  We would be on the streets right now if I hadn’t gotten accepted.  At this point even if I wanted to back out I couldn’t without breaching my contract.”  I watched as he lowered his head.  “Jeremy look me in the eye.  I started this for you and your brother, but now I’m doing it for me.  I can rest easy knowing your futures are taken care of and while I’m at it I can really do something for humanity.  There is nothing left for me to accomplish here, but out there I can be a part of something so much bigger.”

“Yeah I can see how dusting and laundry are more important than being here for our graduations or weddings.”

“That’s enough Jeremy.  This is hard enough as it is without you continuing to remind me of what I’m going to be missing.  You don’t think I know that I’ll never see any grandkids I may have?  You have a house and a guaranteed education ahead of you so you can provide for those grandkids.”  I reached out and opened the book again.  “Now either help me study or get out.  I’ll be damned if my contribution to the future of humanity is going to be laundry.”  I glanced up and I could have sworn I saw Jeremy smile for a moment, but as soon as he saw I was looking the expression vanished.

“Fine, I’ll be in my room.”  As he went upstairs I noticed that he didn’t stomp this time.  I couldn’t help but hope that he was finally accepting my decision.

****3 months later****

“What the hell do you mean you are going with me?”  I stood there staring at Jeremy holding the results to a successfully passed food services rank two certification test.  “How did this even happen?”

“I got the address from your paperwork and applied as soon as I turned 18.  I’ve been studying just as hard as you the last nine months and I’ve earned my place.  You can’t stop me any more than I can stop you.”

“Jeremy why in the world would you do this?  What about your brother?  Who is going to look after him if you aren’t here?  What about your future?  Are you really ready to live the rest of your life on a spaceship?”

“Are you?  I know what I’m getting myself into.”  He let out a loud sigh and for the first time I looked at my son and saw him not as a child.  He had to grow up so fast after his father died.  I wasn’t there for him so he had to raise his brother.  “Sam’s going to be fine.  Uncle Jeff has volunteered to move in until he turns 18.  With both of our sign on bonuses the house is going to be paid off completely.”

“but…”

“No but mom, I know you think I’m throwing my life away but I’m not.  This in an opportunity for me to really make something out of myself.  Why does it matter if it is on Earth or on a space ship?  It’s my life and I want to spend it among the stars.  Maybe this was about you in the beginning, but it’s not anymore.  Please mom, this is what I want.”

It was my turn to let out a sigh.  “Alright, I don’t like this one bit, but if this is what you really want.”

“It is.”

I pulled out my own certification test and set it on the counter.  “Well I guess my rank one engineering certification isn’t quite as impressive to a rank two food services.”  I almost fell as my oldest son grabbed me into a tight hug.  I could feel my eyes watering up, but was determined I would not cry.  “Ok not so tight.”  I chuckled a bit.  “Now how are we going to tell your brother?”    

NaNoWriMo 2020

I have never succeeded at NaNoWriMo. For anyone who does not know there is a website called NaNoWriMo.org that is dedicated to encouraging writers to write a novel in the month of November. They treat it as a contest, provide tools, and a community to help you reach your goal. I have tried this goal multiple times without success.

It always seems like something major is happening in November for me and usually it is work related. I have tried to participate while doing datacenter moves, builds, and disaster recovery exercises. I do not blame these things for my own personal failure at completing the challenge, but they did make things harder.

I know I can write a novel length work because I have done it. Still I have not done this and it is something I want to have achieved. So this year I will be trying once again to complete NaNoWriMo. I do not have anything yet that conflicts with this so if I fail I have no excuse other than I did not motivate myself to do it. That is actually the biggest reason I have not completed it.

I have not decided if I want to start something brand new or take one of my Fiction Fragment Fridays and develop it. I do have multiple chapters of most of them so that would go against the spirit of writing the entire work in November unless I rewrote it all.

Throughout November I will be blogging about this whether I am successful or not. I will be sharing challenges, successes, inspiration, and setbacks. I find that I do better when I hold myself accountable by setting expectations with others. That was how I finished my Skies of Glass Serial fiction years ago. Perhaps 2021 needs a weekly serial fiction story. A year long story is novel length.

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