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In the matter of colonisation
There is hope, but there’s also frustration
There is toil and travail
In wind, snow and hail
In the name of creating a nation

© jane jago 2017

 

 


 

Featured Author ~ Claire Buss

by Angelique S. Anderson

I’m so honored and excited to present an author interview with one of the most wonderful authors and most sparkly badgers I’ve ever met. Please welcome Claire Buss, it was such a delight having her stop in for a bit to answer some questions. She is a wonderful lady!

I see that you have four books available on Amazon. Which one was your favorite to write and why?

My favorite book to write so far has been The Rose Thief, I enjoyed the initial rough draft story creation and the editing process. I'm excited to write more stories in this world as well. I manage to release my books into the world quite well, I'm more inclined to think - right that one's done, what's next.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

They say you write what you know, whether you mean to or not and I think that's true. As a writer you just can't help putting bits of yourself and other people in your life into your characters. More often than not it will be strangers who can spark the most inspiration as you tend to only see a tiny, tiny part of their personality - we are left to fill in the rest ourselves.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I'm afraid I am a pantser rather than a plotter. I don't outline before I start, I prefer to just sit down and write. When I'm in writing mode I'll aim for a minimum of 1000 words a day and then the next day I just sit down and carry on. I don't go back over what I've just written until the very end. That's because when I start writing the idea has been bubbling in my head for a while previously and it's really about the characters being ready to talk to me, telling me what has to happen next. I actually love not knowing what's going on. Once I've written the rough draft, I find I have huge plot holes but that's when, for me, the hard graft begins - figuring out the plot and how we get from A to B. It seems to work for me so I'll carry on with this method until it doesn't and then I'll try something else.

What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

I've become more confident in myself. I've rediscovered a passion and can now spend my time doing something I love as well as something I can actually do. I used to think I didn't have a talent then I started blogging casually and friends would tell me how much they loved my writing. It wasn't until I entered a local book writing competition that I really pushed myself and discovered that actually I could write a coherent story. I've learnt that I will never please everyone, and that's alright, and as long as I am happy with the final result then that's what matters.

Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

I'm a stay-at-home mum and housewife, my little boy is 4 and a half, just started Reception school and my second baby is due on 26th November so really for me, anytime is the best time to write! It used to be once little man had gone to bed for an hour, then it changed to the first hour of the morning through the summer. Now, with him at school I can write during the day but goodness knows what I'll do when the new baby gets here. The key is not to get discouraged if you don't manage to write because then that will hang over to the next day and the next. Every single word is a win.

What are you working on right now?

At the time of this interview I am getting my new book. The Rose Thief ready for release on 10th November. I hope to take part in NaNoWriMo this year and plan to work on the sequel to my debut novel, The Gaia Effect. I've also started a Wattpad account sharing flash fiction and poetry - this is to encourage me to keep writing something new every week.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

When I was little, I wanted to be Lois Lane - it looked like the dream job to me so I eagerly went to my local paper for work experience at the tender age of 15. Needless to say being a local reporter isn't quite as glamorous as being Miss Lane so I drifted into secretarial and administrative work for a few years before qualifying as a chartered marketer and then an adult ICT tutor. All these roles involve words and people which is a bit like being a writer!

What was the first story you remember writing?

One of my earliest writing memories is writing a story about Santa Claws and being incredibly proud of presenting it to my mum and step-dad. I couldn't understand why they were laughing so much. It wasn't meant to be a funny story.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I have a folder with scraps of paper scrawled with ideas on them. I keep all the ideas I have - some will become flash fiction, some short stories, some may develop into full blown novels. And of course some will never, ever see the light of day unless I enter a worst idea ever competition.

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

At the moment I have an idea for a fairy-tale retelling, a top secret multi-book series, a techno-western, some short stories from the world of The Rose Thief, the sequel to The Gaia Effect, another Tales from collection and I plan to enter as many short story competitions as I find myself inspired to do.

What are your current writing goals and how do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

This time last year I wasn't an author, I had no books available to buy and absolutely no indie author social media presence. By the end of this year I will have three books out, short stories in two anthologies and a stable author platform via my website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and other social media sites. Obviously with a new baby due to arrive, everything will have to be a bit more fluid but the plan is to release the sequel to The Gaia Effect next year as well as Tales from the Seaside, another humorous look at life around me - this time on the local coast. Anything else will be a bonus. Every day I do a little social marketing, I have a daily checklist which I sometimes manage to complete fully but again I don't panic if I don't manage everything, every day. The key is to be consistent so that's what I try to do. I think the hardest thing for indie authors to accept is that they have to do all their own marketing and it's not just release day promos - it's every day and you can't just go hard sell, sell, sell. You have to share some of your personality, hopes & fears, support other writers and share tips. Respond to everyone, interact and encourage others. You won't become a bestseller with your first book, it's going to take time but you will get there.

Where can people learn more about your books?

You can find out more about my books and all my social media links at my website – CBVisions. Sign up for my newsletter to never miss an update and experience.

Thanks so much to Claire, for joining us today! It was great getting to know her better. I wish her all the success in the world!!  😀

Angelique S. Anderson


Conference on Terraforming

by John Thornton

 

As Dillion Vermeer prepared to step from the elevator on the top floor of Asteroid Prospectors, she still expected to see her long-time friend Kevin Mayberry in his large corner office, but she suppressed the urge to cry as she reminded herself Kevin was dead. Needlessly checking her deep blue business suit, and white shirt she stepped out looking more confident than she felt. Her brown eyes glanced around and she could not see much difference in the office suite.

“Doctor Vermeer, the others are in the conference room,” Kevin’s secretary, Jason, said to her. “May I get you anything? I could easily make a cup of cinnamon kohvi for you.”

Dillion brushed her black hair back over her ear, and met Jason’s eyes. The exchanged look needed no words to go with it. He felt her sincere appreciation. She smartly turned and walked toward to the conference room.

Then she stopped and turned back, “Thank you, Jason. Kevin appreciated your work.” A blush came over his face, and he turned away, but not before a tear rolled down his cheek.

The polished hickory doors of the conference room were open, and the oblong table had two other people already seated at it.

“Well, here is our little lady now, Miss Vermeer! Come right in, and make yourself at home,” a man said in an overly-loud tone as he rose to his feet. He was shorter than Dillion, husky, with slicked-back hair, and a new, but ill-fitting suit. Dillion was surprised that with the expense of the suit, he had not had it tailored for his own frame. Dillion would never spend that amount of money on apparel, and she wondered why anyone would.

“Reverend Jaxson Rhono,” Dillion nodded and extended her hand as she entered.

Acting as if he had not seen her attempt at a handshake, Jaxson turned and motioned to the other man, “I believe you know our friend, Nigul Rebane of Rebane Space Construction.”

“Yes, Nigul and I were classmates,” Dillion withdrew her hand. Nigul was thin with a sharp nose, somewhat too large for his face. His sandy hair and very dark eyes were just as she remembered, distinctly contrasting physical traits. His business-casual attire was in tasteful colors.

“Classmates, along with Kevin,” Nigul replied. “We all desperately grieve over our lost alum.” He did reach out and give a brief clasp to Dillion’s shoulder.

n“Oh, indeed, we all do, yes we do,” Jaxson interjected, and stepped between the two. “Doing Kevin’s memorial service was one of the hardest funerals I’ve ever performed, yes it was. But, I did daddy’s funeral as well—some years ago—and most recently, Kevin’s sainted momma’s funeral. That poor woman, poor, poor woman. She never did get over the loss of Kevin out in space. Oh, the day I sat with her when they told her of that tragedy. The Mayberrys they’re some fine folk, yes, fine folk. There don’t get no better people than them Mayberrys were. By heaven’s graces, that’s a fact.”

Both Nigul and Dillion cringed inwardly at the grammatical dialect Jaxson used. They did not agree on many issues, but both had been trained in engineering and recalled the motto coined by the Dean of Engineering, Professor Hubert Carvalho, “If you can’t say cannot, you can’t be an engineer.” Dillion had even made that official policy for her work.

“Congratulations on your win in the courts,” Nigul added quickly.

“It was a blessing that the courts followed Olga Mayberry’s wishes in her will.  I never expected to be the heir to all of Kevin’s estate, but as his blessed momma directed, it came to pass unto me.” He looked around the office. “Well’s we are here now to talk about—not memorials and funerals—but the future,” Jaxson went on, as his sad face was replaced by a different look. “I’m just a simple minister, and this Asteroid Prospectors is a right big endeavor, that’s fallen into my lap. So’s I called in you two folks, to help me understand this terraforming business.  Just what is that?” He gestured as he spoke, and Dillion and Nigul both took a seat.

“Perhaps, you would consider having some of the Asteroid Prospector senior staff join us? Kevin recruited and hired only the best and brightest people, and I am sure they would be more than willing to assist,” Dillion offered.

Jaxon sat at the head of the oblong table and looked down at the display screen in front of him. “I could’ve done just that, but I need honest answers. You see, the employees here, well, they’re all worried about jobs and such, since I am now being their boss and all. I don’t need no mealy-mouthed people pleasers. I need honest feedback.” He pressed a couple buttons on the table, next to the display and then stated, “I’s got my helper here, E1877—a name I must change, just must—come on boy, answer me.”

A mechanical voice came from the display, “This is E1877. I am listening. Were you addressing me?”

“No other machine helper here, is there? Well, you just record all’s that we are a sayin’ here now. Got that E1877?”

“Affirmative. Recording initiated,” E1877 replied.

“So’s what is terraforming and how does it play in with colonies? Well, Nigul, my friend, what is terraforming, and why should my business be interested in it?” Jaxson asked.

“Terraforming, in a simple, basic sense, just means to transform somewhere to resemble the earth, especially so that it can support human life,” Nigul replied.

“Like that there moon colony where all them folks died?” Jaxson asked.

“Limited terraforming was attempted without success on the moon, roughly thirty years ago—with Moon Base Alpha. Despite the fortuitous locating of subsurface lunar lava tubes, which did expedite making the base, it was unsuccessful,” Nigul replied. “Our engineering today is far superior to that era.”

“The Great Event, and the 90 Hour War contributed more to that failure, than any engineering problems,” Dillion brusquely interjected. “Reverend Rhono I started Dome Survival Systems just so we can address the issue of repairing and restoring the Earth.  Dome Survival Systems is a non-profit entity which is open to all who want to participate, I do not even take a salary.” She glared briefly at Nigul. “I think if you…”

“Miss Vermeer, your charity service is noted, and I want to come back to that in a bit, yes, I do, but right now, I am tryin’ to figure out this colony idea, and how it goes with terraforming?” Turning to Nigul, he asked, “Terraforming is sort of like having some creation kit to make the Garden of Eden, again?” Then smiling broadly, he joked, “Minus them snakes, of course.”

“Speaking broadly, you could phrase it that way,” Nigul replied but gulped as he did. “It is essential to the proposed generational colony ship program. Now, Rebane Space Construction has been the primary contractor for Asteroid Prospectors, and has built the vast majority of the spacecraft which have so effectively mined the asteroids. The Mayberry Mover…”

Jaxson interrupted, “That is Kevin’s motor for space travel, and part of my portfolio now. Came along with the whole shebang. I was told the mineral wealth of the asteroids is like five-hundred billion unified credits, using the fancy new money talk, and that fleet of space planes and stuff. I knows the company is flying up there and taking rocks and smashin’ them into usable stuff. But I want to focus again on terraforming. That astronomer gal, Gretchen Westerhuis, I think that’s her name, well, she is mapping out some very interesting places up in the heavens. Very interesting.”

“Professor Westerhuis has made amazing discoveries of exoplanets, and Rebane Space Construction stands ready to build ships to take us to those locations,” Nigul stated, and rubbed his chin a bit. “Vision is all that is needed to take that first step toward colonizing other solar systems.”

Turning back to Dillion, Jaxson asked, “Dear girl, I owe you an apology. I was rude, and knows it. You were about to tell me about saving the Earth, I believe. Now, what plans do you have? I know Kevin was’a working on a grand scheme to help us all. What part do you play? You don’t need to get all technical on this right now.  Just gimme the big picture, and we’ll start with that.”  He gave her a smile that held little warmth.

Dillion let out a breath she had not been aware of holding in, “Well, sir, it is a project that Kevin and I discussed many times.  It is about the protection of what is left of the Earth’s fertile soil and stopping the decline of the human population.  I can provide you with an entire portfolio of information, in case Kevin’s files are not easily accessible. I have all the scientific studies, research findings, and proposals which support Dome Survival Systems.”

“Let me see if I understand, your plan is to make colonies on Earth? In places to protect what is left of this ruined old world?”

“Yes, sir. We must take action before it is too late, although, in all honestly, I would not use the term colonies. I prefer refuges, or perhaps sanctuaries,” Dillion replied.

“Sanctuaries are in houses of worship,” Jaxson retorted.

“Yes, excuse my phrasing. These domes will be safe-houses, during the implementation of comprehensive mitigation efforts to reverse the course of the ecological damage. It is all in our reports and projections. Kevin had a wide-ranging plan, the Earth Restoration Project, to reverse the ecological catastrophes which are happening.”

“Oh, yes, so I’ve heard, and that’s part of why you two are here. I’ve been wondering, I guess I see two things happening. There’s your idea of staying here on Earth and ridin’ out the storm, so’s to speak. Then the other idea’s those gigantic colony ships goin’ off to the heavens on some sojourn through the ages.  What about us just doing that terraforming on our neighbor planets here? Say, Mars or Venus?”

“With all due respect, there is not a need to go to another planet. Neither Mars nor Venus is a good candidate for a colony, or for terraforming. Kevin has a plan, excuse me, had a plan, to bombard the Earth’s stratosphere with the nuclei of comets. He charted and tracked at least twenty-seven suitable prospects, some out in the Kuiper Belt.  By strategically placing them into the jet stream from orbit, they will cause climatic change which will basically rinse the radiation out of the sky.”

“I must not’a heard you correctly,” Jaxon stated, “Miss Vermeer, are you saying that bombing the sky’s a good thing? That sounds like what them enemies did in the 90-Hour war when the Holy Land was laid waste.”

 

“Well, the term ‘bombard’ was the one Kevin used to describe his plans.  It probably is not the best term, sorry. The science is sound, and not like the nuclear detonations of the war. As you know, Kevin was brilliant.  Essentially, he planned to bring a massive amount of water, via the comets, into the jet stream. That will drench the Earth and wash the radiation down out of the atmosphere.”

“Sorta like in Noah’s day.  The gates of heaven opened up and the waters from above came down.  The rains came down for days and days and days.”

“Yes, something like that. It is not just about the water. There will need to be survival places for humanity to be protected from the falling radiation. There will need to be radiation mitigation systems to absorb what is concentrated by the water run offs.”

“Miss Vermeer, you’re saying, you want to drench the earth with space water, cosmic snowballs, and then have hidey holes for people to live in to escape the stuff the rains bring down?  All while some sponges soak up the poisons?”

“Yes.  That is the basic project.  Kevin and I discussed this at length. My specialty is the Dome Survival Systems.  The plan calls for 10,000 domes each holding 10,000 people.  I know that is a far cry from the current population level of 1.8 billion.  But consider our current population level is only about a fourth of what it was just a few years ago, and the birth rate is plummeting and mutations are causing even those babies born to have very high infant mortality rates. Therefore, with proper screening and testing, we can save 100,000,000 people who have no radiation damage, and build secure places for them to survive.  Then, when the radiation levels are down to where they will not endanger humanity’s ongoing evolution, the people can come out of the domes and repopulate the newly revived planet.”

“Evolution?” Jaxson exclaimed. Then he caught himself. “Well, yes, thank you.  I will give that my full and due consideration.” Turning back to Nigul, he asked, “Do you agree about Mars and Venus?”

Nigul looked at Dillion, and then back at Jaxson. “Yes, neither of those planets are suitable for colonization in the long-term. We have tried to make ships capable of surviving on the surface of Venus. They all failed more quickly than any of us expected. The people who planned those missions envisioned a dome which would convert the atmosphere of Venus into a swampy mess. They quoted ideas about Venus being known as Earth’s twin. But that was a manipulation of the data. Sure, it is the closest of all planets to Earth. Venus has nearly the same mass and size as the Earth, but they ignored all the facts which show it to be unsuitable. A quick list; there is not much water on Venus, the incredibly slow rotation of the planet gives it a day many Earth months long. The atmosphere of Venus is chiefly toxic gases which generate a surface pressure nearly a hundred times greater than that on Earth. Then there is the fact that Venus’ surface temperature averages nearly nine-hundred degrees in that old Fahrenheit scale.”

“Sounds more like Hell than a Garden of Eden,” Jaxson replied. “But what about Mars?”

“Reverend Rhono,” Dillion interjected, “Mars is far more difficult to terraform than Earth is to repair. We tried a small-scale colony on Mars and due to air filter problems, all those people died as well.  It was not public knowledge, but it is in the records here at Asteroid Prospectors.”

“Oh, my, no,” Jaxson replied, and for the first time seemed to have a genuine emotion on his face. “E1877, is that true?”

“Yes,” the mechanical voice replied.

Dillion continued, “Mars is unsuitable.  It has some water, but extracting that is far more laborious than was initially expected.  The air filtration problems continue, and we do not have a good answer to that issue yet. Mars’ gravity too low. There is no shield from cosmic rays, no magnetic field to speak of, no protection from solar radiation. Mars is much further from the sun, and has a more elliptical orbit. Basically, Mars is just too dry, extremely cold, and its best places—equatorial regions—are similar in temperatures to Antarctica but with the normal night time temperatures far, far colder.  Where the attempted colony was located, which was considered the best Mars offered, routinely had nighttime temperatures of less than one hundred degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. Mars is too dry, too cold, and too exposed. The other possibilities are so far and remote on the outer planets' moon systems, and those are just variations on the problems Mars has, and worse. Building protective domes on Earth remains far easier than to build similar domes on Mars, the outer moons, Luna, or even worse, on Venus.”

“Sounds like water is a prime factor for this colony idea, and the terraforming tool,” Jaxson stated. “That Westerhuis gal says they have found water on some other planet, far way.”

Nigul jumped in, “Indeed they have.  Westerhuis 23, with its four known planets, the second one shows very positive readings for large amounts of water. The colony ship program can build ships to reach that system, and others, if we have the backing and the vision to seek out the heavens. Plus, and if I might add, the colony ships will have generations to study the target worlds and design terraforming specific to each planet. It is a winning situation, or might I just say, a divine calling.”

“Them gargantuan colony ships, can they really be built?” Jaxson asked. “I mean, if I was to…”

“Not as cheaply or as efficiently as the domes right here pn Earth can be built,” Dillion interrupted. “The Dome Survival System is our best chance to protect humanity and set us back in a proper upward spiral.”

“Yes, Miss Vermeer, you’ve made your position clear, and I respect that, yes, I do. But is it either or? Is it? I could fund both projects, and we would double our chances, right?” Turning again to Nigul. “When can those colony ships set off?”

“We can build ten ships in thirteen years, sir. Just thirteen years,” Nigul stated with confidence. “That assumes we have proper funding and support from Asteroid Prospectors and the leadership that sees hope in the heavens.”

Dillion nearly choked as she caught the religious tones Nigul was spewing. She knew he was agnostic at best, but saw how Jaxson lit up whenever Nigul spoke like that.

“Miss Vermeer? When can you begin building your first dome?”

“Right away sir,” she replied. “For less than the colony ships, and to protect far more people. I am proposing protecting 100,000,000 people, while the colony ships will hold at most just one million people, if that.”

“Now, Miss Vermeer, do not disparage Mister Rebane’s ideas here. None of that petty cat-fighting.  I am going to approve both of your colony ideas.” He stood up, and walked to the window.  The tan clouds of radiation were far on the horizon, and were not expected to make their way toward the city. He pushed thoughts of them away, and looked at the blue skies that were still visible in most of his panoramic view. “I believe we have come to the end of this meeting.  Initial checks will be issued for both your projects.” He turned around and looked right at Dillion Vermeer. “Come out and be ye separate. Go and build your domes, but we will meet again to talk about repairs to creation.”

Dillion rose, surprise on her face. “Thank you, sir. Thank you. Future generations will look back at this as a turning point.”

“Good bye Miss Vermeer.”

Dillion walked away, planning who to call, and what to do to start building Dome 1. She caught Nigul’s eye as she walked out, and he nodded ever so slightly.

After she had left, the Reverend Jaxson Rhono said, “The stars are our covenant. I will start a New Canaan Movement. Now, you go and build me a Noah’s Ark for space. You may build seven of them. Distribute out six, but you save one just for me.”

“Thank you, sir! Thank you!” Nigul left the room.

After a few moments, Jaxson Rhono said out loud, “So, now that I’m in charge here, I suppose Jaxson Rhono might as well use these toys Kevin Mayberry built.”  Jaxson Rhono leaned forward and pushed a button on the table.

“How may I assist you?” the very mechanical E1877 asked.

“Are you aware of who is in the room with you?”  Jaxson asked.

“Yes, you are Jaxson Rhono.  Current President of Asteroid Prospectors.  Current and sole member of the Board of Directors of Asteroid Prospectors.  How may I assist you?”

“Well’s I’ll be. I really need to change your name. I have a cash-cow and a plan. Bring me my elders and deacons.”

“Yes, sir. Messages being sent now,” E1877 replied.

Then to the empty conference room, Jaxson Rhono prepared his next speech. He thought of it as his finest sermon, and the words poured from his mouth, “My friends, you are the elders who have served with me since our days of small time rallies and meetings in basements.  But now we’ll need to work. We’ll need good and clean land, and animals of all types, and this has to get done.  You must acquire, by whatever means necessary, whatever we need to succeed.  I mean anything.  Look everywhere.  Find what we need.  Nothing shall prevent your righteous goal. No matter what, get it all.  This old world is under a curse, and the wicked are reaping their just rewards.  So, just like the children of Israel plundered the Egyptians before their exodus, we’ll gather whatever we need to make the Noah’s Ark work.  The prophets of old used the wicked to advance their goals, and so will we.  Did the Hebrews care about the Egyptians after the plagues?  Make friends for yourselves with with those who have dishonest wealth.  We’ll use whatever we need, for it is our inheritance.  We’ll take the honey out of the corpse.  We will offer the six vessels to the people of the world.  That is our gift of charity.  They can buy them from us like the nations of the world bought the grain from Joseph.  Yes, after they buy those six they can outfit them however they will.  But our golden angel will get all the very best.  And that is your task.  Elders, you will find the best and get it for us, by whatever way you can.  We’ll call our golden lamp the Rapture, for it’ll carry us all away, in the twinkling of an eye.  No, it’s the last days now.  So, better yet, ours will be named Eschaton!  Yes, the last day is here!  We will build the Eschaton! Jaxson Rhono you will get to purge out the evils.  You will set up what is right and proper.  Yes, Jaxson Rhono will forever be the new messiah!  Jaxson Rhono, will be the deliverer.  Jaxson Rhono, will be the Savior of all of mankind!”

The maniacal laughter echoed off the conference walls.

The end.

 


How to Survive NaNoWriMo

by Cindy Tomamichel

Adventures in Nano Land

We live in a world full of acronyms, some sound mysterious and interesting and turn out to be accounting shorthand. Others – like Nano – are simple and elegant, yet hidden behind those four letters is a world of mystery, imagination and creative frenzy. Once you know what Nano stands for, your life will never be the same again. Every October, the whisper will rise nano – nano is coming. Will you answer the call?

Ok, I might be exaggerating a little bit. Nano is National Write a Novel in November, often NaNoWriMo, with participants being wrimos. Entry to this experience can be found at https://nanowrimo.org/  where you can login and explore.

So what is it? Basically, the idea is to sign up and write 1,667 words a day for the month of November – every day. This gives you 50,000 words in a month. There is no compulsion, no punishment for not finishing, and you write it on your own software.

To become a wrimo:

  • Register and pick a login name etc, then you can add your book details after October. From now on you are part of the Nano family, and receive pep talk emails, you can make buddies and join in the forums which are fantastic resources. Continue reading...

Prepping for the Nanopocalypse

So, you have taken your courage in both hands and signed up for Nano – congratulations! I have done it a few times now, so I thought I might share some tips on how to prepare for the month and keep your partner and your sanity.

For your partner and family

Nano is all about you – or at least you will have such an intense relationship with your novel writing that other people seem to fade away. This is probably not great for your relationship, and it can be quite boring to listen to as well.

To avoid getting things thrown at you, or hearing the door slam and wondering why, make sure you break up your writing with family time, and talk about things other than your book. Do some housework, cook, or contribute in some way. 1,667 words a day can be squeezed into commute time, early morning or late evening or lunch breaks without huge disruptions to family life. The time taken by social media or TV is an ideal swap for writing time.

If you are in the position where someone you know is doing Nano, you may well be familiar with the vacant gaze into space when creation is happening, or the lost conversation as a side thought hits them. You have my sympathy! For November, they are following a dream, and provision of coffee/tea/snacks and scrap paper is helpful. Of course, don’t pander to the grumpy writer, this is a stereotype that no one needs to continue. Do take this as an opportunity to slack off on the housework and do nice things for yourself as they won’t notice.

Housework

Even dreamers must eat, and no one wants to wake up in December to a house that looks like it needs to be condemned! Continue reading...

 

So November has rocked around, and Nano has started. Grab your snacks, coffee and keyboard and write. There you go – November has finished and you have a novel. Simple, isn’t it?

Well, it tends to be a long month, and most wrimos go through a few stages.

Day 1 (1,667 words)

Either blind panic, or oh, look I have written 3,000 words. This is just impossible / so easy. Neither of these states last.

Day 7 (11,669- words, dude)

You will be in a routine by now and feeling ok. Make sure you keep up the daily exercise, and say nice things to your family. They are sick of your novel by now.

Back up your work.

Day 15 (25,005 half way)

Despair may set in at this point for a number of reasons.

  • You hate what you have written. We all do. Plug on and don’t listen to yourself, and do not edit.
  • You have run out of ideas. This happen too- take a walk, a break, or check the Nano forums for prompts and ideas. At this stage the travelling shovel of death or a team of ninjas may need to appear. At the very least they will be entertaining to write, and remember you are allowed to edit after November.
  • You are so far behind you will never catch up. This happens too. You can try a ‘Night of Writing Dangerously’ Nano event, or change your location to a café or library. Ask yourself why as well, you may be able to overcome the problem by stepping away from the panic.

Back up your work again. Be nice to your family – they hate your novel by now.  Continue reading ...


Cultures in Fantasy Worlds

by Chrys Cymri

Dragons are people too.

And so are unicorns, gryphons, and snail sharks.

Why do I love fantasy? I enjoy the glimpse well-written fantasy books give into alternative worlds. After a long day at work, organising a conference or patiently answering emails, it’s wonderful to be able to pick up the Kindle and lose myself in a world where women take up swords in battle, the castles are magnificent, and the dragons are--

Oh, dear, the dragons. And the unicorns, gryphons, snail sharks…

But first let’s talk about the humans in fantasy books. Writers often seem to offer us a medieval society, set in a form of England which never existed. Kings and Queens, knights and cooks, stable hands and pig herders, all of which can seem like a quick shorthand so the book can focus on the characters and the action.

But a book which has a well considered social backdrop is all the better for it. How has this kingdom come into existence, and how does that history affect the way its citizens interact with each other and with other communities? Are people fixed into the social strata into which they’re born, or can they move between them? How does this affect the characters and the choices they might make?

The same cultural considerations can be applied to the non humans which feature in the story. What sort of culture do dragons come from? Do they live in groups, or are they solitary? Were they driven from the nest or did they never know their parents? Or what about unicorns? Do they live in herds, like horses, or do they have a very different social structure? Do gryphons take after eagles or lions?

Snail sharks, by the way, are my own invention, and the group noun is ‘a rabble’. You do not want to encounter a rabble of snail sharks. They have very sharp teeth and they can move very quickly. And they grow to be the size of a large dog.

When I started to write my ‘Penny White’ urban fantasy series, I wanted to offer something new to the genre. The main character, Penny, is a Church of England minister for a village in England which, strangely enough, isn’t that far from my own home. In the first book, ‘The Temptation of Dragons’, she stumbles across a dragon dying at the side of the road. To her amazement, he asks her for the last rites. And so she is made aware of the existence of Daear, a magical world which exists in parallel to our own. Lloegyr is the equivalent of England and Wales in this sister world, and it’s to this country that Penny often travels.

As Penny comes to know the non human characters, their own social structures become clear. And their cultures affect them, even as our own societies affect each one of us. For example, Raven, the dragon who has romantic intentions towards Penny, is a search dragon. Search dragons are rare, and hated by their own families for their abilities to find out treasure and secrets. Raven had to flee from his mother, or she would have eaten him. Perhaps this explains why Raven is a loner, and why he demands independence from others. ‘I’ll fight alongside Penny,’ he states, ‘but I won’t fight for her.’

Lloegyr is undergoing an industrial revolution, which is bringing all the different races (dragons, unicorns, gryphons, harpies) to live side by side in cities and towns. Cultural differences are causing tensions, particularly when cross-species romances develop. A group who are against this mixing, called Cadw ar Wahân, will attack those who dare to marry outside of their own type.

Morey, the cat sized gryphon who becomes Penny’s Associate, was once an ordained priest in Lloegyr’s Christian church. He left the Church, and his gryphon clan, when he insisted on marrying a were-fox. The loss of his two communities, church and clan, helps to explain why he has suffers from sarcasm management issues and always tries to be the cleverest person in the room.

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Manual for Colonists

by Judith Rook

“What are they?” Allen stared closely into the view screens. Receiving from exterior cameras, the monitors showed the planet surface around the landing area.

“No idea.” Brale set his face alongside the commander’s, peering at the images with equal intensity. “The surveys have picked up nothing like this before, and they’ve been over the whole place in detail, within a fifty-mile radius.”

Outside, in the half light of the planet’s dawn, two ridges appeared, seemingly pushed up from the rubble strewn plateau. Two waist-high ridges in concentric circles, the closest perhaps a hundred metres from the small craft.

“Could we have set up vibrations?” The commander’s eyes did not leave the screen. Yesterday, carriers had transferred the first of the colonising equipment to the surface. But those larger craft had returned to the ship in low orbit, leaving only the two leaders of the mission to keep a final watch overnight.

“Doubtful,” said his companion. “Where are the other waves? Why are those two the only ones? There should be more.” He straightened. “We need a sample.”

Brale was the planetary expert, appointed to be the colony’s head for ten years. Trained in exo-world physics, human psychology and international politics, he would be the person who very soon would formally step onto the planet in full view of billions of other humans, variously placed in this system and beyond, and claim it as Earth Colony Three.

On this particular landing, however, he was just general dogsbody and observer, until the commander gave the final word to bring the people down and begin the whole, irrevocable colonisation process.

He turned to the board beside him and began entering a sequence.

“No, Edmund.” Allen’s hand held his arm. “Not a rover.”

Surprised, Brale looked at his friend. The commander’s brown face was concerned. “I think we should keep this quiet, just for the moment, just until we have an idea of what these things are.

“If we send out one of the rovers, the main record will show it, and they’ll want to know why…” his hand waved upwards, indicating the colony ship. “But if the lander’s record drops out for a little while…?” After a moment, Brale grinned, slapped the commander’s shoulder, and reached for his helmet.

Half an hour later, Brale regarded the low ridges before him. He should have a companion, but who would have thought an excursion necessary at this late stage? Still, they were both almost fully suited, a programme requirement for small surface expeditions, and if anything happened, Allen could be outside the lander in ten minutes.

Please don’t let there be anything wrong. Brale could not bear the thought of abandoning the years of planning, building and preparation, of extinguishing the eager hopes and expectations spreading throughout the ship in these last days, as the possibility of settling grew into a reality for the people now four years out of Earth.

He had been here all through the exploration phase, with his base on Colony Prime, one Earth month away. He had gone as far as anyone across this terrain. He had seen that it was viable as a support for human life. He knew this planet better than anyone else, and already he felt it could become home. Come on, Three, he said inwardly, tell me what this is all about.

He bent as closely as his suit would allow. These were not ripples caused by vibration. They were a build-up of some material, but so evenly formed, so evenly placed. How could it have gathered in such a seemingly intentional shape? Cautiously, he lifted a scoop of what appeared to be coarse sand and poured it into a sample collector.

Some of the loose material seemed to stick to his glove. Then, under a form of static attraction, it moved along his arm. Other particles rose over his boots, disturbed by his steps. With careful strokes he brushed himself clear, making sure the particles fell onto the ridges, and turned back to the lander.

He and Allen would run the sample through the analyser carried by all landing craft. They would find what it was—and they would make a decision. He felt cold at the prospect, his mind contemplating the unthinkable.

Half-way to the lander now. He hoped no-one on the mother ship had picked up his unplanned excursion.

“Edmund!” Allen’s voice sounded through his speakers, alarmed, urgent. “Get back! Quickly as you can! Get back to the lander! The ridges behind you have changed. They’ve joined up. Only one now, but it’s big and it’s moving, closing in on you—fast. Edmund…!

In the suit he could not glance back, but he believed the commander and increased his speed. He heard nothing from outside—how could he?—but almost immediately there was a sensation. He felt something pressing on him, as sand had pressed against him once during a storm in the Sahara Desert back on Earth.

This sand was not driven by a fast wind, but it engulfed him. He was surrounded completely by swirling purple and brown particles, but not abrading, not buffeting, just covering him. They clung, moving slowly over his faceplate. Why didn’t they flow past, on their way to wherever dust storms on Earth Planet Three went?

He lost all sight of anything outside his suit, and the commander’s voice faded into the far distance. His legs grew heavy, walking became slow and finally stopped.

The interior mask display showed three minutes passing, then four. Then he began to hear Allen’s voice again, calling his name and “Do you copy?”

“Copy! I’m all right—I think.” The brown and purple dust was thinning. He could see the lander and at the foot of the steps, Allen outside and fully suited. Brale raised an arm

***

“It’s the prokaryotes!” Brale swung the chair around and stared at his friend. The analyser had done its job and identified what the sample was made of—the microscopic forms of proto-life which had caused the colonial programme to move so slowly, in case these simple organisms had complex cousins elsewhere on the planet.

“It’s only the bacteria and archaea—nothing else. But in the highest concentration I’ve ever seen! There are so many, they’ve turned themselves into sand.” Brale’s voice shook. “I have no idea what caused this. It’s not happened on any other colony planet.”

“Tomorrow’s landing is out. We’ll have to investigate…” The commander turned to the view screens, looking onto the set-down area once again and there was heavy silence in the lander cabin.

“Edmund, what’s that other type of basic organism? The one that builds potentially intelligent life? There is one, isn’t there?” The sudden sharpness of the commander’s voice took Brale across the cabin.

“You mean the eukaryotes?” Brale also looked at the screens and his heart began to beat furiously.

“Eukaryotes. Yes. You and I are made of eukaryotes, aren’t we?”

“Thirty-seven trillion of them, give or take.”

“It’s how life developed on Earth? The other two prokaryotic types got together?”

“They made cells with a walled nucleus. Walled nuclei build complex life.”

Outside the lander, the ridges had disappeared, leaving a stretch of brown and purple sand. It was an uneven surface, and it was moving. All over, wherever they could see, appearances of objects were emerging and collapsing back into granules. Brale thought he recognised a small lander.

As the two travellers watched in fascination, a half-formed shape of what might be a space-suited person rose near the ladder and lifted an arm, just as Brale had done not two hours earlier.

“Mission abandoned!” said Allen, his voice dull and defeated.

But in Brale’s mind, a gleam of understanding grew, followed by realisation, and a sudden surge of joy that the planet would become his home after all.

“No,” he said, placing his arm around his friend’s shoulders. “Don’t do that. It will be all right. Take the word of your expert. The people can come down. We’re going to be colonists.”

He went to the exterior hatch, keyed it open, and waved at the brown and purple sand below.


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