Writing what you love…

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Every now and then, I need to stretch my thoughts and tune out from the novel, or script project that is my main focus.

It is at times like these that I might write a travel article about places I’ve been to and love, or a conservation issue I feel strongly about.

Sometimes it’s a more technical piece about film technique or technology.

This act demands a new kind of attention and focus, and often, when I return to the bigger work, I feel refreshed and see it from a clean perspective. So this ‘ducking out’ technique seems to work for me. Hope it might help other writers out there looking for a breather from their main work.

(The pic is from an archived piece I wrote for Getaway magazine – pics by Thel Roos.)

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It wasn’t a blind date, it was a blind weekend…

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Arranged by their mutual friends, Carl and Jenna.
And so Tim and Amanda found themselves at a rundown old resort
in the middle of an eerie marshland.

That was okay. Until they had to share a room on their first night.

And even that was okay. Until a squat and malformed creature, with a melted face,
clawed onto the roof of Carl’s car in the middle of the night…

This all happens in the first chapter.Things get stranger for the next twenty-seven chapters.But good things also happen. Tim and Amanda start falling for each other. Trouble is, something is trying to kill them.

But is it something that’s two hundred and fifty-nine thousand years old, or is it just their own hallucinations?

My new book, ‘The Flower Bath Horror’ launches at the end of November on Amazon, Kindle, and iBooks, at around $2,99. In it, you’ll find some answers, but to find out who’s been impregnated with an ancient past, you’ll have to wait for Book Two. 🙂

PS: I would love to send the book out to five Beta readers, and if you’re interested, the first five mails requesting a copy from waldrons@icon.co.za will get a .pdf. I would like your thoughts and reviews as well please, thanks.

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The joy of feedback from readers

 

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When I started out writing books, I was terrified of feedback from readers, worried that
they would tear my work, and indirectly, me, apart.
Now, with feedback coming in regularly from readers, I have to say I am in awe.
Readers have taught me some very valuable lessons:

  1. Readers are very forgiving. They want a good story, and will overlook stuff to get there( a lady recently pointed out a few typos in the second part of my latest novel ‘Dirty Lightspeed’ but then went on to tell me how much she loved the main character, Luke, and that she would date him ‘like a shot’). She was willing to overlook the glitches (which we are subsequently correcting in the e-Book – the print version will have to go down to ‘First Edition’ haste.) to follow the character, and she was actually seeing my character in her imagination, and powerfully. I was elated.
  2. Readers are bright, and knowledgeable. They are not a mass.They are individual, caring, highly literate, journeyers with you on the voyage of the book. Their feedback has without fail been incisive, insightful, and revelatory. They will help me write even better work in the future.

  3. Readers are part of the team. They will travel with you if you let them, and
    will support you all the way if you give them a great story, characters and
    escape, with passion and sincerity.

  4. Readers are honest. Not all the feedback I get is positive. They help me see the wood for the trees. My latest novel, part of the ‘Alien Vets’ science fiction trilogy, goes back and forward in time (in the characters’ time). This technique is traditionally tough to write. Maybe I over-reached. Some of my readers pointed out that the time shifts were not as clear as I thought. But they let me know, and I will be more attentive to explaining a little more next time.

Thank you, readers. You make me write better.
Alien Vets is available in softcover directly from the author, at waldrons@icon.co.za

and the e-books, broken into Volume 1 & 2 separately, or a combined double volume,
are available from:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Alien-Vets-Robert-Waldron-ebook/dp/B07F16N86V/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=PE67WNT85A7TMSS4Y4MJ

Apple iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-adventures-of-alien-vets/id1360350509?mt=11

Books By Robert C Waldron

Robert C Waldron’s Books on Amazon

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The Flower Bath Horror Cover

Here’s the cover of my new novel ‘ The Flower Bath Horror’ – just completed it in one month for NaNoWriMo – whew, what a learning curve!  Will be available on my site free for  limited time soon. Let me know your thoughts re the cover, thanks.

Flower Bath Horror cover

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FIRST DAY

Source: FIRST DAY

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When you lean on a Black Mamba’s house.

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Being an uninvited guest in someone’s home is always awkward.

My day started beautifully.

First light over the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers

is beautiful, at any time of year.

It’s also the best time to walk.

I was camping alone in the Shashe Wilderness, Tuli Circle area, where Zimbabwe and Botswana meet.

Every year, just after, and sometimes over New Year, I would set aside a week to quietly go walkabout here. It’s wild, open country. Sitting on any one of the rocky hillocks here

will get your eyes drifting over miles of quiet mopane veld stretching to every horizon.

In the distance, you may be lucky enough to see a herd of browsing elephants, or hear the roar of a lion.

Several hundred metres wide in places, the Shashe river winds through this wilderness,

sweeping past the confluence with its smaller sibling, the Limpopo, whereupon, inexplicably, it is then called the Limpopo.

Most months, the Shashe is dry, or has scattered pools and lakes of water. At this time of the year, midsummer in the southern hemisphere, a flash flood can come rolling and foaming down the river at any time, and I have seen two in my sojourns there.

You don’t want to be halfway across the Shashe when this happens, so I always walk through the clinging river sand as fast as I can to get to the Tuli enclave, or Tuli Circle, a

small semi-circle of land that Zimbabwe has, cut into the Botswana side of the river.

Now given that the Shashe is perhaps five hundred metres wide where I camp, being halfway across is no assurance that you’ll make it to the other side if a wall of water suddenly comes sluicing around the bend.

Anyway, I’ve always made it, as you can see, but would probably stick to my side of the river if I saw signs of heavy rain to the northwest, that might fill the river overnight.

The morning was still cool, and all the birds were letting the sunlight know that they were happy to see it.

The raucous, territorial calls of the francolin echoed along the river banks, and the joyful chit chirrr of the woodland kingfishers, visiting for the summer, woke the day. I was a happy man, wondering what new revelations would come my way.

When I first pitch tent here, I walk an hour or two in the morning, and an hour or two in the late afternoon, and that’s enough, But after a few days, I walk the whole day,and I am somehow not tired.

This morning I was going to go across to old Fort Tuli, look at the gun emplacement

on the flat hill, and then pick up some fresh tracks of any animal, and start to improve my tracking skills. From 1890 to 1893 this location, with its water and mainly flat terrain, was a convenient point of entry into what was to become Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) for wagon trains. It was from here that Cecil John Rhodes set about his questionable colonial expansion into the country, and this trading route remained for many years.

The Tuli Circle itself is part of that heritage. To create a ‘no-go’ zone for local cattle, thus attempting to prevent the passing of foot and mouth disease to the transport wagon oxen, a canon was fired from Fort Tuli, and a circle of roughly ten miles in diameter was measured out from the end of the shot trajectory.

This circle disregarded the Shashe as the natural boundary between the two countries, and was marked out half in Zimbabwe, and half in Botswana. Hence, the incongruous half circle of Zimbabwe land, neatly shown on any map, that is on the Botswana side of the Shashe.It is now called the Tuli National Park. The word Tuli in Tswana means dust, in particular fine dust, and in the arid months, this dust typifies the area – I find it beautiful, particularly the way it filters the light in the sunrises and sunset hours, other just find it dusty.

I had already crossed the empty, sandy Shashe, and it was about 5.30 am (the sun comes up at 4.30 am at this time of year.) so it was still pretty cool.

Then I hit the uphill slopes to Fort Tuli, and at last reached the plateau-like flattop of the fort, and the gun emplacements, which were still clearly marked out with stones and not much the worse off for wear.

Below me stretched mopaneveld, and I decided to go down the south western face of the fort, and check out tracks.

I was in luck. There were fresh leopard tracks leading through the black cotton soil, and they were easy to follow, from earlier that morning. As I followed along, picked up spoor of one or two lone elephants, older, and some eland.

I just wanted to see if I could maintain on the leopard’s spoor, even though other spoor had crossed it on the sand, and see if I could follow on stony areas, and managed ok.

By now it was getting hot, and I decided to turn back and get into the beautiful and cool

riverine forest edging the Shashe with green-ness and shade.

So back over the fort hill and down towards the river.

A slim and splendidly striped skaapsteker , or grass snake flicked through the rocks nearby, flashing its stripes at me, as I made my way down. Perhaps it was a warning, but at the time I didn’t regard it as such.

By the time I reached the riverine forest, I was hot and sweaty, and the cool of the tall trees enveloped me. Pheew! I looked around for a place to sit down and cool off for a while. Ahead of me, an old ebony, or Jackal berry, had fallen, and was now slowly decaying, still leaning at a slight angle, where it rested on the stump of another tree.

I thought about sitting there, but knew that dead old tree boughs were a good home for scorpions, and didn’t want my ass jabbed just then.

There was a termite mound as tall as I was , rising to a point, just next to me, so I put out my right hand and leaned on it, while I thought about where to sit.

A flicker of movement on the edge of my peripheral vision, alerted me.

Emerging from a hole in the termite mound, the length of bent my arm away, was the head of a very large black mamba.

I froze. I don’t think this was a voluntary action. I just believe I couldn’t move.

I could see every detail. The tongue flicking. The black lining of the mouth. The grey coffin shaped head, and then the brownish body with a yellow to cream underbelly.

(The black mamba is called black because of its deathly black mouth. The snake itself is a brownish grey).

The mamba poured out of the hole, and started pooling its coils on the ground at my feet – and there was still more mamba inside the termite mound.I remember thinking, or more, feeling, against all my instincts, that this was a truly beautiful creature.

Finally, all of the snake slid from the mound, and started stretching out, at a forty five degree angle away from me.

Somewhere in my brain, I was able to coolly calculate the length of the snake as it unwound and moved away. I reckoned that if I lay down alongside it, it would still be three feet longer than me. So, a nine foot black mamba.

I still hadn’t moved. The mamba had every opportunity to strike at me, and I probably still wouldn’t have moved. But it didn’t. It stretched away from me.

The big snake then slid up onto the fallen ebony, and slithered along the trunk, which leaned away at an angle. I was able to watch the whole process with an amazing detachment. The snake stopped, and raised its head.

It now formed a kind of sideways Z. The head was up, the main length of the body ran along the tree trunk, and the tail, which tapered to a point, hung down off the trunk.

From there, it looked at me. I knew exactly what it was saying.

You leave me alone, and I wont kill you. You have disturbed my home, and I have let you live. Now move along.

Slowly, I lifted my hand from the mound, turned partly away from the snake, and walked away as if in a dream.

After about twenty or thirty yards, I came across a small washed away donga, and sat on the edge of it.

That’s when I started shaking.My whole body shook, and wouldn’t stop for a minute or two.

The adrenaline had kicked in. I gave it some time, and when I could trust myself to walk again, moved on.

Giving the mamba’s home a wide berth, I moved further north up the river, and crossed it,

eventually getting back to my campsite.

On the way, I had time to think about the possible consequences if I had been bitten.

There was a remote police outpost within an hour’s walk of the mamba’s home.

I would have died on the way there, after about twenty minutes to half an hour.

But the mamba let me live.

Not once did I sense real menace from it. Deadly warning, yes.

But the snake had chosen to move away from me. It could just as easily have flicked its fangs into me. As I write this, I can still clearly remember the image of that elegant and

beautiful snake, looking at me across the forest floor, waiting patiently and gently for me to leave.

Somewhere, we both knew, that we valued and loved the same life we shared, better than anything else.

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We can tell a lot about each other in one glance

It might be a partner, a colleague, a stranger, a long lost friend, or even an enemy.

And it’s because we do more than see.

There’s a hint of perfume, or tobacco, or alcohol. There’s a pitch or tone to the voice that is stressed, excited, perhaps distant, or inviting.

Their posture is hurried, pensive, worn out, relaxed.

With someone close to us, this glance tells us even more, because we’re using all our senses, and we know the person better than almost any other. We intuit nuances and

tiny differences of expression, and we just know what is up.

Not so with the characters in the books we write.

IMG_1613The reader can’t meet the character, like we do, in real life, and get that instant perspective.

So we paint the picture over time. Their voice is thin, high, deep, rasping, lilting.

The other senses kick in when we let the reader know that their hair smelled of apples, or

cordite, or baked apples and cordite. And their taste, yes,their taste – salty, pure, of raindrops, and more.

As writers we’re lucky – we can give our characters the dialogue that fills in the gaps.

‘ Don’t do that. Don’t try and domesticate me even slightly. Its the best way to lose me’

This is typical of Inca, the female protagonist in my upcoming sci-fi novel and graphic novel (also quite typical of my real life partner). We get to know her barriers, her thing.

Just like we get to know the people around us. It just usually takes a while to paint the character with words, until a point where the reader can fill in the gaps, and know what the character is feeling, thinking, or might do,

But that’s great isn’t it? Instead of one tell-all glance, we get to build our character at the pace the reader reads. What I’ve learned from this is, I don;t have to do it all at once.

I don’t have to slam down in front of the reader a tall, short, blonde,bald,wise, sad, egocentric, introverted, party animal recluse.

I can just give them one glance at a time.

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How many words a day?

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This varies from writer to writer. But there does seem to be a rule of thumb – 1,000 words a day. If you look through the literature, that number pops up with regularity, for writers across the centuries. That’s about four typed pages in double spacing, or two and a half pages handwritten, for those of us who eschew computers and such.

I am quite cosy with that number, and try for it daily. Often don’t make it, and often go way over that. My best time for writing my own stuff ( I write at work daily, as well) is when I get in from my office ( which is a twenty yard walk to my house door) is straight after work, from about 6 pm to 8 pm. I do this daily, five days and week, and pick a time on Saturdays to write anytime, if I’m not working the whole day Saturday ( which happens surprisingly often.) Sometimes,

I only crack a half hour or forty minutes, other times I forget about the time and find I’ve done five or more pages. The most important game changer for me was setting this time daily, and grabbing onto it with my teeth and snarling and worrying it. I was amazed at how much my work grew weekly. I’m now sitting with my completed sci-fi novel, Alien Vets(working title), at 192 pages, because of this. It’s also the only way I could complete my first novel, ‘Walk in the Cool’, (300 pages, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback or as e-Book.).

Wanna hear the best part? The best part is when you have written your first draft, and get to go back and re-visit your stories and polish and fix and tear out and cry a little. It’s easier, and forces you to stare your work in the face, and re-examine, raise the bar, cut, add, and generally take out the unnecessary stuff you thought was nice the first time you wrote it. Hard, I know, but that’s what we signed on for. In short, I don’t believe it matters what your words per day are. Just live with your work daily, nurture it, grow it, and build it. That could be 100 words, or 10,000 words, you will now. The real trick is. Daily.

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I was lucky

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After a night empty of sleep, pondering the existence of love, and even though it was my day off, I got a chance to go off-planet for two weeks. One of the capture specialists was ill and had baled on an inoculation mission to M3287. I jumped at the chance to get a few light years away, and focus on something that had some meaning for me. “We get it to walk through a mist net – that’s what we call it. It’s a sedative spray. Has to walk into it, through it, inhale it. Then it drops off. The only way.” I nodded. Damn clever.

You could never inject a Teluthi, with that armoured hide, hidden by those spikes. And get anywhere near those sharp edges.. The Teluthi we were looking for had just picked up a furry friend. A lethal, slow killing fungus that would destroy the Teluthis and all their kind, as well as a lot of other stuff on their home, here in the M3287 Constellation.

We waited in amongst the broad and sweat laden leaves of the Teluthian jungle – well, the sweat wasn’t really sweat, but condensation that drifted through masses of airborne gorphyte pollen. The effect was shining trickles of dew that looked, and even smelled, a bit like sweat. Luckily, there were clear patches of open grass between the gorphyte bushes, and through these, on happy occasion, would wander the odd Teluthi, blade- like scythes for mandibles – a cross between a prickly praying mantis and a cutworm with a chainsaw for a mouth. We could hear some feeding nearby, and hear the snap as cut leaves broke off from plants, but nothing visible. Then I got shoved from behind.

I was just going to tell whoever it was in the team to stay still, when I saw it was a Teluthi, backing into me, head tilting up and down rhythmically as it mowed its mouth through a massive leaf. I moved aside, trying my best to a)behave like a gently parting gorphyte bush, b) not get perforated by those spikes, c) get my spray blaster ready. My mask was already on. So. A bit ahead of the beast. But this one was reversing.

There were no plans for mist bombing a reversing Teluthi. I waited, then popped a balloon of the mist stuff under its nose – flapp! The balloon burst, and out spewed the mist, but it was too close.The Teluthi only got a whiff, as the noise frightened it, and it scampered off. Dr. Hoag leered out at me from some bushes, I could have sworn he was waving a finger at me, but then I saw he was pointing. There was a small Teluthi walking into the last puffs of the mist. It sniffed, careened around, looked at me with small child innocent eyes, and fell down fast asleep. The mist worked, but now we had a kid on our hands, and a bristling mom Teluthi would soon be all over us.

Hoag was next to me now, and shaking his head at the team to leave the young one. I think he would have survived if there weren’t two adults coming from different directions. They rattled right past me, and pinned him between each other, then pushed. Hoag screamed and leaked blood everywhere, and then the two Teluthi’s pulled apart to examine their handwork. Hoag fell like a wet sack, and the two Teluthis sniffed him, and then I fell over a gorphyte leaf. Luckily, I fell in to the bush, so the prickly beasts couldn’t pierce me right away. But, they did start eating their way towards me. Now that sounds funny, but they eat as fast as a weedcutter. I still had hold of the spray blaster, and thought I’d give it a go – blepp! Mist puffed into their faces, and they looked at each other like ‘ do you feel the way I do?’ and then both lay down fast. I piled out of the bush, waved at the two others in the team to watch my back, and started to prep the mouth spray. It was like those vaccine sprays some of us had as kids.

Squirt squirt right into the tonsils. Tasted like old piss and cleaning fluid. I decided to do the young one too, and gave it just over half a dose. Snipped off a piece of scaly skin between the long and serrated spines, and sure enough, there was fungus. Put it into a little vial, and now I could focus on Hoag. We had to wrap Hoag in a sterisheet and kind of half drag him to the probe steps, then we carried him up. Once inside the probe, we could watch the Teluthis waking up, and see what happened. It took about twenty minutes, and then they flopped and rolled around, pricking themselves in the process, but nothing serious. My big anxiety was that others would see their distress, and attack them or beat them up or something, while they were down. Relax.

Not one Teluthi came near. Saw some, but they were much more interested in sweaty leaves. Now all three were up, and sniffing each other, and kind of re-establishing some kind of order in their lives. “They have to start pissing” whispered Gudrun, watching with me through one of the probe’s small portholes, rather than on the vid. “There.I think that one’s…” and sure enough, the big daddy one started squirting a lemony jet of urine onto the nearby bushes, this set the kid off, and then the female also joined in.

They peed for a minute, then two minutes, then going on three. “ Hell, will they ever stop?” I asked. Something we hadn’t figured on. The mouth vaccine would make them pee, but we weren’t sure how strong the stimulus would be. They could dehydrate. But then the baby stopped, then the female. But the male just peed on and on. Then some strange muddy stuff squittered out, and he stopped too. Then they all started licking the leaves. “Oh that’s gross!” Shadrack hissed, twisting his face. I saw other Teluthis approaching, drawn to the scent of the urine. Soon they too were licking the leaves, and within twenty minutes, there were at least thirty of them below us, lapping what was left of the urine. “Great. It’s working” I said. “Hell, they killed Hoag” Shadrack muttered.

It was the admission we were all avoiding. Until then, Hoag’s death had seemed incidental. True, no-one liked him much, even though he was the project leader. We had to do our job, and evacuate on the run, and there was no time. But another human had died, and we had not had a mourning. “ The rest are starting to pee now” Gudrun said, as if trying to distract us from Hoag. And they were. The strategy was to get the drug transferred contagiously, via the urine drinking. We thought that the Teluthis drank it to get some nutrient or trace element that their bodies gave it in processing, something they couldn’t otherwise find in heir habitat. Yet they never drank their own. Not consciously anyway, but perhaps by transference. Anyway it was a pee-fest out there, and we had worked out the dilution factors, so that about two hundred Teluthis would be inoculated at a time. As they were endangered on their planet, with only about seven or eight hundred alive in two small remaining areas of habitat, full inoculation was possible.

I walked over to Hoag’s body, and pulled off the sterisheet and took a good look. The body had been punctured in dozens of places,and while there was some amount of blood pooling,most had streamed out on the ground outside. Hoag.Old school, a sticker, but hell, he had published more papers than the rest of us put together, and had led the profession in one or two new directions in his time. ‘Hamba Kahle’ I grumbled the old Zulu goodbye at him, trying to keep my voice steady. The others came over, looked, and said their goodbyes. It’s not often a vet dies in the field.

We take the best precautions we can, and that makes us lucky. Injured, scratched, half-poisoned, losing extremities and getting scars, yes. Dying. No. So it was that for the first time that we used the first cryo-tank on the probe. These were specially made to embrace the dead, hygienically, until we returned home. Then we moved on, misted more Teluthians, for three more days, until we believed we had ‘bagged’ the full count. Then it was time to prepare for going home. First there was the medication needed to prepare for travelling at near light speed. That took a while to lull our bodies.

Then in a half hallucinatory state, we needed to make sure we all sealed ourselves into our individual event capsules – we called them crash caps, because that’s what they were, in the event of impact with an object at nearly two hundred thousand miles a second. They were also called n-pods, for narcolept pods, on account of how long we slept in them.Once we were settled in, the mellow tones of a reassuring voice , usually meant for first-timers, soothed us: ‘As we approach the relativeness of Earth’s time realm, we are re-timed, our bodies transformed into energy impulses, and placed in an artificially created zone slower than the Earth’s until we are re-timed. This procedure will not harm you. You will, however, feel lethargic for a few days.

Welcome back to New Earth !’ Basically, until we match our Earth time of departure plus a few earth days again, so that we don’t arrive back home and find our children are older than us, or worse, that Earth is a barren, burnt out planet millions of years in the future. The process, as with many of the freighters, the military, and explorers of the space generations, affected us, maybe permanently. Despite the comforting re-timing blurb. I would find myself taking what felt like a half hour to cross a room, and then at another time, feel I got across town in the second I thought about it. Most of us were loners anyway, and tried to stay away from any emotional attachments. If we did bond with someone, it was usually someone in our travelling herd of conservationists.

Yes, conservationists. We were sponsored by the drug business, of course. The so-called, legit over-the counter business. Even though I worked for the City, they found plenty of occasions to get me funded trips off planet, which reduced their pay packet obligations to me. And sometimes provided new knowledge, or a new resident at the city Zoo. It turned out that the biodiversity of other planets, now that we could travel at 172,000 miles per second, was not only within reach for those who appreciated great beauty and natural history, but was big business. A day or two after Earthfall, we stabilised, and could walk around again amongst , I liked to think, a mostly whole new population. Of course, just a few days had passed, and things would settle back to the way they were pretty quickly. Most of us used the occasion to visit the newest bar and get obliteratively drunk.

“ What’s it like to travel at near light speed.?” They always asked that, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I had no idea whatsoever. “ It’s like a blur, you know” I opened. That part was at least true. It was a blur, but not the blur they thought I meant. “Then it feels like it takes about five hours to lift your little pinky finger, and then it feels like a millisecond and you’ve read a whole book.” That part was a complete lie, but was close to the few times I had tried old, organic marijuana.

They stared at me in awe, and then I would say” Let’s see if we can make this feel like five hours…” and usually about thirty minutes later or so, they knew it wasn’t five hours, and I would say “ Do you know you weren’t even born when I started my return trip to earth two weeks ago?” That usually got them out of the apartment, even if I was just a few days older. I think it got them to thinking I might be seven hundred and forty, and that parts of me might break off. I thought about all the new lives I could have started if re-timing hadn’t been developed, generations after generations.

Every time you arrive back on Earth, everyone is new, everything is new. You have a fresh start every time, and you get to stay young longer. Before re-timing, there were those who took on the light years, signing away their lives and their future, all to find some new galaxy, some new life. They weren’t back yet.

There was a hearing once we were back, and collaborating testimonies and the ship vid showed what an accident it was. Hoag was laid to rest, and we all carried on living, going about our business. The Teluthi’s were doing well, judging from the radiovid we got of them daily, and so from that point of view, the mission was a success. Instead of the bar oblivion thing, I just wandered home, with a gathering mopiness.

Time would change things, but not just a few light years. I woke in what felt like the middle of the night, but was actually the middle of next day. My wristset was kind of wriggling and I looked at the caller ID. Inca. But she put down as I was about to touch ‘answer’. I fell back to a half sleep, and then there was a voice leaking into my bedroom from the access system. Inca. Sure was persistent for a one-night type of gal. I slapped the access button and soon she was standing mercilessly at the end of my bed.

‘ I heard one of you got killed with the Teluthi’s’ she said solemnly. I sat up.’Could have been any one of us, just bad luck and bad timing, really’ I mumbled sleepily. ‘Coffee? ‘ she offered. ‘Thanks’ I nodded and fell back on the bed. She put a cup by my bedside ‘ I don’t know how you like it, so I did it milk and two sugars’ she said and sat down on my old armchair, which I used as a clothes horse. ‘Usually half a sugar, but this is fine’ I said, nearly adding ‘ If you didn’t just do me for one night, you might know by now.’ I knew just by the way she sat, would never be domesticated. Probably the closest she got would be to make coffee. I would give her that. There was a long silence where we both sipped coffee studiously. Her eyes fell on my bedroom study desk, a notably different item of furniture from my study, study desk. ‘You’re reading the Mountains of California?’ she asked with a kick of surprise. ‘For the third time.’

‘ He is so powerful. Innocent.’ she said. That was about it. John Muir could capture the beauty of life through seeing its purity. I was pleased she liked such classic work, and Muir’s style of quiet passion. Definitely not populist literature. ‘ Wouldn’t it be… imagine what it was like to walk the Sierra Nevada in those days…I wonder if the Earth will ever get back to that?’ I mused. ‘They’re still there, you know, not as pristine, but still beautiful in places’ ‘Why are you here?’ I asked flatly. She put down her coffee. ‘I thought that I would see you at work, and we would be, sort of friends.. but when I heard about Hoag, I thought that it might have been you. And.. much to my disbelief, I found that I would have missed you. Considerably.’ “Ah’ I said. ‘Sort of friends, and ..’ she started protesting but I raised a hand and deflected her. ‘..and ‘ considerably’ .

You describe a mere acquaintance here, someone you know slightly, or slight knowingly…’ She cut in despite my raised hand, and she was getting angry. “ I’m not good at this. I’m telling you that I care for you, and I’m not good at telling anyone that.’ She stood quickly and started walking to the door. I shrugged. Near the door she turned. There was water in her eyes, and her voice was rising and falling. She stabbed an angry finger towards the floor. ‘You see? This is why.. This is exactly why I don’t like getting involved. It just fucking hurts more than just saying hi and moving on.’ I stood. ‘Same goes for me. Except we don’t have a choice.’ She looked. ‘ It’s not the way we look.

It’s not our bodies. Not the sex.’ I sighed. ‘It’s not visible. That’s the mother that got us. That stuff.’ That web of hope and dreams and dna and ideas. I picked up the John Muir book and put it down again. ‘ That stuff gives us no choice. Right now, only you’ve got it for me, and only I’ve got it for you. It pulls us together and carefully hides what it is.’ ‘ We do have a choice’ she said softly. ‘We can walk away’. ‘Yes.’ I agreed. ‘But that hurts. Almost as much as trying to stay together. For me, that’s no choice any longer.’

I picked up the book and put it down again. ‘Because it starts all over again, some other time, with some other being. And we either try, or we just walk away from something that makes us walk away. No choice. I don’t like taking the option every time, time after time.’ ‘So?’ ‘So, don’t walk away. I’m sorry for taking issue with the way you said things. We’re scared. I say bring it on. Let’s be scared together.’ I moved toward her, and she backed away a little, and then waited, and I held her. We stayed like that for a minute or two. ‘ Just for a day’ she said, and let go of me and sat on the bed. She saw my puzzled look. ‘We’ll have this relationship, whatever it is, just for a day.’ In my dreams I settle down with a loving and devoted woman and we do life together. So it was hard to hear the ‘day’ part. But inside me, I knew that I would never settle for settling down like my dream painted. It would end badly. Inca was right. A day. That’s all any relationship has. And if we’re lucky, that’s followed by another day. A day is as good as it gets, and if I was going to have a day, by God, it was going to be with her. ‘Ok’ I said, and we fell back on the bed, finding smooth and warm places we liked about each other. I think underneath it all we were looking for the invisible stuff.

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Short Story…or Chapter…?

Stories..or Chapters..?

It’s long been a dilemma of mine.

Whilst I’ve written lots of long form (mostly movies),

I often find myself with a bunch of stories huddled around my

imagination, waiting for me to write the next one in the family.

Problem with that is , this is what the publishers will say ‘ Er..um..we don’t

get much call for short stories around here, bub.’

So what do you do, herd all those great stories over the cliff and into the sea?

No.

What has grown upon me, out of that big Mother, necessity,is a way of creating

a bunch of short stories, that are all linked. With characters, themes, plot, but each has an individual happening within it, which could be a chapter, or stand tall and proud as its own ‘short story’.

I’m doing this at the moment with my graphic novel. My hero, Luke, has ongoing off-planet

(and on-planet) adventures with new star systems, aliens, and even humans. In particular, one human, the heroine, Inca.

They have a love/panic relationship that runs through most of the stories, and there are baddies throughout the universe that they have to fight/avoid/get beaten up by.

With those ingredients, the stories knit themselves into a kind of space-time quilt that

makes a novel, so my agent and publisher can go ‘ Well, that’s a novel and..well, that’s a genre novel, and its a big five genre novel, sci-fi or is it fantasy, and we might even make a buck.’

So if you’re brimming with stories, don’t make them orphans, weld them into a chain with links and themes, and a few common, and not so common threads.

In the next blog, one of the alien stories comes slobbering in.120407081011

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