Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nathan Bransford's 4th Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge

Saw this headline this morning, and thought I'd drop in the first paragraph of Mercenaries, A Love Story. About 200,000 words, it is still a work in progress. (Mostly to cut the word count!)
Here is the first paragraph, also posted (about #796) on Nathan's contest thread:

  “Com’on, Ian! Let’s get the hell out of here!” Kevin deVeel stuck his head into the room, to make sure that Jamse was at least beginning to move. “Come on,” he pleaded. “They’re getting too close,” as a shell whistled through the next room, creating a new window without exploding. “If you see what I mean?” 

Visit Nathan's Blog.
Enjoy the day. Comments welcome.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Weird and Wonderful

Below are the first few paragraphs of Weird and Wonderful, a short story which will be published in the 2011 Twelve Worlds Anthology for Charity. The anthology is a collection of a dozen speculative fiction short stories by a dozen authors. 

This is a  draft, subject to change. If you like the beginning, you will be able to read the complete story only in the anthology. If you don't like it, please leave  a comment to mention that.

Weird and Wonderful, an except

    A movement snatched Jackson's attention from the grill. He turned just in time to see her head disappear into a large trash can, the one still full of ice water. She straightened quickly, water coursing off her face, out of her hair as she pulled it back.
    Amazed at the sight, he stared. The front of the bright cotton top she wore outlined her form even more impudently wet than it had when dry. He watched with sincere appreciation. No matter the wet shirt, she was completely at home with the water. He had thought she was just wet, but now... Her skin glowed, blushed, as the cold fluid clung.  She and the water were much more than comfortable. Jackson had felt a little guilt at his pleasure seeing her nipples erect and boldly outlined by the wet shirt. Now his guilt had become more that of intruding on an intimate encounter.
    Mesmerized, he did not turn away no matter the guilt. She dipped a hand gently into the bucket, withdrew it rubbing her fingertips together. As she touched her cheek, smoothing the skin, her thrall was apparent and brilliant to him.
    The burnt odor of an ignored hot dog disrupted his abstraction. Rolling the last usable hot dogs about the grill top, he continued to notice the smooth texture of her skin as beads of water slid down, caressing. He averted his gaze, acknowledging that he was aware of his incursion into, he wasn't sure what, but it was completely intimate.

The rest of the story is part of the 2011 Twelve Worlds Anthology for Charity. More details will be posted here

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I'm not quick enough of mind to respond to an event like this in any formalized way in the minutes and hours following, as many other commentators are able to do. Most, thankfully, have been rational in both their reporting and their comments.

However, I must extend my heartfelt sympathy to both the families of the victims and equally heartfelt wishes for a speedy and complete recovery to the survivors.

As many others did, I observed the immediate reaction focused on political issues as the root cause of this tragedy, specifically the vitriolic exchanges, predominately but not exclusively from the "right." With more information about the shooter becoming available, it seems increasingly likely that to find the root cause of the shooting, his desire to kill, or perhaps to be noticed,  Mr. Loughner's mental state must be examined.

Those on the "right," having felt the weight of public censure over comments, maps, and opinions both before and in the aftermath, argue that the brouhaha is unwarranted, especially now that Loughner's mental state has been revealed.  There is certainly some small basis for that position.

However, it remains a fact that Loughner did not target a Catholic (as Fred Phelps was willing to do to spread his own message of intolerance and hate) or another denomination's religious service. Nor did Loughner target his family following a dispute Saturday morning.  He did not choose a sporting event. He did not elect to stop at a random gathering of citizens. Even the police were safe as Loughner received a ticket that morning. He chose, deliberately if the reports of discovered evidence are accurate and correctly interpreted, to attend the Congress on Your Corner event where Congresswoman Giffords was to meet her constituents.

I am left with the strong opinion that while Loughner's mental illness may have led him to make this horrible mark, the political environment in the United States and in Arizona in particular determined the direction the young man took in making his mark.

This is not to say that Ms Sarah Palin's famous (and quickly deleted) map was even one of the triggers (pun intended). Any person within the reach of Radio or Television has been inundated with the conceit that the United States is going to the dogs - or the furriners - and "We gotta take back what's ours!" It doesn't really matter that these sentiments may not be inspired by the hope of armed revolution or treasonous plots to depose the sitting President, they sound as if they could be interpreted that way. Given that they sound like that, in a large enough group, people who want them to have those meanings will interpret them to fit their fears, hopes and plans.

Concerning statements (and maps) like those discussed above, it beggars belief to hear denials like “We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights.” That statement and the one just following: “We never imagined, it never occurred to us that anybody would consider it violent,” just seem to me to be the height of arrogance, of insolence. Expecting an intelligent reader to believe those statements either borders on incompetence, or bespeaks a fervent belief that 'If I say it enough, maybe someone will come to believe it.'  Even had Saturday's horror not occurred, to suggest that Palin and her troops (mantra: Don't retreat - Reload!) never thought about the imagery being used on their watch implies an ineptitude that her advisors and mentors have failed to demonstrate on other occasions.

To people of all persuasions and opinions: Words have consequences, sometimes even greater than facts. Opinions are sharable, but civil discourse calls for well-intentioned restraint. Please exercise your right of free speech in a rational, thoughtful way, not to incite those among us who are unwilling to or incapable of understanding hyperbole or rhetoric as what it is and what it is not.

I would hope that all of us recall President Reagan's words: "It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." No one but Jared Loughner is directly responsible for the shootings. Each of us who pretend a failure to understand that our words and actions have consequences (or worse, actually believe that) are complicit in the tragedy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A first entry, nothing of interest here, people, just move along

Created the first blog, and here's its first entry.