Archive for September, 2009

Generalities: 9/30/09

Posted in Personal Life, Rambles with tags , , , on September 30, 2009 by Jaym Gates

There are some stories and articles that kick my ass to hell and back. For some reason, a pair of articles on forum gaming has been the worst. Pathetic really, they were my idea. Didn’t know how to set it up to be interesting to enough people, couldn’t get the game-masters in the right place at the right time (hey, YOU try coordinating Sweden, Britain and the Midwest around 4 work and school schedules!), etc. Finally, today, they are off.

Prometheus is finished, but I already told you that.

I somehow neglected to realize that the placement of my desk leads to being blinded by the winter sun for part of the afternoon. New curtains, forthcoming.

No news on the submissions front, although with Gmail being so bitchy, who knows?

I’m playing coach on a non-fic project now. Back from a third tour in the Middle East, my cousin finally gave in to my nagging and is writing down his stories from the war. And he is hilariously funny. Evil, sadistic and hilarious, yes, I had reason to nag.

Looks like California for Thanksgiving, and grandparents back here for Christmas, and then Denver/Grand Junction for New Years. Hmmmm. Am I looking forward to this? I don’t know. Going back to CA: Yes. Holiday travel? Bloody HELL no. Two years ago was enough horror for me, thank you very much.

I need new books to read. I am literally almost out of books to read. And no, I won’t go to the library for them. I sense a Powell’s order forth-coming. More on that later.

Other than that… Hmmm, Browncoats article business today, editing Inherent, etc.

Oh, and some sinfully good pasta primavera Monday, with white-wine and lemon cream sauce, linguini and fresh vegetables. Last night was roasted eggplant, fresh mozzarella and tomato bruschetta on foccacia. Tonight is homemade vegetarian pot-pie. Yes, it’s cold, so I get to start cooking again! Yay!

Prometheus Update

Posted in Excerpts, short stories, writing on September 30, 2009 by Jaym Gates

The rough draft is finished, 6050 words. It’s still pretty rough. The story is good and all, but the setting needs a hell of a lot of padding. The prose needs prettying up too.

Vritra filled the viewscreen, long and white and furious. Magic—magic that no Dracul was ever able to call—shimmered around him in a blue shield, and Janus knew with sinking certainty that the Copperheads would malfunction before they ever hit flesh.

And then Prometheus screamed and swerved, slashing at Vritra with his heavy tail, his talons raking through the white dragon’s magic and gathering it up in handfuls. Vritra shrieked too, in pain and rage, as his shields were ripped, and he struck, snakelike, coming away with a mouthful of alloy scales.

Shadow and Soul Excerpt: 9/29/09

Posted in Excerpts, writing with tags , , on September 29, 2009 by Jaym Gates

(Aleshan and Kasiris)

“Master.” She says the word so coldly and cruelly that it weakens rather than offering power. Once he struggled to force her to say it. Still it tightens his throat and brings him the slightest flash of possessive pride. The dragon longs for her to say it more honestly, tenderly, the same way it longs to be called ‘mine’. It will not be, not today. The brutality in her eyes promises only more pain and more cruelty. So he kneels to her and spreads his hands and lowers his head, offering himself to her, the only penance he can make.
It is days before the marks fade.

The Right Way?

Posted in Musings, Rants, writing with tags , , on September 29, 2009 by Jaym Gates

School seems to give us the idea that there is a right way to do things, and a wrong way. No possible multiple avenues, no right-hand versus left-hand. Do this, do it this way, have this result.

Anyone who knows me, can guess how well that worked. I clearly remember a 6th grade math assignment. We had to do a sheet of problems and show our work. I got an ‘F’ on the paper. The teacher told me I’d gotten every single answer right…but I’d used the wrong method.

Er, if I got the RIGHT answer EVERY time, wouldn’t that suggest that I did do them correctly? Color me confused. I’ve always had dyslexia issues with math, but that one incident set a deep-rooted hatred for math in my black soul. I can’t do the problem right. My mind just doesn’t work that way. I can’t show my work, because I don’t Point A—>Point B—>Point C. I’m not that linear. Therefore, I barely scraped through math with a lot of tutoring and acing my tests.

Oh yes, let me qualify this a bit. Even in my worst subject–math–my test scores were always years ahead of my grade-level. I can do long division in my head but not on paper. I can trace a series of past minor events over the course of weeks. I have a photographic memory. Placement tests screwed me because I aced them, and then couldn’t do the work.

English is the same. I can’t diagram a sentence to save my life, and “i before e except…” still aggravates me. But I’m the resident spell-check/dictionary/encyclopedia for any place I work or socialize. I write fiction and have had non-fiction published, but I’d fail a sixth-grade English test.

In short, I always get the correct answer. I just don’t get there on the same route most of my teachers/peers do. This has always been a troubling facet of my life, to say the least!

How does this relate to writing? I taught myself the craft of writing. I read everything I could get my hands on, studied query letters and drafts, practiced. And found that the ‘right way’ didn’t work for me, again.

I don’t do three drafts. For a novel, I only have two ‘drafts’: the really rough one, and the one that got padded up. After that, I go through it over, and over, and over again. What counts as a draft there? Each time I finish going through the book? When it’s done? Hmmm, is it ever done?

For short stories, again, the two drafts. Rough, polish, submit. Editing is easy in short stories, since I write at second-draft standards at least. I don’t make character charts, I don’t sketch out every event.

I listened for months to friends bitching about their creative writing classes. How there was a certain style the teacher liked, how most things they submitted just weren’t up to standard, or how a teacher used her own work as a standard.

How is that creative? How is that teaching the students how to be creative? Why is the human mind so intent on structuring creativity and expression?

The best part of being human is being creative. We compose heart-breaking music, paint breath-taking art, write soul-chilling books. Our view of the world is shaped by what we see, hear and read. Every one of us responds differently to the same piece of art or music, we give the protagonist a different face from the one our sister gives her.

Art and creativity, whatever form they may take, are an integral part of what makes us a unique species. Our personal reactions build our personalities. But it is what we give, rather than what we take, that defines us. We can read a thousand books and write one paragraph to a local newspaper. Which will be known? Which will be remembered? The single paragraph. Art is a community project, bits and pieces and baring a bit of your soul in public. Art is human soul and emotion.

And when it comes to the human soul, to emotion, there is no ‘right way’. This isn’t a hive-mind, a dictatorship. The mind is sacred, holy, the domain of itself and whatever it chooses to believe in. It is not the right of anyone to dictate how we think, we feel, we see the world.

I think we need fewer classes in the ‘Right Way’, fewer teachers who have a yard-stick and expect a student to hit the right points at the right time, fewer parents who send their kids to soccer, karate, ballet, swimming, theatre and whatever else can be crammed in.

We need more time for kids to stop and think. More time for them to finger-paint, to play in the mud and yell at the sky. More time for the adults to be right out there with them, throwing leaves and singing off-key songs. Less time to be ‘right’, to do ‘the right thing’, and more time to live.

We need to take time to be human.

(For the inevitable comments… No, I’m not advocating racism, anarchy or the dissolution of morality and the school system. I’m advocating letting yourself and those around you draw a breath of fresh air.)

Prometheus Teaser: Vritra’s Child

Posted in Excerpts, QWIPS, short stories with tags , , , on September 27, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Gears and engines whined around him, screens shutting off. The drone remained on-screen, an eerie golden glow cast around the cabin. As they left the immature Organics behind, Janus saw one young male, larger than the others, raise his head to peer at the sky, his blue throat startling even in the washed-out light of the sun. Vritra’s child. His throat burned at the thought of that treacherous, beautiful serpent.

The tentatively-titled Prometheus is at 3300 words after the third day of writing. Not bad, if I may say so. HOWEVER… this promises to be a much longer story than the usual. And it is also very different from my usual short stories, and very much like my novels. A good thing I think.

Vritra’s child. Yes, I sense another story here.

Patience? You expect PATIENCE?

Posted in Musings with tags , , , , on September 26, 2009 by Jaym Gates

So, up to this point, I’ve had stories staggered out enough that I got news on them pretty much every day. Yeah, rejections, but I’m actually enjoying personalized rejections. After all, it’s a damn good ego boost.

However… I let a couple of the stories sit for a while, and then sent them all out within a week of each other. Lucky me. Now I have 6 stories with no news. It’s nice to see ‘submitted to…’ on the Sonar chart, but I want ANSWERS dammit!

Never mind that no news is good news. Never mind that the longer they stay out, the better. I’m impatient.

So remind me why I chose writing and horse-training, of all things?

Patience isn’t just a virtue in those fields… It’s a goddamned requirement.

Yeah. Sure. I’ll get right on that.

In other news though… I got some mentions on Twitter yesterday that made me happy. Social networking is the future people. Sorry to break it to ya, but it’s here, and while it may change faces, it ain’t going anywhere.

New Story: Prometheus

Posted in QWIPS, short stories on September 25, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Alright, time to see if I can write something that goes from Point A to Point B without having too much fun. Climb No Mountain and Sin and Salvation were fun to write, but certainly aren’t going to be bread-winners!

Truth is, the dragons are warriors and soldiers in this war too. Coming from every corner of the nine states, they’ve convened here in the city to set up plans for the coming campaign. They brought us, all us humans and elves and other beings that have hands and two legs and can use opposable thumbs, and formed us into a rag-tag army.

I wrote that a long, long time ago. I don’t even remember why. There was some prompt, I vaguely remember that. But it’s a concept that suddenly got some momentum today as I was brainstorming.

I like to keep my stories set in one world. When I wrote Red Sun, I put in creatures that were a mix of human and beast. I had a scene of these beasts in a battle against fighter-jets.

Well now, those creatures just begged for more use.

A fully organic hand struck the magic-and-technology-enhanced super-house and shattered. Frozen shards of flesh clattered on the concrete of the warehouse and the roar of an enraged beast filled the air. The super-house clambered to its feet, head rearing a hundred feet into the air. Lights flickered on in the surrounding apartments, crew-men flew pell-mell down the stairs.

“Down here! They’ve got Prometheus surrounded!” Shouts filled the air, weapons crackled to life.
The super-house, the red Prometheus, tossed his head and bellowed again, calling his crew. The intruders dropped their weapons and scampered towards the exit, leaving their fellow sprawled on the floor, flash-frozen.

Well, yeah. How about we do that? Prometheus is the pinnacle of the technology and the prototype of the magic available at that time. The super-houses are like flying carriers, able to haul immense loads of gear, supplies or troops. They are augmented with absolutely the best firepower. Technologically, they are unsurpassed, a perfect blend of organic mind and inorganic body.

But a good war-witch or wing-hunter can bring them down with the easiest of spells. Therefore, the six super-houses have to have their own witches to protect them. Prometheus doesn’t have his witch yet. Therefore, he is quite vulnerable, especially to the wing-hunters. A super-house is incredibly valuable, and worth any amount of time and trouble he might cause.

My goal with this story is to build another piece of the puzzle that will eventually be the Arms of War series. This occurs early on in that setting, when technology hadn’t started fading. Later, Prometheus would be meeting up with creatures smaller and more magically skilled, but far less technologically sound.

So, there we have it. The next story.

Memorial

Posted in Personal Life, Uncategorized on September 24, 2009 by Jaym Gates

There will be no cool blog today. I have to go to work early today, and this afternoon is a memorial for our coworker.

For those of you who pray–whatever form that might take–he left behind a family who will need all the prayers and positive energy they can get. He was a good man, and will be missed.

I will try and post something more tomorrow.

Big Blind Man the Stubborn

Posted in horses, Musings, Personal Life with tags on September 23, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Have you ever haltered a horse? Not too bad, right? Just a handful of floppy straps that go around that big head. No big deal.

Ever done it while the horse had his nose stuck up into the stratosphere? How about on a horse big enough that the head is literally 6+ feet in the air? Yeah, bigger deal. Not insurmountable, but annoying.

What about a horse so head-shy that, if you touch his ears, he goes into orbit, usually taking the halter with him and flinging it halfway across the pasture? Been there, done that, and OW. Because in the moment it takes to let go of the halter, your arms get about a foot of stretch.

And yet, all of these pale next to the ultimate haltering nuisance: the evader. Evaders come in all shapes, sizes and strengths. Some simply fidget so much that you might as well give up and go bob for apples in the ocean, because it’s going to be easier. Others, well, you can’t even get within reach of them.

I’ve had many of that latter group. Pastures are conducive to halter-olympics. We had a neurotic half-thoroughbred gelding who would literally run in circles for an hour, rather than let us get close to him. He wasn’t spooked, wasn’t afraid of anything. He was just being… special. And he infected the other horses too. So let’s just say that I’ve had a great deal of practice in approaching and haltering the horses that won’t be caught.

Yes, as you might have guessed, Big Man decided to be an Evader Monday. Apparently, his halter had come off the day before. And he was not going to have it put back on. Monica had spent half an hour with him already, and he wasn’t spooky about it, he just didn’t want it back. He’d gotten rid of it. Not a game of fetch people, I don’t want it back.

I think we were in the pasture for about 40 minutes. About 15 of those were spent chasing him around. Three people, not a huge pasture. No dice.

Again, this is where the uncertainty comes in. He’s blind. His ears and nose and sixth-sense (which all good horses have in annoying abundance anyways) are off the charts. He’s fairly easy to approach, but it has to be the right kind of approach. With the halter on, he’s easy. Without it, heh.

Bring on the food. A bucket of feed under his nose, and the games get serious. He didn’t want to be petted, because he’d figured out that it was a prelude to haltering. I’ve had that issue before. We put the feed down, and I stood next to the bucket. I wouldn’t approach him, he’d approach me. That makes a huge difference. He had to get into my space to get to the bucket.

I’d like to make a quick note here… I’d never recommend doing this, especially not with a territorial horse. If it’s a stallion, it’s frikkin suicide if you don’t know exactly what’s going on. Big Man is more gentle than any stallion I’ve worked with, and it’s still a risk. He would be quite at rights to bite or kick the competition away from his food. Don’t ever, no matter how good the horse, lose focus on the situation for a single second! I’m fool-hardy and able to fend off a big animal. It’s still a bad idea.

Anyways, at first, I put my fingers against his mane. He jumped away, came back, and let me put my hand on his neck. Lots of wither-scratching, sweet-talking and no movement later, I could pull the rope off of my shoulder and start rubbing him with that. About five, ten minutes later, the rope was behind his ears, and he was cool with that. I looped it around his neck, carefully took the halter from my friend, and repeated the scratching and talking. This time, when the halter got down to his head, he did spook. This is why the rope was around his neck, I brought him right back. The halter was in the food bucket, he had to eat around it.

I led him away from the feed twice before I brought the halter with us. Each time, he had to stand politely for a few moments. Monica held the rope, and we went prancing around the pasture for a few minutes. It is NOT comfortable, dangling off a horse’s head like that. A stallion’s neck is incredibly strong, and I’ve had them lift me off my feet before. Finally haltered, he calmed right down and let us praise the hell out of him.

After that, he got a bit of grooming, we played with his feet and tied him to the trailer. Remember the first time I talked about the trailer? How he wouldn’t go anywhere near it? He tied right up, and stood playing with the rope and generally being a brat. He’s officially not worried anymore. And that’s where I saw the most wonderful thing I will ever see with him. The day will come when he’s bomb-proof, can be ridden with just a halter, anything, and it won’t be half as lovely as this.

He stood, tied the the trailer. His head dropped even with his back, he was resting on three legs, his ears were flopping sideways, his lower lip was loose and flappy, and his eyes were soft and half-hooded.

Why is this so great? Horses show their emotions in body and eyes. When he first went to the trailer, his head was stiff and high. All four feet were braced, his ears were back. His lower lip was tight to his teeth and his eyes were wrinkled and hard. He looked scared, and rightly so.

Monday, he was the picture of a trusting, healed horse. He has a long ways to go, but there were three people and a trailer in his personal space, and he was stoned on good feelings. That’s more than I could ever have asked for from a horse with his past, and especially that soon.

After that, things got a bit wild. He’s put on weight and muscle. He has a stallion’s deep barrel chest, thick neck and some powerful haunches. His conformation is quite sturdy, and for being a relatively short horse, he’s no pushover. He’s also feeling good, is fat and sassy, and therefore spends half of the training time being a brat. Cooler weather isn’t helping.

Monica put the blanket on him. He launched. Big Man launching leaves holes in the ground and puts a rabbit to shame. Unfortunately, he was so focused on the blanket that he launched straight into me. I took his shoulder to the torso, and he landed square on my left foot. And I will love him forever, because he immediately forgot the blanket, realized he’d run over one of his humans, and shifted his weight right off. My foot is barely bruised!

However, a lot more dancing was required that evening. Monday was one of those days that is simultaneously immensely gratifying and downright frustrating! He spooked at the basics, but we got a cinch around his girth, over a blanket. We started the basics of lunging him, he went in circles we weren’t asking for. He was completely engaged and listening, but still hauls off at every movement. Because there were three of us, and he is a lot stronger now, I spent a lot of time trying to keep him from running a human, the trailer, the tree, the saddle, the kid, the dog or the next county over. Trust me, that’s one place I’m a good dancer!

And he made up for that when he put his nose against the side of my neck and nuzzled ever so gently. I trust very few horses to do that, and a lot of them won’t do it. He rested his muzzle on my shoulder for a moment, and the feeling of a gentle horse’s breath is one of the most heart-comforting things in the world.

On another note, he’s lost a lot of his ragged look, and the change is startling. He’s always been handsome, but now he has no resemblance to a grade horse. Monica and I think he’s probably half quarter-horse, half Arab. He certainly has the movement, face, curved ears and general shape of an Arab, but on a slightly larger scale that usually means Quarter Horse. He also has the insane curiosity, playfulness and temper that the Arabs of my experience have. Whatever the blood, he’s a show horse.

And he’s going to be ok. It’s still a long, hard road, but the starving, terrified, abused stallion who suffered about the worst any human could hand to him is going to be ok.

I couldn’t ask for more.

In Rememberence…

Posted in Personal Life on September 23, 2009 by Jaym Gates

I received a phone-call from one of my managers this morning, telling me that a coworker had decided to take his own life. While I was not particularly close to him, he was one of my trainees, back in the day, and a damned good guy.

He will be missed.

Death is never in short supply, so I also am taking the day to remember Tamara, Jane-e, Paul, and the family members I’ve lost over the years.

You are all missed.