Reef Passage (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

First light saw the makeshift trimaran glide smoothly across the calm lagoon. The orange and white checkered sail easily caught the morning breeze blowing across the low-lying atolls sheltering the inner waters, and the boat picked up speed as Anna steered toward the southern tip of the island.

She took one final look back toward the ruined shuttle and the beach camp which had been their home for the past few weeks. The shuttle seemed sad and forlorn, battered and canted at an unnatural angle in the shallow water. Hull panels Anna had opened in her attempts to repair the scramjet engines were missing, ripped away in the fierce storm, while others displayed obvious damage where wind-tossed tree limbs had smashed into the side of the craft. What sections were not dented and ripped were sandblasted to a dull grey and uneven finish.

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Reef Passage


When storms toss you broken tree limbs, you build boats with them. What else? And when aliens kidnap a crew member, you sail after them, even if it’s a big, bad ocean out there.

And if you’re a scientist, you never stop sciencing (I know that’s not a word, but it should be), even when the subject of your study is trying to kill you.

Laxmi and Anna have made the best of a bad situation, salvaging what they can and using storm wreckage to modify and upgrade their life raft into a sailing trimaran. The locals on Kepler 62f have taken Jaci with them, and now Laxmi and Anna must pursue them across an alien ocean.

But as they set off on the start of this perilous journey, Laxmi makes an observation about their environment. It seems a small thing.

Here’s a hint: it isn’t.


header image credit: user:dr.scott.mills / flickr.com under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Outfitting (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

The beach lay strewn with fallen trees, a bounty of choice from which to find three relatively straight and sturdy spars. Anna took her inspiration from the Keplerians’ own design, as she knew it was a good one. Lateen rigs had served ancient humanity well, from early days moving goods through Egyptian waters, to latter days on small boats for training young sailors. An easily handled rig, it would give them some modest upwind capacity using the materials at hand.

With plenty of climbing rope available, Anna and Laxmi soon had the mast stepped into the bottom of the raft and stayed forward and to either side. To avoid the need of a backstay, Anna rigged the port and starboard shrouds to pontoon handholds a meter aft of the mast step.

The shuttle’s emergency gear included five parachutes, just one of which provided more than enough material for a sail.

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Outfitting


Have you ever wondered how to turn an emergency life raft into a sailing trimaran? Well, if you ever find yourself marooned on a small island in the middle of a big ocean on an alien planet thousands of light-years from Earth, who knows? It might be just the skill to have.

Especially if the native inhabitants of that planet have made off with one of your crew members and left you with almost nothing with which to survive.

I will confess that way back when I first started writing The Silence of Ancient Light, I imagined a prologue scene with Anna, our protagonist, on Earth before the expedition begins. The scene involved Anna participating in a single-handed ocean race, navigating her sailboat alone across the Pacific, and yes, I meant it to serve as foreshadowing, as well as to provide some initial clues into Anna’s essentially introverted character. I dropped the scene before I ever wrote it, thinking it superfluous, but now I’m considering that it might serve a purpose after all, if nothing else than to explain just how it is that Anna knows how to build a crude sailboat and then operate it.

What do you think? Too much?


Header image credit: user:janrye / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

WIP: Lagoon, and Alpha/Beta Readers

Yes, it has been more than 24 hours since I published the latest scene from The Silence of Ancient Light, and yet I’m only now getting around to announcing it! What can I say, I had to run off to watch Solo with my daughter — which I quite enjoyed, thank you very much — but I’m back to do the needful.

And, in the interim, I’ve also done a little cleaning up of the organization of the scenes. After all, that menu was getting long, and unwieldy, especially for those using a smaller laptop (like I do when I’m writing all this). So, astute readers will notice that the scenes are now grouped into chapters, and this latest scene marks the start of Chapter 3. I hope this makes everything a little easier.

Before jumping into it, I want to talk a little about alpha readers and beta readers. The concept of beta readers is pretty familiar to anyone who hangs around writers much, and indeed is drawn directly from the software development world. Beta readers are “average” readers (meaning not usually other writers, nor industry professionals) who agree to read works prior to publication in order to provide feedback to the author for improvement. Typically it’s a nearly-finished work, having gone through a round or two of editing, and the purpose is to gauge emotional impact and determine if scenes and characters are hitting their marks.

Alpha readers, on the other hand, provide the same service, but at a much earlier stage in the process. Works in alpha are usually still first drafts, and thus potentially quite rough, and often alpha reading is done as scenes or chapters are written, so that the ending isn’t necessarily available yet. In “realtime,” in other words.

Does that seem familiar? It should. If you’ve been reading along with my progress here, you’ve been alpha reading.

And I’d really love some feedback. I know it’s rough, and there are plot holes, and technical issues. But there may be more holes and issues than I’m aware of, so I’d love it if you point them out. And I may be hitting the wrong notes with my characterization: is Anna relatable? Is she sympathetic? Is there something she should be more of, or less of, to be a stronger lead character? And what about the others? What about my pacing? Is the tension ok, or too much, or am I putting you to sleep?

If you’ve got suggestions, but are uncomfortable making them publicly, that’s ok. Just hit that “Contact” page and send me a message. But otherwise, feel free to comment right on the pages! My ego won’t be bruised… much. Let’s start a discussion!

And with that, allow me to unveil the latest story development: Anna, Jaci, and Laxmi have crash-landed on the alien world Kepler 62f, and, well, they could really use a break. They won’t get much of one, of course, as they are in pretty dire straits, so they immediately set about determining whether this planet is going to kill them, or sustain them. And… why is the sky green?

 

Lagoon


image credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech