Red Sky at Morning (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

Gentlemen never sail to weather, or so went an old saying, its origins lost to Anna now, but women never fear to do so, she added to it. At best, she was able to keep the wind just forward of the beam, but no better, and even so she could determine from the inertial compass that they made considerable leeway. Without the compass, however, there would have been no means by which to tell just how much their craft slipped sideways for every kilometer gained forward.

A sleek racing machine the converted life raft was not.

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Red Sky at Morning


Laxmi and Anna have left the relative safety of their island atoll upon which they were marooned, setting sail across the alien ocean of Kepler 62f on a makeshift trimaran converted from their orbital shuttle’s inflatable life raft. If this seems foolhardy, it probably is, but they are on a mission.

Kepler 62f is inhabited after all, and the locals have kidnapped their crew mate, Jaci. Now Anna and Laxmi must give chase in hopes of rescuing their friend.

Of course it’s not going to go well.


header image credit: pxhere.com under CC0 Public Domain

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

Writing Retreats, Poll Results, and the WIP

First off, the next scene from Chapter 3 is ready for your enjoyment (and your feedback — you’re an alpha reader, remember?). Anna, Laxmi, and Jaci are making the most of their enforced encampment upon an alien tropical beach. Jaci, hindered by a broken leg and thus unable to help with much else, becomes camp cook, and quickly nominates himself “greatest chef on the planet,” based upon a competition involving “every human within a thousand light-years.” Of course, there are only three humans within a thousand light-years…

So, if you’re ready to jump right in:

 

Chef

 

Meanwhile, in other news, the poll for best scene for an audience reading is still open (see the blog post immediately preceding this one), but results are starting to narrow down to a single choice, with one runner-up. I suppose I should not be surprised that, while one scene is more action-oriented than the other, both involve significant and colorful description of the world around our intrepid explorers, and that seems to be what people are gravitating towards. But, if you haven’t yet, go vote! And then check out the results.

Meanwhile, note to self: use more (or continue using) significant and colorful description of the world around our intrepid explorers!

Abeona in Port Madison
photo by Matt Fraser

Speaking of colorful, I spent the weekend on another mini “retreat,” once again anchored in the middle of Port Madison Bay by myself, for the purpose of some focused writing time. While I didn’t achieve as many total words as I might have hoped, I did produce this latest scene (why haven’t you read it yet?), and had a little fun with dialogue. Do let me know what you think of it, what works and what doesn’t.

Port Madison Morning
photo by Matt Fraser

I’ll be doing more of these!


header image credit: user:ChadoNihi / pixabay.com under CC0 1.0

Who Am I?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWho am I?

Let me start by saying who I am not. I am not a psychic. I am not an actor. I am not a hockey player nor Olympic weightlifter. I’ve made a few speeches in my time, but none of them are considered landmarks of First Amendment rights, nor am I a debate coach. I’m not a journalist, nor a professor, nor a scientist.

Why not all those things? Well, there are other Matt Frasers (or Mat Frasers or Matthew Frasers) out there who are all those things. It turns out I have a fairly common name (there’s even a Facebook group dedicated to people named Matt Fraser). One of the above is even an author, though fortunately for me he is a writer of nonfiction, so I trust you’ll be able to tell us apart.

I am a writer.

I have been writing stories since my age could be measured in single digits, when I wrote a stage play called Fly of Fly Hall (which was inspired by A. A. Milne’s Toad of Toad Hall, itself OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAan adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows). Around the same time I also penned the tale of Ford Matchbox, the fanciful adventures of my favorite Matchbox toy car and his automotive friends. As a teenager I had a keen interest in all things Fantasy and Science Fiction, and with great expectations I submitted a short story to Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. Much as with my early childhood work, the story borrowed heavily on concepts I’d lifted from the greats such as Robert A. Heinlein, and the magazine rightly rejected it as unoriginal. As writers we are supposed to take such things in stride, learn from them and press on, but I admit my teenage ego was heavily crushed, and I did not write fiction again for a number of years.

Yet the bug never quite leaves one, does it?

Throughout the 2000s I puttered about with some concepts for a political techno-thriller that never quite got off the ground, and in 2012 I wrote a piece of historical fiction for NanoWrimo that was loosely based upon the experiences of one of my ancestors during immigration. I followed up in 2013 with some stream-of-consciousness-inspired steampunk romance (yes, really) about which it might be better if we said no more (though I did “win” NanoWrimo that year, as I at least completed 50,000 words, even if much of it was schlock). There followed a couple years of trying my hand at short romantic fiction, and if nothing else, doing so taught me much about better understanding my characters’ emotional states.

But I am back now to my first literary love: science fiction (and perhaps the odd fantasy or mixed-genre piece as well).

I am a sailor.

You could say it’s in my blood. My father was a merchant sailor and Master Mariner, having spent much of his career commanding cargo and passenger ships around the oceans of the world. As a child I was hugely fond of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books, and when I read Robin Lee Graham‘s Dove as a pre-teen, I figured I had only a few years if I wanted to meet his then-record of being the youngest solo circumnavigator (that didn’t happen).

At the age of 13 I finally had the opportunity to learn to sail for myself on a rented 14′ Sunfish on the lagoons of Foster City, California, and the next year I signed up via Explorer Scouts as crew on board a cutter-rigged Downeaster 38 out of Redwood City named Pau Hana. Two years later I was in Seattle, and again via Explorer Scouts signed on as crew for the custom racing sloop Serenity (previously called Sachem and donated by one of Puget Sound’s legends, Bill Buchan).Abeona Close Reach

Since that time, I have owned a succession of ever-larger and ever-older sailboats: Kiwi Dreams, a 1984 Merit 22Roxy, a 1983 Beneteau First 32; and today Abeona, a 1982 Cal 39. My wife and I enjoy sailing Abeona up and down the length of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, having many fine adventures on the waters of Washington and British Columbia, and we have also sailed the warmer waters of Tahiti and the British Virgin Islands (though not on Abeona). We are members of the Shilshole Bay Yacht Club.

I am an adventurer.

This is in my blood, too, perhaps. Whether it’s my father’s hijinks on the high seas, or my mother’s tracks on alpine trails, I love getting out of the city and into the wilderness, or simply exploring new places. I have been hiking and backpacking as long as I can remember, and for several years I was quite active as a mountain-climber in the Pacific Northwest, including scaling Mt Rainier in 2003. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have trekked the Khumbu Valley of Nepal as far as Everest Basecamp, and I have cycled the Pacific Coast from the border of Canada to the border of Mexico. I have traveled to five of the seven continents, one of which was Antarctica, where I worked as an electrician for nearly four years, including three winters. I have gone beneath the waves in a nuclear submarine, and I’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.

I am a computer geek.

Or is that nerd? Either way, I wear the label with pride. Perhaps, though, I should say that I am a computer professional, as it is in this arena that I make my living — at least until my books take off!

I got my start with computers, sort of, in the late 1970s, when my stepfather, who was a field engineer for Livermore Data Systems, would constantly muck about with multiplexors and modems in our home. My first experience with networking was connecting to a mainframe from a “dumb” terminal via an acoustic modem; you know, the kind that had two rubber cups that you fit the handset of your telephone into. By the time I got to high school, I was teaching myself to program in BASIC on a DEC PDP-11 that the math teacher maintained. There were no actual computer science classes in high school in those days, or at least not at my school, but we could have access to the PDP-11 if we asked nicely.

In university I majored in Electrical Engineering, but I ended up taking more computer science classes than engineering classes, and along the way learned how to program in FORTRAN-77 and Pascal. My university career was short-lived, however, as I was not then a very good student, but after dropping out I got myself hired on as a system operator in the university’s data center, running CDC Cyber 170 and IBM System/370 mainframes.

Embed from Getty Images

For a while I bounced around the nation (and one or two other nations) doing various odd jobs while trying to “find” myself, until eventually I did find myself on that Pacific Coast bicycle ride, followed by the years working in Antarctica. Upon returning to Seattle from the Ice, I pursued a certification in network engineering, and proceeded to have some very good years as a Novell and Microsoft network administrator. One thing led to another, and I found myself specializing in database and enterprise application systems administration, so that today I work as an SAP Basis administrator. You can read much more about my path to this career on the SAP Community Network.

I am many things.

I’m a genealogist. I’m a husband and father. I’m a reader of books and watcher of movies. I’m a traveler, and once in a while video-gamer (though I rarely seem to have the time for this anymore).

I was born in New Zealand, emigrated to the United States at the age of 5, grew up alternately in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area, and live today in Seattle with my beautiful wife.

And I’d like to hear about you! If you’ve read this far, please leave a comment below.