Classroom (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The cave stretched back toward the interior of the mountain, but Anna quickly adjusted her perception of it. Cave was the wrong word, as it had clearly been excavated and enlarged by some form of avian industry. Kwakitl industry. Anna tried the avians’ word for themselves out in her mind as she looked about the spacious cavern.

The floor was smooth and level, well adapted for the passage of many feet. No rocks or cracks to trip on here. To either side of the chamber, the floor joined the walls in a gentle chamfer, sloping up and curving inward to a rounded, domelike ceiling. The walls and ceiling were not as smooth as the floor, showing some evidence of natural formation left mostly to itself, yet still they remained relatively even. Side passages with similarly rounded aspects led away from the main chamber, and rather than appearing dark, they were lit with natural sunlight. The light came from small circular openings in the ceiling, tubular ducts leading at an upward angle back toward the cliff, apparently cut for this purpose. With a start, Anna realized the light ducts were enclosed with round glass or crystal caps nearly identical to those she had seen in the abandoned mountain temple on her jungle island, and the caps served to diffuse and amplify the light.

For all that Kwakitl society seemed primitive, nevertheless they were capable of forging glass and machining lenses. What other surprises might be held in store?

Read more at

Classroom

(2,030 words; 8 min 7 sec reading time)


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We now know what the avian denizens of Kepler 62f call themselves: Kwakitl. No, I didn’t actually know about the historical Kwakiutl, the First Nations people of British Columbia, when I came up with that name, though I hope both peoples, historic and fictional, will be ok with the similarity. I had in my mind Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god associated with the divine wind who appears as a feathered serpent, except I misremembered the name. As I live in the Pacific Northwest, almost certainly I had encountered the Kwakiutl name before, but there any intentional similarity or relationship ends.

Yes, I’ll probably have to change that name in the rewrite. The similarity is too close.

For now, though, Jaci has been living among the Kwakitl for a few weeks, and he has not been idle. In that time he has learned how to communicate with them, and now he is leading Anna and Laxmi to meet his “breakthrough,” as he termed her at the end of the last scene. His teacher, and more formally the teacher for the young juvenile Kwakitl who otherwise seem to spend their time running around the docks and taking alien visitors by the hand.

Welcome to the classroom of Li-Estl, venerable teacher, mentor, and historian of Kepler 62f.

Before the lesson is done, another surprise is in store for our lost explorers when they learn…

Well, you’ll have to read the scene to find out what they learn, won’t you? And when you do, let’s discuss it in the comments!


header image credit: user:PhotoVision / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

NanoWrimo 2019

It has been five years since I last participated in NanoWrimo.

Nanowhat? you ask. NanoWrimo (sometimes capitalized as NaNoWriMo, but I find all that pressing of the Shift key tiring), or National Novel Writing Month, is an annual affair that occurs every November, in which tens (hundreds?) of thousands of writers (published or not, famous or not, serious or just having fun or… not) attempt to write 50,000 new words in 30 days.

1,667 words per day. Every day.

That may not seem like a lot, and for a day here and there, it’s not. But this is every single day. If you have a full-time day job, this can be a bit daunting. If you have kids to manage, this can be daunting. If you have a social life… yeah, you might have to put that aside for a month. Also, it’s November, which in the United States is a major holiday month, in which many people travel to spend a long weekend celebrating with family.

1,667 words, each and every day of that holiday weekend, while your family celebrates around you.

What do you win if you reach the goal? Bragging rights. Some downloadable “stickers” that you can put on your blog or your social media profiles. And sometimes decent discounts for writing-related software, but that’s it. It’s not about the prizes, it’s about challenging yourself. It’s also not really a competition, at least not against other participants, because there is no limit on how many people can win. Everyone who reaches the goal is a winner.

Really, everyone who tries, who writes more in November than they normally do, and who keeps on writing, is a winner, whether they reach 50,000 words or not.

The traditional goal for NanoWrimo is to work on a new novel. Plotting is allowed in advance, but no words can be written prior to November 1st. However, the organizers have recognized that there are rebels out there who use NanoWrimo in their own way, to achieve their own ends. Some people continue work on an existing work-in-progress. Some people write multiple short stories instead of one novel. Some work on revisions and 2nd drafts. The only real caveat, the only hard-and-fast rule, is that only words newly written between November 1st and November 30th can count toward the 50,000-word goal.

I am a rebel.

As those of you following along know, I have been working on The Silence of Ancient Light for nearly a year and a half now, and in all that time I am just now approaching 50,000 words for my first draft. Turtle writing, indeed! I briefly planned to put that aside and work on two new short stories for NanoWrimo this year, but I have shelved that plan. Instead, I will continue working on SoAL, using the challenge to inspire myself to perhaps write a bit faster, a bit more prolifically, than I usually do.

Will I reach 50,000 words? As a total WIP word count, yes, but as new words just in November, almost certainly not. I already know I’m just not going to be able to do that every day.

I “won” in 2013, and let me tell you it was a lot of work. I can also tell you, however, that it sure felt good, afterwards, even if I never did anything with the story I wrote that year.

2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover
Yes, I “won” in 2013

I also participated in 2012, although I did not “win” that year. Nevertheless, I was pretty happy with the words I wrote — perhaps someday I will post them here.

This year, my only goal is to make steady progress on my existing work — a rebel goal! — and perhaps also to inspire and be inspired by others who also participate.

Are you doing Nano this year? Let’s be buddies! Find me there at:

https://nanowrimo.org/participants/matt-fraser

Happy writing!

Changing Course (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Twice more the avians fished over the ensuing week, but each time it was clear to Anna their hearts were not in it. Understandably, the divers were hesitant to go into the water, and when they did they stayed quite close to the boat. As a result, the hauls were but a fraction of what they pulled in the day of the octopoid attack. Beta and Gamma argued over the fishing, but who was taking which side, and what were the sides anyway? Anna supposed that one pushed for more aggressive fishing, the other for more restraint, and neither seemed happy with the compromise.

There were no more attacks, however, and in between fishing episodes most of the crew remained idle.

Early on the morning six days after the attack, Beta squawked an order and the crew jumped to stations. Laxmi leaped out of the way of a pair of rushing sailors and found herself a spot on deck where she would not be run over or bumped aside.

“What’s going on?”

“We’re changing course.” Anna pointed out the sailors taking up slack on lines strung through blocks on the port side of the boat, while others to starboard stood ready to let loose on their side. “We’re tacking. You might want to hold on. And duck.”

Read more at

Changing Course

(1,434 words; 5 min 44 sec reading time)


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First off, you may have noticed the little insert just above where I put the word count and estimated reading time of the linked scene. This is the first time I have done that, and I mentioned in the announcement blog post for the previous scene that I was thinking about it. What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea?

Changing Course is indicative of more than just turning the boat to a new direction. There is a bit of a different feel, a different tone for this scene compared to many of the recent scenes, which I am sure you will pick up on. I also estimate this is about the halfway point for the story, though of course that could change as the back half develops (see what I did there? I swear it was unintentional!). Not to say that our heroes are out of danger! Oh no, things could be about to get far worse…

What elements keep coming up again and again in the narrative? It’s probably not hard to determine where Anna and her crew are going after this. I promise you, however, that there is a major plot twist (!!) coming up when they get there.

Please let me know in the comments what’s working for you, and what isn’t. Otherwise, see you at the next scene!

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header image credit: user:nir_design / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Nightwatch (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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That night, Anna could not sleep. Much weighed upon her mind, not least the disturbing death of the avian sailor at the hands — sorry, tentacles — of whatever sea creature it was they had encountered. The mood of the entire crew was obviously somber, their joy at the bounty of the catch shadowed by the loss of their crewmate.

She rolled out of her hammock and found her way up on deck, careful not to disturb the other sleepers. The crew mostly slept the entire night through, more hours than a human required, with just a minimal number on watch to guide the vessel through the dark. Anna supposed they considered fishing strictly a daylight activity, or perhaps they had caught their quota and now just wanted to get home.

She could understand that. She just wanted to get home, too. At this point the mission appeared an abject failure, and living to tell the tale remained her only interest. She knew Laxmi, and Jaci too if he was still alive, might feel otherwise…

Read more at

Nightwatch


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Will Anna, Laxmi, and Jaci ever find their way home? Is Jaci still alive? And what was that tentacled thing?

At least Anna is able to find a few moments of peace and quiet, gazing at the stars, to ponder her fate. Things have been a little hectic lately, after all. It would be easier if she could talk to the avians, but that seems out of reach for the moment. Although there perhaps may be some small amount of understanding….

Readers, I have a question for you. Would you find it helpful if I posted word counts, or the average reading time (or both), for each scene? The scenes have been mostly in the range of 1000 to 2000 words, averaging right in the middle around 1500 words. If you knew in advance that a scene was on the longer side, or shorter, would that make you more or less likely to read it? I realize, if you’ve been following along from the beginning, that you’re probably reading through each scene anyway, so knowing in advance likely won’t make a difference to you, but what do you think it might do for new visitors to the site? Of course, jumping right in at the middle would probably be confusing, so perhaps it really doesn’t matter.

As a for instance, this current scene is 1,093 words (so on the shorter end of the spectrum), and Scrivener, my composition program, tells me it should take 4 minutes and 22 seconds to read (that’s very precise, though not necessarily accurate).

Let me know what you think in the comments. I’m undecided on this idea.

Until next time!

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header image credit: user:7645255 / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Denizens of the Deep (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Laxmi and Anna soon picked up on the shipboard routine. They rose in the mornings with the sun, ate meals with the crew, and otherwise tried their best to stay out of the way. The previously spear-wielding fishing crew, now that no strange alien boat presented itself, put away their spears and melded in with the sailing deck crew, so apparently all were interchangeable. Anna had trouble recognizing individual avians from one another, but Laxmi soon had many of them identified by distinguishing characteristics.

“That one there, with the circlet of feathers on his head? He’s clearly the leader, the captain. I’m calling him Alpha. Then those two, that one beside Alpha, and the other currently up on the foredeck, directing some work up there: those seem to be his primary deputies, or lieutenants, or deck bosses, I suppose. The one beside Alpha, with the grey streak in his feathers across his head, he’s Beta. And the one on the foredeck, who has a scar across one eye, he’s Gamma. Then there’s the cook, who seems to also command a lot of respect from the others. He’s probably next in line for importance among the crew, so I’ve designated him as Delta. For now, of course. There are only so many letters in the Greek alphabet, so eventually I’ll have to come up with a better system for naming them.”

“You don’t think eventually we can just ask them what their names are?”

Read more at

Denizens of the Deep


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So, humans can eat avian food, mostly, and sometimes it’s pretty good (fried fish! so apparently this ocean has fish), and sometimes… well, read on to see what Anna thinks of the breakfast they’re served.

It appears their captors — or rescuers? — are the Kepler avian equivalent of deep sea fishermen. Or fisherbirds. Neither Anna nor Laxmi are entirely sure of the appropriate term here. They use tools and build ships, and they have language and culture and structured society, so they would appear to meet the definition of an intelligent species, though they seem pretty far from space-faring technology. Are the avians the builders of the ring station? If so, what happened in the 1200 years since broadcasting the signal received on Earth?

They may be fishermen, but they also carry spears, so perhaps all is not as peaceful and serene upon the oceans of Kepler 62f as might at first appear. Are factions among the avians at war with each other? Or is there something else they fear? Are they the apex predator of their world?

More importantly, from Anna’s point of view, can the avians help them find Jaci? And will they? Laxmi may be in her element, studying alien biology, but Anna feels no closer to finding a way off this planet than before, and perhaps even farther from it.

Stay tuned. The next scene is already written, so expect publication within the week. Meanwhile, please enjoy (and comment upon!) Denizens of the Deep.

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header image credit: Stefan Keller / pixabay.com under Pixabay License