Archive for category Fortnightcaps

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I’m going to actually link to my resolutions post from 366 days ago, just to keep myself honest.  And I’m going to be honest with some responses to it.

Resolution 1: Finish the first draft of Capsule.  This did not happen.  Largely because I hit a point where I realized the book I was writing was not the right book to write.  It needed to be divided into two books, because I was telling two completely different and unrelated stories.  I’ll come back to both of these books one day, but probably not until 2013 in all honesty, certainly no earlier than October 2012.  But I learned a lot from walking away, such as recognizing when something isn’t working and why it isn’t working.  I also stepped away to work on a novel that has a lot of promise, so again I can only beat myself up so much.

Resolution 2: Three short stories out at all times.  This was a lofty goal for someone who went into the year with a limited number of stories ready to go out.  And then came the fantastic problem of having two taken off the market by sales!  Yay!  I tried to keep the stories that were ready for publication circulating, but probably could have done more.  Some of them, like Sleep, are just hard to find markets for.  I do have two out with long-response publications right now (Vampires of Mars and Face of the Serpent).

Resolution 3: Write from-scratch stories for six anthologies.  I did five.  One sold (Home Again), one wasn’t sent due to quality problems (Back Half), two were rejected (Vampire of Mars and Beyond Light), one is still out for consideration (Face of the Serpent).

Resolution 4: Fortnightcaps.  This was a fun project for a few months, and I had intended to keep it going through the year.  What stopped me?  Discovering other flash fiction contests, and realizing that I was burning story rights without anything to show in return in terms of readership.  So anyone who was paying attention might have noticed they stopped in September, but since I never had a single person ask me “hey, what happened to those Fortnightcaps,” I suspect no one was really paying attention.  This showed in the readership dips on those days.  I’m not blogging solely for readership numbers, but it is nice to not send stories out into the void where no one is reading them when I could make something more out of them.

So it was a mixed bag, but even in my failures I feel like I learned a lot about writing in general, and specifically how I write, in this past year.  I wouldn’t trade a single bit of the experience.

Last night at CVS we sat down and talked about resolutions going forward.  I wrote down five at Day‘s insistence, but it was secretly just three.  We followed the SMART acronym used by most corporations in determining yearly objectives: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  For example, writing 10 novels is specific and measurable, but isn’t attainable or realistic.  So from that perspective, my resolutions break down to the following categories:

Completion.  Complete Nickajack to a condition where it can be queried, then query it.  There are a lot of steps involved in this (such as, ya know, finishing it), and “Query Nickajack” really is my overarching resolution for 2012.  Each month’s State of the Writer for 2012 will start with those words and my progress towards that goal so I don’t lose sight of it.

Research.  I’ve made a specific goal of reading three non-fiction books about pre-to-post Civil War era, and two fiction books with as similar a setting as possible.  Which is tough.  Southeastern US Steampunk is not a common market segment.  One of the fiction books will likely be How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove.  It’s not Steampunk, but it is Alternate History, and I’ve always preferred Steampunk that falls under Alternate History more than Fantasy.  Recommendations are welcome!

Man Up.  I need to get over my crippling con introversion, the one that border lines on social anxiety.  To make this goal measurable, I’ve taken it upon myself to find 6 people to provide prompts for the 2012 Flashathon.  With the event being expanded to 18 hours, that means I’m on the hook for a third of them.  This is, by far, the hardest of the resolutions I’ve set.  Which says a lot about me that I consider talking to six people, just six, at a convention as more of a challenge than finishing a fucking novel.

And with that, this blog will likely be dark until the New Year.  Everyone enjoy the festivities.  I’d caution to not do anything I wouldn’t, but that would make for a boring weekend, so go out there and do at least one thing I wouldn’t but is still legal.  It’ll be more fun that way.

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Fortnightcap: Carbon Offsets

Carbon Offsets

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

The auditor walked back into the house, cross referencing some tables.  “That behemoth outside, that your only car?”

“Yeah,” said the homeowner from his kitchen.

“My data says that gets about 13 miles to the gallon.  Sound about right?”

The homeowner emerged with a glass of water and sat down at his dining room table.  “Give or take.”

“And how far do you drive it each day?”

“Sixty miles round trip to work.”

“Sixty?” the auditor said with an appreciative whistle.  “That’s over four gallons a day.”

“You almost done,” he asked.  He was nervous, he wanted to get this over with, couldn’t even remember why this audit seemed like such a good idea to begin with.

“Yup.  Just want to make sure I’ve got everything.  You live here alone, drive to work 60 miles a day at just 13 MPG.  Your electrical bills show that you use about 1500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.  You eat out more than you eat in, and when you do eat in you’re getting delivery.”

“Is that bad?”

“I don’t judge the way people live, I just audit it.”

“So.  So how do carbon offsets work?”

“Well,” the auditor sat down at the table, “we determine your carbon footprint, then we give you the option for how many carbon offsets you want to purchase.  That money goes to fund projects that are carbon negative but politically difficult to get funding for.  Wind farms, for example.  So you end up helping take some carbon out of the air while at the same time continuing to spew plenty of it into the air.  Hence ‘offset.'”

“So it’s like an indulgence?”

“You’ll make people uncomfortable if you talk about it that way.  Between us, yeah, the idea is to let people feel better about themselves without changing their lifestyle in any meaningful way.  And let me tell you, sir, you are a magnificent bastard when it comes to carbon footprint.  You’re a god damned carbon Sasquatch.”  The inspector rose from the table, and stepped around behind the home owner.  “It’s rare that I find someone with a bigger carbon footprint than mine.”

“Do…do you buy offsets?”

“No,” the auditor said, pulling the garrote wire from his watch, “I’ve found other ways to offset my usage.”

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.  Wind turbine picture released to public domain by creator.

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Fortnightcap: Vicious Cycle

Vicious Cycle

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

“So.  You’ve come to kill me then?”

He didn’t turn around.  He didn’t need to.  He’d heard the faint click of the gun’s hammer being pulled back, and knew there was only one person who could be holding it.

“I have to.  You know I have to.  It’s the only way.”

“You won’t be able to.”  He turned his chair around, wanting to face the person with the gun.  He knew a general identity but not a face, not even a gender.  There was no mistaking the man there.  The high cheekbones.  The gentle nose.  This could only be his grandson.  “And really, I’m disappointed in your lack of imagination here.”

“You’re not making this easy for me.”

“It’s not supposed to be easy.  In fact, it’s supposed to be impossible.  I’m sure you’ve seen the equations, the proof that the timeline is immutable, unchangeable.  And really, picking on an old man like me?”

“You’re five years younger than me.”

“Oh sure,” he rose from his chair, and walked towards his grandson.  Around him lay the bits and pieces of his failed prototypes, in a room beyond was his success.  “I suppose now I am, but don’t you know me as an old man?  Wasn’t I kind to you?  I’ve always wanted to be a grandfather.  Your grandmother says I can’t wait to be old, and I suppose she’s right.  Are we still alive?”

His grandson’s hand was shaking, more and more as he stepped closer and closer.  “Please.  Please just stop.  You know it has to be this way.”

“Why?  Just because it’s called the Grandfather Paradox?  You have another grandfather, you know.  Somewhere else out there.  You could have even tried to kill your younger self, same paradox.”

“You invented the thing.  You’re the one everyone knows.  You’re the one that proved it’s impossible.  It just…it just has to be you.  Has to be this way.”

“You can’t.”

“Could you please sit back down?”

“You can’t.”

“Stop saying that!”  He was getting flustered.  There were tears streaming down his face, and his hand shook all the more.

“What’s your name?”

“Why does that matter?”

“If you’re going to kill me, I’d like to at least know your name.”

“They…they named me after you.”

The inventor smiled.  “Charles, then.  Do they call you ‘Charlie?’  I always hated Charlie.  Why don’t you give me the gun.  There are other paradoxes, other ways of testing things.  It doesn’t have to be this way.”

“It…it does.”  The resolve in his voice was slipping away.  His grip on the gun loosened.  The inventor reached out and pulled it away.

“That’s good.  Now, I’d love to hear all about your life.  My life.  That would be a paradox, too.  Let’s just put the safety on this,” the gun was slick with sweat.  It slipped in his hand.  He tried to catch it, but as he did the world exploded in noise and pain.  He looked down at the gaping hole in his own chest.

The inventor fell to his knees, looking up at his grandson’s shocked expression.  “This,” he said, each word a struggle, “wasn’t in my equations.”  Darkness closed in around him as the paradox storms swept in.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: With Apologies

With Apologies

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

Ah how the sake did flow.

We’d gathered for a celebration in the great hall, among the jade and gold sculptures and tapestries that hung along the walls.  It was a room that promised decadence, and we delivered.  The battle had been long and hard, many good men lay dead on the fields.  Around me were the surviving samurais, cloaks stained in blood.  The blood of enemies, the blood of friends, their own blood, it all mingled together into dried brown stains.  Their swords were clean, they’d seen to that.

We drank to their brothers, we drank to their foes, we drank to the lord of the shogunate, lost in the battle and assumed dead.  But his land was secure, and in his place his son would rise and rule.

It had been an honor to fight along side them.  To see them in action.  To follow their code and defend their lands.

Again the servers went to the giant cask rolled out for the celebration, plunging ladles farther and farther down, bringing out more of the sweet drink that fueled the festivities.  It had a bite, but it was a pleasant one trimmed with the taste of plums.

Finally the cask was emptied, and the samurai and their attendants lefts one by one until there were just three of us left enjoying stories that translated past our language barriers, laughing at jokes that we couldn’t understand.  I’d hoped for one more drink, and looked down into the cask, hoping there might be just a few drops of the sweet rice wine left.  I was aware it was from the private reserve of the feudal lord of these lands, the man they toasted, intended only for his lips.  None had thought twice about opening the cask, to celebrate his life and mark his passing.

I looked deep, but alas it was gone.  As were, when I looked up, my friends.  Instead there stood the man we toasted, the owner of this hall, the owner of the sake, not dead but triumphantly stained with the blood of his enemies, limping into the hall.

That’s when I learned a lesson the hard way.  There’s nothing more dangerous than standing alone, staring down the barrel of a shogun.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap Bonus: The Rock

The Rock

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

I was reminded recently of the geology class I took as a kid.  It wasn’t anything more than a program to give bored kids something to do during the summer, and I can’t remember how old I was except that it was at a time when the word “schist” was extremely funny.  We got to collect rocks, we were given others, and the activities included things like gluing rocks to bits of index card and labeling them with their type.

The highlight was going to involve a wet saw and a bucket of rocks each a little larger than a shooter marble.  It was geode cutting day.  Each kid got to pull rocks at random out of the pail and the teacher would saw them in half until there was a geode.  It was exciting.  Normal rock shops, even the ones that have cut your own geodes, tend to just give you one chance to get lucky.

I can remember the whine of the saw.  It was damn loud.  Then again, most childhood sense memories get amplified don’t they?  It would roar to life, then whine through each of the rocks in turn before spinning down just to start the whole cycle again with the next rock.  Each time it was the same.  Except for the one time it wasn’t.

I can remember that sound, too.  It was like the scream of the saw going through the rock, but there was something else.  Something more.  I don’t think the teacher heard it when it happened, he had ear protection on, but we did.  The teacher picked up one of the halves of the rock, and we could see it was hollow inside.  But it wasn’t a geode, they tended to have intricate crystals pointing inwards from all directions.

And it wasn’t empty.

The thing in the rock was green.  I don’t know if that was its true color, or if that was the result of the blade slicing through it.  I just remember an intense green, and some sort of fluid dripping from the cavity.  We’d learned the smell during the class.  It was sulfur.  A few of the kids screamed, others rushed forward the way kids will do when they see something gross.  I wasn’t part of that crowd.  I hung back, not getting a good view until the tight ring of kids pushing in to see scrambled backwards.

The thing was moving.  It was alive, for however much longer.  It wasn’t more than a half an inch long, and pulled itself forward with two limbs just above where the saw had cut it through.  It had eyes.  I can’t remember much more of the details, but I remember the eyes.  It looked at each of us, and as the eyes fell on me I heard a voice, soft and dying, in my head.  The word is one I don’t know, I never knew.  Then it collapsed, and died.

It’s odd that I have difficulty now remembering this.  It’s all so clear, but even as early as my mom picking me up I just showed her the geode I had, and happily went home.  I remember mostly in dreams, or in that odd floating period just before falling asleep.  I remember its eyes.  And I remember the word it spoke.  I know it’s important somehow.  I just wish I could hold onto the memory.  Hold onto the word.

If only I knew why it was so important.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: Simple Man

Simple Man

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

They were wrong.

They were ever so wrong.

McKinley was dead, his insides torn up by an assassin’s bullet.  So shocking of a violent act against a president so clearly loved by his people.  Killed by this man who sat before them, defiant.

The two Buffalo police officers paced the dingy room, poorly lit, but he didn’t much care about the light.  They were ever so wrong, and that amused him greatly.

“You might make things easier for everyone if you just talk.”

The assassin shook his head.  His voice that bubbled up out of his throat, an unrecognizable accent that turned every word into a gasp for breath.  “I don’t care about your ease.  Your people are slow and weak.  Your leaders are paltry figureheads.  A new order will come.  Your president’s blood will slake no thirsts, it is only a taste.  It will embolden my people to rise up in greater and greater numbers.  This world of yours is over.”

“God damn it.  You know what we have here?” asked one of the men in uniform to the other.

“We have ourselves a god damned anarchist,” the other responded, spitting.

They were wrong.  He was not an anarchist.  Though he sought the downfall of the political structures built around the planet, he wished them replaced by order.  A new order.  A horrible order.  His order.

“Why’d you do it?”

His smile was broad, his teeth black.  “I did it for her.  So she would love me.”

“You think he means that Goldman bitch?”

“Get someone to bring her in as an accessory.  Been wanting to nail something on her for years.”

They were wrong.  He didn’t care about the love of this “Goldman.”  He wouldn’t have know her from any of the other women on this planet.  They all disgusted him.  They were maggots, whelps, god damn things.  He cared only about the love of his mother.  His horrible mother and queen.

The men asking him questions were scared.  He could taste it, like a fine sauce that made his mouth water for more.  They tried to mask it with their anger, but that only added spice to the air.  He let them hold him only because he wished to be held.  A meal is that much better when prepared fresh.  By hand.  He knew a fine feast awaited him, and that excited him.  He opened his mouth to get a full taste of the air.

“Want to say something else?  C’mon, give me someone else I can pull in.  Give me all your little anarchist buddies.”

Yes.  Yes, that was it.  The salty machismo that brought everything else together.  They were nearly done.  This whole world was nearly done.  From the south his kind would come, hundreds, thousands, millions.  They would savor their first full meal in eons.

He closed his mouth and the men tasted disappointed.

“You’re going to fry, you twerp.  You hear me?  Czolgosz is going to fry.”

They were wrong.  So magnificently wrong, and they wouldn’t know it until far too late.  He’d given his name to the woman, but she didn’t understand it.  She was thin, but she tasted fatty.  She would be his dessert.  He’d told her very clearly, his name was not Czolgosz.

His name was Shoggoth.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.  Title inspiration comes from The Ballad of Czolgosz, written by Stephen Sondheim for his musical Assassins.  Check it out, sung by Neil Patrick Harris.

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Still moving forward on Fornightcap collection

It’s still several months early, but I still also need to find little projects to squeeze into the gaps between two bigger affairs.  So my next step towards putting together a Fortnightcap collection has been to bring together all my entries for 5 Minute Fiction and Humpday Challenge into the same Scrivener file.  This isn’t to say I’m going to include all of them.  Oh no no no.  I may not even include most of them.  But I’m going to at least look at the finalists and winners I’ve had in each contest and determine whether they have a place in the collection, pending an okay from the organizers of the contests.

What’s more likely to happen is that I’ll use some of them as launching off points.  Especially in the case of 5 Minute, I’ve had a few stories that I really liked the concepts that I came up with on the fly but that feel like…well, stories that were conceived, plotted, and written all in a five minute window.  I’ve already given one such story, That was the Problem, a second life as a Fortnightcap, and there are a few others that I reread while assembling and felt could be stronger, and longer, stories.  This is all moving towards trying to provide some content other than content I’ve already made available for free online.

At the very least, it’s fun to revisit some stories that I really had just left behind.  Though in some cases that was well deserved.

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Project Limbo

I find myself in a place I’ve not been for awhile: complete project limbo.  I’ve got stories out to anthologies, another out to my writers group, but I don’t really want to get back to Capsule until I’ve got all five straightened up so I can single focus.  I’m not sure how much that’s a problem, feeling some sort of need to single focus while working on my novel.  I’ll probably find out the first time I get a rejection letter after getting back to Capsule and need to figure out where that short story will go next.

I’m filling the time by taking the first few steps towards the Fortnightcap collection I talked about on Friday.  I’m pulling the stories together and putting them into a single Scrivener file to give me a centralized location for polishing and editing.  Might even do some cleaning on one or two this week if the evenings give me no other obvious writing activities.   It’s odd seeing them all together in one place, especially when looking at the word count and realizing that they come to a total of just over 6000 words.  That’s not so odd since they’re all firmly in the flash fiction range, but it does have me wanting to bulk some of them up, especially so more of what I take to calling the “tone pieces” like They Came.

I went into the Fortnightcap project thinking of the stories as “disposable” bits of fiction, which really was a horrible thing to call them.  It’ll be fun giving them some more life, and approaching the second half of the 2011 Fortnightcaps with that slight bit more determination in mind.  Still would love to know what people might want out of the Fortnightcap collection, currently all the ideas are purely my own.

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Future of Fortnightcaps

Yesterday’s Fortnightcap marked #14 in what I’m anticipating to be a series of 27 stories this year.  It’s all going far better than I anticipated, so I’m already starting to think what I want to do with them at the end of the year.  I’ve always been playing around with the idea of releasing them in some form or another, likely in the form of a digital chapbook through Smashwords so its available on all platforms.  I’d probably approach it like a DVD, so there would be:

  • “Directors Commentary” on some stories.
  • “Directors Cuts” which would be just me polishing the stories, and maybe lengthening a few.
  • “Deleted Scenes” new stories written for the collection.

I’d probably be charging a small amount, either $0.99 or $1.99, but I do feel the need to add something to the collection other than just collecting together 26 stories that I otherwise made available for free and asking people to now pay for them.  I’m hoping the ideas above will give people some value for their money.

So here’s where I open it up.  Would anyone be at all interested in this?  Is there something else you’d want to see to justify dropping even a small amount on this?  Leave me a comment, let me know.

Also starting to think about what to do in 2012, whether to keep the project going, scale back, or possibly even accelerate forward into a weekly project.  I’ve crashed and burned with weekly stories before, but something about the success of Fortnightcaps has me feeling differently.

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Fortnightcap: The New God

The New God

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

They came to this place in the time before to worship.  They came to this place at the awakening to flee.  That is what our stories tell us, and our stories are all we have.

That was so long ago.  Generations now.  Our new god protects us, even as he slumbers with eyes that never close.  He protects us and watches over us, as he has for generations.

We do not go to the east anymore.  There is the old city, where many of our ancestors came from when they fled.  The stories speak of buildings constructed in the time before, and of great metal birds that flew the sky.  I don’t believe in those birds.  The only things that fly the skies in the day are the eagles.  At night the sinewy gaunts take to the sky and call to us in languages I cannot understand.  Thankfully, they don’t dare land where our god has sway.

There are stories of people still living there, thirsting for blood, calling for death, with brains so damaged by the gods that came that they are little more than animals.  They wait for us there, keeping us hemmed in, picking us off one by one if we leave the protection of our great protector god.  And so we go west.  We track the buffalo, we track the deer, we till the soil.

And we try not to see the things that are out there to see.

When we come across an animal touched by the hands of the horrible gods, we kill it.  That is called compassion.  For they are horrible beasts with mouths that hang open and drool blood, eyes that roll in lidless sockets, limbs with no bones that pull these poor creatures slowly and painfully over the land.  We do not eat them, but we do bring them back to burn them, sacrificing the creatures created by the enemy gods to our protector.

We knows he sees the sacrifices because his eyes, his eight glorious eyes, are always open.  And we know he gets the sacrifices because he continues to protect us.

We do not know where our god came from, or how he came to be.  We just know he came from the before time, the good time.  Some say he was thrust up from the earth, some that he fell from the sky.  Some say he was crafted by men.  That is called heresy, for how could men create a god?  But there is some hope in that thought.  If a god could be crafted once, could not one be crafted again?  That too is heresy, sadly.

So here is the land where my father raised me, and where I am raising my children.  I will teach them of our god.  I will show them the forests to the west, and warn them of the lands to the east.  Soon my oldest will be ready to hunt, to kill, and to sacrifice.  And I will tell them of this history of this place.  How their ancestors came to Dakota to be protected from the gods that rose.  And how they found our new god, our Rushmore.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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