May is over. Stories are not.

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Story-a-Day May 2017 says goodbye, but the stories remain. So, now what? I want to keep writing and I want to be read. The publishing part sometimes feels as realistic as winning the lottery on the same as discovering the wardrobe into Narnia.

Other than posting these story efforts, I haven’t really been blogging. Maybe I should just officially stop all together and work on my newsletter. Or scrap the newsletter? Self-publish or find an agent? Self-publish or keep sending stories out to journals?

One minute I’m confident in what to do. The next I’m overwhelmed. In any event, I think I’m going to delete a lot of things.

I’m trying to add the newsletter sign up to this page. I know some people hate newsletter. Who needs more email, right? But some people never read blogs. Ultimately, I have to figure out what works for the stories.

My currently published novel is here. My art is here.

Thanks for reading.

Day 22!

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Today’s Story-a-Day prompt asked us to explore settings and to use all the senses. Well, I’ve given it a shot.

For Astrophilia

The governor canceled school to celebrate the cleanest air in a decade. The mechanics and engineers had discovered new parts for the massive air towers, and the result was a near blue sky.

Not everyone rushed outside. A few souls didn’t want to be reminded of what they’d lost and would be lost again. A few others eyed the gray-blue sky and suspected a plot to depopulate the district. It had happened before. But some, especially the children, set their air masks on their hooks and rushed into the streets and nearby fields.

Miracle June broke away from her friends to walk across the burned out plain. She didn’t how far she was allowed to go, but she’d go until someone called her back. The yellow grass came up to her knees. She’d dared more than most, going out in a skirt and indoor shoes, wanting to feel as much as she could. The blades swiped her knees, not quite sharp enough to draw blood but leaving thin shallow scratching her skin.

Several yards into the wide open space, she knelt and broke the yellow blades of grass in her hand. The smell of burnt toast drifted upward and she inhaled. The air hurt a little, unfiltered, hinting at cold and chlorine. But she was outside and breathing without a mask.

The torn blades of grass in her hand were already black and she wiped the remains on her skirt. The blackened grass left streaks on the brown, pleated wool, but she didn’t care about her school uniform today. Miracle June stretched out on the ground, the yellow grass breaking under her.

The hard grass jabbed her shoulder blades, back, and calves. She smelled the sick soil, her red hair looping and snagging on the yellow stalks. One strand of hair caught in her mouth. She tasted her cheap shampoo along with the almost taste of clean air. Breathing in as deeply as she could, her shoulder blades pressed harder into the ground. The thick clouds moved like oil slicks. What would it have been like to see a bird? Miracle June made herself imagined a bird like she’d seen in films soar across the sky.

Staring upward she then tried to imagine the stars. Who had been the last person to see stars in the night sky? She raised an arm as if reaching for something above. Her arm now perpendicular to her frame, she worked her fingers as if she could pinch a far off star.

The sirens began. Reluctantly, Miracle June sat up. Dirt and grass stuck in her hair. The smell of the grass would follow her for days. Looking back at where the street ended and the city buildings began, she understood why her mother didn’t want to take part in this day. Her mother remembered a handful of constellations that Miracle June could only day dream about.

Her classmates and everyone who’d ventured outside without their masks now trudged back to the shelter of their buildings. The wind shifted and picked up trash on the ground, tumbling paper scraps and old cans further into the city. A headache bloomed behind her eyes and she coughed. Even on these official mask-free afternoons, the body paid.

Her mother greeted her at the apartment door. “What did you do out there?” her mother asked, her anxiety revealed in her fingers tapping on the metal door frame.

Miracle June breathed in deeply again, in the apartment’s controlled environment. “I imagined birds in the sky,” she said. “And above them stars.”

“Oh good heavens, Mira. Why would you do that?”

“Don’t worry, mom. I don’t think I’ll do it again.”

Thanks for reading!

Day 21. Whew.

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Today’s prompt asked for world building. Like yesterday, this could have been much longer, but here is something for my novel’s backstory, specifically the religion in the novel’s universe. Kind of weird to start a religion! Ha!

In any event, thanks for reading!

Octavia Day was the seventh astronaut on the seventh mission and the first to return to Earth. She never talked about what happened to the others. “The recordings speak for themselves,” she said in interviews.

“How did you live?” they asked.

“I prayed.” Octavia also thought and reacted faster than the others. She’d contemplated every potential disaster, having studied the previous tragedies and judged their failures. But she didn’t want anyone to think she was showing off. The deaths had been hard enough to witness, and saying anything about them felt like gossiping. Her fellow astronauts were her friends. One was her sister.

She wouldn’t gossip, but she would remember.

The first day Octavia opened her eyes after being rescued, she discovered a crowd under her hospital window. The doctors, the nurses, and the security detail refused entry to anyone for those early days, which gave her plenty of time to think between sedative induced dreams.

“Why are they at my window?” Octavia watched the nurse check her pulse and take a vial of blood. Her blood had been deeper in space than anyone living. She’d walked on another planet. They were determined to learn from her.

The nurse took her notes. “You’ve traveled faster and farther than anyone. You’ve seen things no one else has seen, sweetie.”

Octavia played with the hem of her sheet. “I’d like to meet one of them.”

“Against orders,” the nurse reminded her, dropping her pin into her white pocket.

“But I don’t have anyone,” Octavia replied. “Everyone’s dead. For me it’s been only a few years, but for you it’s been a generation. Were you even born when I left?”

The nurse patted Ocatvia on the arm. “Oh, my mam wasn’t even born. But you’ll do all right. You’ll get out of here and make new friends. Don’t you fret.”

Octavia nodded. “Maybe one of the people out there in the parking lot. They’ve been there all day and night for weeks. I just want to make a friend.” This was true and yet it wasn’t. Octavia didn’t know what she wanted. “The stars are beautiful,” she added. “I wish I could see them from here.”

“Nobody sees the stars from here.” The nurse looked at the window and then at the clock. “The sky hasn’t been clear since I was a schoolgirl. Tell you what, sweetie. I’ll see if I can’t get you a friend, okay?”

It took three days for the nurse to appear with a woman from the waiting crowd. “I did some sweet talking and got permission to bring you some company.”

The young woman stared wide eyed at Octavia. Once the nurse was gone, the girl finally unclenched her hands which she’d had tight to her chest. “I’m so honored, ma’am. So honored.”

Octavia straightened up in her bed. “No, don’t do that. I’m just me.” Octavia didn’t believe she was ordinary. She remembered how hard she worked to be selected for the mission and how hard she’d worked to survive. She wasn’t ordinary at all. But the adoring gaze unsettled and confused her. Didn’t people have more to believe in than a woman who’d navigated a starship and came back with a dead crew.

The young woman moved quickly to the side of Octavia’s bed. “We’ve read all your communications. Did you know they released them? There are forums and groups deciphering them. We know what you’ve seen and we want to listen.”

“My communications?” She couldn’t remember most of them now.

The woman sat on the edge of the bed. “You’ve been gone. You don’t know what it’s like. We need something to believe in and they told us you were dead. But then those communications kept coming and they had to admit you were alive. Only you. And you were coming back. Your trip is going to change everything, and we’re here for you.”

Octavia looked into the young woman’s eyes. Her astronaut training fought with her loneliness. Someone wanted to listen to her, not test her like an experiment.

The young woman smiled broadly. “What was it like?” she asked Octavia. “What was it like to see the stars, the Pleiades?”

For the first time since waking back on Earth, Octavia relaxed. She relaxed in a way the sedatives hadn’t allowed. “Like seeing angels,” she replied.

“You tell me and I’ll tell the others. We’ll spread the word. And everyone will believe.”

Day 20! More backstory, please.

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Okay, maybe you don’t want more backstory! But these prompts are really helping me discover more about my novel-in-progress and the alternate universe I’ve created. The prompt encourages us to think about our world building. World building can apply to any type of story. Even a story set in modern day London needs its world built. But obviously I need to work on world-building because sci-fi and fantasy need a lot of that.

But I don’t want to spend pages and pages describing things. And because my characters are going to be moving about a universe, I could easily spend too much on backstory. So, I started trying to write the story of the historical figure mentioned in today’s scene, but that sort of spiraled out of control. Instead, I decided to pretend I had an entry in a history book. Of course, this is a work-in-progress and who knows how it will be in the end.

As always, thanks for reading.

For Astrophilia

*

Back in school, Miracle June loved history class. The teacher, Kindred Sands, seemed to know everything and surprised the students every day.

Sometimes, Kin, as the teacher asked to be called, came to class as a man and sometimes as a woman. That was nothing extraordinary. Great sections of the population never settled one way or another. Miracle June read about how generations before, citizens were forced into declare a side. But things had changed, even in the Pleiades district.

But what did surprise the current crop of teenagers in Pre-Sovereignty Earth History Segment Two were the costumes and disguises Kin wore. Kin arrived every day as a famous person from the past, and no time period seemed beyond Kin’s closet.

The day the Sovereignty announced its plans to build the largest starliner ever attempted, Kin walked into the classroom dressed as Lana Hypatia, one of the Sovereignty founders, the woman who made the air systems of Earth a reality.

“We studied her already,” said Bright Simmons, who rarely ever seemed interested in anything. She certainly wasn’t going to be interested in anything twice.

“But,” Kin replied, standing tall in front of the class, “if you recall, class was interrupted that day and we didn’t have time to finish the lesson.”

Everyone remembered. That was day Hopeful Jones died. But while Kin had been as shocked and undone by Hopeful’s death as anyone, sentiment had little space in history class. “In light of the Sovereignty’s announcement that will undoubtedly lead to more history being made, we’ll make time for the woman who made it possible.”

“What did we leave out, professor?” Miracle June asked. She was scanning her screen for the entry on Lana Hypatia and remembered covering all the key events of the revolutionary’s life.

“Footnotes, Miss Delphine.” Kin tapped on the wide screen in front of the class and a new page opened. “Never overlook them.”

Several students gasped. In fat black letters across the top of the screen ran the headline, Celebrated Leader’s Death Unresolved. And underneath the headline was a photograph of a bloodied corpse. “Yes, it’s true school leadership prefers we not discuss this fact in class. They encourage us to focus on the shining moments of glory, and I can’t say they’re wrong to do so.” Kin, in a wig of honey brown hair just like the hair fanned about the head of the dead individual in the photograph, tapped on the screen again, enlarging the disturbing image. “But sometimes we need to remind ourselves that our past was not all glory and medals.”

Sanity Clarke cleared his throat. “I understand, professor. But could we stop looking at the picture now?”

Kin looked disappointedly at Sanity and the other nodding students, but tapped on the screen to move on to the text. “We already know Lana Hypatia came from a remote Saturn region and got her start fighting for the rights of Earth refugees. The history books gloss over Lana’s death.”

Miracle June was as glad as the others the photograph was gone, but this was the reason she loved Kindred Sands’s class. Kin adhered to the class syllabus almost like a religion, but these dark tangents were still often fit in.

“Her body was found at the site of one of her great air towers. You’ve seen it, of course, at the edge of our district to the north. In the burned out plains. Some of you live that way, yes?”

Miracle June and a few others nodded. She could see the tower from her bedroom window.

“It’s old technology now, but at the time it was revolutionary, the complex and huge system removing toxin form the air and saving lives. We wouldn’t be here without the towers,” Kin reminded them unnecessarily. The towers every inhabited district on Earth. “Authorities never declared a cause of death. Some say it was an accident. The gears and electricity used were and are dangerous. And in those early days, many workers on the towers were killed. But some believed more nefarious forces at work. Many of the early leaders met untimely ends in strange accidents.”

On her own device, Miracle June stared at the image of Lana Hypatia, young and alive, sitting with a group of her fellow revolutionaries. What, Miracle June asked the woman in the photograph, would you make of your universe now?

“All right, class,” Kin was saying. “I’m giving you twenty minutes to do your own searches on the death of Lana Hypatia and her compatriots. Then you’ll share what you’ve learned.”

Bright Simmons raised her hand. “Professor?”

“Yes, Simmons?”

“Does it mater if we know how they died?” She shrugged. “It’s not like it changes anything.”

Kin adjusted the old-style belt of the old earth dress like what would have been the style in Lana’s time. “The Sovereignty’s announced its plans to build the largest starliner in history and to christen it the Hypatian. It never hurts to know all one can about one’s namesake. Names have DNA of their own.”

Bright looked skeptical. “But they aren’t even building it in our solar system. We’ll probably never even see it.”

“That doesn’t mean it won’t change your life.”

Miracle June was already reading through the many conspiracy theories surrounding Lana Hypatia’s death. Like Bright, Miracle June didn’t believe knowing would change her life, but the stories fascinated her anyway. How amazing it must have been to change the course of the universe.

Day 19! Are we done yet?

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Today’s Story-a-Day prompt asked us to write about a secondary meeting. Basically, write the scene where the main character meets a secondary character. Well, I’d already written scenes with the main character meeting most everyone in her crew (fellowship, posse, gang, clique, whatever you want to call it). But I’m close to having two main characters. I’m not even sure if I’ve decided who is the main character really.

Here’s the thing, my original idea was to take inspiration from Doctor Who. I wanted my Doctor-esque character and my companion character. But I had to make them different, obviously, so they would be time travelers or travel in a box. Or perhaps a sort of Sherlock and Watson but in space!

And then I didn’t want to write a straight up science fiction story because I’m too fairy tale for that. But I wanted it in space. Some people won’t want to come along because I created an impossible universe. Maybe somewhat inspired by Ray Bradbury as well, but with a lot of Hayao Miyazaki thrown in.

Anyway, I decided to write about the character who was going to be my Sherlock Time Lord but who ended up being someone completely different and the day she meets a colleague who will always have her back.

Thanks for reading!

*

Tasanko didn’t sit down to wait. She’d meet the Archivist who walked into the room on her feet. The chill in the room helped her focus, and the crisp, snugness of her new uniform reminded her to stand up straight. A glance at the viewing screen on the far wall told her the ship had left the port. On time, of course. Sovereignty ships were never late.

She patted her pet beast on the head. Bow, a monstrosity of a hybrid creature gone wrong, grabbed attention wherever he went. He was parts Earth buffalo, Jupiter wolf, and mystery. Pets were forbidden on starliners, but she’d talked her way into an exception, promising to study its life cycle and investigate its origins. She didn’t really care where Bow came from, however. She liked his company.

“Who,” she asked her beast, “will come through that door?” Protocol was clear. Any crew member who was free could greet her and check her into the system. But Tas had read about the ship’s captain and how she ran things. Odds were another Archivist would be assigned the job.

Tas had narrowed it down to the three Archivists already assigned to the ship, and she’d studied the files on each of them, which was why she’d ruled out the Head Archivist, Gela Vye. Gela, Tas guessed, wouldn’t want to appear as if she had time to meet the new recruits. Tas checked her communicator, tempted to message Marcel and see if they’d greeted him yet. But she resisted the impulse as a good Archivist was supposed to do.

Bow, whose head came up to her waist, sat down with a thud. “Patience,” Tas said to him, “is the mark of a true Archivist.”

He swung his massive head to look at her.

“Well, you’re mine. And that makes you an Archivists by default.” She nudged him with the toe of her boot, but he took no note of it. Back at the Academy, she could take him into the fields for long runs. Sometimes he’d even go on a hunt, coming back to her with blood on his jaws. But now he’d have to live confined on a ship. There’d be no running through the corridors like he’d done in the dorm.

Tas looked back at the door. If Gela Vye didn’t come to welcome her on board, that left Eunyoung Kimberly Moon, the second in command, or Shalanda Kennington, who, according to her file, was the Sovereignty’s highest ranking historian as well as the ship mortician. Just how busy was a mortician on a ship this size? A click came from the other side of the door, and Tas bet herself the mortician would be the one to open it.

“You look pleased with yourself already,” Shalanda said, striding into the room and paying no attention to the 500 pounds of monster keeping Tas company. “I’m sure you haven’t done a damn thing yet.”

“Over two-thousand crew members on this ship, ma’am, and I knew you’d the one to walk through that door,” Tas replied. “I’m just pleased I was right.”

Shalanda’s mouth turned up at one corner. “Of course you did. The Sovereignty doesn’t assign idiots to its best ship.” She paused. “And if idiots actually ever do find themselves assigned here, the universe takes care of them pretty quick. Idiots are always the first to morgue.”

Tas didn’t flinch when Shalanda gave her the once over. “This is the only Sovereignty ship with an Archivist who also works with the dead,” Tas said. Of all the files she’d read, Shalanda Kennington’s file had the most gaps even though the Sovereignty never liked empty spaces in its files.

“And what do you think that means?” Shalanda

“That I want you on my side,” Tas replied.

Shalanda let slip bit of laughter, and then pointed at the massive animal. “That’s bigger than I expected.”

“His name’s Bow,” Tas replied, letting a hint her feelings for the beast into her voice. “I’m studying him for the Archive. He’s an illegal hybrid and we still don’t know who created him.”

“A well-funded one by the looks of that thing.”

“Sure.” Tas nudged Bow with her foot again, and this time he limbered to his feet. “And well-hidden.”

Shalanda stepped closer to Bow and knelt in front of him. She stared into the creature’s eyes. “Usually when i come across hybrids, they’re dead. This aren’t known to live long. And most of the time, they have an obsession with wings, trying to make all kinds of things fly. Cats. Snakes. Giraffes.”

“Gir-what?”

“Giraffes. It’s an old Earth mammal with a long neck. Although on Earth, they’re now extinct, like most everything else. But supposedly there’s a small herd of them on the remote Saturn savannah.” She patted Bow on the side of his wide face and stood up. “Hybriders like to see what they can make fly. But your guy here seems like his creator took his science seriously. No wings. No extra eyes. No horn in the middle of his head.”

Tas suddenly felt proud of her beast as if she’d been responsible for his creation. “He’s smart too.”

Shalanda stopped admiring the animal. “C’mon, rookie. I’m going to give you the tour and the introductions.” The doors slid open for them and they walked side by side into the corridor. “You must’ve been something else back at the Academy to be assigned the Hypatian,” she continued, walking briskly. “You’ve never proven yourself out in the field like the rest of us.”

Tas had expected this. She and Marcel were both fresh from the Academy and by rights should’ve been on a small outpost somewhere labeling files and boxes. “I don’t second guess orders,” she said. “I just follow them.” Bow, for all his size, easily kept up, coming along behind her.

Now Shalanda let out a full laugh. “I’ve read your file. I think I know how you feel about following orders.”

They walked by a few other crew members, who cleared the way and stared at Bow, his fur shining brown and thick in the corridor lights. Tas chose not to say anything to Shalanda’s last comment. She wasn’t going to explain herself.

“Welcome aboard the Hypatian Starliner, Tasanko Fray. I think you’re going to do just fine.”

Day 17! And I’m still glad I’m doing this.

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Todays’ Story-a-Day prompt asked about the moments before our story’s inciting incident. Well, I was so happy about revisiting my work-in-progress yesterday, I was eager to look more at the days before my novel, Astrophilia, begins. This made me look more at my protagonist’s relationship that is only mentioned in passing in the book. The resulting scene makes me happy, not because it’s great or anything, but because I learned a few more things about my character–important things that will help me finish my manuscript. Yay!

Thanks for reading.

*

“Did you see the notice?” Val asked. He didn’t wait for an answer. He handed her the paper, wrinkled from being in the bottom of his bag. “I’m applying. You should too.”

Miracle June pushed the paper back at him. They sat together in the social section of the school, one of the few places where they were allowed to talk and acknowledge their friendship. “Do you know how many people will be applying? I can’t compete with that.”

Val worked at smoothing the paper out, pushing his hand across the page to every edge. But the creases prevailed. “We got a better chance than most. See.” He tapped on the word instructor. “Besides, it’ll look strange if you don’t apply.”

Miracle June didn’t want the hassle of filling out all those government forms only to be told no. She’d been teaching for one year and she didn’t for a moment believe the minimum experience required line. This was the Sovereignty they were talking about. “Everyone on Earth’s applying. Not just our district, Val. EVERYONE.”

“Everyone of age,” he said.

“And you’re the governor’s son.” She tilted her head back and stared up at the ceiling. The camera lens embedded in the ceiling reflected her gaze. “That’s at least one person ahead of me.” A governor’s son was given a certain amount of freedom, but even his conversations were recorded.

“One of us has to get this job,” he argued. “It’s the only hope we have.”

Miracle June wanted to apply. The announcement the Hypatian Starliner was looking for someone to fill a position she was actually qualified for opened a well of desire she’d buried under daily checkins, student evaluations, prayer times, and conversations with her mother about Val asking her to marry him.

But now she wanted to see the stars. She wanted to leave Val and everything for whatever was out there. Her sister had the convent. What did she have? Breathing masks and rations and maybe marriage where she could have better masks and rations in the governor’s mansion. Not getting the job would break her heart and she couldn’t face her future with a heart out of whack. “I like my job here,” she said.

Val sighed as he always did when she wasn’t taking him seriously. “You know the air systems are going to eventually collapse, right? You know that anyone with any sense—”

“And money,” she cut in.

“Is finding a way off planet,” he finished, scowling. “And I want us to be the lucky ones. Even if it is just you and not me.”

“Or you without me.” Was he right? The systems had worked for over a hundred years. Panics of collapse were constant and yet so far the machines kept working and air kept being breathable. Most of the time. ON good days.

“I’ll marry you and then you could come with me.”

Miracle June turned her head sharply. Their families expected them to marry, but between the two of them they didn’t talk about it. “If I get it, will you expect me to marry you?”

He avoided her stare and busied himself with putting away the paper and checking all the zippers in his bag and the dials of his breathing apparatus. It wasn’t a good air day. “Just apply.”

Miracle June jumped to her feet. “I’ll apply. But I don’t want to talk about it. Okay?” She picked up her own gear, ignoring the twinge of pain in her back. She’d fill out the paperwork and apply like everyone else. Then she’d throw all thoughts of the Hypatian Starliner into that dark well in her heart and bury them down there. For the first time she was grateful the stars in the night sky had been impossible to see all her life.

The 16th Day

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I’ve spent too much of the day distracted, so I didn’t write much. However, I did this time take a cue from our wonderful Story-a-Day hostess (director and maven). I thought about a character in a novel-in-progress. This is supposed to be a turning point, and it will be. I’m just out of energy. I’ll revisit it later.

This means, of course, this isn’t part of my Compendium of Lesser Known Time Travels and Other Terrors. It’s a scene for Astrophilia.

Thanks for reading!

*

In a parallel universe Hopeful Jones is still alive. That’s what Miracle June told herself at the funeral. She didn’t have a black dress. Her mother didn’t allow them in the apartment. So she wore the night blue dress she’d worn when her father died. It was flattering and trim, not lumping up and twisting under the straps of her breathing mask.

The air quality registered in the red on the day of the funeral, which would be sure to keep many of their classmates away. But Miracle June wanted to go no matter what.

It made no sense, her sister said. “Were you even friends with her?”

“Does that matter?” Miracle June asked. At sixteen, she was almost two years younger than her sister, Rarity Vaine but they were the same height. Though she could look her sister in the eye, she rarely did. Something about Rarity’s determined gaze unsettled her.

Rarity didn’t answer. She shook her head and strode from the room.

Miracle June went back to fussing with her appearance. Hopeful Jones hadn’t been exactly friends, but they had an understanding. And this funeral was going to be different. She’d been only to one funeral before. Her father’s. That had gone all wrong. The thought of it burned bright in her cheeks. She was going to go to the funeral for her classmate and do better.

How hard could that be?