Saturday, June 28, 2014

Writing Conflict

Action scenes are not my strong point as a writer. I've written battle scenes, survival scenes, and high impact confrontational scenes, but I don't think they are the nail-biting, gut-clenching tension horror clinchers other authors achieve. I'm not sure why but maybe because I hate confrontation in real life.

Where I believe my strength lies is in emotional tension. In this scene from Loser's Game the lead female character, an outlaw who goes by different aliases, leaves the man she loves more than her own life to protect his reputation and career. I hope fireworks are what the reader senses is happening. Once the reader reaches this point, they know the heroine is a great actress, and a person of integrity despite her reprehensible reputation.

~ * ~

“Don’t worry, Mister Fournelle, the shuttle will be at Starbase Freedom’s private-liner bay.” Jesse looked at him and grinned. “But you don’t trust me, do you? Well, I have even better reasons not to trust a Service Corps officer. Have you already made plans for my arrest as soon as I dock with a stolen shuttle? So, we are at an impasse, are we not?”

Jesse couldn’t keep the mocking tones out of her voice. She hated the way Fournelle looked at her. Like so many others. She knew very well once Fournelle agreed to her plan, he wouldn’t back out, but goading him was irresistible. Besides, she felt mean. For the last few days, she’d purposely bickered with Krayne whenever the opportunity arose.

She took a few steps to the shuttle’s hatch, even took a step inside before she looked at the forbidding officer. “Mister Fournelle,” she tightened her lips at his look, biting the insult lining her mouth. Taking a deep breath she said, “Thank you.”

Fournelle didn't answer her. A movement on the edge of her vision caught her attention. Krayne stopped as she noticed him, his face taut, his jaw clenched and his eyes cold.


Exhaling slowly, Jesse hesitated before answering. "Yes."

"What, no goodbye? Or is everything clandestine with you?"

Jesse smiled casually. "It's easier. No excuses. No lies." Her hands gripped the hatch.
"I'm sure it is. Just a clean thrust to the heart and walk away." He looked at Fournelle. "Leave." As Fournelle's footsteps fell away, he said, "What about our marriage? Our plans?"

"What marriage?" Jesse scoffed. "When I cross over into Alliance space, it will be nonexistent. You made the only plans. Don't blame me for your delusions of a rosy future. We had none." She watched his eyes flicker, his jaw muscles bunch.

"I see. So just what have I been?"

"An escape." She smiled and shrugged. "In more ways than one. I'll admit to using you, even enjoying you. You've let me evade capture, provided some entertainment, and of course, given some physical relief. But I have no interest in becoming your rehab project. I guess it's just time to move on before I become bored."

"Too glib, Jesse. I don't believe you."

"How can you?" she said in disparagement. "You don't even know what I am. I've run into your type before, both as a man and as an officer. You see the outside with desire, and I'll give you credit for not backing off when you discovered what's on the inside, but when you learn about the underside, it will be a different story."

"That's not true. I know you and I know what you are."

Jesse gave a dry laugh. "Of course it's true. You only think you know me. I'm not just the pirate and thief you believe. There are countless Alliance laws I've broken. Did you know Jet ripped a man's throat out with her bare hands? That she was instrumental in Durant Rosche's death? And tell me, what will you think the first, second or third time you run into someone for whom I've whored?" She watched him flinch. "Then what? You want me to make a list beforehand? That's just for starters, there's more. Do you want to know all the details?"

She watched him swallow, his jaw setting in rigid lines. "You can tell me whatever you want. It won't change how I feel. I love you. Not unless you say straight out you feel nothing for me. Tell me you don't love me."

"Of course I feel something for you. You came along at an opportune time. You know what Merit and Thor were doing to me. But love? My God, you're a Corps officer. If you think I'm stupid enough to allow you to capture me with sex, and then, when you get bored in a few months or so, pass me along to Alliance justice, think again." She watched his face remorselessly, even smiled at his expression.

"And the shuttle? Another theft?"

His acceptance was too quick. She watched for a trap. "No, it's part of the agreement I made with Fournelle. I told him it would be at Starbase Freedom before the Nebulae docked. You going to stop me?"


"That's not a wise move."

"Then say it and make me believe it."

Jesse stood in the shuttle's portal for a lifetime. She slowly moved back to the gangway and stopped directly before Krayne in Ranger at-ease position. "I don't love you," she stated slowly and clearly.

He looked into her face for another lifetime reading her truth there. "Go, then. Get out of my sight." His voice held a calm command.
~ * ~
I hope you enjoyed the short excerpt!

Margaret Fieland is up next on the round-robin. Visit these authors for more scenes with fireworks:

Heidi M. Thomas 
Beverley Bateman
Kay Sisk
Anne Stenhouse
Connie Vines
Ginger Simpson
Geeta Kakade
Fiona McGier
Lynn Crain

Friday, June 27, 2014

Second Friday Freebit from Change

In this very short section, Tyna meets her first witch, or at least what everyone expects someone from the country of Cygna to be.

~ * ~

Tyna poured herself a second cup of tea. Her eyes wandered the area and noticed a man walking into camp. He dressed in plain travelers’ garb with an encompassing fur-lined burlet covering his head. He looked around, then headed toward her. An unusual shaggy looking longhaired gray pony stood tethered at the camp’s edge.

“Mistress Pierce?” the stranger asked in a pleasant voice.

“Yes?” She looked at him, not really seeing him or caring.

“My condolences, mistress, I would not intrude on you at such a time, but I heard in the village that your wagons would be traveling through Seer Pass. That is if you are still going after your recent loss and this early in the year?”

“I must go. The armed escort I hired arrives tomorrow.”

“Then might I join you as far as the Cygna cutoff? I am willing to pay.”

~ * ~

Monday, June 23, 2014

All Things One

All things one is not about the mathematical usage of one, but the symbolic meanings and usages of the concept of one: the first, a beginning, the creation, omnipotence. One is singular, representing God, but also God's creation of man, so male in numerical gender. At first like Adam, one is a lonely number, as in by one's self, but then generation happens and two, or Eve, appears.

Three Dog Night sang "One is the Loneliest Number," stating the well-established credentials of one. One means so much more besides its mathematical aspects. It is tied deep into the threads of our minds, our mythology, religion, award systems, images, and symbolic usages. Listed here are some of the representations and symbols of one. Here are a few of the names one goes by:
  • Cardinal: one
  • Hindu-Arabic: 1
  • Greek: alpha
  • Ordinate: First
  • Roman: I
  • Pythagorean numbers: monad

On the practical side, one and its many word forms enrich our language. The Roman word for one, unus (unum, una, unius, uni) provides the prefix for such words as univalve (mollusks) or unicorn, universe, unity, and uniform. Primus (the first) also is one but with a slightly different connotation such as in prime or primary. Other words on one for Romans were semel or once, solitarious as solitary, and singuli, the prefix we use in singularity and single. The Greek words of one, mono, provides our prefix for monocot, monopoly, monarch, monochromatic, monogamous, and monolith.

In English, we have many other words designating one like annual, unique, entity, individual, and sole. In addition, one provides a designation for placement and class as in first place, first term, top dog, top honors, blue-ribbon, foremost, the best, and the beginning. This extends into time. New Year's Day (or eve), first hour, 1:00 am Prime, which is first Canonical prayer hours around 7:00 am, and Sunday are examples. Yes, I know, most calendars start on Monday, or moon day, depending on which day is considered the end of the week; however, the sun is a symbol of one, the symbol of man and the symbol of God, and the moon is considered feminine and belongs to the number 2. Technically, according to the Bible and creation, Sunday belongs to the number 7 as the seventh day. It just shows you how mixed up humans can get when using symbols.  January, the first month, is derived from the Roman god Janus, a two-faced god, one which looked forward and one backward to show foresight plus hindsight equals insight.

In scientific, technological, measurement references, there is the point, which is a geometrical symbol. Hydrogen (H) is the first element on the periodic table. In space, the gravitational singularity is a black hole. One is a prime number and the first prime number. And our computers are based on the binary system of 1 and 0. On the first manned moon landing, I'm sure you remember Armstrong's "One small step for man." In Geo-physical locations, U.S. Highway 1 runs along the Atlantic coast from Maine to the tip of Florida. Then we come to monetary usages. We have a cent, penny, pence, ones, and a buck.

In society we have kings, presidents, governors, unicameral, head of state, and all indicate one at the top or those in control, or first, but one as a pronoun is indicative of the individual. Self is an important aspect of one on a personal level. Father, as head of the house, claims the position of one. (Many women will argue about this!)

One also plays an important part in games and sports like an ace, one-eyed jack, home-run, grand slam, strike, and one-armed bandit.

One represents the God Jehovah and so becomes the Christian number of singularity or unity. Genesis, the book of creation, is the First Book of the Old Testament, St. Matthew claims the first book of the New Testament. The First Commandment is 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.'

In Babylonian religions, Anu was the god of the sky and heavens, and the Egyptian god Ra was known as 'the one One' because other gods were aspects or manifestations of Ra, who was also the mid-day sun. Which along with Janus mentioned above, leads us to mythology and using one for prognostication.

In numerology, the alphabet a, j, s are letters belonging to one, (1 through 9 as repeated throughout alphabet), as well as their number in the count of 1 to 26 letters. So A is always first. The House of Aries and the planet Mars are Astrological 'ones.' Other symbols of one are the sun, which represents many 'self' aspects such as spirit, will, energy, vitality, wholeness, self-integration, ruling authority, organization, and power. The sun, and thus one, also represents the will to live. The unicorn is a representation of one and also a symbol of Christ. Another symbol of one is the hand with all fingers folded to palm except the index finger which is pointing upward.

One is the beginning, so in astrology and numerology, one provides a significant prophetic device. One represents what is first, so indicates creation and power. It is the symbol of the father, so becomes the number of primogeniture, self-love, and piety through love of God. Jupiter, Zeus, the sun, God are all representations of one. One is the number of God, but then it gets hinky as one is the prime masculine number, the number of Yang, the God-Man connection, Adam, and the Paradise State. This all leads to one as the number of unity, light, genesis and creation. From this comes the psychology of ego, the consciousness of being, and the active principle of one driving peoples' behavior. Here is an interesting tidbit: One is a hermaphrodite number since when added to even numbers, one makes them odd, and when added to odd numbers, one makes them even. While you would not think of a static one in this way, one represents energy in a state of perpetual motion.

All of this is great, but one has some serious negative connotations. The words and states of being alone, lonely, solitary, homeless, without kin or aid, and of monotone, one-sided, and egotistical are words that show this negativity. One also lacks dimension and depth, leading to being flat, without character, even unintelligent.

In Tarot divination the first card, the magician's card, when dealt upright in a reading, represents the active principle of life or consciousness and shows the willingness of the person being read to master, organize, or create something. A magician shows an individual's ability to utilize divine power with the desire to achieve creation. If the card is upside down, though, it indicates a weak person, indecision, or incompetence, or can indicate a desire to use power for evil and destruction. Not so great now, huh?

Lastly, one provides many slang metaphors and phrases used in our communications:
  • first love, last love
  • blue-ribbon winner
  • first and last
  • first place
  • looking out for number one
  • once in a blue moon (blue moon is second full moon in a month)
  • one and only
  • one for the road
  • one by one
  • one hit wonder
  • one horse
  • one liner
  • one night stand
  • one point perspective
  • one shot deal
  • one sided
  • one stop shop
  • one time
  • one too many
  • one-upsmanship
  • pass the buck
  • the buck stops here
  • we're number one

And one last hopeful quote on one from long ago still relevant today,‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher

So there it is — all aspects of one, but certainly a list that is not all-inclusive.  Wikipedia has a page on One.

~ * ~
Sources Some information was drawn from:

Friday, June 20, 2014

The First Friday Freebit from Change

Actually, the first free excerpt of Change is on this blog's excerpt page. It contains eight paragraphs, so is another quick read. Change was a 2008 Dream Realm Award finalists for best fantasy. You will see Kissre from the previous freebits is involved here, too, but only in name. The protagonists, Tyna, is her younger sister, as shown in a previous Friday Freebits. Her mother has just died, so the operation of the trade caravan they owned falls on Tyna's shoulders. So here is this Friday's Freebit.

~ * ~

Morning light filtered through the curtain of the one small window. Tyna threw an arm over her eyes. There was so much to accomplish that she didn’t want to do. She heard her mother. “Rise lazy one and get about starting the day.” Naomi had never put up with sloth. Repudiating her desire to stay warm in her bed, Tyna rose. She needed to take charge of her life.

Naomi had started this business to ensure their future. It was now up to Tyna, for Kissre would never join her.

“Kissre took her own path. Stop fretting over her.” Naomi again, never very forbearing. Tyna realized she would have to carry this burden alone and wondered if she were up to it. Sitting up, she shivered in the frigid air and threaded fingers through her mass of curly hair. She should have braided it to prevent this tangle. While she pulled on warm clothing, her thoughts returned to her work.

Five wagons were ready for the journey to Sunderland. Finding the proper market had not been easy, but on previous trips, Naomi had discovered Sunderland had many rich burghers with sources deep enough to pay exorbitant prices for the goods they wanted. Goods Naomi made sure to provide this trip. Heading out at the beginning of the year meant traveling with the threat of dangerous weather, but true winter had not yet arrived. Gossip with customers proclaimed the Cygnese witches held off the snow. Tyna hoped if that were true, then let them hold it off all the way to Sunderlund.

Two wagons held a combination of both traditional and unusual merchandise bought on their circuit through the provinces of Kaereya—Kennetsure silks, Wessure linens, Norsure finely spun wools and furs, sewing tools and threads, fine forged tools, cooking pots, and copper ewers from Easure. From beyond the Doane Desert Naomi had managed to obtain extraordinary embroidered silks, handcrafted rugs, and leather goods, amulets, unusual spices, and bottles of the rare and infamous distilled liqueur whose very fumes caused intoxication. Tyna’s contribution and passion-filled a third wagon, an accumulation of antiquities, small treasures, and curiosities, including a unique mechanical clock that chimed the marks of the day, a rarity from across the great sea. 

The fourth wagon held necessities and food for the journey. It also provided a place for the two hired men and their wives to shelter in the severest weather. Jebe preferred sleeping in a tent attached to one of the wagons. 
~ * ~  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Symbols & Knowledge

Each letter used is a symbol for a sound and sounds are audio symbols, each number is a symbol for an amount as well as later applied symbolism, so we learn, communicate, and record ideas through symbols. We use symbols in our celebrations and memorials, and we dream in symbols. We buy and sell products using symbols. Our expressions are symbols that tell others of our emotions. What we wear symbolizes how we view ourselves and what we believe in. We simultaneously intuit and misconstrue symbols, and constantly develop more symbols.

People love symbols. We are influenced by symbols, and perhaps our intelligence is based on our lexicon of symbols.

So if you wonder about why I'm interested in symbols and symbolism, that's the answer. Anthropologists, art historians, historians, linguists, and psychologists study symbols, trying to find answers to many questions about humans since we seem to be the only species that uses symbols.

Rosie Weetch, the curator at the British Museum, recently did an article for Slate Magazine (6/4/2014) on Secret Codes Embedded in Ancient Artifacts. She studies the symbols on artifacts found at Sutton Hoo, an early Middle-ages Anglo Saxon site in Suffolk, England, which are often ambiguous, and tries to determine the meaning. This shows symbols have always been important to humans. Our use of symbols may go back as far as Paleolithic man. Name a country, religion, organization, school, ancient society, and you will discover they use, or used symbols. A few samples are included:

Symbols of the United States
Symbols of England
Symbols of France
Adrinka symbols from Ghana, West Africa
Native American symbols

While these symbols are often important, some are open to interpretation and misinterpretation. Stereotypes are often a misuse of symbolism. Minds, while similar, being what they are, often interpret symbols differently. Then too, some symbols due to the nature of imagery can share the same iconography but have vastly different meanings. It's what makes symbols so interesting.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fiction Fired Brains

Have you considered what reading fiction does for the brain?

Keith Oatley, Ph.D. in his 2010 Psychology Today article  'Why Read Fiction?'  writes "We enter a book, play, or film, in a fictional world of what could happen, we set aside our own immediate concerns...In a narrative world, we can compare our own reactions, thoughts, and feelings, with those of the characters in a story. Thereby we can come to know better both ourselves and others." He concludes that “The central concern for fiction... is to invite readers to think and feel into the simulations they run as they read a story.” This is certainly an aspect of entertainment reading, but it also exercises the brain which is always good.

In 'Face facts: we need fiction,' published in 2013 in The Guardian, author Neil Gaiman agrees. He  states “It's essential that children are encouraged to read and have access to fiction if we are to live in a healthy society.”

Why? Because Gaiman once heard a talk on prisons and discovered prison planners use percentages of illiterate 10 and 11-year-olds in the population to plan how many prison cells will be needed in fifteen years. He feels fiction introduces children to reading, captivates their attention, encourages vocabulary development, lets them think about different situations and predicaments, and develops a pleasure in reading. Reading also develops empathy by allowing the reader to become involved in the viewpoints of different characters.

In another example, Gaiman tells how a Chinese official once him that "The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US… and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.” Scifi and fantasy at the time of their trip had been a no-no in China. The first scifi-fantasy convention was then held in 2007. Interesting; it seems speculative fiction affects the imagination.

Christopher Bergland in his 2014 article 'Reading Fiction Improves Brain Connectivity and Function,' published in Psychology Today, wrote that a recent study at Emory University found becoming involved in fiction "enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function" in the reader. Again, the reader’s empathy was engaged, and their imagination stretched. He goes on to tell how reading fiction improves connectivity, cognition, and comprehension. 

According to neuroscientist Professor Gregory S. Berns, a researcher, mentioned in Bergland’s article, “At a minimum, we can say that reading stories—especially those with strong narrative arcs—reconfigures the brain networks for at least a few days. It shows how stories can stay with us. This may have profound implications for children and the role of reading in shaping their brains."

I don’t believe this applies to children only, but all fiction readers. Therefore, reading novels provides readers more than entertainment and escape, but develops their brains in significant ways.