Friday, October 31, 2014

Tenth Friday Six Bits from Crewkin

Isolation makes any population more susceptible to disease. When the Vagrant Spirit’s crew comes down with a new strain caught at the ship’s last docking, disease-resistant Renna takes over the flightdeck for several days. Her actions lead to this scene.

~ * ~

Dom Jake grasped her shoulders and held her against the partition, the ladder pressing into her back. Zak stood behind him.

Renna blinked and tried to make sense of the Dom's raving. “The course drifted one-hundredth of a degree every nine hours,” she answered as her senses woke. “You said to use common sense before calling you. I corrected for the engine misfire. I suspect there is an energy lag in the rotation firing system. The event is noted in the log.”

“You damn stupid podder! Of course, there is! You think we don't know? I told you the course was set. Your corrections put us off course! We'll be late, again!”

There was no defense; nothing she could say. He stopped yelling and pushed her against the partition before he backed away. His flushed face and clenched hands revealed his fury. She looked from him to Zak. They both looked dreadful, ashen, and angry. “I can replot the course.”

“No!” Dom Jake said in the same denigrating tone Dom Dukan used when he found her unusually inept. “You stay away from my flight deck. Stay away from anything to do with ship's function. I thought you could handle a ship.”

Renna felt heat filling her face with familiar shame at Dom Jake’s reprimand. Calmness, professionalism, duty. She bit the inside of her cheeks.
~ * ~
Yes, Jake comes off as a douchbag

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Scary Happens Anytime, Anyplace

Here we are before the 'scary' holiday where mostly we laugh, eat candy, and ooh and ah over any costumes we might see, and love the candy, cider, and apples. However, this month's Round-Robin is about the 'scariest thing that has happened to you.' The truly scary stuff comes out of everyday life when you least expect it or unprepared. While we should be prepared when in a car, we all travel by car so much we become complacent, and driving can be boring. Which I suppose, is why so many of us are holding electronics while driving.

I've been in two serious automobile accidents with two totaled cars. I was carried away from one and walked away from the other. The first I don't remember at all and in the second I remember feeling very calm like maybe it was just my time. I believe it is the near misses that are the scariest, especially when you have your children with you and are not behind the wheel, which is the incident I remember as being heart-clenching, breath-stopping scary.

Our family was making a Christmas journey from our home in Missouri to see family in Michigan, and while there was snow and ice on the ground, the roads had been dry all the way. Bill decided to take I-55 north to catch I-80 up to I-94 into Michigan. I can't remember what I was doing in the passenger seat, or what our two kids were doing in the back seat, sleeping or reading maybe. As Bill took the ramp off I-55 onto I-80 I looked up as the car changed directions. The very long ramp was dry and our car was at least a quarter-mile behind a corvette. As te neared the I-80 merge lane the ramp curves, and as a clear view came into sight, the corvette accelerated and must have hit a patch of ice. It started spinning. I gasped, and my foot hit the break, which wasn't on the side where I sat.

The corvette came to a stop in the merge lane to I-80, but also partially into the right lane of I-80 facing westward toward oncoming I-80 traffic and in our car's direct path. Now on the icy patch ourselves, our car didn't have room to stop.

Bill veered the car to the right edge of the merge lane. The car hit more ice and snow and also twirled and slid onto the right lane of I-80, but we missed the corvette. Two semi-trailer trucks, one in each lane of I-80 were barreling down the road toward us. Bill backed down the road, hit the breaks, and we twirled a half circle into the correct direction, and he gunned the engine, accelerating the car to faster than the approaching trucks. The corvette driver finally moved, shooting his car across I-80 and onto the median just before the trucks reached him. Everything happened in just a few seconds, but everything also turned out okay. After several breath-catching moments of silence, a few comments on close calls, we continued safely to Michigan.

For such a brief situation, the less-than-a-minute experience has stuck in my memory. Bill's version of events is a bit different, as I'm sure our children's memories. I do know Bill's driving ability saved us. Why do so many wonderful, good, positive experiences disappear into synapse oblivion, while one so short should endure so long? Fear.

Click on the below links to read more about scariest experiences!

Heidi M. Thomas
Skye Taylor 
Anne Stenhouse 
A.J. Maguire 
Rachael Kosnski
Margaret Fieland
Geeta Kakade
Marci Baun 
Beverley Bateman
Victoria Chatham  
Diane Bator
Fiona McGier
Ginger Simpson

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ninth Friday Six Bits from Crewkin

Renna finally gets to know the most reclusive member of the crew, Shipdog.

~ * ~
Inside the compartment, the old Jupiter 1090 engine sobbed a steady drone interspersed with a strong counter beat creating a soothing song. Renna felt comfortable here, a place where only training and skill counted. Like most engine rooms, the walls and floor were gray and sedate, a holdover from when ships were crafted of steel rather than the molecularly engineered alloys.

The huge man waited for her by the main console. She stopped a meter from him. He looked at the deck, shifting his weight from foot to foot, looking ready to bolt. He glanced up. “Vera verges code.”

“Vera?” Renna asked, barely able to understand the man’s guttural, heavily-accented speech. She tried to ignore his state of undress. He wore no shoes, which was against all Markham codes, his bare feet slapped against the deck with each step. She could only glance at him and look away again. Ship Dog remained unaware of her impertinence and embarrassment since he never looked at her.

“After mom.”

Renna’s gaze slid to Ship Dog’s face, avid curiosity at his statement about his progenitor overcoming her diffidence. A lightning-fast gaze rose to hers and swiftly fell away. Sweat beaded on his forehead. She noticed talking took him effort, as some of her kin—those most often culled. She stepped back giving him more space.

“Needs refit.” Ship Dog’s shoulders slumped as he drifted away to hover over various panels, appearing to read the screens. He explained the problems one by one, using fewer words than her understanding demanded, making her repeat back expanding on his clipped comments. Renna made mental notes. “Questions?” Ship Dog asked clearly wanting none, the focus in his quick glances aimed above her head.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

All Things Five

Five is considered a pivotal number as it is the divider between the nine symbols of numbers (0 doesn't count as it represents nothing or is used as a placeholder). When you reach age fifty and you personally experience how pivotal it is.

  • Cardinal: FIVE
  • Greek: Epsilon
  • Hindu-Arabic: 5
  • Ordinate: Fifth
  • Pythagorean numbers: the pentad
  • Roman: V
  • 1 + 4, 2 + 3 < You can use all the previous numbers to add up to 5.
  • The Romans gave us quin (quinue, quintus, quini) for five, from which we derive quintuplets
  • The Greeks gave us penta for five from which we derive pentagram, the five-pointed star, and the Pentagon. 

  • May is the fifth month, and here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the height of spring. Friday is the fifth day of weeks starting on Monday, and if you have followed this series you will see I've changed from Sunday as the first day, but ALL THINGS THREE and FOUR cover both. It's quirky, I know, but so is this whole series. This is because five works much better on Friday. We have a five day work week, which,  and thank heaven, usually quitting time at 5:00 p.m. We have five senses, and five fingers or toes on each hand and foot. The name Friday comes from the Norse God Frigg or Frigedaey, the goddess of marriage, who was the wife of Woden & mother of Thor, and we all know, May is prime wedding month. Friday is also the Latin day of Venus.
  • Five is a prime number. If you divide the perfect number, ten, into equal parts you get five. The Pythagoreans called it the number of equilibrium. Boron (B) is the fifth element on the Periodic Table. In money, we have the fifty dollar bill, the fiver or five-dollar bill, and the nickel or five-cent piece. Five stars are the highest quality in hotels and restaurants, along with five-star brandy and five-star generals. Reporters are supposed to follow the five W's of who, what, where, when and why.
  • In religious associations, you will find it is a Christian symbol of sacrifice since it symbolizes the 5 wounds of Christ on the cross. The Fifth Commandment is to honor thy father & thy mother and David chose five smooth stones out of the brook; five wise and five foolish virgins are found in the Book of Matthew 25:3. Joshua killed five kings. The Pentateuch is the first five books of the Old Testament.
  • In games and sports five is represented in the 5-gaited horse, Little Phoebe (dice slang), V, Vee, Fiver, Quint, and Five Spot in cards.
  • Numerology assigns the number five to the alpha letters of e, n, w. It is the House of Leo in Astrological associations.
  • Because five is the odd center of the nine numbers, in prophetic references it represents the fulcrum point, so it becomes the number of chance, the pivotal point where past and future are both visible at the same time. This also puts five as the number of temptation as it concerns the five senses and all of the feelings in the sensual world. It is another number of sex and reproduction.
  • The Greeks considered the pentagram a sacred symbol. The pentagram represented light, health, and vitality; only later in history did it become tied to witches. Because five is free from the disturbances of the four lower elements, Greeks held the number symbolic of ether, the fifth element. Five-point star represents man (head, arms, legs) and his destiny and it is also symbolic of Nature. The deities associated with this number were Nemesis, Bast, and Venus. Five is associated with the intellect, communication, mental and nervous processes, dexterity, ambiguity, writing, and diplomacy. The keywords are reconciliation, alteration, cordiality, sound, providence, marriage, & immortality.
  • The Roman signifier V now represents victory.
  • Five has some negative connotations. It can indicate untruthfulness and unreliability, or weakness in someone's mental processes. If you come up on the wrong side of five you have ill luck, imperfection, imbalance, and darkness.
  • In Tarot divination, the fifth card is the hierophant, who represents traditional or orthodox teaching. It shows a preference for the outer forms of religion, the ritual, and the doctrine or the ceremonial rather than the spiritual. This card displays the importance of social approval, the need to conform to society.
  • Symbols of five include the God Mercury, Hermes the Magician, the hand, the body, and the pentagram.
  • In slang usage we have the 5 & 10 or five and dime store, half a sawbuck, the high five, and we all like to take five.
~ * ~
For more information and sources for this information:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Eighth Friday Six Bits from Crewkin

Once she had established a connection with her new crew, a new problem arises.
~ * ~
“Renna,” Zak interrupted Lock. “You said they culled your kin. What did you mean? Culling is a rather harsh term for releasing crew.”

“The caretakers terminated those they felt were inadequate for kin needs and a liability for the company. Dom Dukan said I was lucky. If our kin group hadn’t needed a speaker, I would have been culled from my original kin. He accused me of being more dom than sub.”

“I'm sure they didn't terminate the children,” Lock said with a disbelieving tone. “That's criminal. You must have been too young to understand properly. They probably put the children up for adoption.”

A strange look came over Renna's face. She didn't contradict Lock. Suddenly, her expression changed to one of fright. Everyone's expression soon matched hers.

Cutter felt the disruption: a whirling sense of dizzy disorientation, a sudden sensation of lightening. Food, plates, and utensils glided on the table for a fraction of a second before it ended.

“Grav disruption,” Jake said, his eyes scanning the room's monitors, even as he rose.
~ * ~

Friday, October 10, 2014

Seventh Friday Six Bits from Crewkin

In this excerpt, Renna has another unfortunate encounter while trying to fit in with her crew. 
~ * ~
Her eyes focused on Cutter when she woke. As she became aware of his presence, she became agitated. Zak frowned, recognized her panic, and stepped back. When she tried to rise, Cutter placed his large hand on her shoulder, pushing her down.

“Relax, Renna,” Cutter said. “Your shift's over, you need to rest.”

“No, no, I must finish my assignment.” She engaged in a losing struggle with Cutter. Zak knew his brother was loath to use the force needed to hold her immobile. Frantic, she slid sideways from under Cutter’s hand and off the opposite side of the bed. Her unsteady legs nearly collapsed. She gained her footing, moving to stand before Zak with her head bowed.

“May I return to duty, Dom Zak, sir?”

He glanced in uncertainly at Cutter. “Cutter thinks you need time off, I think under the circumstances...”

She sank to her knees, arms spread, and palms up. “I can finish my assignment, Dom Zak. Please do not allow me to fail a second shift in a row. Please, Dom Zak.”
~ * ~

Monday, October 6, 2014

Where Curiosity Drives

Does curiosity drive both the reader and the writer? If so, what makes your curiosity go into overdrive?

What humans do or do not do always attracts my curiosity. It is more than just people watching, which I also tend to do. Sometimes I feel admiration, sometimes revulsion, at what others do. Often I misunderstand another's actions and make inappropriate judgments about the incomprehensible, stupid, or harmful deeds and situations people get into; that is until they explain why they did what they did, or until I run into the same situation and do something similar. Along with this goes a curiosity about fashion, hobbies, sports, and other human preoccupations. I think this might be a common curiosity to many writers, but I know as a reader, quirky believable characters always hook me.

Next to the above curiosity inducer are social situations in general. When I hear about what is happening in the world it makes me think about the ultimate outcome of such behavior and where it will lead. Anyone who writes also has to be aware of social reactions for the plots of their stories, and readers seem to recognize and enjoy this, too.

What humans throw away (or keep!) also intrigues me. Ever wanted to go dumpster diving? Explore abandoned places? When I Google 'abandoned building,' I'm astounded. I have to admit my curiosity started when I saw Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre's The Ruins of Detroit. Since then I know scavengers have stripped these ruins of copper, iron, bronze, any metal they could, even off steep roofs. I also began to notice more buildings, local ones, falling into ruin — barns, farmhouses, and commercial buildings. And what we keep! Does the TV show Hoarders scare you? It’s certainly made me curious about those boxes I haven’t opened in years. Luckily, I found more treasure than stuff to get rid of.

Along with abandonment, I wonder about graffiti. Did you know there is a graffiti magazine? Some of the images of truly remarkable graffiti (illegal by definition but still art) defy imagination. I've painted murals, so I wonder why someone would put so much time and work into producing something that could be painted over at any time. ??? Incomprehensible — and something to consider incorporating into a story.

Nature always piques my curiosity. Animals, wild or domesticated, in general gain my attention right away. To view a nest of eggs, to watch some animal scurry through woods or field always captures my curiosity, as does the flutter of moths and butterflies. I try to catch them to see the marvelous wing designs. I also love to explore new places on foot. I have crawled and squeezed through wild caves (dark, muck-filled local ones found when I lived in Missouri) and tame caves (those you pay to get into with paved walks and illumination along the way). Walking the streets of major cities can be interesting and wild, too. Last July, I was in New York when the A train I rode stopped and kicked all the passengers off. My group had to walk further underground to 1 train; curious and scary and a far cry from the civility of Times Square underground. Someday I’m sure a story will need a similar situation.

These are just a few of the things that drive my curiosity. However, heights and dangerous places don't do it for me, such situations make me back off quickly. So, does your curiosity share some that entertain me or do you have complete different drives?

Also posted on 10/4 in The Writers Vineyard.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sixth Friday Six Bits from Crewkin

Here is an excerpt from when one of the senior crew approaches Renna.
~ * ~
A scandalized expression raced across her face as if he’d asked for sexual favors, before she gave a reluctant, “Yes.” She transferred her gaze to the monitors of the cleaner, clearly wanting to resume her work.

He waited until he regained her attention and held out the plate. “Jake and Zak eat at the flight console all the time. It's permissible.” He took half a sandwich, bit into the bread, and then passed the other half to her.

Her gaze darted around the deck seeking escape. Probably realized he wasn’t leaving. Rising, she carefully secured her machine before taking his offering. With her first bite, her expression transformed to bliss. Food loosened her tongue.

“I didn't know food could taste like this. Is this really bread?” She fingered a crust loose and popped the piece in her mouth. “What is this? Was that butter on the bread this morning?”

Cutter felt himself puff with pride. “This is a meatloaf sandwich, with catsup. Yes, it was just buttered bread. You liked it? I baked it.” She nodded, her mouth too full to speak.

“Dinner made you uncomfortable, didn't it?”

She finished chewing and swallowed. “Very. It wasn’t only the utensils. I don’t know all the other things, like which one to use on what. I was nervous. My failure caused me to come on duty filthy.” Her hand swiped at a dark spot on her pants. Tears shimmered in her eyes. “The first norm crew laughed so hard…it is best if I don’t eat with you.”
~ * ~