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I’m not sure where I first heard about The Deep by Nick Cutter. It must have popped up on amazon in relation to something else I had read or purchased or looked at. In any event, I like the description and decided to purchase it. I’m over half way through the book that tells the story of a group of scientists that are desperately trying to find the cure for a horrible plague that is ravishing the entire planet. The name of this disease is The Gets. It makes you forget. First you forget where you put your car keys, and eventually you forget where you live, and they you forget other things, things more vital to your well being, like how to breathe, and then…the end. A possible cure is found deep in the ocean – 8 miles down – in the form of a substance name Ambrosia. But is it really a cure?
This is one of a couple of books I have recently picked up that are written by author that I have not only never read anything by them, I haven’t heard their names before. Depth by Lev Ac Rosen is another book and author. As for the deep, so far I like the writing style. It is clear and not confusing and everything makes sense. If there is one complaint that I have so far it is that there is a little too much background given at times. But that’s a minor point. So far I’m pretty pleased with the author and the writing.
I have come to learn that it takes a lot of planning and…planning if you want to write a good story. Plot is a part of it, but so to is character development. And a good plot is built by character conflict however, many other characters go into writing a story, like knowing what in the hell you’re talking about. I have many science fiction ideas that I have floating around in my head, but not until I picked up this book did I realize that I know very little about space or even traveling in space, and I realized this only after I was reading just a few pages of the book, so I’m glad I picked it up and look forward to learning all the things that I thought I knew but I guess now I know I didn’t. Beyond that Ben Bova is one of my favorite authors and I look forward to reading this book because of that reason alone.
I have made no secret that John Scalzi is not only one of my favorite new writers from the world of Science Fiction, but he is also simply put one of my favorite writers period . For the past couple of years Scalzi has been heading the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, as well as being the author of many best selling novel. Here he is talking about what it means to be writer and more specifically, how he got his start.
It was four years ago on February 2, 2009 that I made the first post on this blog, a blog I had hoped would let me practice and speak openly about my love of everything science fiction and fantasy related. Looking back at my first post, I realize that these efforts haven’t been completely in vain. I have yet to be published or write a story that I am comfortable even calling a true story, but in terms of writing there is improvement Reading over my first post, which was the first installment of a zombie-like story, I noticed sever things that I feel could have done better, thing that would be noticeable absent in my writing these days, things like the repetitive use of some words. But yes, as always, there is still work to be done. In any event Happy Birthday to…me, may there be many more.
Lights Out (Originally Published 2.2.09)
“Turn out the lights!” The man screamed as he rushed to fill the 12-gauge shotgun. His hands trembled uncontrollably as he slid down the cold concrete of the basement wall to the floor with the shotgun propped open across his lap. Julian watched with gritting teeth as the first shell fell from his grasp and rolled under a nearby workbench. After a brief moment, he collected himself, loaded the double barrel with two shells and pumped it as the lights in the basement went out.
“Over there, in the corner,” he whispered. In the dark he heard her struggle to find her away around, dumping and dropping things that crashed to the floor in loud, audible clanks and bangs as she made her way between two workbenches into the corner.
Once Julian knew that she was safely in her corner, he lowered the shotgun towards the locked and basement door, the bottom of which was the source of the only light which blazed through the small bottom crack like a blazing inferno.
They had stumbled across the house by accident, it didn’t belong to Julian or his wife, Mary-Ann, and the owners where know where to be found. After an hour of running through the woods, the abandon house seemed like a God send, and when they made there way inside, the sturdy Oak door with the two dead-bolts that lead down to the basement seemed like a God send, too. Now, as Julian looked around he realized that the only way to escape the basement if things didn’t go according to plan, was through the same door which lead down half a dozen steps into the basement – Julian began to wonder if this was a smart move.
Julian looked over in the direction in which he heard his wife’s sobs coming from and then back towards the door, watching and waiting for the blazing light at the bottom to go out, to be extinguished, by whom or whatever it was that had chased them through the woods and forced them to take refuge inside this house.
Julian wouldn’t call them Zombies, they seemed neither interested in eating them or curious about who or what they were, the seemed focused only on killing them. They had no missing limbs and where not covered in blood like Zombies often are in the movies, there was just something in their eyes that hinted at. . . madness, and ruthlessness. The few that they had encountered – on the road, before Julian and his wife lost control of their car and drove into a ditch – had bloodshot eyes and an evil sneer that covered their face at the first sight of them. They watched in horror as these. . . things ripped the limbs off a man trying to get away, that was when he realized that this was no simple gang of thugs, that this was something different, something. . . that caused a human being to boil over with hate and anger, so much so that they could tear a person to peaces in a matter of moments.
As Julian sat there listening to his own thoughts and breathing he saw it, a shadow temporarily blocked out the light blazing through the bottom of the door. Then, as he sat there, watching intently this time, he saw it again.
They’re coming, they’re here, he thought to himself as he leveled the shotgun at the locked door.
“Shhhh,” he whispered over to Mary-Ann in the corner as the door knob slowly turned and the door rattled against the dead-bolts, “shhhh.”
For rest of the story, look here.
We landed on this moon a little over a week ago. Crashed landed is more like it. If what we knew about military protocal is right, Rear Admiral Mathew Ardling would have already declared all hands lost, and to be honest, he would be right. We are on a backwater moon of a backwater planet, this would the last place anybody looked. The fact that we had ventured off mission, chasing some ghost in the depths of space is what made our odds so heavily stacked against us. Our odds would be greatly improved if we had a ship capable of reaching orbit, but to do that we would first need a class-D thruster to replace the one that got smashed during our landing. Without that we aren’t going anywhere.
To top it all off, our first commander William Argyle didn’t make it through the landing. Our second C.O. suffered sever injuries and later died, leaving me, Hubert Holt, in command. Normally I wouldn’t mind, I’m not afraid of the responsibility, and to be honest, I feel the promotion is long over due, it’s just that I am not extremely liked by my fellow soldiers. I guess that’s what happens when my twenty-first century consciousness is loaded into the new body of a soldier, and I excel were others of this century, the twenty-sixth, fail miserably. I’m told very few climb through the ranks as fast as I have, but as a result, I became not very well liked.
“We could go in strong. Hit them hard and fast, those we kill, we kill, those that survive, survive to be killed another day.” That was Cody Sinclair, my newly appointed second in-command. He doesn’t like me either, and to be honest, I don’t much like him, he’s to much of a hot head, as if that was hard to tell, but what makes us work so well together was our mutual respect for the corp, urah, and because of that he chose to respect the chain of command even in light of the fact that there is very little hope in our survival.
* I wrote this on a whim. Hubert Holt is part of a larger story that I have been working on, but have been having some trouble getting started and plotted out. It remains to be seen if this will go anywhere, but for now this is at least a start.
**I haven’t done this exercise much since publishing it, but I still feel it is a great way to learn the tricks of the trade, as it were. Original
*Note: Just before Christmas I purchased a writing kit which, among other things, was filled with excellent suggestions on ways to make yourself a better writer. Some of those suggestions were to take the first and last sentence of your favorite short story and fill-in the story line in-between. Another was to copy, word-for-word and from beginning to end, your favorite short story to help you de-mystify the idea of a great writer. I have combined many these suggestions to try and re-write a scene from Stephen King and Peter Straub’s book The Talisman as a way to better my writing skills. I read this particular scene for the first time a few weeks back and felt this would be a great way to see how much I remembered and how much detail I could fill in on the parts that I don’t remember. Some of the names, characters, and number of characters have been changed because I either forgot some names and/or details, but also because I wanted to focus on the main part of the story, that being the death of Wolf and how he died saving Jack’s life.
Thud. Thud. Jack heard the distant noises as he slowly came too. Without opening his eyes he could tell he was in a closet or some other dark enclosed area, but where exactly within the emense structure that was The Sunlight Home for Wayward Boys he didn’t exactly know.
Thud. Thud. Came the noises again.
“I believe good ‘ol Jack might be awake, Reverand.” Jack heard a voice say in the adjacent room.
“Can’t be, I gave him enough sedative to keep a small horse asleep for hours.” Jack heard the voice of the Reverend, Sunlight Gardner say. “Keep on doing what you were doing. We need to get this done before my flight leaves in an hour.”
Just then Jack heard the sound of a door opening suddenly and then heavy breathing.
“Reverand, you need to come up stairs. Something is happening in the mess hall. It sounds like there is a wild dog, or something, lose in there.”
Wolf, Jack thought as he heard the breathless voice explain.
Coming out of the his groggy sleep, Jack struggled to sit upright. His hands were bound behind him and so were his feet. As the fog left his head he was able to wiggle his feet free and almost his hands as well, but not without first twisting his wrists almost to the point that it felt like they might snap.
Somebody needs to learn how to tie a knot, Jack thought as he crawled onto his hands and knees and peered out through the tiny slits that he came to realize were on the door of the closet in the Reverends personal study.
“You keep counting,” Jack saw the Reverend point to Justin Hildebrand, one of the Reverends many cronies. “You come with me.”
Just then, the wooden door of the Reverends office seemed to explode inward in a shower of splintered wood. Without ducking or even protecting himself from the shower of wood fragments, Justin reached into the desk and pulled out a pistol, pointing it at the door, while the Reverend ducked for cover behind a ficus close to the doors entrance.
“No,” Jack whispered as he waited for the dust to clear. When it finally did Wolf stood in the doorway, on all fours, the features of the boy just a few years older then Jack were gone, replaced by hair and muscle and eyes that burned hotter then any fire. He was crouched on all fours and waiting for the dust to clear so he could pounce and see the fear and devastation in the eyes of his victim when he lunged, mouth gapping open wide ready to rip out their throats.
But before Wolf made any kind of move, Jack looked over at Justin who was pulling the hammer back on his gun, preparing to shoot.
“No!” Jack scream as he shot out through the door of the closet. Surprised, Justin shifted his aim towards Jack and fired two quick shots.
Wolf, smelling the sent of gun powder long before he even knocked down the door lunged in front of Jack just as Justin fired.
Shaken first by the loud clap of the gun shot, Jack closed his eyes in anticipation of the bullets that he imagined would tear through his chest. He only hoped the end would come quick.
But it didn’t come at all.
When he opened his eyes the first person he saw was Justin who had lowered his gun slightly and was staring at something on the floor in front of Jack. It was Wolf.
No! Jack yelled if only to himself after what seemed like eternity, his body frozen. The muscles in his legs finally began to work and he ran over to where Wolf laid motionless.
But just then the hairy form of Wolf stirred. The large muscles covered by large mats of hair rippled and then contracted as Wolf lifted himself up from off the ground. He stood on all fours, but he seemed to stand taller then any of the teenage boys in the room, and maybe even taller then the six foot one Reverend Gardner, himself.
Before Justin or any of the others had time to react Wolf pounced, first upon Justin, ripping open his throat which let forth a stream of gore. From there he moved onto the other boy that Jack now saw was Nathan Studdlemier. Then it was onto the Reverend, but he was gone, escaped out through the front door and down the hall even before Wolf was finished with Justin.
Slowly, and with movements that seemed to hurt and ache in every muscle of Wolf’s body, he moved towards the door that the Reverend had escaped through and peered out and down the hall.
There was nothing, he was already gone.
Turning back, Wolf walked through the exploded door of the Reverends office and starred at Jack.
Jack had been afraid the first time Wolf had changed, now a month previous. But not now. As Wolf and Jack met eye-to-eye for the first time in Wolf’s altered state, Jack noticed that the fire that burned behind those eyes was dimmer then it had been when he first saw Wolf standing outside the Reverends office. They seemed tired, too.
He was dying, Jack came to understand and without thinking her ran over to Wolf, who still stood in the door-way, and kneeled down beside him as he lowered himself onto the linoleum floor.
“I . . . I.” Jack heard Wolf try and say as he rolled his immense form over to get a better look at the bullet wounds. Looking up Jack saw Wolf was starting to turn back, just like the werewolves in the movie. That part was true, Jack thought, even if the part about only being able to kill them with silver bullets was not.
“Don’t talk,” Jack whispered with tears filling his eyes as he went back to examining the bullet wound, frantically trying to think of what to do next, even though deep down he knew it was too late. “I’m going to get help.”
“The. . . heard safe?” Wolf was able to say, his face almost completely back to normal now. “Jack safe, Jason safe?”
“Yes, Jack safe.” Jack answered back, tears now freely sliding down his cheeks. “I’m sorry for getting you into this, Wolf. . . I’m sorry.”
The Langoliers is one of my most loved stories. I remembered reading this book in high school and thinking ‘gee, I wish I could write like that.’ The description of the characters and some of the events are beyond anything that I can put into words, so I won’t attempt to put anything into words here, you’ll just have to read it for yourself.
Having said that, a few months back I had an idea: take a scene from the book, read it through once, and try and re-create the scene only in my own words and style. Well, here is that attempt. Enjoy.
Herald sat in the only open seat directly behind the cockpit of the airplane and watched the rest of the passengers board. He tried to look as presentable as he could as most of the passengers would look at him and Air Freedom wings on his lapel and make the natural assumption that he was the pilot.
He smiled at a little girl who walked by all the while trying to hide from his face the memories of Elizabeth that came rushing back to him. Most were pleasant memories, like the time they spent on a small lake in northern Idaho, where he purposed and she joyfully accepted, jumping to her feet to hung him, almost tipping over the small fishing boat they had paddled out to the center of that small lake.
What was the name of that lake? Herald tried to remember smiling at another passenger as they continued to make their way onto the plane, this one a small boy who was being towed behind his mother as she hurried down the aisle to find their seats.
Then there was the not so pleasant memories, such as the one and only time he had hit her, the one and only time that he had hit anybody for that matter.
It was late after a party for work and she had had a little too much to drink. On the way home Herald had brought up the idea of starting a family, a subject she was apparently getting tired of hearing about as she shot back with an abrupt “drop it.” Then, as the walked to the house, Herald first walking around to open her car door and then leading her up the walk, helping her as she stumbled first over the flower-pot and then the first step leading up to the front door. When they walked inside and he casually said “can we at least talk about? Maybe tomorrow?” was when the evening took a downward spiral.
“Listen,” she said, twisting around on her feet to free herself from his helping hand. “I have a carrier to think about, and the last thing I want or need is a kid. If that’s what you want then maybe you should find another incubator, ’cause this one is shut down until further notice.”
It was the look in her eye that drove Herald over the edge. Her eyes were barely half open and her speech slurred, but even in her sorry state Herald saw the Elizabeth that was their even when she wasn’t drunk, the Elizabeth he came home to every day of every week. But it was something more than even that, he thought to himself as he nodded to another mother and young child as they walked by. Behind that look was the look of the women he had grown to love; it was the look of the women he had fallen in love with and the women, he realized at that moment, that he was falling out of love with.
Before he could stop or even react to the yelling voice inside his head that was screaming at him to stop, Herald twisted his left shoulder around and then let his upper torso unwind, swinging around his left hand to violently slap her across the face.
After a brief moment Elizabeth turned and faced Herald, a deafening silence lingering between them as Herald returned to the here and now, back from the world where he didn’t hit his wife, back from the world where he was able to control his rage. And in that instant he knew their marriage was over. Not because he had hit her and Herald would be lucky if all she did was kick him out of the house, but because in an instant he realized that he was unable to control his anger because deep down he didn’t want too, he wanted it to end just as much as she did.
* As I have mentioned here before, one of the exercises that I do to better my writing skills is to try and draw from memory certain scenes and situations that I have read in some of my favorite books. This is a scene from Stephen King’s The Langoliers. More times than not I don’t remember names, or if I do I slaughter then in some other fashion – spelling, pronouncing, etc. When writing this small part I didn’t reference the original material at all, and drew purely on memory to write this small bit. This particular piece took me about 15 minutes to write
Funny how a simple phrase can inspire so many ideas when heard. For me it was when Stephen King said “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” But there were so many things that an aspiring writer can talk away from this interview. Enjoy
Here is a nice article that John Scalzi put together over at the Whatever blog where he gives a few tips about what it means to be a writer. And in the process he gives all procrastinators (me, raising my hand) a swift kick in the balls to those that complain that there simply isn’t enough hours in the day to write.
I should also point out, and I think I have here on a previous occasion, that Stephen King was considered an unlikely candidate to become a successful writer because at the time Carrie was published King worked full time and had two children and a wife.
Just goes to show that it can be done – have a life and be a writer at the same time.