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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Today’s post is very special. It’s my 50th post on this blog! This is my entry for the July Writing Challenge, which asked us to write a piece involving moons. A few months ago, I presented my readers with this, a dialogue-only introduction to some of the characters in the novel I’m writing. Here, at last, is the initial draft of the second half of the story that Zach started to tell back in April. I hope you enjoy it.

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The Tale of the Sun and Moons: Part II

Zach quietly made his way back to the fire, full mug in hand, and a grin on his face. “Are you all quite settled and ready for me to finish my story now?” he asked.

“Yes!” shouted Rebecca.

“Very well. As I said, there were two tribes of giants that roamed our world, in the time before there was even night and day. Now of these tribes, D’ossa and his fire giants controlled the most territory, but were slowly dying off. Zalar and his mate, Arkosa, ruled the frost giants, who, though numerous, were rapidly losing ground to D’ossa.

“Now D’ossa desired a mate, so that he could produce an heir, and female fire giants had been extinct for a century. D’ossa became enamored with Zalar’s wife, the frost giantess queen, and vowed that he would make her his. He knew that Zalar would never give up his wife freely, for the frost giant was no fool. Only by killing him could D’ossa hope to have his dreams realized. He rallied the few remaining fire giants to him, as he had given them his word that the fire giants would live on, if he could only take Arkosa for his own.

“The fire giants began a fierce attack against the castle of Zalar, and he personally led his own soldiers into battle against a smaller, but more ferocious force. For time uncounted, the combat raged on, until most of Zalar’s forces were defeated, and D’ossa stood alone, the last of the fire giants. D’ossa took his sword and slashed his way through Zalar’s castle. It was at this time that Zalar confronted his wife, Arkosa, and told her of D’ossa’s intentions. Two of his bravest guards took their place at the entrance to Arkosa’s chamber while the king hatched a daring plan to escape D’ossa.

“All too soon, the fire giant king had slaughtered all but the two remaining soldiers on the path to Arkosa’s chamber, and they stood before the door, their own swords crossed. As D’ossa locked blades with them, Zalar spoke to his wife, telling her that no matter what, he would always find a way to be near her. At that moment, D’ossa burst through the door, the blood of the king’s warriors on his sword. He entered the room just in time to see Lady Arkosa leap into the sky, leaving her king behind. King Zalar stood unarmed, waiting for D’ossa to act. In a silent rage, the fire giant followed into the sky, but her lead was too great. She would ever outpace him.

“Zalar took the swords of his most loyal fallen guards and the abandoned blade of D’ossa, and placed them in the ground before the entrance of his castle. Then, he too took to the skies, eternally pursuing the fire giant who pursued his queen. So it was that D’ossa became our world’s sun, and Zalar and Arkosa became her moons, ever chasing one another across the sky, fire and frost.”

“Thank God for a functioning ice maker, he thought dully, as the summer’s oppressive heat settled over him. Scotch on the rocks. That will do nicely. Never mind that it’s midnight. It’s too damn hot in here to not have a drink. The fan in his bedroom had apparently ceased to function some time ago, but he dared not leave his door open, lest he awaken the rest of his sleeping family. Tonight, he said to himself and to no one in particular, is a night to write. He pulled his laptop from his traveling bag, placed it upon the couch that now served as a bed on his infrequent visits, and opened it, allowing its glow to illuminate the room around him as it resumed its duties. I don’t do enough writing anymore. Not for someone who claims to be a writer. Yeah, you write. When? Where? Anywhere I can, but not frequently enough. No sense being dishonest. I’m lazy. I spend too much time watching TV or on the internet, never accomplishing anything. Tonight, that’s going to change. Tonight, I write.”

I put this together in the last few moments of consciousness before sleep on Monday night, back in my old room at my parents’ house. It was a good trip home, albeit less productive than I would have liked. There is an adorable little orange cat who awaits me again, and despite my dad’s denials, he actually does care about her. She’ll be sticking around, unlike her siblings, who have gone to live with family friends.

Upon my return, I found this waiting for me, courtesy of V. Warning: it’s a little bit graphic. Disclaimer: Warning is only placed here to dissuade the faint of heart (and my parents, God forbid they’ve found this blog). On a related note, I give you this. This is what writers used to be. By comparison, Chuck Wendig feels we’ve become too tame. It’s time to ramp it up, turn it to eleven. I’m all for this. I think it’s better to be published before going completely off the deep end, though. I’ll be starting slow. Any readers with booze to donate, I ask that you do it now. Preferably served in the skull of some useless “novelist” like Stephanie Meyer. Yes. That will do nicely. Now go, before I overturn a table. I need time to prepare my July entry for you all.

I’ll be away for a couple of days, as I’m going home to visit family. It’s the first time in over a year that I’ll be going home for something other than a funeral or Christmas, so I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ll be writing while I’m gone, so I should have my July Challenge posted as soon as I get back. In the meantime, I’d like to leave you with this and this. I found a new channel on youtube called wax audio, and the mashups presented are some of the best I’ve ever heard. I’ll see you all in a couple of days. AWAY!

I beg your pardon while I rant for a moment.

 

As many of my readers are aware, I was hired to work at Borders Books and Music in September of last year. This was my first real-world job, being as it was the first post I was hired to following my college graduation. Naturally, I was thrilled when I was accepted. What kind of writer would I be if I weren’t thrilled to be hired at a bookstore? Life was good. When I was hired, however, there was one thing that bothered me. In September, Borders introduced a program called Borders Rewards Plus. For twenty dollars, a customer would get a year’s worth of additional 10% discounts. As an employee, I was given this upgrade automatically. It was great. I got great perks as an employee, and I got to work around books all the time. I loved it. Hell, the customers loved me. I helped them find books. I helped them place online orders. I wrapped their books for them. I recommended authors and titles that they might not have read. I wrote dozens of staff picks. I brought order to the manga section. I was tech support and cleaning crew and sales staff all in one. They called me “the pirate guy” because of my boots. It was a good gig.

So, back to the Plus card thing. Initially, getting customers to buy the upgrade was incredibly easy. After the Christmas season, however, things slowed down dramatically. Our ability to sell the Plus upgrades dropped drastically, but we were still expected to make a large number of upgrade sales each day that we were on the clock. Our managers maintained that it was for the good of the company, and continued to monitor our progress and remind us every thirty minutes or so as to how many upgrades we’d sold and how many more we needed to make our daily goal. At first, I truly believed in this program, but then a couple of events changed my view. In February, our company announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Management again told us that Plus upgrades would save the day, and that our performance had kept our store from closing in the initial shutdown of stores. Not long after this, however, it was discovered that our general manager and assistant manager were gaining bonuses for each Plus upgrade that we sold. Nothing was coming back to the associates, or even our other supervisors.

Suffice to say, I was frustrated with my company. I was not alone. I gave up on sales of Plus upgrades, because I decided that it was not worth lying to my customers just to keep my job at a failing retailer. As part of this, I began scanning my own Borders Rewards card for customers while I was working at the cash register. This got a dozen or so customers a 10% discount, and it earned a few points towards my own account. Our managers found out about this, and were less than pleased that I had been giving “undeserved discounts” to customers. I, unfortunately, failed to inform my managers that I was less than pleased that they were earning equally undeserved bonuses. As of Monday of last week, I was placed on a two-day suspension for my actions. I was asked to sign a formal statement saying that I had been giving these “undeserved discounts” and that I had benefitted from them in accumulation of points on my card, for a total of $67.58 owed in restitution. I was also told that I would be under investigation for the duration of my suspension, and that our Loss Prevention people would be determining my fate.

On Wednesday of last week, I returned to Borders to speak to my managers. I was informed that I was being terminated, signed my paperwork, and was given my final paycheck. I laughed it off, honestly, despite the crushing need for money right now, because I was finally out. I’d been debating for weeks about whether or not to quit, and now my decision has been made for me. Now I have time to visit friends and family, and look for something full time. I don’t regret doing what I did. I really don’t. I had my customers’ best interests at heart the entire time. Why should I regret doing what was best for them? There was never any reason for me to lie to them, and now I won’t have to. Plus, if anybody asks me why I “stole from Borders,” I can quote the legendary Captain Jack himself, and say “Pirate.”

Anyway, on the day they had me go in to sign my paperwork, I spotted a letter from Mike Edwards, the C.E.O. of Borders Group, Inc. It was letting us, excuse me, them, know that the one potential bidder lined up had withdrawn their bid to buy Borders. Now, less than a week later, the official announcement of liquidation has come down the line. This time, however, I’m not caught up in it, though I’ve not yet told everyone about my early release. It really doesn’t matter that much to me now. This is one pirate guy who found his lifeboat, even if I had to be kicked into it. I’m not going down with the ship. I wish the best of luck to my friends and coworkers who are remaining with the company through the liquidation process, and I hope that they find better things in their futures.

TL;DR: I’m down to one part-time job, now that Borders is closing, but I’m not going to be stuck in that place while they strip everything from the shelves. I don’t think I could bear to watch her go…

Some days, there are things that you just can’t get out of your head. When this happens, I like to share it with you, that way you can have these things stuck in your head too! Ain’t I just the greatest?

Number 1 on today’s link list is this video by Julian Smith. This video has inspired my desire to build a house with a secluded reading room even more than most of those library pictures I post.

Number Last (What? It’s a short list.) on today’s link list is this article from cracked.

On a story related note, I’ve been writing dialogue. As V has told me, characters will talk to each other far more readily than they will talk to me. This means that determining what situation they’re in at any given time is framed by their conversations. It helps me to get inside the characters’ heads, while still maintaining an outsider’s perspective on it. It’s fascinating to watch a world unfold in front of me. Arsus and Rime still bicker, but they’re getting more friendly with one another as time passes. I’m working on a really fun scene with the two of them right now, but they’re both a little shy to talk about it. I am taking it that this means it must be REALLY good. 😀 Landara’s relationship with Rebecca is shaping up very much like Ripley/Newt, as I predicted. I think that there’s going to be a twist here that they’ve not yet told me about. I’m still waiting. Miles is sitting over in the corner, sulking, smoking a little cigar. I can feel the heat of the matches and the burning tobacco as he inhales. Zach wants to tell another story, but everyone else is busy, so he’s sitting quietly, just gazing up at the stars.

I read a couple of books the other day. I finally finished Boneshaker, a steampunk novel by Cherie Priest, that’s a great adventure. I also sat down for an hour and read The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I set a new personal record for a book that’s over 500 pages, but don’t go calling Guinness or anything (the book people, not the beer people). It’s a great book, very deserving of the Caldecott it won. Those of you who know that the Caldecott is for illustrated books will be pleased to know that these incredibly intricate charcoal-style drawings make up over half of the book’s pages. They’re very reminiscent of the work of William Kentridge, a man whom I have attempted to emulate in my own drawings. The book is fantastic, a great read, and actually very historical. I can’t wait to see how the movie adaptation works out. I’m still working my way through Left Hand of Darkness, and then next up on the list is Gerard Way’s Umbrella Academy graphic novels. Aww yeah.

“I hate navigating around this place,” James muttered to himself. His grandfather’s home was labyrinthine, and despite his heritage (his father and grandfather had both been legendary puzzle masters), he despised mazes, and the idea of making a home within one tormented him.

He found himself in front of the family’s sculpture of a young man holding a sword in one hand and a ball of twine in the other. The statue itself was one that his grandfather had commissioned decades before, after he’d decided to take up permanent residence on the island that had once merely been a vacation spot. That was long before James had been born. Long before his mother had died, leaving him in the care of his father.

“Okay, twine-boy statue, then three lefts, a right, another left, and the second hall on the right.” James was consulting a paper that his grandfather had given to him to help him find his way.

“I promise not to tell your father,” the old bull said. “I know that you don’t have the gift, my boy. It’s quite alright. There are very few of us left, after all, and a life filled with puzzles must seem dreadfully dull to a young one such as yourself. There are so many new things in this world. I’ve lived a long time, and I’ve seen a great many things. This home is the greatest puzzle in the world, and someday it will be yours, no matter how you feel about that. Some day, I’ll be gone, and there’s a hidden room with my greatest treasure inside. Those directions will get you there, but you must promise me that you’ll wait until after I’m gone…”

James’ grandfather had passed away almost a year ago, and he’d finally built up the courage to visit the old house. That same old-people-smell still lingered, though it felt almost stale now. He tried not to think about all the visits to see the old bull before he’d passed, but memories lingered in every one of the near-identical passageways. Finally reaching the end of the sheet of directions his grandfather had left him, James found himself facing a dead end.

“DAMMIT!” he bellowed, slamming his fist into the wall. “I followed them perfectly! What did I miss?” He punched the wall panel again, making contact with a fresco of the man who’d once ruled the island. Suddenly, a hidden door slid open in front of James, revealing a room he’d never seen. Glancing inside, he spotted a single box sitting on a table in the otherwise empty room. James opened the box cautiously, lifting out a photograph of himself as a young boy, an older minotaur beside him. On the back of the photo, in a labored scrawl, was a note from his grandfather.

“I will always be proud of you, James, no matter what. You are my greatest treasure.”

James wiped a tear away as he pocketed the photo, and walked back into the labyrinth.