Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave …

Here, together at last, are all of my “hook me in twenty five words or less” posts form Sffworld.com.  I had to do some minor error correction on a few, especially the earlier ones.  Hope you enjoy them.

 

  1. “The armies had fought for days unending, but the real desecration was just about to begin and for nothing more than arrogance.”
  2. What do you mean “you’re not human?”
  3. “The winds of change came. I wish they wouldn’t have waited until I got fully dressed!”
  4. “The little creature watched the star bloom in the sky not knowing it meant the death of its’ world.”
  5. “The alien looked down on the world and thought who will clean up the mess the humans had made?”
  6. “Who are you, Death?” I screamed.
    “No, far worse. I am his brother agony and she is his sister torment” rasped the pustulating creature.
  7. So this was Armageddon. Somehow I thought there would be more hoopla.
  8. This is how the world should have ended; unfortunately I don’t know what I did wrong.
  9. The company telepath was the first to go down then all hell broke loose.
  10. The fires were stoked, the idiots were hungry, and the cannibals were waiting for nightfall. Oh, how trusting are those that dream of riches.
  11. “Listen Mac, I don’t care what you call it, angel dust, pixie pooh, or cherubim chuff,” growled Chicken Little. “The sky is falling.”
  12. “Sunlight reflected from the ice covered stones of shattered gates and crumpled parapets, like the thousand tears wept by the Gods at the loss of this noble land.”
  13. The water was cold, the water was deep, but that still did not extinguish the fire rippling up my legs. Damn, mother was right.
  14. The autumn leaves crunched wonderfully beneath his boots as the air filled with the sickly sweet anise smell of his soul’s rotting blackness.
  15. “Is that your brain on the ground?”
    “What…oh, no. Mine is dark green and much bigger.”
  16. He couldn’t breathe! The suit should be providing enough oxygen but it just wasn’t making a difference. Emergency alarms were buzzing in his ears.
  17. “Be wary one and all of the Sapling God in his hall.” I remembered the rhyme as the saplings before me began to move.
  18. The fires of heaven cleansed the earth below, while the Gods wept bitter tears for millennia. One God; however, sat and played among the ashes.
  19. The clouds blasted outward from the bright yellow center where the massive being plummeted straight down to the earth. October 8, 2019 4 pm humanity awakened.
  20. The baboon placed her hands gently on the wizard’s face, eyes locking with his.
    “Well … you ain’t what I expected in a soulmate,” he sighed.
  21. “Holy crap,” I said?
    “Yes,” the priest replied. “Can you please pull your foot out of it?”

Story Starter, Just Add Imagination and Simmer

Just like buying a package of soup starter and a few ingredients on a cold day, the “Hook me in twenty five words or less” thread over at Sffworld.com is a great way to pass a cold winter evening.  The reason I mention this is because, while I have been focused upon my art this past year, I have not forgotten the collection of short stories I hope to eventually publish.  Remember, I previously revealed the cover I created for this collection titled “Mystics and Misfits” (type in the title to see a wealth of posts on the subject).

Well, a recent thought I had was to find all my contributions to the “Hook me” thread and create a section at the end of the book explaining their origins and listing them.  At this point I am not sure how I would title this part of the book.  Any ideas my readers might think of would be greatly appreciated.

Seriously, 100 Words. Are You Kidding?

Holy bat#*!@ a serviceable story in around 100 words.  That is what I was thinking when I tried writing 500 word stories for contests at Podcastle and Escapepod a few years back.  I had finally gotten used to writing decent stories at 1,000 words for the monthly flash fiction contests at SFFworld.com even though I hadn’t won anything.  Now they were asking me to come up with interesting material in half that length.

Needless to say, I did not do well.  I tried too hard to give them stories with the scope and back story I was giving at 1,000 words.  I tried to fit references to the larger world, develop characters, and explain ideas, which forced the word count upward so had be chopped in later edits.  By not grasping the type of writing necessary for the word length, I left the stories unfocused and unsatisfying.  The grand ideas I was trying to portray couldn’t be made to fit into the word length of the contest.

Does that mean that you can’t express grand ideas in such a small word count?  No.  It just means you need to allow the reader much more freedom to bring in their own backstory.  Or, more precisely, to chose your writing to better direct some common themes of human life to help direct the backstory the reader brings into the experience.  I did not grasp that before.

I have completed my 100 word story, which is one fifth that of the above contest and I am much more satisfied with the results because I did not try to do all the heavy lifting with the story.  In a novel you can have more than 80,000 worlds to tell a story.  With that kind of space you can give more references to guide the reader toward the world and characters you envisioned.  You can narrow the outside material readers bring to the table by explaining motivations and describing the visuals, something us flowery types take a ribbing for, but it helps direct the flow of the reader’s thoughts.  Of course, given the size of the world and human population, there will still be a lot of misinterpretation due to readers with vastly different life experiences.

You would think that decreasing the word count would vastly increase the chance of missing any significant audience.  However, I think I see it the other way around now.  The object is not to direct the reader to see your idea, but to take advantage of the most basic human experiences to become the backbone of your story in place of what you cannot write.  For example, I would find it hard to get across the specifics of religious views behind a struggle I wanted to portray in 100 words.  However, if I take advantage of the thousands of years of human history pertaining to religion and the resultant strife, I can focus on the immediate story by just mentioning the action revolved around a religious dispute.

That is what I wanted to pass on today.  Look for my story to be posted at SFFworld soon.

Fiction is Better than Believing

Here is the latest flash fiction contest I will be entering (link and description below).  I have my idea ready, what about you?

February 2018 Micro-Fiction Contest

Theme: Conditioning
Word count: 
100 words or less
Deadline: February 23, 2018
You can interpret this theme any way you like, but I leave you some food for thought:

The moon is one, but on agitated water it produces many reflections. Similarly, ultimate reality is one, yet it appears to be many in a mind agitated by thoughts. ~Maharamayana

The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority. ~Stanley Milgram (1933-1984)

The mind of man is often like a house of which he is the landlord; bad tenants are more easily admitted than removed. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher’s Stone, 1882

******************************************
If you are new to the contests, here’s a general outline of what to do:

1) Think of a story idea that includes speculative fiction elements (fantasy, science fiction, horror elements) and fits the theme stated above
2) Write story
3) Edit story
4) Post story in the Stories sub-forum in a way that will make it easy to find. Ex. Feb. 2018 Micro Fiction Entry: Title of Your Entry
5) Come back here and let us know that you posted your story and provide a link to that story (makes it easier for me to find your story when it comes time to vote).
6) Read the other entries and offer comments that help the writer both know what they did right and what they did wrong (in your humble opinion)
7) Vote when the voting poll goes up

The winner has the honor of picking next month’s contest theme.

CONTEST GUIDELINES:

  • PG-13 – generally, the forum restricts its contents to what would be acceptable at the PG-13 rating. However, we are lenient for creative purposes in the writing forum. Please warn readers if your story contains adult situations.
  • Once you post your contest entry, we discourage writers from altering the original text submitted. While it may be okay to change a few typos here and there, please do not revise your piece substantially. If you would like to respond to feedback, you are encouraged to post your revision within the thread (but not the original post).
  • Please refrain from voting for your own story.

Art Updates (from my Patreon page)

So, I have all this extra time on my hands now.  I haven’t gotten too crazy looking for a job yet because I am cleaning up a lot of stuff that was getting pushed aside by all the stress from my former job.  Hell, I am spending all my time at the dentist.  I have been there for four visits and now have to go for a fifth because another front tooth chipped.  Damn!  However, the first application fell through but I am not overly surprised because I was not centered in the geographic area of the route.  Big thing with these kind of companies these days.  At least my resume is on file for when and if the expansions occur in the five companies that will be allowed to work in the chain my old company was in.  In addition, I may check out another company that works in this chain that is commission based.  I have my reservations, but I am not totally sure I want to go back to what I did.  I may even try for a pure merchandising job with someone like Pepsi or Coke.

Anyway, with all this extra time, I have decided to push on some of the backlog of projects and explore some new ideas.  First off, I am almost finished with the “Quiet Strength – Silent Vulnerability” coloring page reward and hope to have it posted early tomorrow.  This took longer than I wanted because the image was made years ago with no thought at all of using it as anything other than a reference.  Cleaning up the sections that where shaded was difficult because of what the scanner chose to consider dark and light.  All in all though, I think I got it licked, just some final lines to clean up.  Second, I have been itching to get back at the Termanicz image and thinking about drawing a background the will be more concrete than trying to do it from scratch on the computer.  I am not quite comfortable with that yet.  Finally, I have been looking into how to do a print project on my Patreon page.  It looks like I will be making a separate page just for that and will be working out the details of what to include in the reward, how many I will print, and how much it will cost.  I hope to have the first one ready soon so watch for updates.

P.S. I wanted to know if anyone thinks my flash fiction entry “A Word in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush” should be added to the stories I already have slated for “Mystics and Misfits”?

Lost Some Wisdom but Still Holding My Own (from my Patreon page)

Been spending some quality time with my dentist lately.  Fixed chipped tooth last week, pulled wisdom tooth today, two fillings next week, and finishing up with a cleaning after that.  What can I say, don’t do anything for a decade or so then go for it in a month.  Anyway, even though I am less wise now, I am still working away on projects.  Currently in the works:

Quiet Strength – Silent Vulnerability Coloring page

Termanicz

Bull Rider Painting(Rodeo short story)

Cheetah Painting

Linear Thinkers in a Non-linear Universe

Lost Contact Horror Story

Yep, pretty busy.  Working on coloring page and getting close to finishing.  I have added the Jupiter and Mars eye lines that were not in the original tiger drawing and I have cleaned out at least half of the black patches from the scanned drawing.  I hope to jump on any of the other drawings after that, but mostly Linear thinkers because there is not much left to do.  Also, now that the flash fiction contest is over, lost but got a good compliment, I hope to dive into Lost Contact.  I really like the concepts that are swirling like storm clouds in my head.  So, stay tuned for updates.

 

Blue Word of Happiness (from my Patreon page)

 

The voting is almost over for the Flash Fiction contest so I thought I would let you see my entry.  Theme was “crosswords”, hence the above image I pulled just for a graphic.

A Word in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

by Robert Garbin

The intensity of the sudden summer storm rattled windows at the old Brandstar Company while shifts were changing.  Lights flickered here and there throughout the complex as thunder shook the ground.  Bob Balleban saw Sheila Randling yawning as he punched in for his shift.

“Don’t get me started or it will be a long night for both of us!”

“Too late old man, I started yawning as soon as I heard you were here,” Sheila replied.

“Nice, I grace you every day with my charming presence and this is what I get!”

Shelia playfully swatted at the man she had worked with the past five years.  He was ten years older with a slim build and close cropped greying hair.  She was in her mid-forties and looked like your average young grandmother.

They walked in comfortable silence to the break room where they deposited their lunches in the company refrigerator.  Bob took time to start a fresh pot of coffee before they both exited.  Quiet dominated the production floor as the shift change occurred; however, the soft hum of equipment held back filled the air with a mood of frantic nervousness.

“Which side you want tonight Bob,” Sheila asked?

“I’ll take the far side dear, I don’t mind,” Bob replied as he worked his way around and over different conveyor belts to the opposite work station.

Bob had just made it to his post when the whistle blew and machinery began ramping up.  Soon the conveyor belts were running at a steady pace.  Their job was ensuring byproducts off the main production line were routed correctly to proper recycling storage facilities within the plant.  With the world in bad shape from decades of conspicuous consumption, no one was allowed to just throw out waste anymore.

For the next two hours the shift ran smoothly and efficiently; large container cubes of water mixed with different contaminants were routed to distillation facilities, while medium sized bottles of resin waste where sent to storage for external reclamation.  From time to time either Bob or Shelia would have to slow the line to reassign miss labeled containers, placing corrected labels as they went.

Sheila was just finishing another relabel when Bob jerked up from his control screen cursing loudly into the communication system they shared.  The system allowed them to talk over the equipment noise.

“What the hell is wrong with you Bob?” Shelia said with and edge of fear in her voice!

Sheila looked across the conveyor belt at her co-worker.  Bob had backed away from the line blinking his eyes rapidly while tapping is right thumb and forefinger together.  He now stood cursing, spouting strange words and directions.  Meanwhile Shelia had to scramble with the flow of waste materials filling the conveyor belt so the company wouldn’t get fined again.  She slowed the line as much as possible without setting off alarms.

“Holy shit,” shouted Bob.

“Jesus Bob, you got to get in here before I have to hit the emergency stop!  We could both lose our jobs if that happens!”

Sheila barely had time to growl out the words as she double timed catching miss labeled bottles of contaminated byproducts from the production floor.  With two people out on medical in the production line, too many bottles were not labeled right and would end up in the wrong bins for recycling.

“Four across Hawk!  Three down Snowy Owl!” Bob yelled.

Shelia, mouth a gape, desperately tried to maintain control of the looming catastrophe.

“Ah … five down, Goose, … seven across Woodpecker!”

Bob continued to spout gibberish for another five minutes as Sheila began to feel flushed from the strain of handling the line solo.

“Seven down … the common name of the duck hawk … wha …,” Bob stammered.

“Snap out of it Bob, damn it!”

“Sheila, what the hell is the common name for a duck hawk?”

“What the hell is going on Bob?” Sheila screamed into her mike.

“For the love of God, do you know the common name for a duck hawk?  I have to finish this now!”

“Quit yelling at me … ah, well, it’s not a goshawk or a redtail”

“Eight letters long, starts with a P!” Bob growled.

“P … uh, perched?”

“No, that is only seven letters, it has to be eight!”

“Wait, I remember this from my dad.  He was a bird watcher.  It isn’t a hawk at all; it’s a falcon … a peregrine falcon!” Sheila said.

“Seven down, peregrine!” Bob shouted.

Tapping his thumb and forefinger together again he let out a sigh and raced to his console where he flagged a mechanical breakdown to stop the system.  Red lights began flashing as the conveyors ground to a halt.

“What in the hell happened.”

“Damned AR contacts malfunctioned and placed a Huntingdon Star crossword up that blocked my view.  The thing wouldn’t shut down either.”

Sheila started giggling.  She looked at Bob and just busted out in laughter, which Bob soon joined.  The absurdity of the situation kept them both laughing, helping to relieve the tension of the last fifteen minutes.  They were still chuckling and drying their eyes when the shift supervisor and his boss arrived with questions about the stoppage.

Bob managed to keep a straight face as he circumspectly described the malfunction of his AR lens and that he would need a few minutes to retrieve basic contacts from his locker.   The shift supervisor frowned but allowed they had made the right decision in stopping the line, his boss; however, was not as mollified.  Bob and Sheila could hear them discussing the need for a new policy on augmented gear on the work floor.

Their shift went smoothly the rest of the night except for the number of times Bob had to repeat the story of his now famous contact lens.  As daylight began edging over the frames of the plant windows, Bob stretched then placed his station on standby.  Across the conveyor Sheila yawned deeply, doing the same.  As they entered the break room to retrieve their lunches, the next shift heard them chuckling, saying names of birds back and forth.  By the end of the week, the incident had become company legend.