Siren Bay

Hey All!

I thought I might share a story I recently submitted to a writer’s contest:

SIREN BAY

Kinja gazed hungrily at the glinting water. No one came this far, no one crossed the safety barriers. She shed her long-sleeved shirt and long pants and folded them atop her slip-ons that had her socks tucked inside. The mean sun burned her tender skin. Treatments from her last secret dive had taken five weeks of caustic scrubs and she’d had the runs all that time as well. She’d heard sirens would lure sailors into the water and drown them. Silly myth, yet she felt the beat of a siren’s heart within her breast; the water called her home.

The puny overhang couldn’t be called a cliff. Kinja remembered seeing the Acapulco cliff diver arrowing into the sapphire waters once, back on Earth. Even then they’d said the cliff seemed puny compared to the days of lower seas, when a sprawling city surrounded the area. She remembered the sound of applause out there, a mere breeze compared to the gale-force acclaim she’d won at the Toronto Open.

If a bird flew by she’d leap after it. No birds. If a dolphin breached and squeaked, she’d dive in to meet it. No dolphins. Terraforming lagged on most everything. Toes on the crumbling edge, she felt the gray regolith sink beneath her feet. Rather than fall, she’d best dive, dolphin or not.

As she sliced into the warm water, her brain reveled in the flight, in the contact, in the sensation of weightless gliding. Flexing her thin form, she angled to the surface. The algae mats topped the sea as far as she could see, horizon east to west, so no swimming from her lagoon. A soft, swift current thrilled her from her legs up. The lighter gravity made swimming harder; she found simple one arm then the other, kick, kick worked most effectively.

At the sharp rocks at the lagoon mouth, she kicked off a flat surface and raced as fast as her muscles and lungs could manage all the way to the low beach at the diagonal. Climbing out on her knees, black shoes appeared before her happy eyes. Her heart fell and she boot lacesflipped over onto the hot sand.

“You knew better and did it anyway. I sympathize but you know the hazard from the bio-package we seeded the sea with, and the consequences.” Her father dropped her stack of clothes and shoes beside her. “Get dressed; you know where we’re going.”

The scrub was deemed too risky so soon after the last time. They put her into the Conditioning Chamber. She occasionally perceived faces surrounding the translucent bubble but heard nothing. The chamber had been used once before – the guy had gone crazy and they couldn’t attend to his heart attack in time. The unending tickling, the feeling of millions of fire ants crawling around on her bare skin to remove the tenacious accelerated growth enzymes and seeds did not bother her. She put herself in the 2115 Olympic Trials and re-swam each precious stroke in her mind. The surge in her heart when she realized her hand hit the bar a full second before her rival’s kept her skin peels and regeneration far, far away. The golden trophy weighed less that you’d think. She’d hugged it then and she felt the smooth, cool thing against her breastbone. She got out of the Chamber tender and weak on her eighteenth birthday.

They fitted her out with a collar that would give her a severe shock if she even went near the safety barriers. She bent her mind to making this alien sea her friend.

***

As the top scientist for oceanic life genesis she finally succeeded with her decade-long project. She savored the congratulations from the entire community. She walked up to her father with a pair of side nippers. He clipped her collar with a grin. She stood before them and gave her many thanks to all those who’d accepted her single-minded attack on the terraforming problems and had assisted her efforts so ably. At 31 she’d earned her right to say, “Sign up for swimming lessons first thing tomorrow. If you want me today, I’ll be in Siren Bay.”

And The Winner is!

An Elise t’Hoot Galactic Adventure – Where Do You Stand?

  • Tolerance toward strangers versus Kill’em!
  • ‘Love your Neighbor’ no matter how distant versus ‘Hate the Sumbitches!’
  • Do you prefer characters who behave like real people? Like when there’s a crisis with plans and solutions being bandied and they turn to you for your erudite opinion…and you’re thinking of which color of M&Ms you like best?
  • Nearly all reputable scientists agree that human-caused Climate Change is a real danger with Big Oil pulling the strings. Think of the situation 100 years from now:
    • As Greenland and the Arctic melt, sea levels will rise to the point the mega-cities on the coasts of every continent will be underwater, no more Bangladesh…or Bronx.
    • In the US it is easy to imagine the millions of coastal HAVES will push out the Midwestern HAVE NOTS. So where will the Have Nots go? Rafts on the high seas?
    • Is it not reasonable to think the US government would go authoritarian to combat the chaos and maintain order? And extend borders from Pole to Pole for more natural resources national security?
    • If NASA stays on track, we sure could have colony planets light years away. Where better to send the poor, the displaced and the ‘malcontents’? “Out of sight…”
  • Finally, Elise t’Hoot is an illegal refugee going to college in Kentucky. Her scholarships are pulled so she needs cash for tuition. One thing leads to another. Such a girl CAN save not only this world, but others way out there as well. Perseverance, smarts, tolerance, faith in the power of love, and the gut feeling that her terrifying experiences like gang rape, family deaths and mass starvation need not be perpetuated because of caste or color, or what planet, they’re from – these are what make her strong.

Forget the label “Sci-Fi”, this series is about looking around without denial. The Earth is in dire straits with fossil fuels as the main cause and will get worse in the coming decades. Nobody you see or hear news about is worth more or less than you. Some people are capable of amazing generosity and love while some are capable of monstrous evil and outright depravity. A skinny illegal girl with pain and flaws CAN make a heap big difference to the ‘system’.

Disclaimer: The Elise t’Hoot Galactic Adventure is a true adventure with a wide variety of characters with wildly differing viewpoints. The winding and intertwining stories move fast and offer lots of surprises. There is technical wonder, winning and losing, suspense, violence and pity, even some well spaced-out romance (pun intended). Elise believes much as the author does, but she’s not so pedantic and most of the characters disagree a little or lots, sometimes with gunshots. They have their own problems and beliefs, you know? The environment of the colony planet of Tenembras is harsh enough to polarize the population with regard to aliens. That would be non-Humans, not just those considered to be sub-Humans. Couldn’t happen on Earth…

The Might of Defiance, Elise t’Hoot Galactic Adventure Book One by Mary Ellen Wall

Available quite soon at Amazon and other outlets for not much $$$ at all.

Only nine more volumes to go! If you’ve read this far you really must give the books a try J.

Cozy Up With A Book Weather

Tree Against StormOh yes, isn’t is getting cold in the evenings! I’ve had to dig around for my sweaters, coats and long johns and all…cheapskate that I am, I keep the thermostat at 50 degrees F and pile on the warmth. That’s better than 40 degrees like I did 2006 though 2014. Getting soft? The cats seem to like me much better now.

I got an armload of fake fur and thick fleece to make toasty stuff with, and I committed to brings several kinds of cookies to the holiday potluck at work next week. Should I make the Irish Stout next or the Hard Cider? When I’m not sewing or painting or baking or brewing or reading, I could be writing. Here’s the 3rd in the series. They cost a lot less than dry roasted peanuts; why not give them a try?

Frog Flag Woods very Close

 

When An Alien Says It’s Party Time…

“No, I don’t have an appointment. All I need to do is check the seismometers; there are twenty two here and it won’t take but a few minutes for each.”

Tape sized the guy up. He did look like the wiry volcano guy, chocolate dark with very large eyes and a stubby nose, and that superlative girl with the blonde burr had been with him in the net interview. He keyed his comm, “Artemis, wherefore art thou, Artemis?”

“Cut it out, Cusak. What’s up?”

“Got volcano people out here wanting to check their shake-o-meters.”

“In the middle of the night? Where do they need to go?”

Tape turned back to the visitors. “Where are they?”

Mort tapped on the legend on the map Tape showed him. “See these red dots and triangles?”

“Arty, they need the whole perimeter and some central.”

“Nope, sorry. The research in Dome 5 shall not be disturbed by order of the Grand Poobah, nothing in central admin, otherwise looks okay.” She cut the comm.

Tape reacted to Kathy’s discontent; he had a thing for blue-eyed blonde Amazons. “Guys, how about we start checking here and work around to 20, the farthest one? We’ll see how much we can get done in a day. Or a night as it were? Perchance the central area will be available in dawn’s early light?”

Mort and Kathy shrugged at each other and shouldered their satchels. Mort said, “Lead on! We’ll knock out what we can and straight on through ’til morning!”

“Mort, I will donate my lunch money every day if I can get our satellite link-up fixed for Christmas.” Kathy reiterated the common grad student complaint, knowing full well Mort lobbied for it monthly. A new sat was promised on the last bus, but of course nothing came of that.

Tape walked back over to the guard shack and tapped the window, waking Birko. “Can you handle the grueling task before you alone? Can you threaten the impudent scoundrels that may creepeth up?”

The portly Slavic woman scowled at him. “Beat it, and bring back a fresh jug of water. Somebody slobbered in this one.”

After checking the first nearby box, Tape led them to a buggy and they all climbed in. He took the long way around to avoid the area around the proscribed Dome 5, though he knew the tree-people retired at night and wouldn’t be noticeable.

Kathy asked, “Scenic route?”

“Yes ma’am, Tape Tours, at your service; do note the amazing star field, featuring the despicable Blackie with Misha on his heels to save us all. So why are you here so late?”

“We didn’t get up until afternoon and gotta get it done,” she replied. “There are over 400 seismometers and we’re one of four teams checking them. Stop here!” She jumped out with Mort and they trotted to the fence. He went one way and she the other with their case keys at the ready. Case open, scan data, case close and lock.

They stopped eight more times checking two multiple-instrument stations at a time until they neared the last dome of the big circle.

Mort said, “We have two big old-style units inside this one, if you don’t mind, originals.”

Tape slammed on the brakes and swung the rear end around so the headlights shone on the outside door of the huge Dome 20. “Here we are!”

“I see that,” she told him flatly, clearly not appreciating his driving skills. “Can you let us in?”

strawberries weededStrawberries rampant

Inside they saw a vast field of soybeans and one tree. Tape hit the switch that turned on every third light.

“What an odd tree! Mort, look at this, I’ve never seen anything like it!”

They walked over to it. “Kath, I haven’t either.” He slid his hand up the smooth, glossy truck. “It’s tall for the diameter, and the bark is extraordinary, about my tone but shiny.”

“LeeLaa is not a tree.”

Mort and Kathy jumped back to Tape who stood stock still, glued in place from consternation. Tape knew there were alien things in Dome 5, but this one had escaped. He trotted back to the entry and switched on the rest of the lights. He looked around the rest of the dome once more to verify there were no other ‘trees’.

“Not worry. LeeLaa good. LeeLaa go walk and think about maybes.”

Kathy came timidly nearer. “You are called LeeLaa?”

“Yes. Your name is?”

“K-Kathy.”

“Kakathy.”

“No, sorry, plain old Kathy. Ka-thy. And that’s Mort.”

Mort waved and moved up with Kathy.

“Hi Kathy Hi Mort. Hey Tape why worry?”

He gulped. “No reason at all.” Pleased she knew his name, he smiled and decided to stay put. A vestibule door banged open, making all the humans jump and gawk at the old man racing in from 30 or 40 meters away.

“What are you people doing in my dome! LeeLaa! We’ve been looking all over for you! Do you have any idea how big this dome complex is? Tape, what in blazes is going on here?”

“Dr. Cartier, come on, don’t yell. The little one there took a stroll about the premises.”

Cabin June 2015 059
Kreeek, TaaTaa and LeeLaa,  acrylic on canvas  by Mary Ellen Wall

 

Tape thought fast about ways to explain letting strangers in the Dome at night without asking him first. “Dr. Cartier, sir, it was urgent these volcanologists access their seismographs in here as soon as possible. I asked Artemis and she said to avoid Dome 5 and points central, so we checked the perimeter stations and came here for the last ones, except central.”

 

Alain turn to Kathy and Mort tersely asking, “Hello, Volcanologists One and Two. Do you have names?”

“Aalen, names Kathy and Mort,” LeeLaa piped.

“Dr. Alain Cartier, I take it.” Mort stuck his hand out to Alain, who belatedly accepted it. “I hate breaking in like this; Sarjani gave us permission for come in and check our stuff at any time.”

“Forgive me Dr. Abernathy, I did not mean to be rude. The situation has changed and you have inadvertently discovered the reason why.” Alain remembered the newscasts of the great eruption that featured these two experts, and shook Kathy’s hand more readily. “Miss Abramowitz. College kids have been sneaking up.”

“Grand to meet you and your other guest,” she said jokingly, “things have changed!” She whipped around as the vestibule door banged open again, hanging on to Alain’s hand and pulling him so briskly he fell onto her. They righted themselves as LeeLaa whizzed by to embrace the newest arrival.

Tape saw another guy come in from the vestibule behind Elise. She outpaced the man because he caught sight of the point-blank alien and skidded to a stop, statue-like, maybe striving to blend into the bushy greenery in his white suit, staring at LeeLaa who called, “Martaa!” Tape judged that although it looked like the girl he knew as Elise was being engulfed by tentacles, she seemed to be enjoying it. Curiouser and curiouser.

The girl, Elise and/or Marta, stepped back and stood like the subject of an interrogation, facing the assembled humans. “Hi, y’all. LeeLaa, everybody, meet Ricky.” In her higher voice she looked aside to LeeLaa and said, “Many people like this say ‘party'”

LeeLaa said, “Martaa, Alain, Mort, Kathy, Tape, Ricky party! New friends! Make tea!”

Alain pinched at his forehead and went over to pat the still gaping Ricky on the shoulder. He slid his hand down to Ricky’s arm and tugged him around the stars of the show to where Mort and Kathy stood close to each other.

Tape, having overcome his immediate alarm, decided this could be educational, especially since the alien’s guardian angel was now present. He announced, “I can make the tea, but we ought to go to the lunchroom, don’t you think, sir?”

 

An Uncivil War E CoverAn excerpt from An Uncivil War, the Lastest and Greatst Sci-Fi novel with Elise and the tree-like aliens. Launching this month – watch for it!

Success At Last!

Yippee! I got the Kindle Creator Beta Kindle Direct Publishing to convert the eBook Chanceversion I went over with ProWriting Aid ( https://prowritingaid.com)  and formatted with The Book Designer interior template and cover template and got the book accepted on Kindle!

For eBooks to everybody except Amazon, I’m going with Pronoun ( https://pronoun.com/). I used Jutoh ( http://www.jutoh.com/index.htm) to convert my interior files to EPUB and do the verification check…it took me a while to get it adjusted right and fix the errors (EPUB doesn’t like ANY dashes). And cover files, boy have I been ’round and ’round with the cover files being high enough DPI, low enough kbytes, good enough resolution on all elements and even the proper physical dimensions.

Speaking of cover mayhem, I got Ingram Spark (ingramspark.com) to accept my cover changes and VIOLA! VIOLET! VOILA! Sentimental me, I put the eBooks on instant sale but the print version doesn’t go live until my birthday on July 9th.

I have learned just about enough to bust open in the last few months – good thing I have a good sewing machine. Now that I’ve bought and downloaded and learned and studied more, I should be able to get the next volumes of the  series on the billboard much more efficiently. BTW I think each subsequent book is brighter than the sparkling gem that went before it.

What could go wrong now? I already bought a boatload of ISBNs from Bowker  (http://www.myidentifiers.com) and have the Library of Congress as a favorite. I have the templates for formatting and the lifelong subscription to the editing program.  Oh crap, I didn’t knock on wood….

 

Your EPCN application for a Library of Congress control number for

Title: “The might of defiance”

ISBN:  “1945937009”

was successfully transmitted to the Library of Congress.

 

 

 

A Cabin-ette?

Instead of cleaning up the cabin as I planned to do and really intended to do, I have been writing more Otto Socks blueOtto and Socks stories. It’s slow going, especially when I deviate from the outline for the series. How can I not let the characters do what they want? I can’t force them, bend them to my will. Now I have to see if I can merge then latest one back into the outlined sequence.

With that frustration, I went out to enjoy the sunshine. I looked up the ridge behind the house and the image of a tiny cabin part way up popped into my head. I pictured the wide steps leading up to it. How would I get electricity up there? With juice, I could move my audio recording up there and Ma’s radio would never interfere again! I am on the edge of phone reception that far up (not at the cabin!) and could do even better with a 4G antenna for Download 090915 054WiFi! Then I could have internet, which I need to upload books to Abe Books. Did I mention I have a storefront there? ‘Old Lady Who?’ is the name, and is something I can do with a few hundred of my excess books. It would be great for uploading manuscripts, voiceover recordings, looking up references and tutorials!Science Books

Glancing back at the cabin, I noted the front gutter and the facing board it is hooked to are falling off. I am plagued by big fat boring bees. The well needs a protective shed, and has needed it for a couple decades. I looked back up the hill and the mini-cabin, the steps and the antenna had vanished. The concrete barrier to keep the ridge from encroaching on the back porch collapsed. I can’t turn on the front porch light because it trips the freezer circuit. The garage doors don’t work without brute force.

I wonder how much it would cost to build that little cabin-ette studio marvel?

 

Story Problem Disintegrates!

The other night when reviewing my Otto and Socks storylines, I could have sworn I had a Me puzzleddisconnect between the 2nd episode and the 3rd. This weekend, I set time aside to resolve this annoying problem. There was no problem. Why I thought there was is beyond me…I be mystified. Maybe that shows why I shouldn’t attempt to write in town after my job and fixing supper and watching TV with Ma because she wants me to: brain drain.

Saturday I did a more final draft on the second episode, renamed Two Peaceful Maidens after the cult that has Otto experiencing visions. Then I wrote out half of the next one, Hooch. Sure, it required a preface paragraph, but it seemed to flow okay to me.

Sunday my brother came over and STAYED, so no more writing, phooey. Instead I took that stained glass piece of satin I got last week and, seeing no suitable pattern, cut it by intuition and made a fabulous two tiered skirt Ma adores. Success! I know, I should have taken some pictures…Sorry!

 

On a sad note, I did not see sweet Bridgette last weekend nor the Tuesday before. Her food dish in her little cozy Download 090915 072cat-house had plenty left. I fear Bridgette either went away as cats do when they get really old, or she was too slow for a coyote or bobcat. I have not seen the secretive and shy Scaredy Cat either, so maybe that bobcat got them both. Scaredy Cat showed up one day and my brother caught her so we could get her fixed. Apparently she harbors a deep resentment because she runs furtively anytime anyone gets near. I did dream about Scaredy Cat last night; she walked up to me shyly and looked straight at me. That would have been very uncharacteristic. Hmmm.

Inspiration Strikes!

Church Trip 039

Maybe it was the relief of Christmas obligations being over. Perhaps it was the end of the frantic push to get things done before the end of the year. I got the hood, tire and headlights fixed on the Subaru, that had to help. It could also have been getting a second four-day weekend so close upon the heels of the last that it felt freer, like a holiday. I had river of inspiration in full spate coursing through my noggin, much like the Wild Branch out front that overflowed its banks and chewed on the gravel road.

 

As I have not sent my 6th t’Hoot Sci-Fi book to the Editor yet, I took the opportunity to tweak it a bit and augment the ending. That book is now the last of the Elise t’Hoot series, the end of an age. I still love Elise, Ricky, stalwart Bartolommeo, that rascal Alvin Wing and the others; they feel like family. The new series will Tenembras World of Our Own Neighbors Distant Trees be different!

We remain in the paradigm of 100 years into the future, Earth in climate turmoil, governments holding tight reigns on the weary population and efficient space travel a reality. In the new series, we drop in on an asteroid mining operation out past Mars. Otto is a new Mechanic. Socks is a Chemist. I drafted the first book in which they both are nearly killed. Otto’s stepmother ET almost met her demise there doing the same job a few years before. Had ET not self-published some smashingly fine science fiction that sparked popular movies, Otto and Socks wouldn’t have had a chance. Except the main contributor to the danger was a guy who literally lived the movies.

I sat back dazed after drafting that story out.  Something NEW! I hit “save” over and over. I backed it up on two different thumb drives. Then I wrote up eight more storylines with those characters and put them in three categories at around one in the morning. I’m excited that I like the characters, I like the story and it feels so durned good to have released that dammed up imagination. The words of the draft poured out in a steady stream, clear water from a crystal ewer. Laptop with Ale

It seems these books will be much shorter than the intertwined storylined grand t’Hoot books. I will indeed use my new templates for the cover and interior. I will start with e-books only and print maybe two or three to a book later. Might I also create my own publishing imprint? The pearl in the big gooey oyster really seems within my grasp. Wow!

Otto Socks blue

Here’s my first stab at the cover art for the new book. If I don’t get excited about all of  it, who would ?

Trying To Get Ready

I have a full almost 400 page sci-fi adventure that I thought was ready to go to the editor. Since the editor won’t be able to get to it until book note 001Spring, I figured I had time to give it one more read-through, look for story flow, detect any silly things I missed all the previous times I went through it. It’s well known that a writer has a miserable time finding fault with something she’s written.

Stemmery QC 027
Leaf it alone?

First and foremost is the fact the author knows the story and automatically fills in the holes anyone else might see in the plot, the motivations, the backstory. ‘I know what I meant to say.’ Another issue is that I’ve seen it all so many times now, it’s tough to read each word carefully. The good thing is that it’s been eight months since I finished the last draft of this one and it’s not nearly so familiar now.

So I get through the first dozen chapters, happy, and hit an idiot passage. The crew on the alien planet splits up for no good reason, in fact it’s dumb for them to do it. Okay, I put them back together. I rewrote the entire chapter. Read it. Tweaked it. Read it. Vowed to look it over again later. Moved on.

Next was a glaring style difference. I do my first drafts quickly, just writing down the gist of the story, to establish the story structure. Then I go back and record what the characters had to say and do to get each part done. The result is that dialog and action carries most of the story and takes up most every page. So here goes little Aroun, in a dangerous situation, performing an important part of the story arc. And he didn’t have one thought. The entire chapter was ‘he did this’ and ‘he did that’. True, if you’re sneaking you might not talk to yourself. You would feel nervous, maybe afraid, you’d get hungry, you might worry about surveillance catching your breathing. Poor Aroun’s ordeal chapter came across very different than any other chapter and he was severely short-changed emotionally. Okay, fixed that. Read it. Tweaked it. You know the rest.Keyboard 001

This reminded me of this year’s ale batches. They all seemed fine when I capped each bottle and smiled. It’s much later when I discovered I didn’t do it quite right. Comparatively speaking, I do believe the book is much better written than the ales were carbonated.

 

What Does an ET Look Like?

As a Sci-Fi writer, I have given excessive though over the shape, temperament and environment needs of an alien being we might meet someday. There’s no reason to not have a billion different forms of life and limb, but some attributes seem likely to be more common than others. We are more likely to cozy up to aliens with the ability so communicate and that are not microscopic or gargantuan. They would be friendlier looking if not blobby or reptilian either.

If a planet has a sun similar to ours and the rocky planet is at a similar distance, many of the natives should have senses adapted to the available light and have body temperatures much the same as well. The basic  Line of Planetsquadrapedal plan might be a common solution, but not necessarilyTriple planet. For a sci-fi book, nobody wants to meet the same old alien that looks like a guy in a costume. My favorites are the Falana here.

Copyright Mary Ellen Wall, June 2013
Mama Kreeek, Papa TaaTaa and the precocious little girl LeeLaa (with apples to throw)

I varied a few parameters. The planet orbits a binary with greatly changing temperatures and gravity. These aliens will be rather resilient, I’d think. A soft body like ours would have a tough time enduring the rigors of annual variations in such an environment. I submit that a carbon rod shell to protect the tender body inside might be appropriate. And just because the vision should respond to a similar sun in a similar war does not mean the alien must have an eyeball. I gave the Falana eye stalks with different wavelength ranges for each sensor. They are two to three meters tall and can manipulate gravitational fields. Really handy, that.

Plus they are professional and respectful as well, as contractors out looking for work should be. Why not? I think civility in an advanced species is more likely than wanton blood-thirst. Besides, they would have alien DNA and our blood would be incompatible to their digestion.