Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Single Sentence

Before I get back to completing some already-promised blogs about promoting and editing, I'd like to take some time to look at this past year, so here we go:

C.M. Bratton's Year In Review

I published 3 books and a movie I co-wrote was released both internationally and in the U.S.

The end.

Okay, no, not really. But I wanted to begin my year review by noting that everything I've done can be condensed into a single sentence, as tagline as it were, of the thousands of hours I've spent focused on building my writer career. Like every other worthwhile dream in life, the above sentence represents a long series of tiny steps that built into a tangible reality. To say "3 books and a movie out in 2013" is not to understate the work I've done, but rather, to highlight why I spent so much time working. It's proof that dreams don't need to live in my head along with my as-yet unwritten stories.

Thus, 2013:

Finished writing the final two parts of my first published book, WRAITHLING BORN, a dark fantasy.
Published it in April.
Conceived of, researched, wrote, and edited my science-fiction novel, DEPTHS OF PERCEPTION in six crazy weeks. 
Published it at the end of June.
Designed and ordered cards for C. M. Bratton, Writer.
Started a webpage and a Fan page on Facebook.
Wrote final two chapters and edited third book, PLAN B: ZOMBIE. 
Published it in September.
Attended my first WorldCon, where I met and received great advice from some of my all-time favorite authors.
Participating in a movie writing panel at a film festival for the first time.
Enjoyed watching the movie I co-wrote on the big screen.
Became a vendor selling my books for the first time at 4 events the last third of the year.
Wrote a sequel, PSYCH 101: ZOMBIE, and edited most of it in preparation for publication for 2014.
And finally, SANITARIUM was released December 31st.

All of which brings me to 2014.

I have two books I plan to publish, along with another book and play to write. And possibly some shorter stories. In addition, I plan to attend at least 10 events as a vendor for my books (the list which I will post on my website soon). The graphic novel of "Figuratively Speaking," the first episode in SANITARIUM that I co-authored, will be out in June. And finally, there may be some more movie scripts on the horizon.

Sometimes I think and think about all the work I have left to do, all the projects floating in my head. My sincere desire to get them out and on the page. I think about my plans to return to theatre after my yearlong hiatus, to balance my onstage work with my life between the pages of a new writing project. I feel overwhelmed, and frightened, and worried that I might burn out.

But then I think about all of you. My fans. The emails and reviews and conversations I've had. The people who've followed me and somehow gotten inspired. And I feel so incredibly humbled and grateful for every moment of taking this crazy dream and making it live.

So when I consider 2013, I let my anxiety about the future fall away. Instead, I focus on that simple, single sentence that made every moment worthwhile:

I published 3 books and a movie I co-wrote was released both internationally and in the U.S.

Maybe that single sentence is all that's needed to carry me into this new year.






Sunday, November 3, 2013

Promoting

This is the first in my new series on promoting, in which I will attempt to describe my experiences on the business side of being a writer - something I feel many writers simply do not want to deal with, including myself.
See, I started out with a plan - a plan I admit I've followed most carefully.
To begin, I needed a product - my book. In fact, I felt I needed more than one, so I rushed and toiled and managed to get three books printed within six months (still gasping). But during that time (as mentioned in a previous blog), I decided to abstain from my normal time-consuming pursuits (namely, theatre) and devote myself to developing my name as a brand.
That's a strange way to think of my work, but it's a concise description of a line of products produced, promoted, and sold by me. As an artist, it's difficult in some ways to consider my creations, at it were, as something capable of being mass produced. But in the end, if I want my writing to produce some sort of feasible income that supplements my living, then I have to spend quality time developing it and coaxing it along. And that involves taking responsibility for my work after publishing.
So, as I worked on publishing my books, or production, I also decided to establish a web presence. First, I added a fan page on Facebook. This was the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to announce to my hundreds of connections what I was doing. Then I started writing more blogs and posting them on my website - a way to keep my readers and potential readers connected to what I was working on. I think this is an especially important step, because oftentimes, we writers are so isolated in our work that it's hard to break out of that and share what we're working through.
After those two steps, I was in the final stages of publishing my second book, so I went ahead and created business cards and my website. My website provides immediate access to information about my work, including links to everything, a way to contact me and provide feedback or ask questions, and a quick button to buying/downloading my work. In short, it's a one-stop portal to the entire Internet and readers with whom I have no direct access.
And of course, the business cards. To hand out, of course. When? At my final step, one that is merely like the attaining of a black belt in aikido - reaching the privileged status of zero. That's right. Having pulled myself out of the negatives, I now have a basic ground to stand on to begin the real promotions work: attending events. That's right. On top of getting products and establishing a web presence, I needed to actually GO OUT and meet people and start telling them about my books. And hopefully sell a few books along the way.
So that's where I'm at now. I've been to three events, missed a few, and am getting ready for more. It is definitely a learning process, because some events are quite different from others in tone. I've seen that an audience of would-be readers is not necessarily always a given, but a chance to talk and engage with people from all walks of life, some of whom are interested in reading, and some who are not, yet still supportive of my work.
Truthfully, that's really the best part. It doesn't matter who I talk to - they all seem genuinely proud or excited by my work.
And maybe... that's all I really need to keep going.
----
Look for the next blog in the series - Promoting: The Setup

Monday, September 30, 2013

Too Many Ideas, So Little Time. Or What I Like to Call: Excuses!

It might be argued that with three books having coming out in the last 6 months, it would be okay for me to take a break, and in truth, after DEPTHS OF PERCEPTION came out, my brain was pretty fried. It took me a month for ideas to start percolating and trickling back in. 
But there's just SO MUCH to do! My days seem to be getting shorter and shorter, while the list of ideas for books and short stories just keeps growing! In fact, I've gotten to the point where I don't want anymore good ideas or inspirations, because on any given day, I wake up more behind than the day before. Some days the looming pile of inner words screaming to get out makes me refuse to write more than a few sentences. I'd rather plan or work on music or stare at my calendar. Write? Too much work to wade through all the plot possibilities.
Is that an excuse to not write? Absolutely. 
But more than anything, I have to remember that it's also motivation.
Because in this occupation, writers have to be constantly internally motivated, because we spend so much time facing the ideas and words in our heads, bereft of company that most other occupations supply. Sure, we talk online or with people when working on research, but when it comes to the grind of meeting a word count deadline, we've got no one else to push the words out of our heads.
And I've found that the harder a deadline I have, the more I write. But I don't have any deadlines right now, just a lot of ideas and started stories.
And a day filled with... non-writing.
In the end, it doesn't matter how much time I do or don't have, or if I should or shouldn't take a break.
This is my craft, my choice. I shouldn't use exhaustion or overwhelmed moments to stop me. After all, most people don't just decide not to go to work whenever they feel like it. Why should I accept any less from myself, when the utmost rigor is necessary to hone a story and be true to my characters and plot?
Too many ideas can be daunting, but I should remember to be grateful to have some many new places to explore and share with my readers.
To do any less is simply inexcusable.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Writing a Book in Six Weeks... What!?

So... I wrote this book.
There was all this research and painful hours spent detailing and developing and editing...
Four drafts later, I was ready to send it in to my publisher.
And after pushing send, my brain... was fried.
Then again, from start to finish, I wrote the book in six weeks.
Six weeks.
Six weeks?!
Six...
How? 
I think back and wonder, how in the world did I do it? What state of mind did I enter into in order to write such a complicated book? What was I thinking?!
To those questions, I don't have great answers. The words needed to come out, and having a hard deadline was a definitive push, plus extra hours in my days to work through what I needed to. I was focused, and thinking only of each day's goal (2000-3000 words), because to think of the whole thing was too daunting. I just was doing.
But there's one question I can answer firmly.
Should you write a book in six weeks?
Absolutely not.
Besides the mental exhaustion, there's the complete isolation from anything resembling a social life, and a minimization of contact with even good friends and family. There's intense back and neck pain. There's a slight disassociation from reality, as if leaving the world you're writing jerks you into some strange dimension, rather than the one you normally live in. You come back with your mind full of philosophical questions about the nature of society and the world, about human nature and what it means to experience life. You wander down paths in your mind that lead you deeper into yourself. You struggle to speak, and only the need to go out and work (if you have another job, as most writers do) keeps you interacting on any level at all. Towards the end, even that begins to fade away as you try and serve your story with every ounce of ability and storytelling within you.
And then you press send, and the publisher takes it away from you, and you have to begin to emerge.
There are other writing projects, other ideas, other ways to live away from the words, like remembering friends and family and work.
But you're completely guttered out.
And at the end, you're sitting alone with no one to celebrate.
No, don't write a book in six weeks. There's too much living to do to lose yourself so fully into something that will take months to reward you in any way (in terms of reader responses). And then, of course, there's the forced separation from the other ideas you have, other stories you might have lost in the quest to get this single one complete. Because when you push that send button, the last thing you want to do is start something new.
It took me over a month to get to this blog. Over a month for me to look at the computer and feel the tingling urge in my hands to start writing.
Of course it came back. The ideas and images once again tantalize and tempt. That's why writers write.
But writing a book in six weeks is very hard.
However, if you choose to do so anyway, do it with focus, concentration, and sincere dedication. 
You owe it to your readers and the words and the characters in your story to always give your utmost... just remember not to lose yourself completely along the way. Nor all the other wonderful people that making writing and publishing a book possible.
Six weeks.
Six weeks?!
Yes.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Work in Progress: DoP Update 5

This is my final excerpt before the book comes out!!!

Look for my next regular blog on this book's writing progress, "Writing a Book in Six Weeks... What!?"
Until then, enjoy!

     Depths of Perception
     
     "Part III - Obliquatur"

All my life I’ve been hidden away.
She who bore me rarely looked at me, something I only noticed when I was older, perhaps eight or nine aevum. But when she did look at me, her eyes would fill with fear. She’d look down, her ear flaps limp, her inner and outer eyelids sliding back and forth quickly as she sought to control her reaction.
And yet she was constantly shielding me, working to keep me alive, because it was hard for me to breathe. She also kept me covered under layers of whatever materials she could find, my body curled in our sleepnet because I was always cold, trembling in our dwelling whenever she wasn’t near enough to hold me and share her body’s warmth. But somehow, I survived, growing strong enough to swim – albeit slowly - without her help. When she realized I was strong enough to live, she taught me how important it was that I remain hidden. No one must ever find me, must ever see me.
Not that anyone would. From the first moment I became truly aware of myself, I realized that, unlike the nutritor, my body was not just covered for warmth. Each limb was wrapped in layers of woven seaweed that had to be constantly repaired. But if ever any part of me showed, I was sternly reminded that I must always remain completely covered. She never explained exactly why, but I still knew.
Something was wrong with me.
I had never seen myself. I didn’t know why she’d looked at me with such shame. I used to pat my face – two eyes, two nose slits, one normal-sized eating hole. My ears weren’t as big as hers, but I thought that was just because I was young and still growing. And maybe, just maybe, the webbing between my digits would one day grow in. Could I really be as hideous as her look made me feel?
Yet she must’ve loved me, because she didn’t give me up. She was never cruel or indifferent. Instead, she hid me, teaching me how to hunt and forage for myself. How to use my mind to listen, how to make my mental echo quiet, concealed. In some ways, this was the most amazing part, far beyond what the Auctors had believed the nutritors were capable of. She was able to keep the resonance of my mindvoice quiet, undetected by any passing praesidium. I practiced and practiced hiding the echo of my mental signature deep enough inside myself so that I couldn’t be detected unless someone was looking at me.
I couldn’t ever reveal my existence because she wanted me to survive, even if she couldn’t make herself look me in the eye, even if it meant my living away from the rest of the citizens.
She hid me to keep me safe and alive.
So I loved her, because she was all I knew.

Until the day I was discovered.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Work in Progress: DoP Update 4

As happens when writing a book, time loses meaning on occasion, so simple things like remembering to post an update become delayed. But at last it's here, my 4th excerpt, so enjoy! 

And remember again to send any questions to comments you'd like to.

            Depths of Perception
            (Excerpt 4)

Interlude I - Coloni

He knew his duty. Every moment of exsomnis he was absorbed by each infinitesimal millimeter of his assigned area. He was not yet an overseer, but he didn’t worry about such things. He had plants to prune, lights to check, soil to clean. His farm was a delicate ecosystem of overlapping roots and algae nurtured by carefully-set UVbulbs that had to be constantly tended in turn. He had to peer at each rounded facet, his inner lids shielding his eyes, and check for any hairline cracks. The monstrators taught that on the seafloor, even a hairline fracture might doom a UVbulb. And, as he had often been drilled, there were too few resources to replace them. So he worked ceaselessly during all the hours of exsomni, snacking sparingly on a seaweed cake or two, just enough to keep him going.
His eyes were often strained, his spine unable to straighten from the long hours he spent curled obsessively over his field. He thought endlessly of the health of his plants, joyful at every new growth or successful harvest. Of his own health or physical problems he thought not at all. It was his duty to provide food for the city so that it could remain strong against all predators. And he had seen with his own eyes the leviathans that sometimes wandered too close to the Outer Gate. He knew exactly how important his work was.
My duty to feed.
So when the first signs of missing seaweed and algae appeared, he immediately became suspicious. Only one who had been as careful as he would have noticed the difference, but in his mind, it was a significant transgression against all he was taught. Upon discovering the theft, he wavered for a moment, his tails lashing as he tried to decide if it was better to leave his precious field to report the missing plants to his overseer, or to double his efforts that day in an attempt to make up for what was lost.
In the end, he knew his duty was to provide food, and he couldn’t waste time by finding an overseer and filing a report. It would take hours away from his work, and he couldn’t bear the thought of missing some vital part of his inspection, perhaps leading to the loss of a UVbulb, his lovely plants replaced by chaulidius-macoundi or something equally able to thrive in the darkness. No, he would stay and work. Perhaps the missing seaweed was from some passing animal. Though rare, given the safeguards around the city, it wasn’t impossible.
So the coloni returned to his pruning and sowing and tilling, peering carefully at every square millimeter of his area, from roots to strung UVbulbs a two meters above, adjusting and repairing and husbanding.
But then it happened again.
This time, he didn’t worry about leaving his field for hours. He knew he had to make a report. Thus he swam out of his field and headed to the entrance of sector two. His myopic eyes struggled to make out the figure of an overseer, used to as they were to the blue glare of the lights for his field instead of the natural semi-dark of that all other zones except the Complex existed in. Uncertain, he finally called out, using a mindvoice rusty from disuse.
Overseer?
There was a moment’s silence as his mental echo resonated outwards before it was absorbed.
State your designation.
He realigned himself to the direction from where he felt the mindvoice and swam closer as he responded, his bent body unable to straighten itself fully for inspection.
C’Gen23ff, sector twosubfourteen hedophyllum sessile-algal hybrid field four.
Why have you left your field unattended, C’Gen23ff?
To report a theft.
Very well. Prepare yourself to be scanned.
Affirmative.
The coloni opened himself up for a psi-scan, creating a mental picture of what he had seen that exsomnis as well as the previous one in which he’d discovered the first theft. He showed the missing stalks and bare rock that should have been covered by algae.
He felt the mental vibration of the psi-scan, but kept his mind calm, just as he’d been taught. He needed to get back to his field, and the only way to do so was to make his report as quickly as possible.
The mental intrusion withdrew. C’Gen24ff couldn’t see what the overseer was doing, but he knew better than to interrupt. After what felt like hours of wasted time, the overseer addressed him.
C’Gen23ff, you are to return to your field immediately and continue working.
He was being dismissed.
But what about the thefts?
The outraged cry sprang from his mind, so unlike his usual placid disposition. He immediately cowered down, expecting punishment for his disobedience. But the overseer didn’t move.
The ‘thefts’ you report are not considered significant enough for investigation, the amount of missing food negligible. Now, return to your field.
C’Gen23ff responded automatically.
My duty to feed.
He turned around and began swimming back to his field, his mind numb with disbelief.
They aren’t going to check. No, they don’t believe me!
He struggled to grasp that the overseers, and through them the monstrators and praesdium would not protect their food supply. Oh, he knew it was little enough taken, but hadn’t he been drilled that every harvest counted for the good of the city? How could they just ignore the incident?
C’Gen23ff reached the seventy-by-seventy square meter expanse of seaweed and algae, appearing to glow in the light of the UVbulbs. Upon blurred sight of it, he realized what he needed to do in order to convince the overseer that someone was endangering the farms and through them, the city.
For the rest of that exsomnis, he toiled, working harder to make up for his missed time, ignoring the pain in his bent joints and his brief spells of dizziness. He had no time to eat or stretch. Finally, he deemed his crops ready for harvest the following day. Which meant it was time to put his plan into action, though he quailed inside at the thought of what was to come.
But it is the only way.
He returned to his tiny dwelling, ate a sparse meal, and closed his eyes in an attempt to relieve the pain knotting his skull. But he didn’t rest. Not yet. There was one more task left to complete.
Hours passed before C’Gen23ff finally stirred, his limbs heavy with exhaustion. He slowly pushed himself off his sleepnet and swam to the door. He peeked out, searching the darkness, knowing none but the praesidium would be out. And they would not be searching the farms.
Carefully, he eased himself out, swimming to his field and hiding himself within the shadowed growth. He worked his way deeper, to where the fronds grew highest, steeling himself.
It’s the only way, he repeated to himself.
He reached out with his webbed hands and began tearing out clumps of seaweed and algae, ripping apart the pale roots and fibrous leaves, clearing a ragged area about a meter in diameter. Enough to feed a nutritor for a month, a lautus for two. Surely that would get their attention.
The devastation tore at him, and he savored the sensation, storing it inside for the overseer to read in his psi-scan when he made his report the following exsomnis.
He carefully gathered the shredded foliage. He would have to eat it, because he couldn’t bear the thought of all his work going to waste. He took one of the floating strips and used it to tie the mass together into something he could take back with him. More slowly than he came, he returned to his dwelling and placed the bundle of stolen food inside his single chest. Only then did he swim to his sleepnet and allow himself to rest.
Exsomnis began only a few short hours later, the sonic blare from the Complex waking him from a sound sleep. He was groggy and hungry, so he allowed himself to eat a little more than he normally would, knowing it would be a long while before he got another chance.
When he arrived at his field, he decided to check the UVbulbs before beginning the harvest. He swam up over them, beginning his careful examination. It was then that he saw a deeper shadow within the field. He swam closer to see what it was.
An uneven circle of seaweed was missing.
Outrage filled him and he fixed the image in his memory, careful to think of nothing else. Then he turned and began swimming as fast as his tired body could. This time, when he reached the front entrance, he didn’t search for the overseer. He simply opened his mind and projected the image he’d carefully memorized.
Theft! Theft!
This time the overseer was properly shocked. This time the overseer told him to stay while he fetched the praesidium. This time he was promised a full investigation. This time the culprit would be apprehended.
C’Gen23ff kept his elation locked deeply inside.
In less than an hour, a squad of praesidium entered the gate, their long, powerful bodies coming to rest before the overseer. From the bands wrapped around their upper limbs, he saw the mark of the Complex – a circle with two spirals circling each other, connected by thin horizontal lines that ran the entire length of the helical curves.
His glee knew no bounds. The Auctors themselves had deemed the theft severe enough to warrant the attention of the most highly trained force within the city.
The lead praesidium turned his helmed head and roughly psi-scanned C’Gen23ff. Again, he quashed the elation, striving to focus on his anger at the desecration of his field. There psi-scan stopped and there was a brief pause as the praesidium regarded him. Had some hint of the truth come out?
But the praesidium merely turned back to the overseer, letting C’Gen23ff overhear the conversation.
There is no need to see the field. The psi-scan had provided all the information necessary to conduct our investigation. Continue tending your fields. We will increase patrols during both somni and wakecycle. Do you comply?
Both the overseer and C’Gen22ff bowed deeply, their webbed hands held open above their finned heads, responding as one.
My duty to feed.
Satisfied, the patrol turned and left. The overseer turned and ordered C’Gen23ff immediately back to work. He meekly obeyed, turning and scuttling back to his neglected, abused field as fast as he could, working nonstop on the harvest until the signal for restcycle was sounded.
But deep inside, he rejoiced. The sacrifice had been worth it. His fields would be safe from the depredations of some unknown creature. That it might be a hungry citizen never occurred to him. He knew his teaching, knew he had made the right decision. In the somni that followed, he ate the stolen food secure in the knowledge that he had acted for the good of the city.
My duty to feed.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Work in Progress: DoP Update 3

It's here, folks! Update 3 of the new book. As always, feel free to look up any Latin words you cannot puzzle out. And feel free to leave any comments/suggestions for me. The book will be out very soon, so I hope this continues to whet your sci-fi appetites! Enjoy!
           
            Depths of Perception

Part II: Auctrix

She who gave birth to me was an Auctor. My earliest memories are of her crooning to me, her voice seeming to drift unaware out of her heavily covered body.
Because I, too, was born an Auctor, I learned the old words mother and song, though the low-pitched sonar calls apparently held little similarity to what the Histories described.
Just like my mother, from the moment of my birth I was wrapped in layers of woven plasti-cloth and hidden from all sight – the citizens, the Auctors, and myself. But because my mother was an Auctor, I learned at a very young age why. From her I received mental images showing me the different features between humans and us – well, them, at any rate. The other castes.
But when I was just over four city-cycles old, or years, I was given to the head Auctor, he who, within our caste, was known as the Auctrix. Though my earliest memory is of my mother, my most vivid memory is of his hands.
Like any child of the city, I had spent time in behavior classes, enviously watching the other children swim freely, unencumbered by layers of veils like myself. I was young, my thoughts-sentences still simple, so I didn’t pay attention to the subtle differences of webbing and pinnulas and scale patterns.
When I asked why I wasn’t allowed to swim unencumbered, I was punished, left alone in one of the smallest chambers to think and reflect on my actions until I figured out what I had done incorrectly. Only then could I leave.
Though angry, I forced myself to relive the encounter. I hadn’t disobeyed, that was clear. My wrappings remained secured around me. So it must have been something I had wanted to do. All I could think of was wanting to swim with the other children, to play as one of them. Ah, but to truly be one of them, I must uncover myself. And to do so would reveal my differences. Which I could never do.
When I had reached this realization, I understood why I had been punished. I mindcalled my mother. When she entered, her body as obscured as mine, and simply waited for me to speak.
We cannot play with them because then we couldn’t do our duties. And because they would want to know why I was covered up. But I can’t tell them.
She hadn’t praised or encouraged me in response to my simple sentences. She’d merely nodded and gestured for me to leave. It was hard to understand why, because even compared to the other Auctor children, I was restricted more than most. It was only years later, when the Auctrix died, that I understood that I was always meant to shoulder heavy burdens alone. From the time of my birth, I was presented with obstacle after obstacle, forced to work harder, study longer, train later, because my genetic make-up pointed me in only one direction.
The Auctrix.
Thus, when I was four, I officially became his acolyte, the only one he had, for none others had been born with a specific type of deoxyribonucleic acid, the recessive alleles in my genetics combining in such a way as to produce the distinctive features that marked a true genetic recombination.
But that I learned much later. In truth, my first years under the Auctrix’s tutelage were learning and relearning the physical characteristics of the other castes so that I would understand what I saw whenever one ventured inside the Complex to consult with the Auctors. Not that I would ever deal with them directly – that was not to be my role. But I must be able to understand their place within the city, their duties, so that I could understand my own.
The first rule the Auctor taught me was the rule of Order. It must always be held in mind when making decisions for the city. The castes must be held separate, must be kept to their places, must not question their duties. They must work and serve the city, because Atalaens was always one disaster away from annihilation. Citizens must never question their duties. Auctors were at the top because we alone had the capacity for deep thought and learning. Not because we were better, but because we were unexpected results, leaving us free from the strictures of caste and particular genetic predispositions.
It was only over time that I understood that I was outside even that hierarchy.
Auctrix, may I query.
Of course, acolyte.
The castes… they are all single-gendered?
Yes. All except us.
So only our caste can be male or female?
Yes. Now then, if you have figured that out, list the castes and their appropriate genders for me in order from lowest to highest genus.
Lautus-male. Coloni-male. Nutritor-female. Praeceptor-female. Praesidium-male. Obliquator-male or female. Auctor-male or female. But obliquators don’t really count, do they?
No, acolyte, they are simply a way for us to explain the inconsistencies in our city’s progeny.
You mean to lie?
To carry out the will of our ancestors.
What did they do?
Not yet, acolyte. First you must complete your genomic studies.
When will that be?
It must be soon.
Do any others study this?
No. Just you.
Why?
Not yet, acolyte.
Though he refused to tell me everything, we spent long hours learning subject after subject. He often tested me on what I was learning, setting aside two hours of every cycle to review what we had spent the previous twelve hours studying. We always began with a discussion of the citizens in the city.
What is the single most important characteristic of lautus, coloni, and praesidium.
They are all male.
Why is that?
Because fertile females of all castes save Auctors are nutritors.
What do the non-fertile females become?
The praeceptors.
And obliquaturs?
Outside the castes, anomalies, not suffered to live. Sent to the Auctors for disposal.
Why?
Because only we know why they are born deviant.
Why do only we know?
That is our duty – to serve.
Everyone?
Only the city. Only the ancients’ work. Never a single citizen.
No matter the circumstances?
No. Auctors must only care for the good of the entire city. Obliquaturs threaten that stability.
And the duty of an Auctrix alone?
My duty to serve.
No. Your duty is to preserve. It is a difference you will come to understand in time. For now, know that you are not Auctor. You are acolyte to the Auctrix. Your work will always be greater than theirs. Now, what is your duty?
My duty… to preserve.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Work in Progress: DoP Update 2

Hello all! It's time for my weekly excerpt of "Depths of Perception." This next one is from the first part of the book and involves one of the main characters. Again, feel free to look up all the Latin words on Google translate or something similar. Meanwhile, enjoy!

          Depths of Perception

Part I: Praesidium

The current whispered past me, hinting at a warmth I’d rarely experienced, living as I had in the depths of the ocean. It raised a shiver of curiosity down the scales of my body, from the top of my upper limbs to the tips of my tails.
My guard duty had brought me as far from the city as I was allowed to go. It was a much-avoided assignment, for I was completely alone for two cycles and was a frilled shark or other predator to attack me, I would have to fight it alone.
After warning the city, of course.
But truly, I didn’t mind. The dark clear water offered an endless horizon of possibility, of freedom from the strict confines of the city and my life in the praesidium caste, forever bound to protect.
But against what?
Warmth slithered over my scales again. Curious, I decided to follow the current back to its source. What could possibly produce such a temperature change that could endure so close to the ocean floor?
Concentrating, I accessed the microprocessor embedded in my spine, giving it the mental sequence command: track current. The sensors in my eyes created a dim green grid that began to assess the temperature differences in the currents swirling around me. At the same time, tiny wires embedded in my skin began to pulse in time to my heartbeat while also scanning the water. In a few moments, the unusual stream was identified. As I kicked my tails out and began moving, I wondered if following the current would be considered insubordinate.
I’ll tell them the water was calm in my sector and that I felt it prudent to make sure the unusual current posed no potential threat to the city.
Truthfully, I didn’t think I could convince them, but it was better to have such a thought now when my memories could easily be searched later in one of the Auctor’s psi-probes. So I stretched my body out and let my muscles enjoy their movements through the water. There were endless drills and training, but rarely the chance to swim at will to a far-reaching location, especially one that left the city far behind.
Many hours later, a line of deeper black rose began to smudge the distance. By now, there were several warm water currents surrounding me, so I didn’t mind losing the one I’d been following. Instead, I paused to study the ocean floor stretching out in front of me.
Command: enhance vision, I directed the microchip. Accordingly, my optics increased the light-dark ratio and overlay the images in front of me with a bright green. I wanted to flick my inner lids closed at the brightness, but instead gave my eyes a few moments to adjust. When they did, the panorama in front of me showed a gradual upslope marked by tumbled rocks scattered across the floor. As I swam closer, I noted that one area had a large cluster covered with algae. It was only when I was within sonar range that I saw the regular shape of it.
Command: analyze anomaly.
For a brief moment, I wondered how my processor could recognize what it had never seen, but the command embedded in my consciousness took over, distracting me as it began to streak black lines across my vision.
Millennium era ship, wrecked by hostile force.
Again, frustration filled me as I wondered what the ‘millennium era’ was, knowing that when I returned, an Auctor would simply access the data and expect me not to ask questions – especially as I was praesidum, born to follow orders. Still, I could see the ‘hostile force’ had somehow torn a hole through one side of the long oblong shape.
Was this why we were not allowed so far from the city?
But as the current was coming from beyond the wreckage, I continued past it, despite my desire to stop and explore. Not yet. First I needed to find the source of the warmth.
The line of tumbled rocks began to rise, becoming mammoth boulders in a broken line that rose far above me as I continued swimming. The water was much warmer – in fact, I could not recall a single moment in my life where I had felt warm to such a degree. The ocean floor was cold and mostly lifeless, with only a few large predators to deal with on occasion. My processor regulated my temperature, so I had never truly paid any attention to the sensation. I had to stop frequently to give my sensors a moment to catch up – they didn’t appear to have been built with atypical temperature fluctuations in mind. Still, my heart rate remained normal and my enhanced vision continued to function, so I continued to head upward.
About three quarters of the way up the slope, my eyes began to burn. I stopped and hastily closed my inner and outer lids.
Command: disengage vision enhance.
Cautiously, my outer lids flicked back. Instead of utter darkness, the water was lit some color I’d never seen.
Red, my processor supplied.
Fascinated, my inner lids opened as well as I slowly started to move forward, looking around myself as shapes reformed themselves under the new-colored light. I’d lived my whole life with black, grey, white, green, silver, blue. But red was wholly new to me, and I found myself wondering, yet again, why the Auctors had never described other colors. Because they knew, I was sure, the shades that filled our hidden histories.
The currents swirled around me, marking my skin with touches of hot and cold imprints. Certain now that I needed to know what lay at the top of the ridge, I flexed my tails and shot up. The light grew stronger, less red and brighter light red.
Orange, the processor rang out in my head.
Amazed, I reached the highest peak. And quickly forced my inner lids shut as a wash of heat and light stabbed at my eyes and skin. But the image remained clearly in my mind. An abyss lay below me, a rent in the ocean floor. Through its center ran a line of bright orange-red, flowing in thick sheets.
Radioactive lava. Warning! Extreme danger.
Surprised, I closed my outer lids to better read the data scrolling out of my processor. Because of that, I didn’t see the rippling edge that signaled a shock wave rolling towards me. Instead, I was suddenly caught in a riptide, conflicting currents tearing at me from different directions, flipping my body carelessly around. Despite my enhancements, it was several long minutes before I pulled free by slipping into a nearby current. But I misjudged, not realizing how strongly the current was moving directly upwards. I fought to escape, my training screaming at me beware the surface beware the surface as I struggled to kick myself out of moving water. Yet I was well and truly caught, so I realigned my body to move with the flow, ready to dive down the moment I freed myself.
Again, I flicked opened my outer lids to see the light around me completely changed. It was blue, a color I knew but a shade I didn’t recognize. It was bright, nearly white, and when I looked down I realized I could no longer see the ocean floor. Its absence sent a pulse of panic through my veins, which I quickly suppressed with a mental nudge to my heart, slowing it down.
Command: assess. A hum filled my mind as my processor worked to obey.
Mesopelagic zone, also known as twilight or middle pelagic zone. 800 meters wide. Insufficient light for photosynthesis. The metalimnion, or thermocline, located in this region, contains rapidly changing temperatures -
Frustrated, I cut the feed off. Too many strange words sounded in my head. What was photosynthesis? What did my processor mean by 800 meters wide? Were there more layers? Years of schooling crashed in against me. We were taught that there was only one ocean, made of up the seafloor, the dark, and the predators. We were taught never to surface, and that safety lay within the dark.
Yet as I continued to drift up, able to escape the now-gentled current, I found myself unwilling to deny the sheer strangeness of clearly seeing the open ocean around me, though my inner lids remained firmly closed against the lightening water.
Suddenly, a white light went off in my sensors, barely visible in the brightness.
Warning! Within 50 meters of epipelagic zone. Turn back.
     Command: cease alarm.
     But my processor refused to obey.
     Numb with shock, I repeated myself.
     Command: cease alarm.
     Warning! Within 30 meters of epipelagic zone. Turn back immediately.
Angrily, I readjusted the volume so I wouldn’t have to hear the repetitive chant. I took a deep calming breath before turning my head to face towards the now-painfully bright source of the light. With a defiant burst, I kicked my tails out to move with the current.
Warning! Epipelagic zone breached. Turn back immediately   or –
Ruthlessly, I lowered the volume to a subsonic level that I normally reserved to enhance my biosonar call for long-range communication. I could still hear something like sound, but the words became a meaningless series of notes.
Above me, I could see a change in the water. Some disturbance was making it fracture in unusual ways, but above it stretched an expanse of blue wide and calm. Something inside me hungered for the feel of that ocean against my skin. My hands appeared, reaching up of their own accord towards that unwavering vision above the whirling eddies splintering ceaselessly over me.
Agony arced through my nerves. My spine bent, the back of my head nearly touching my tails. I tried to access my processor, to scream out a command, but the pain kept me insensate and unable to move. My subsonic volume command dissolved as words began to form.
Trepass! Initiating involuntary removal via neural shock.
No… I merely wanted…
Trepass!
… to see…
Trepass!
… see…
Electricity surged and arced, racing along my nerves.

Blackness.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Work in Progress: DoP Update 1

As promised on my fan page on Facebook, I will be posting excerpts from my upcoming book via Blogger. Please feel free to comment or make suggestions on anything you read - typos, confusion sentence structures, or hard-to-understand explanations/descriptions. There are many italicized words, something I may choose to change in a later draft. For now they serve to highlight specific words in Latin. Feel free to look them up, though I do plan to offer a glossary for the book.

With that said, here we go.

     Depths of Perception
     (Excerpt 1) 
     Interlude - Nutritor

She lived a hard, sometimes brutal life for the city. But a very necessary one. When so many offspring were born sterile, those that weren’t became even more vital for the health of the city. It could not guard, it could not protect, if it were bereft of enough citizens to keep the Complex safe.
She knew all this. She had been taught since her earliest memory that her entire purpose was to bear offspring so that the inhabitants of the city could remain strong. Too many newborns died, too many young fell prey to their environment. She knew she must give each child over to the praeceptors immediately to be assigned a caste.
But when she beheld the infant face of her newest born, she didn’t feel the exhausted pride her duty normally lent her. She didn’t tenderly clean its face and check its sex. She didn’t wrap it against the cold scrape of the currents.
Instead, horror filled her.
For the first time in her life, she wished to be anything but nutritor.
The babe fell from her nerveless grasp, the fluids of its birth swirling around it in dark swathes. It flailed its misshapen limbs as it struggled to breathe. She backed away, staring at it in terrified fascination, certain it was going to choke and die soon.
And she wanted it to.
None would question her, none would ask what happened. Life was harsh, and the babe would not be the first she had lost. So she waited, expecting each ragged breath to be its last.
But it didn’t die.
Instead, the first hints of its thoughts spread outwards, touching her as lightly as an Auctor’s psi-probe. A deeply-submerged instinct stirred inside her. Beneath the layers of disappointment, shame, and outrage, she felt the faintest stirrings of motherly tenderness, an emotion long-ago deemed unnecessary for the survival of the city.
But that helpless cry coldhungerfrightenedalone resonated inside the nutritor’s mind, tearing apart her resistance.
Wasn’t she, too, also alone?
Perhaps, she thought, it is not as – as abnormal as it first appeared.
So thinking, she left her corner and reached for the undersized infant. She picked it up and peered into its face. It was, if possible, even uglier on a second examination.
Perhaps it will grow out of it.
But she didn’t truly believe that. The castes were too rigidly fixed to ever accept one as severely handicapped as the child she held. Still, the child kicked strongly, and she guessed it to be strong enough to survive if given the chance.
I must alert the Auctors.
Yet she didn’t.
Hesitantly, as if she couldn’t quite believe herself, she bought its mouth to her breast. It latched on eagerly, its mouth strangely toothless, without the nubby row of teeth proper newborns had.
But then, there was nothing proper about the her actions, either.
Already its mindvoice was growing quieter, secure in the pseudo-warmth of the nutritor’s embrace. While the child suckled, her eyes traveled over its body, noting its too-soft or missing scales, the stunted split-tails, the web-less hands and fins. Suddenly curious, she spread its rounded limbs and saw it was a female.
Nutritor, classification N’Gen23p. A birth was expected this wakecycle. Have you delivered the offspring?
The impersonal voice of a praeceptor burst into the nutritor’s consciousness.
Startled, N’Gen23p looked down at the helpless child greedily drinking from her. As if sensing the nutritor’s regard, the newborn opened her eyes and met the searching gaze.
A wave of trust from the child’s mind touched her, cutting the nutritor as deeply as any psi-probe she’d ever experienced.
N’Gen23p?
Ruthlessly, she shut down the mental echo of the newborn’s mind.
Negative, praeceptor. The offspring was stillborn. Preparing for disposal.
There was a slight pause and N’Gen23p felt herself tensing. But when the voice returned, there was no hint of suspicion.
Understood. Complete disposal. You are relieved of duties until your next ovulation, when you are to return to the foeto seminium facility.
As if she had any choice. She responded automatically, mechanically.
My duty to breed.
The mental echo of the praeceptor withdrew. N’Gen23p went limp with relief, hugging the malformed offspring even more closely to her breast. She had lied to a praeceptor, defying the will of the Auctor’s just to save the slight bundle in her arms. And for what? The child was unlikely to survive, and even if she did, with her ugly features and deformities, she must spend her life hidden away. Was that serving the city?
But N’Gen23p was not designed to think critically. Any attempt at analysis ended back at the belief that she wasn’t harming the city, so her actions could be excused. And truly, one feeble female offspring was hardly going to ever be able to cripple the city and the carefully structures castes that labored inside it.
She knew she’d made the right decision.
The child abruptly yawned. N’Gen23p herself felt the physical exhaustion that followed a difficult birth. But she knew that she had to at least make the appearance of disposing of a stillborn body. So she let the current rock her and the baby for a moment, its ponderous movements lulling the child to sleep.
But the nutritor couldn’t rest just yet.
She wrapped the baby carefully in layers of mashed and braided seaweed, making sure to cover every centimeter of exposed skin. Lastly, she fastened a loose hood to cover the baby’s entire head. No one ever came to her dwelling, but N’Gen23p knew she had to accustom the child now to the extra weight of coverings and the importance of never showing herself. Then the nutritor secured the sleeping child in a hanging net in the darkest part of her sleeping nook. If the child woke before she returned, at least her cries would be muffled.
Finally, N’Gen23p gathered her afterbirth, making sure all traces of blood were absent from her body. She wrapped it securely, making a tiny bundle, which she then placed inside a carryall made from woven seaweed. With a last glance towards the hidden baby, N’Gen23p emerged from her dwelling and began the trek to the food farms. Her tails moved slowly, her abdomen still aching, feeling the pull of every bruised muscle as she swam along the narrow, near-dark avenues. The path was familiar as was the pain. She had delivered a great many stillborn.
After what seemed a very long time, she arrived on the coloni area of the second zone, where the bent farmers lived, tending the food which kept the city strong. As she approached, a lone overseer noticed her.
State your designation and the nature of your business.
N’Gen23p for disposal of a stillborn.
The coloni nodded then stilled. She knew he was consulting other farm overseers for placement.
His tails flicked complacently.
N’Gen23p, you are directed to take your package to the chauliodus-macouni farms, sector four.
Understood.
He nodded again, appearing to lose interest in her or the sack trailing behind her. She swam on, again feeling the pull of her muscles, but she refused to rest. She was a nutritor. It was her duty to suffer and endure for the health of the city.
When she arrived at sector four, she was given a cursory glance and waved forward. The fish were held down by electrical nets, yet they had been known to escape. So she swam above the field until she felt safely out of reach. But she didn’t let go of her wrapped bundle – not quite yet. Instead, she continued swimming until the gloom of the seafloor surrounded her, safe from the glow of the Complex, with only the lights of the fish below offering any illumination. Only then did she untie the bag, pull out the wrapped afterbirth, and lower it to the hungry swarm. Monstrous mouths opened as the tiny bag reached them. Hungrily they tore into the bloody mass, devouring it in mere seconds.
Only then did N’Gen23p turn around and head back into the city, towards her dwelling in sector seven of the third zone. Only then did she begin to think about her exhaustion. And only then did she realize the task she had given herself in keeping the child.
But N’Gen23p wasn’t designed to worry about the future. All she knew was that there was a tiny, helpless creature waiting for her at home, the first offspring she would ever get to keep, that she would get to feed for more than three months before giving it back into the keep of the praeceptors. She was no longer completely alone. No one need ever know about the child.
The life of a nutritor was hard and brutal, but necessary. N’Gen23p lived to serve the city. She would continue uninterrupted, holding her secret safe in her mind. Her outermost thoughts, though, would be her most effective guard as she offered up a single refrain.
     My duty to breed.