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. 



Monday, May 20, 2013

Rejection

Let's talk about rejection.
It's painful.
Embarrassing.
Depressing.
Unnerving.
Hurtful.
Annoying.
Rage-inducing.
Panic-inducing.
Doubt-inducing.
Yes, all of the above.
But also this: MOTIVATIONAL!!!
Yep, I just wrote that. How, you wonder, can I possibly consider rejection an integral, vital, necessary, and encouraging part of the writing process?
There are several answers to this, so I'll start with the biggest: it's a step forward IF you CHOOSE to let it be. I'll never forget a conversation I had with a friend about rejection letters. He was proud, in a strange way, of the amount he had. Because it spurred him to work harder, to reexamine what he'd done and work to mold and improve it, to learn about his writing and the writing business - because it IS a business (I'll blog more on this at a later date).
Which brings me to my second point. Many people advocate never changing your vision, never compromising, never stop believing in what you create. I'm not here to argue that. But I do want to add that we grow not by refusing to learn, but by believing in our ability to change and accept that we are not infallible. We become better writers by re-examining, re-thinking, and re-writing. That doesn't mean we give up our characters and plots and worlds, but rather, that we perfect them. An idea shouldn't ever be just "good enough" for you to accept. We should always strive as writers to be responsible to our stories and to our audiences. They deserve our greatest effort.
So then, my final thought, from a conversation with my alpha readers. Rejection is one step closer to acceptance. It's never a step back because I choose to use those letters as motivation for pushing forward and believing in myself. 
I end this blog with an excerpt from a recent rejection letter - in fact, it's the best rejection letter I've had so far. Not because it says a lot (quite the opposite), but it says just enough to make me believe even more strongly that I am on the right path. 
So don't be afraid of rejection. Embrace it instead as the step forward it is:
"We are going to pass on this particular effort, but I hope we shall see more stories from you in the future. This is a good story..."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Motivation

Some days I just don't feel like writing.
Which is strange, because I'm always coming up with more story ideas in my head, constantly reading and thinking about characters and plots and descriptive settings.
Which is even more strange, because writing is also my job.
How many people get up and say, "Ah, I just don't feeling like going to work this week." Or even, "I just don't feel like listening to my boss right now. Maybe later, after a nap." Hopefully, not too many people, because those kinds of responses can lead to a person losing his or her job. Which is exactly how I should consider it when I wake up and think, "Hmm, do I really feel like writing today?"
In essence, you don't just write when you're motivated. That certainly helps, but that's not the only way to become a better writer. You have to write something - anything - everyday. Not only do you improve and refine your craft, you also create a work ethic that will provide you a framework to fall back on when you are either not inspired, feeling lazy, or just not motivated. Some part of your mind will be frantically waving at you and telling you just to start writing (typing or by hand) and get some words out. Don't worry about where it leads. Just write.
This is, of course, much easier to say than to do. I spent the last week avoiding writing, even though I dutifully opened one or two projects already in progress every day. And true, I did finish editing one draft while I wrote a few hundred words for another two. 
No, I didn't meet any of my "big" goals. But I did write or edit something every day while feeling the insistent pull on my creative psyche to finish writing the two stories I had open. I didn't feel like writing, but my "training" kicked in and I can content myself now with knowing I went a little forward throughout the week instead of stagnating or falling backwards.
I write everyday, even if it's just a little something. All the while, the stories pile up in my head, cramming even closer together and begging to get out. And I eventually let them. So because I let my brain wander last week, this week I must finish writing at least one of my short stories. It doesn't matter how I feel, because in the end, if I want this to be a "real" job, then I have to treat it like one. Creative, working artists have enough stereotyping prejudice to deal with in regards to our "work ethic" without adding fuel to the flame by doing exactly what we are accused of.
So this morning, despite my distraction, I began and finished this blog, opened one of my stories, and continued to write - no matter how I "feel."
I just have to write.
This is my work. This is my passion.
That is my motivation.



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The First Book is Out - So Now What?

There is always this amazing sense of build-up when you are working towards a large goal. In my case, it was getting my first solo work published. Working with editors and marketing liaisons was (and continues to be) exciting and, more than anything, gave a concrete feel to my work. After all, as writers we often sit alone for hours at a time lost in our words and the worlds we are endeavoring to build - actual connections with the world of business and marketing are far more foreign. So when it all comes together and you have a finished product, you feel not just accomplished, but as if you have created something real - which, considering it all started in your head, is an amazing feeling.
But now what?
The obvious answer is PROMOTE!!!
But what about all those other stories still waiting semi-impatiently for the opportunity to become "real" - when do they get your time?
The harder, truer answer is, now that you've got your book out, you now have to split your time between writing and promoting. That is, many artists just want to create, but what sits forgotten on a dusty shelf inspires no one. Yet once your words become concrete and listed for sale, then the sheer pleasure of sitting and writing and creating can no longer be all that fills your free time. You owe it to your work to divide your time between writing and promoting. Otherwise, all the words your poured your heart into crafting together will sit in forgotten corners speaking to no one.
I spent seven years of my life studying my other passion, theatre, first getting my B.A. then following it up with my M.A. But I realized that if I want my other passion - writing - to bear any fruit, I was going to have to spend an equal amount of time being its loving caretaker. So I decided to take a break for six months to an entire year from the theatre in order to dedicate myself to the business side of writing while still giving myself time to write. Has it been hard the last few months to be so determinedly away from what I normally to do fill my hours? Yes. But was it the right decision? Absolutely. Eventually my life will re-balance itself so that I can continue to pursue both theatre and writing, but for now, I am focusing on building the "promote" aspect of my writer's work. 
To that end, I have dedicated myself to writing in this blog on a regular basis, created a fan page on facebook, and am working on a website. I also wrote a list of all the projects I have yet to do as a way to spur me to promote my first book. After all, writing more is great, but only if I have an audience that wants to read more. 
So when your first book gets published, don't just sit down and re-absorb yourself back into your words. Give yourself the time and dedication needed to promote your work, because you owe it to yourself not to let your stories sit and gather dust.