Friday, July 29, 2011

Some Haiku (Poetry)

original work © 2011 by A. Dameron All rights reserved.


Look into crystal.

A perfect sphere, so you think---

The image is warped.


The brush touches light

as it paints the world in hue.

Good and evil born.


An ocean's secrets

covered by layers of tide.

The moon laughs gaily.


The cat is sleeping.

Bang! The rumble of the storm!

It flees for safety!


Words refuse to come.

The earth has lost its rhythm.

Tears roll down my cheeks.


The future is held

in chests of crystalline stars---

too many to count.


Watching and waiting,

the breath freezes in the lungs.

Nothing is wasted.


Why are all the Elves skinny? (aka Laws of the Universe).

I recently overheard a bewildering comment from a pair of authors. The first one asked:

"Have you done any research for your story?"

Author #2: "I write fantasy! I don't need to do any research! It's all made up in my head! It's not like I'm doing historical fiction or something like that!"

Honestly, I'd thought the same thing thirty years ago, when I wrote my first princess-and-the-dragon story. My English teacher read it, then commented, "Your story is wonderful, but the Dragon can't fly. Not the way you've described him."

"What? Why?" I asked. (Keep in mind, I was eight years old at the time).

"His head's way too large for his body, and your story has a planet with extra gravity. He'd be lucky if he doesn't get his nose buried in the ground when he takes off."

"But it's all made up!"

"It's your world, but even fantasy worlds have to follow certain Laws of the Universe (note the Capital Letters)." She directed me to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, with so many different faces populating Middle Earth. I spent some time reading The Fellowship of the Ring, and marveled at beautiful Galadriel, brave Arwen, and wise Elrond, awesome archer Legolas and funny Gimli the dwarf. After I finished Fellowship, my teacher asked me how I liked it. I told her I loved it, then I asked a question that I bet no other English teacher has ever heard:

"Why are all the Elves skinny? And all the dwarves short? You never see a chubby elf."

Her mouth dropped open as she tried to figure out what to say. Then she said, "Just because you haven't read about a chubby elf doesn't mean they don't exist."

I promptly wrote a story about Timra The Chubby Elf and her compatriot, Huisai the Extraordinarily Tall Dwarf. Time has made that particular manuscript (scribbled in pencil on regular notebook paper) disappear. If I still had it, I probably would post it. I was writing something different, something against type. In Biology class, I learned about different heart rates and weight ratios and bone structure. My English teacher was right: my dragon wouldn't be able to fly the way I imagined him. And considering an Elf's internal make-up (lightweight bones, heightened reflexes and stamina), there's a reason why you see renditions of them as tall, elegant, and ethereal. 

A person from a high-gravity planet would most likely be physically short and stocky, if you take into account the effects on gravity on your bones. Someone from an eternally-dark world should be able to detect objects via sound waves, like sonar, but be almost completely blind in the sun. Gravitationally-challenged Dragons, Chubby Elves and Extraordinarily Tall Dwarves aside, the possibilities for your fantasy world can be endless. Mages, Demons, Spirits, Fairies, Ethereal-Stuff-Between-Dimensions, and your dashing hero/plucky heroine...but be careful not to cross into the realm of Impossible. Nothing else pulls the reader out of a story like that.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Admin Post: PDFs of initial chapters of "Cantadora" available!

PDFs of my the first chapters of my story Cantadora are available on my writer's website here: 

Look under the tab "PDFs of Novels". Chapter One: Parts 1,2 and Chapter 2, Parts 3, 4 and 5 are posted. More to come, and the full text will also be on in the near future!




The Ups and Downs of a Writer's Group...

The first writer's group I joined was one focused on history/memoir type books. At the time, I wasn't interested in those subjects, and quickly found myself isolated. The older members weren't shy in dispensing their 'wisdom' to an 'inexperienced' writer like me. We sat in a circle with our half-baked manuscripts and proceeded to rip them to shreds and 'correct' the flaws. I returned to my computer feeling like my soul had been ripped out and stuffed back inside, bleeding. The last meeting I attended involved one blowhard dominating the conversation. He went on and on about his philosophy of writing and how his background made him eminently qualified to do what he did.

No one had the courage to stand up to him and tell him to shut up. Until I (literally) stood up and left the meeting.

Needless to say, this horrible experience made me wary of writer's groups in general. At the time, I thought all of them functioned this way. I wasn't going to put myself through that. Never again would I subject myself to such humiliation, I told myself. I had more pride in my work than that. I'd write for myself and no one would ever read a word. Manuscripts ended up in the drawer, or hibernating in the computer's hard drive.

It took me years to get over that. Once bitten, twice shy. I realized that the first group I joined wasn't how a functional writer's group worked. Put a bunch of writers in a room and some of us will get along, and some will clash with each other. Set some ground rules from the very beginning. Is there a particular style of genre that's preferred, or is it a free-for-all? Poetry? Historical fiction? Romance? Assign a group leader for each meeting who keeps discussions civil. Set a time limit on presentation and on criticism from the other writers, so no one author dominates the time, either on their own work or commenting on someone else's.

On-line groups had their own share of positives and negatives. More people could read and comment on your work, but anonymity was a double edged sword. Here's a review on one of my stories (bold text is mine)

"All I have to say is that if these are the results of 'challenging your creativity and gently tearing you to pieces for any failed attempts at improving' I proudly admit it and will cheerfuly continue as long as you decide you want me to do it. :-p Because really this is truly wonderful work. Then again I don't think I would have spent so much time ripping you to shreds if I didn't believe you could do it. "

Um...back-handed compliment? 'Gently tearing to pieces' and 'ripping you to shreds'? What?

Obviously some of the ground rules of common courtesy weren't held in high regard.

 Eventually, I did find the confidence to show my writing to the world. I'm currently in a couple of on-line groups. They are both encouraging and exacting. If there's an issue with your draft, they won't hesitate to point it out, but they also acknowledge the gold within the dross. (Kudos to the ladies of The Delphic Expanse!) And unlike the comment above, they don't proudly brag about 'gently tearing you pieces for any failed attempts at improving'.'

Writer's groups can help develop your writing, as far as plot and grammar goes. But you must be discerning and find one that is a good fit for you and the genre you're writing.



Monday, July 25, 2011

Writing Exercises: Titles, Part II

Jot down titles that come to you while you're reading something else. They may or may not be related to the material you're reading at the time. Don't stop to edit yourself; just write down whatever comes in mind.  And don't worry if the titles sound ludicrous...they might spark another idea.


Life Within Walls

Just Show Up

Why the Big Hurry?

My Love Affair with a Pen

Origami First Drafts

A Lot of Plot on a Plot of Lot's.

Invisible Ink

The Generous Miser

The Literal Elephant

The Dog that Fit into her Purse


Tell Me a Lie, Tell Them the Truth

The Underpainting

Done for Good or Done for Now?

When I Stopped Being Happy


Friday, July 22, 2011

Chapter Draft (2): "First Duty"

original work © 2011 by A. Dameron All rights reserved.

A single shuttle came up the crest of the hill overlooking the Homeworld Senate. The three floors of durasteel and concrete curved around a plaza, and its spires towered over the nearby river. The reflections cast dark reflections on the expansive windows. Thirty children gazed upon the dazzling view below, chattered to each other and pointed to the marble spires of the Senate.

Do the Senators really live there, Miss Nina?” asked Dulcie. Her eyes widened in shock. “But it’s so big!”

Nina Cabral made her way to Dulcie’s side. The movement of the shuttle only enhanced her natural dancer’s grace. She bent and laid a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “That’s the seat of government for the entire Republic,” she reminded Dulcie.

Dulcie nodded, but she was still dumbfounded at the sheer size of the Senate. “Someday I want a house like that.”

Nina laughed. “Maybe you will.” She straightened and raised her hands for attention. The noise dwindled as the older students whispered, “Sssh! Quiet! The teacher’s speaking!” Their eyes snapped towards the front, hands in their laps. Nina looked over them with a smile. Even at this young age, her Morality and Ethics class was well behaved. She paused and nodded at the green-garbed officer who sat at the back of the shuttle. The officer nodded back in approval.

As you can see, we’re getting close to the Republic Honor Memorial. Take a good look and tell me what’s the first thing that comes to your mind.” Nina glanced over her shoulder as the entry ramp drew nearer. The charter ascended with a gentle bump and the warning lights flashed.

It’s…scary-looking,” said Tom. The hint of doubt in his voice brought snickers from the others, and he blushed.

Nina shook her head once, and the titters ceased. Her gaze touched each of the students, and they murmured their apologies. Again, the officer smiled his approval of her handling of the situation. “It can be intimidating from the outside, Tom, but wait until you see the inside.”

The school shuttle stopped just inside the entrance gate. “Republic Honor Memorial,” announced the shuttle driver. “There are our tour guides.” He opened the doors to allow two Academy cadets onto the shuttle. One of them looked up from his datapad and smiled.

McIntire Primary?”

Nina went forward. “That’s us. I’m Nina Cabral. You must be Mister Davis.”

The cadet hid his surprise under a bright smile. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, madam. I hope you and your students will enjoy our tour.” He turned towards the students. “Did you all see the Senate on the way up?”

Yes!” Their enthusiastic shouts were deafening, and Davis winced and covered his ears. Nina exchanged bemused glances with the blonde lady sitting in the middle of the shuttle.

Well, someday, we’ll have to give you a tour of that too. Today we’re going to visit the Honor Memorial. Make sure you’ve got your datapads and recorders because we’re going to ask you plenty of questions.” Davis nodded at his companion. “I’m Senior Cadet Andrew Davis and this is Senior Cadet Michael O’Brien. Follow closely so we won’t lose you. Do I make myself clear?”

Yes, sir!” the children thundered.

Davis winced again. Cadet O’Brien gave Nina a wry look. Unlike his outgoing companion, O’Brien’s voice was soft and low. “You’ve got them pretty well trained, madam. Looks like we’re going to have a new batch of Academy cadets in a few years.”

Nina grinned. She always tried to maintain some sort of discipline, but the children’s enthusiasm came out in other ways. She made sure to channel it into proper Republic behavior: courtesy, obedience and respect to their elders. As long as they weren’t disruptive, it was fine with her.

Let’s go,” Nina said.

The group clambered out of the shuttle. Davis and O’Brien led the way; Nina and Gracie brought up the rear. Visitors from all over the Homeworld wandered across the marble courtyard. A ten-foot fountain sprayed water in the air; other children played in the shallows. The fall breeze came through and spun the golden leaves off their boughs. Elderly citizens spotted the children and waved; the students dutifully waved back.

The greenshirted officer drew close to Nina. “Very impressive, Mistress Cabral,” he said in a quiet tone, “but aren’t the children a bit too loud?”

The children must use some of that energy, Lieutenant Carlyle, or they will be unruly. Better for it to come out in harmless ways, don’t you agree?”

Carlyle did not respond. He hurried off the shuttle and onto the platform. Gracie glared at his back, but Nina only shook her head. Politico Officers always tried to ruin things. It was her job not to let Carlyle destroy their trip.

“Now, let’s get into line, children. Let’s show the cadets how well behaved we can be…”

The cadets led the school group through the security checkpoints. They were crammed with tourists and visitors, but the Security personnel swiftly got to their place in line. "Groups of five, please," called a sweet-faced, grandmotherly woman in gold. "Do we have any students with Triangles?"

There was an awkward silence, then a handful of children raised their hands. Silently, they fell out of line. The guard smiled and beckoned them to her. "Now, now, I won't eat you all. Come over here, and I'll make sure you're taken care of."

The tight knot of students shared a nervous giggle, but did as the guard asked. Nina gave them an encouraging smile as the guard checked their rucksacks. She also examined the emerald Triangle pin that each child wore on the collar of the school uniform.

Nina wore no such pin; only Colonials and Outworlders did so, to distinguish them from native Homeworlders. She didn't give the fact another thought, for it was for the Colonials' protection. Another guard extended a hand to Nina. “Your indenticard, madam,” he said. “Sorry for the extra security, but-“

-It’s necessary. I know, Sergeant.” Nina sighed and handed him the card. He passed it into the slot and Nina watched the information scroll onto the screen.

Name: Nina Cabral. Age: 24. Profession: Morality and Ethics Teacher, McIntire Primary, McIntire Air Base. Parents: Eduardo Cabral and Mariela Quartez, deceased. Siblings: Three: Josephine Quartez Cabral. Senior Diplomat with Diplomatic Corps. Fernando Quartez Cabral, Security Consultant, Kaufman Limited. Iliana Quartez Cabral, Assistant Minister (Education Bureau)

A column of numbers followed it. The guard scrutinized it, then nodded. He swiped the card into his reader and another number appeared at the end of the column. Anyone who scanned her card could trace her whereabouts of the day. The guard handed the card back to her. “Info checks out okay, madam. Thanks.”

Nina pocketed the card without a single word. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the guard wave Lieutenant Carlyle through without hesitation.

The sunlight bounced off the white marble walls of the entrance chamber. Nina gazed at the elaborate designs on the friezes and the columns. Gracie pointed out the inscriptions on the walls, all taken from the Republic Charter, and the children noted them on their notepads. Large hi-vid screens occupied a prominent place in each corner of the room. They seemed out of place with the Memorial’s traditional appearance, but the screens flashed information about current events around the Republic. Nina frowned at the distraction, but her students’ eyes were glued to their tour guide.

We’re now in the Entrance Forum,” announced Cadet Davis, as he smartly adjusted the white uniform hat under his arm. “Mistress Thompson’s class will follow Cadet O’Brien through the exhibits. I’ll take Mistress Cabral’s class. After the tour, we’ll meet in the Visitor’s Chamber for lunch and you’ll be able to visit the Gift Shop. All right?”

The children nodded and broke off into their assigned groups. Before she left, Gracie reached over and squeezed Nina’s wrist. “I’ll see you later,” she said with a wink. “Don’t let Carlyle get you down.”

Nina relaxed at her friend’s warmth. “Don’t worry. I’ve handled him before.” She ignored the Politico’s stony glare from the back of the Forum.

Davis cleared his throat and summoned up another smile. The children had to move up close to him to hear his voice over the chaos. “Take a look around you. Many of the Republic’s leaders have walked on this floor, from the most loyal soldiers to the Presidents themselves…”

Nina settled back to watch the young man conduct his tour. For the past four years, she had brought students to the Honor Memorial to learn about the Republic’s proud and noble history. Yet she never tired of the Memorial Tour, no matter which cadet conducted it. She smiled up at the image of the angel above the main entranceway. The statue’s inscription read “First in Peace, First in War. The Republic endures.”

"Now let’s walk through the entranceway, and we’re going to see how the Republic has kept its strength for more than a hundred years.” Davis extended his arm. “This way.”

The children followed in a huge mass. Nina felt Carlyle’s disapproving stare even as she reminded them, “Groups of two, please. We’ll all get in.”

The exhibits were mounted on pedestals, locked away by triple layers of Plexiglas and security fields. there were cries of, “Don’t step on my feet!” and “Watch where you’re going!” as they tried to walk in the dim light. Bright spotlights focused their attention on the museum pieces. Time frame and branch of military service neatly arranged all of the articles. Cadet Davis talked about how all Republic citizens, both civilian and military, made the Republic strong.

My daddy helps a lot,” piped up Micah. “He makes stuff for the airplanes.”

Davis glanced at Nina in askance. Nina explained, “Her father is a contractor for the Flight Forces, Cadet Davis.”

He laughed and nodded at the earnest young girl. “In that case, your father does help us quite a bit.”

Dulcie and Patrick tiptoed at the steel railing. “Why can’t we touch the pieces, Cadet Davis?” asked Dulcie.

Davis’s smile was frozen. “Some of them are pretty old, Mistress Dulcie. We don’t want them to fall apart.” He quickly directed their attention to the military pilots’ exhibit. His gloved hand pointed at the names inscribed in gold.

My daddy’s a pilot,” said Julia Greer. The brown-haired girl smiled up at Davis. “He’s with Task Force Thirteen.”

Davis whistled. “He’s in an important group, then. I’m sure you’re very proud of him.”

He addressed the rest of the students. “How many of you want to be pilots?” Many hands shot up. He chuckled and continued, “Well, you’d have to go through a lot of training. Not everyone makes it through, but the ones who do have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.”

He proceeded to describe some of that training. The class was riveted by his calm and steady tone. Davis made no attempt to deny the triumphs and the dangers, but he still made it sound easy. Nina heard the pride in the young man’s tone and raised her hand.

You’re a pilot candidate, aren’t you, Mister Davis? I saw the gold wings on your uniform.”

He grinned and pointed to the wings on his collar. The children oohed and aahed. “I hope to add my name to the ones who served, madam. Every name on this exhibit carried out that tradition in all of Earth’s military campaigns. Maybe some of your students will be here someday too.”

The tour went on. True to his word, Cadet Davis asked plenty of questions about Republic history and ethics. Nina smiled with pride as her students gave a correct answer every time. She was content to let Davis run the tour and only had the rare comment or question.

Nina felt eyes watching her. She glanced out of the corner of her eye to find a pair of Security officers behind them. Their attention sent chills down her spine, and she fought to keep from trembling. Was she doing anything wrong? Did they notice the students’ unruliness in the Visitors’ Chamber? Did she forget some obscure detail in the Rules and Procedures vidbook? She told herself, I have done nothing wrong, and the children are the models of good behavior. There is nothing to worry about, Nina. Pretend you don’t see them, or you’ll alarm your students. Of course, it was easier said than done.

They came to a huge board depicting the various military campaigns in the Republic’s history, and the shadows followed them. This time, Cadet Davis gave her a questioning look. She glanced at the reflection of the Securitymen in his uniform visor and returned a slight nod. Davis continued his lecture as Nina helped her students work the touchpads. Every serviceperson’s record was listed, which included their campaigns and awards. A few of the children proudly pointed out the names of their illustrious ancestors.

Davis talked about the Confederation Wars that helped give birth to the Republic up to the Vidirian campaign in the beginning of the twenty-first century. Micah’s eyes glowed. “My great-grandpa fought in that! He said it helped us be what we are now!”

You’re right. It was a turning point in Republic history.” Davis motioned the group forward. “We honor all of our servicemen and women, past and present.”

Julia Greer raised her hand. “Yes, Julia?” Nina said.

I wanted to ask Cadet Davis if he’s ever seen any battles,” Julia replied. She dropped her eyes to her datapad. “I didn’t want to be rude.”

Lieutenant Carlyle’s head snapped up at the girl’s words. Nina saw the gesture and flashed a warning to the cadet. He gave her another small nod.

A few small ones,” he said. “Nothing very interesting, Mistress Julia.” Davis turned towards the lightened corridor. “The next room is the Room of Infamy.”

Nina took a deep breath as he led the class past the marble wall. Etched in bronze were the names of all the known traitors to the Republic. The children were silent as they walked past. They knew what that monument meant; it was a warning to every citizen. None of the children wanted their names engraved on it. Many of those names were marked with the green Triangles. A Colonial name, an Outworlder name. The few Colonial students shuffled past with lowered eyes.

Our next stop will be the Visitors Chamber, where you can rest and eat. I’ll answer any other questions you may have.” Davis glanced over his shoulder. “Let me warn you…the light’s bright outside, so be prepared.”

As the group crossed into the Visitors Chamber, Gracie’s class sat in the afternoon glare and munched on their sandwiches. Cadet O’Brien looked up from the small group gathered around him. “Cadet Davis is our flight expert,” he said. “Maybe you can ask him.” O’Brien grinned and said, “Andy, you’ve got a bunch of questions waiting for you over here.”

I’m all ears.” He looked over at Nina and nodded, then joined O’Brien’s group. Nina gathered her group around her to assign lunch partners. Gracie came up to her when she was finished.

The cadets are very informative,” Gracie said, nodding in O’Brien’s direction. He was talking with Lieutenant Carlyle. “I guess the Academy’s making sure their people know their stuff.”

It wouldn’t be good if they didn’t know their own history.” Nina squinted in the sunlight. The huge windows led directly to the shuttle ramp, and the New Fairfax shuttles arrived and departed according to schedule. The bright blue sky had no clouds, and was clear. The perfect day for a school trip.

Mistress Cabral? May we have a word with you, please?”

Nina frowned as she turned from the window. One of the Security guards stood directly behind her; next to him was a female Politico. Nina’s heart froze at the sight of the green-clothed woman. Why did the Political Office want to speak with her?

Of course. Mistress Thompson, will you watch my students, please?”

Yes, Miss Cabral,” Grace answered in a formal tone.

They retreated to a corner of the Visitors’ Chamber. The Security Officer smiled and reassured her, “I’m Sergeant Palmer. This is Captain Vanderman. You aren’t in any trouble, madam, but we’d like to make sure you and your students are safe. With your permission, we’d like to keep you under observation.”

Under observation?” Nina repeated. “But–“

The Politico-Vanderman- put a friendly hand on her arm. “Forgive us, but we have your well-being in the highest concern. You're the niece of Enrique Quartez. We won’t interfere, unless we absolutely have to do so.”

Nina swallowed her irritation; the Politico always seemed sincere in their dealings, but it didn’t mean she enjoyed dealing with them. She remembered her Uncle Enrique’s wise words: “They may be an evil, but they’re an necessary evil, in this day and age. Someday you will understand.”

Very well, if you must.” She nodded at them and turned to return to her class, with the two unwelcome guests trailing after her. Gracie raised an eyebrow, but Nina said, “They will be riding our shuttle with us, Mistress Thompson. Please advise the children.”

A shrill squeal bounced off the walls of the Visitors’ Chamber. The students winced and clapped their hands over their ears, and a wave of chaos broke among the visitors. The vid-screens blinked, then the image of a woman slowly appeared. The blue-and-white Earth Republic Eagle hovered behind her, bisected by the thunderbolt of Republic News Broadcasting. A track at the bottom of the screen relayed her report in other Homeworld languages.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to inform our citizens on developments on the Colonial front. We are pleased to announce that the revolt on Enki Colony is over!”

Cheers broke out in the Visitor’s Chamber. Elderly women waved handkerchiefs in the air, while men shouted and pumped their fists in the air. The students hugged each other and danced in joy, and even Lieutenant Carlyle cracked a smile at the other Politico. Carlyle’s brief flicker of happiness vanished as she shook her head.

Is there a problem, Captain Vanderman?” he asked.

Vanderman drew Carlyle aside and whispered to him. In the chaos, no one noticed a shadow pass over Carlyle’s face, except for Nina. Nina caught his glance at her, then at the students, and he finally nodded. Something was going on, and it concerned her. Her unease blossomed into panic, but for the children’s sake, she composed her face as the reporter continued her report.

Our brave Security forces rescued Republic citizens held hostage by the Enki, and Task Forces Eleven and Thirteen defended key installations from traitorous insurgents. We have the most recent footage from the front, courtesy of Public Affairs. Please keep in mind that some of our images may be disturbing, but we strive to bring the truth to you, our citizens. If you wish to not see them, you may change your vidscreen now.”

Nina thought the request somewhat ridiculous; the Memorial staff would not switch vid-screens, even if their visitors requested it. In fact, every person she knew would watch the footage. She prided herself on showing her students the truth, even when it was difficult.

Miss Nina,” whispered a tiny voice.

She opened her arms to a child wearing the Colonial Triangles. The girl buried her face within Nina’s shoulder, and two other Colonial students attached themselves to Nina’s waist. Gracie also offered comfort to the older children who did not want to watch the report.

The highlights filled the screens: an Enki docking station fired upon a battleship without provocation, in turn destroyed by several missiles. Enki warriors herded unarmed civilians into prison camps. A ragtag group of Republic fighter planes faced a heavily shielded installation, and prepared to sacrifice their lives on a bombing run. As the audience watched, the shield wavered and collapsed, and the planes aborted their mission, sparing the people inside the building at the last possible second. Ground troops released the hostages and took them into careful custody. A female sergeant wrapped a young child in a blanket and carried the boy to the staging area in her arms.

A roar of excitement and approval washed over the crowd. Nina smiled at Cadet Davis and Cadet O’Brien, and Cadet Davis gave her an enthusiastic thumbs-up. The woman reappeared on the screen with a brilliant smile. “Please stay tuned to Republic News Broadcasting for the latest on the Enki surrender. I’m Nancy Leedson for RNB. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program. Thank you.”

The Memorial visitors broke out into excited chatter at the news, including the children. Gracie seized on the opportunity to discuss the broadcast with them. Her students and Nina’s clustered next to each other, chatting and comparing notes.

Two people walked past the school group. The first one, a dark-haired woman, sat on anearby bench. She said something humorous and started to rub her ankles; the words were not Standard English. Her companion glanced around the Visitors Chamber and his lips curved into a grim smile slow as he saw the Politico standing next to the children.

May we go into the gift shop, Mistress Nina?”

Julia’s voice startled her. “Of course you may, Julia, but please make it quick. Lieutenant Carlyle, will you please accompany Julia’s group to the Gift Shop? ”

Of course. Come along, children, we’ll be going in a little while.” The girl gave Nina a strange look, but she skipped into the shop with her friends in tow. Carlyle scrambled to catch up with them.

Sergeant Palmer at the door spotted the Outworlder couple at the door. He made a move for his communicator, but the guard at the door made a gesture that said, “I’ll handle this.”. The woman pulled a thick bundle of papers and flimsies from her purse as the guard approached them.

You don’t need to be nervous,” she reassured him in a heavy accent. “Here...this explains who we are and why we are here. We Colonials must be on our good behavior, shouldn’t we?”

The easygoing charm took the soldier off guard. The shock passed across his face for a brief moment, then he returned the smile. “Well, thank you for anticipating my question, madam. We just want to make sure everyone’s protected, that’s all.”

The woman nodded. “Of course, sir, that’s quite understandable, considering the news about this Colonial rebellion. I assure you, there is nothing to fear. We are impressed by your Memorial. It symbolizes everything the Republic stands for, doesn’t it?”

Indeed it does, madam. We’re all proud of it.”

She turned and stared directly at Nina. Her eyes were bright yellow and there was a dark mulberry-colored tattoo lining her jaw. Their gazes locked for a long moment, then the Colonial’s harsh smile softened a little. The woman turned back towards the guard as he thumbed through the papers.

“So proud that you share it with your young ones,” she said. The comment was directed to the guard, but Nina realized it was meant for her ears. “How many of their names will adorn these walls, I wonder?”

The guard grunted and ignored the comment, but Sergeant Palmer murmured orders over his lapel microphone. Captain Vanderman stepped between Nina and the Outworlder. The Politico’s eyes flashed a challenge: You will not harm this woman or the children. Nina revised her previous opinion about the Politico as Vanderman’s hand tightened on the pistol on her belt.

The woman’s companion slipped away. and disappeared into the Gift Shop. Nina's throat tightened in fear. She turned to Gracie, but the other teacher only nodded. “I’ll round up the students,” Gracie said. Without another word, she went on her way.

Carlyle and O’Brien had finished their conversation, and O’Brien waved Nina to his side. His quiet tone was laced with concern. “Sergeant Palmer says the classes should be returning to McIntire. Your shuttle is parked outside and waiting. It’s been a pleasure conducting your tours, Mistress Cabral. They’ve been the most behaved students we’ve had.”

Thank you, Mister O’Brien.”

Davis closed up his discussion as neatly as he could. “I’m going to turn you over to your teacher now. You’ve been a very courteous and polite group. Thank you for your attention, and have a good trip back to McIntire. Thank you, Mistress Cabral.”

Nina covered her unease with her usual cheery voice. “Let’s give Cadet Davis a round of applause.” The applause was deafening as the sound bounced off the Chamber walls. Nina motioned the children to their feet just as Gracie came up with her group. They clutched their packages and raced to rejoin their partners. The whispering spread from child to child.

Someone inside fainted,” Julia told her. “They’re getting help.”

Nina swallowed hard. That's what they told them. She gave a quick head count. “Are we all here?”

All here,” confirmed Gracie. Her smile seemed odd on her face, but for the children’s sakes, she played the part as well. “Let’s go out in a single file line out to the shuttle.”

Sergeant Palmer brought Nina to the head of the line. “Let her go through, she’s clean. Mistress Cabral, please come with me—“

Not until my students are safe,” she objected. “I have an obligation to them and to their parents.”

Palmer gazed at her for a minute, then gave her a brusque nod. “All right. Help us get them onto the shuttle, but afterwards—“


Nina watched as the children  the students endured the security ritual again. They climbed aboard the shuttle, and Gracie distracted the students with a short review session, awarding bonus points for quick responses. The students waved their hands eagerly in the air as they consulted their datapads.

Most of them. Julia Greer’s attention was still riveted back to the Memorial’s shuttle exit. What about you, Mistress Cabral? Aren’t you going with us?” She clutched onto Nina’s dress so tightly that the fabric wrinkled.

I’ll be just fine, Julia,” Nina reassured her with a smile. “We’ll meet at the school, all right?”


Gracie glanced back at Nina. “Carlyle said to go on without him. He wants to make sure everything’s okay.”

Take care of the children, Gracie–“

Muffled shouts exploded from the Gift Shop, followed by the whine of automatic lasers. The glastic windows shattered, sending fragments all over the courtyard. The orderly crowd dissolved into a roaring stampede as people ran for their lives. Security tried to stem the tidal wave, but were swept away. 

The duracrete walls of the Honor Memorial shook as tremor after tremor slammed into it. Nina couldn’t see what was going on in the gift shop, but heard the chaos. Vanderman threw her own body over Nina’s and screamed into her comlink, “Get the children away from the Memorial! Head towards Safety Zone Two. We’ll protect Mistress Cabral.”

The shuttle sped away, closely followed by several Security skimmers. Vanderman pulled Nina to her feet. “Come on! Come on!” the Politico yelled. “This way.”

Nina glanced over her shoulder and saw the yellow-eyed Outworlder. The woman had a beatific smile upon her face as she raised some kind of weapon and aimed it at them. Her mouth moved, but Nina couldn’t understand the words. All Nina could do was to brace herself for the impact.

Sergeant Palmer tackled the woman just as the weapon went off, and she was buried under a pile of gold Security uniforms as Palmer’s unit joined in the fight. Vanderman’s body jerked once, then collapsed. Nina screamed as the Politico’s body went limp next to her. She didn’t have to look at Vanderman’s face to know the Politico was dead.

Mistress Cabral, Mistress Cabral!” Hands dragged her back to her feet and pushed her towards a waiting hovercar. Then the screams and shouts faded far behind them, and she resisted the urge to look back. All she could think about was the close call; her students were safe, and that was all that mattered.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chapter Draft: "First Duty"

original work © 2011 by A. Dameron All rights reserved. 

Starlight reflected on the quiet water of the Sea of Tranquility. Bass and halibut swam next to Aurelian rainbow fish and Caledonian pike. A Terran dolphin peeked over the gentle waves and squeaked at his comrades. Together, they headed for a cove on the opposite side of the Sea.

Terraformers had deepened the lunar crater and imported the water from the Earth Homeworld itself. Fifteen anti-gravity plates buried under the sea floor kept the liquid secure in its depths. Other plates simulated the effects of Earth’s normal gravity all over the complex. The Footpath surrounded the lakeshore, bordered by hotels and eateries, and led into the clusters of private homes.. At this moment, Luna Colony buzzed with visitors and locals alike; neighbors threw parties in their backyards, schoolchildren adorned their classrooms with flags and banners, and music boomed in the streets. People gathered at the shores of the Sea, and waited for the main event.

The artificial wind blew from the east and ruffled the flags on the lakeshore. Each flag represented an Earth Colony, from the silver-blue of Luna to the blood-red of Mars. A lone figure stood on the pier; he was short, but powerfully built through the shoulders and waist. The wind scattered his hair and mustache. He ran a hand through the shaggy black locks and laughed to himself.

. You really must get a haircut. You are a politician, not a member of the Border Guard. Enrique Quartez laughed aloud at the trivial thought. His office as Lord Speaker of the Earth Homeworld Senate required a neat appearance, but he’d relaxed his standards on this vacation. It was bad that he looked like El Bandito; worse that he was talking to himself in second-person.

A lake that drifts under perpetual night, even as the sun rises in the heavens,” Quartez murmured under his breath. The quote fit his surroundings; he made a mental note to include it in his latest monograph of poetry. Quartez’s sharp black eyes picked out the blue and white Earth Homeworld eagle at the north end. First in peace, first in war, the Homeworld endures. I wonder if the Homeworld will endure this new wind of change. I suppose we’ll see.

He turned and oriented himself towards the west, towards Earth. Of course, the courier ship Kennedy was too small to make out in the heavens, but he knew Deena Maracois was there. The President of the Republic was coming home in triumph, just in time for the celebration of Patriots Day. Of course, no one missed the significance of her dramatic arrival.

Lord Speaker, the boat pilots are on station. We will have live feed in sixty seconds,” whispered a voice. Briel Hanson twisted his hands together and glanced over his shoulder. The people milled about impatiently, trying to get the best view of the Sea.

I understand, Master Hanson,” Quartez replied in a soothing voice. “The Luna Regatta will go smoothly, my friend. Non se preoccupado...we have tight security and my own personal Security force is on duty..”

I understand, Lord Speaker, but you can never be too certain—“

Quartez shook at his head at Hanson’s paranoia. The roar of the crowd echoed under the lunar dome, and Enrique shook his head. It was amazing how different each Colony was from the other, and how loyal each Colony felt towards the Earth Homeworld. Some were completely loyal, others—

Those were the ones who worried the Homeworld leaders the most, and Enrique was concerned indeed. He wanted peace and prosperity for all, but what if these rogues didn’t? They became a threat. War, he thought. God forbid it. The Lady President has vowed not to let it happen, and so do I. We owe the future generations of the Republic that much.

If it meant sacrifice, Enrique Quartez was prepared to do it, at any cost.

He gave the Public Affairs officer another reassuring smile and said, “The Colonials here have close ties to the Earth Homeworld, Master Hanson. They see themselves just like any other Homeworld citizen, and I expect your crew to treat them as such.” He brought his gaze back to the water. “Now, you said that the Hamilton boat is favored to win?”

Hanson sighed, relieved at the change of subject. “They’ve got the firm backing of Tanaka Enterprises, and rumor has it that Chairwoman Tanaka would take the helm herself, if she hadn’t chosen to oversee the reconstruction efforts...”

I’m sure she would; that sounds like her. The rose in the steel glove, indeed. He glanced over the crowd and noted whom he saw. There was Babbette Johnson, the queen of vid-stars, draped over her younger lover. At the outside bar was Lord Senator Uwe Hildebrandt and his wife Ina. Hildebrandt held stocks in the Hamilton Company, and came here to show the yachting crew his support. A pity that Sumiko Tanaka was not making an appearance this year. Quartez would have liked to match wits with the famous businesswoman.

A pair of eyes in the crowd met his. Captain Razvena Rujiek adjusted the shoulder strap of her vidcamera. He nodded at her; Rujiek gently elbowed her way through the audience and paused every now and then to snap a picture. Many of the social butterflies asked her for an image, and she cheerfully obliged. Later, Enrique and his Security Council would analyze the photos and store them in their files. Those files held all kinds of secrets, secrets that belonged to the powerbrokers, the politicians, the chairmen and women of the Homeworld Companies and other influentials.. Quartez treated some of them with kid gloves, some with respect, and some with the scorn they deserved. More and more of them seemed to end up in that last category. If it wasn’t for Esme’s light touch and gentle humor...

Enrique, you are getting grumpy again. Watch the billowing sails, not the ugly anchors, querido.” Esmeralda Quartez-Modeno appeared next to him without a sound. Esme knew how to make a dramatic entrance, and this time she didn’t disappoint. Her elegant crimson robe was hemmed in gold, and every lock of dark hair was twisted into a pleasing braid. He accepted her loving hand; she squeezed it in response.

Buenos dias, cara,” he said softly.

Buenos dias, Enrique. Did you sleep well?” she asked, with a sly smile and a wink.

He laughed and replied, “Of course, I was completely relaxed. Ah, here they come!”

The first boats made their way over the horizon. A roar came from the assembled crowd at the lakeshore. Tourists clapped, cheered and blew their air horns. Children laughed as they crashed into the manmade surf. In reply, the lead boat fired a golden flare, which soared overhead and exploded in a flower of sparks. Quartez chuckled as low alarms sounded over the complex. Republic Security panicked at any unexpected event, but they had to learn to forgive certain instances. Indeed, the alarms ceased after a few minutes of chaos.

Master Hanson nodded at Quartez, and he raised his arms for silence. The chaos died down to a tolerable level. He exchanged another warm smile with Esme, then began his speech. “Honored guests, welcome to the one-hundred and eleventh Luna Regatta on the Sea of Tranquillity. Luna Colony celebrates its founding on this day, and we remember the spirit of those first pioneers with an exciting race upon the Sea. Now, without further delay, we will begin this race, and may the best crew win!”

The crowd went wild with cheers and applause. Hanson passed a flare gun to Esme, who raised it high above her head. Quartez reached up and covered her delicate hand with his own, and together, they pulled the trigger. The burst of golden light illuminated the skies above them, and with that signal, the boats began their circuits around the Sea.

Esme’s eyes glowed as the yachts turned into the wind. She squeezed her husband’s hand as they jockeyed for position before the first turn. She was more of the sailing enthusiast than he, and the Regatta always brought out the little girl within her. Her presence made these events bearable. Quartez knew she would have all kinds of stories to tell about the social and political circles of Luna later that evening; under the cheerful exterior was a mind as sharp as any computer.

One of the yachts fell off the wind and spun out of course, and the crew worked frantically to get back on track. Another two fought over a single patch of blue water, colliding in the process. A loud crack echoed over the Sea, and a fourth boat lost its mainsail, rigs and all. The crowd gasped at these tragic turn of events, as bookmakers cursed and Company Representatives screamed at their crews. As expected, the red sails of Tanaka Enterprises sailed serenely in first place, the delicate, golden chrysanthemum symbol dominating the water.

Enrique’s earpiece buzzed and he pressed it with his free hand. “Quartez.”

Your have a Priority One message, Lord Speaker,” replied Major Suba Rahpavi. The Lord Speaker’s Protector’s voice was breathless with excitement. “Relaying it to you now.”

Quartez listened for a brief moment, then murmured,. “Thank you, Major,” he murmured. “That’s gratifying to hear.”

Enrique?” Esme asked, puzzlement on her delicate features.

Politics,” he said simply. He waved at Hanson, who immediately came to his side. After a whispered conversation, the PA man gave frantic orders over his earbug. The screens switched back to Quartez, but the Lord Speaker’s face held no trace of the good humor. Howls of protest came from the crowd; he raised his arms for silence.

Forgive the interruption, citizens, but we have news of a Colonial revolt on Enki. The Enki-rai made a defiant stand against the Republic. Their dockstations attacked two military task forces, as those ships came out of jumpspace to restore the peace.” A swell of anger grew from the spectators, but he quickly continued, “This revolt has now been contained, and our military is now in control of the government. Homeworld Companies are enroute to key production facilities for reconstruction.”

At that last sentence, a weak cheer came from the Representatives. The other guests clapped politely. If this had been Earth, every citizen would be listening to the news. Hanson’s mouth twitched nervously; Quartez wondered what kind of spin Public Affairs would take on this camera feed. “Luna has always been a strong supporter of the Republic and the Homeworld Companies, and on that note, let’s cheer on the boats as we return to the Regatta!”

The screens picked up the race as the Hamilton boat pulled ahead of its nearest competitor by meters. New electricity went through the crowd as the remaining boats drifted far behind. Enrique sighed and shook his head in dismay. Esme squeezed his hand in reassurance and inclined her head towards the Sea.

Don’t be disheartened, Enrique. The Luna Colonials hate to be reminded of their brothers and sisters who aren’t as...enlightened as they are. Most think of themselves as Homeworlders, you know, even if they aren’t.”

Your lady’s right, Lord Speaker,” said Hanson. The Public Affairs officer shrugged and added, “It’s nothing personal against you. They love their entertainment, and it keeps them distracted from their worries.”

Enrique smiled as the Hamilton boat streaked towards the finish line, all alone in the lead. Its crew focused on the goal ahead, and not on the celebration. It was a testament to Tanaka Enterprises’ self-discipline. He thought of the few bets he had placed and the results soon to be in his accounts. Even Homeworld politicians indulged in vices now and then; he was a puritan compared to some of his contemporaries.

Speaking of entertainment, Esme, we must present the cup to the winning crew. I’ll let you do the honors this time.”

She squeezed his hand again. “Of course, I’ll be fine, quierido. You go tame the tigers. I’ll deal with the fat and contented bears.”

Gracias.” He brushed his lips against his wife’s cheek, and he spotted Hanson’s broad grin. This was a gem for the Public Affairs files and for the gossip columns, but Enrique didn’t care. As long as the public was distracted, so was the enemy. He stepped back as the Regatta Cup arrived with great ceremony. The golden chalice was engraved with the Earth Republic eagle, and encrusted with precious stones. Along the edges was “Tanaka Enterprises, Hamilton Company, Luna Regatta 2147.” Enrique guessed the cup makers knew the winner ahead of time.

The Hamilton Company representatives climbed up to the podium, beaming with pride and self-importance. Esme thanked them for their perseverance, and their sterling example to others. Her cultured voice rose and fell, and the audience hung on every word. Camera lights flashed as they recorded this moment for posterity.

For his part, Enrique watched and listened. Under the polite veneer, he felt the tension among the Company Representatives. There was Okuro Limited, its members in a tight group, radiating pure malice. Huntingdon Properties stood behind them, watching Okuro stew in their resentment. Blaise Controls, Surikan Incorporated...they all spied on each other, and Enrique spied on them all. His mouth twitched in grim amusement. His own security controls were nearly foolproof; a pity that these players never knew it.

Perdone, Don Enrique. You have a message, Your Eyes Only.”

Mierda, they would pick the most inconvenient moment to interrupt. Quartez turned to the olive-garbed Political Officer behind him and every trace of humor vanished from his mind. The Politico’s broad face was impassive, but an uneasy feeling uncoiled within the pit of Quartez’s stomach. He nodded and stepped to the far side of the platform. Although they were hidden from any eavesdroppers, Enrique kept his tone low.

Please, don’t call me ‘Don Enrique’, Captain Reyes. I am only a humble public servant.”

Captain Victorio Reyes acknowledged the correction with an nod. His eyes were the flat, brown pebbles of a snake’s, constantly watching and weighing. “Perdon. The message concerns your niece.”

Which one of my nieces, Captain Reyes?” he asked dryly.”I have so many.”

Reyes chuckled. The Quartez clan was spread out all over the Homeworld and the Colonies, and even a savvy Politico like Victorio Reyes couldn’t keep track of them all. Quartez had several nieces and nephews, cousins, great-relatives and various family friends who should have been related, but really weren’t. It was so confusing to an outsider, but Reyes, whose family was the same kind, understood.

Reyes’s face was sober as he replied, “It didn’t say specifically, but I believe it is about Josephine, the diplomat..”

Quartez frowned. “From the Kennedy? I thought they were enroute to the Earth Homeworld for the Patriots’ Day celebration. Has there been a change of plans?”

The Politico activated his datapad and handed it to the Lord Speaker. It was only a few lines long, but the words filled Enrique with terror. Your niece is in danger. You must protect her from harm. They want to kill her.

Josephine is with the Lady President,” Quartez said, “and they are definitely not beloved by the Colonials. It was she who negotiated the treaty with the Middle Rim...”

Yes, that was my thought as well,” Reyes confirmed. “I have taken the liberty to contact Security and the Political Office. The Kennedy is currently in jumpspace, Senor, and they cannot be contacted at the moment.”

Have my personal skiff prepared, Captain. I want to be there to meet the Lady President as soon as she arrives in Earthspace.”

Don Enrique, we don’t know what the Colonials will do. You will also be in danger if you interfere—“

Which is why I want a full security force to accompany me. Make it so, Captain Reyes. I refuse to stand by while my family—and the Lady President—are in danger.”

The Politico pulled himself to attention. “Subito, Don Enrique.”

Quartez dismissed him from his mind as soon the Reyes disappeared into the crowd. Esme had just finished her speech, and the winners accepted the Regatta Cup. The audience broke out in polite applause and cheers; Okuro and Surikan left in disgust. At Enrique’s subtle gesture, plainclothed Security men followed them.

I only pray that we will not be too late to save Deena and Josephine. I will do all I can to prevent disaster from happening. Please, do not let me too late...


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Writing Exercise: Imaginary Friend, Imaginary Trip

Write to an imaginary friend about an imaginary trip you'd like to take one day.

Hey, Angie!

Konnichiwa! Morning to you! Yes, I'm finally here in Tokyo. Sorry haven't written in a while; haven't quite gotten used to the time change. Just when I get used to Dublin time from Charlotte, I jump an entire day ahead. Ah, well.

I met Hiro and Sakiko at Tokyo Int'l. They're a nice couple. Hiro's a teacher, Saki's a housewife plus tutor plus painter plus peacemaker plus graphic designer. Oh, and she wields a mean kendo stick too. They live in a high-rise apartment in the city center. Land's an expensive commodity here, especially since there isn't a lot of wide open space. Their apartment is a rather cozy place: a main room that does triple duty as an office and a bedroom, a tiny kitchenette and bathroom. If you need a bit of privacy, all you need to do is borrow one of the shoji rice screens, set it up, and voila! Instant space of your own. It's amazing how you can change the tone of a room with a few shoji screens, bamboo mats, cushions and futons

I've been introduced to sushi, sashimi, teriyaki and mochi (really chewy rice cakes. If you need to exercise your jaws, that'll do it.). I'm not as crazy about the pickled plums, but I guess it's what you're used to. And they've got some rather interesting foodstuff over here...I probably should give the Japanese points for creativity for lemon fizzy cream soda with extra fizz (no joke. That's the actual name of it, translated). Saki's shared some of her culinary skills with me, and I tell you, she can give the Iron Chef a run for his money!

Yesterday, we went by a Shinto temple. It was beautiful in its simplicity. Saki explained that women go here to pray for children and a good life. The place was crowded, but that only seemed to make the temple more homey and less imposing. 

I'm looking forward to staying with Hiro and Saki. They're very gracious and accommodating. Tomorrow, I travel to Hiro's school and visit his students. I still feel a twinge of homesickness for the green hills of Eire, but I guess that'll pass soon, at least till I return.

Say hi to Ian and the boys at the pub for me. And Patrick still owes me my whiskey.

Till next post,