Monthly Archives: October 2011

November Update

Hey all.

October’s already gone, can you believe that? I had a great time writing about 9,426 horror or Halloween-themed flash fictions and assorted other shorts.

Still-Life, with Snowflake has gone through a revision process and, I feel, made stronger for it. Now I am shopping that and In Ventus-land around for buyers.

Second draft of Blood: Fury is well under way.

The Writer’s Bloc is up and running, and we have several new members I couldn’t be more excited about if you took away my ritalin.

Now, the bad parts. As I am going to try my hand at this National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) thing, I don’t expect I’ll be doing a lot of flash fictions or updates during November. (Speaking of, shouldn’t it really be NovNaNoWriMo?). So I decided to leave you all with one last, big one to tide you over.

Find it at The Writer’s Bloc, in the Circle, because I am actively soliciting critiques for it.

Sarah and the Goblin King

 

I’ll be back in December to annoy everyone with more shorts and flash. Until then, wish me well and I wish you the best of luck in your own endeavors.

-Mike

P.S. If I don’t make it back in time to say it to all my US friends, happy Turkeyday and may all your Black Friday wishes come true.

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A Grimm beginning

Last week, ABC debuted a new show based on fairy tales in the real world, called Once Upon A Time. Not to be outdone, perennial fourth-rank network NBC this week released Grimm, touted as being “from the producers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.”

This brag is not entirely untrue. David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf are among Grimm’s executive producers. Greenwalt was an executive producer for part of the run of each of those shows, and Kouf was a “consulting producer” on Angel. However, when most people think of the ‘producers’ of Buffy and Angel, they are thinking of Joss Whedon and Tim Minear, or possibly the Kazuis, none of whom are involved in Grimm.

And frankly, it shows.

Grimm tries to be a ‘modern’ take on fairy tales, under the framing device of a hidden world and a hidden battle being fought between the Grimms and the as-yet-unnamed monster groups. The Grimms are the descendants of the Brothers Grimm, and, unlike most people, have the ability to see the monsters when the monsters ‘lose control’ of their emotions. The hero, Nick (David Giuntoli), is one of the last Grimms, newly awakened into his power when his aunt discovers she had terminal cancer.

The show goes for moments of levity, however they never manage to rise above the ‘wry snicker’ level of humor. Much of the attempts actively induce eye-rolling. The fact that the wolves fetishize the color red elicts, at best, a minor smirk. Silas Weir Mitchell as Eddie Monroe gets a slight grin with his sarcastic, “What are you, and idiot?”

The acting is, for the most part, mediocre. Russell Hornsby and the always-excellent Sasha Roiz gamely try to raise the bar, but as neither of them is the main character, there is only so much they can accomplish.

And then there are the plot holes. Dear lord, the plot holes. Beware, beyond this point there be spoilers.

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The Castle of the Sultan

In response to Ozlem Yikici’s Triptych Turkish Delights flash fiction challenge.

Sabiha sits primly on the edge of the couch in her room, waiting.

Two days prior, Davran and the American, Sam, are shaking hands. The bet is decided, the prize and conditions set. The of sundown two days hence, they will leave the hotel at the same time. Then, anything goes. The first one to reach Sabiha wins her hand. Listening to all of this, Sabiha wonders if she has a say in the matter. Her eyes stray to the handsome American, Sam, with his shaved face his hot, eager eyes. She needn’t look at Davran, she has known him all her life. For the first time she can remember, there is the possibility that she will not marry him. She wonders at how hard her heart is racing.

The sun has been down for half an hour. Davran made his way to the base of the cliff wall. The trees have long been cut away some six meters from the wall, giving the guards atop a clear view down. Still, the bends in the wall allow for occasional blind spots, spots Davran well knows from his days as a boy. Above him, he can hear the sounds of music and people talking. It sounds like a party.

Davran dips his hand into the bag of chalk hanging from his belt. He rubs his fingertips together, finds a grip, and begins his ascent. He has timed it carefully, knowing from long experience exactly how long it takes the guard to make a circuit. He knows the times where he will be vulnerable to detection, when he must stop and wait, clinging to the side of the wall like a tick on the ear of a goat.

The guard has passed. Davran climbs again. He smiles to himself, knowing that there is no way that the American, Sam, could possibly make this ascent at the same speed. Davran has the advantage of location knowledge, and of experience doing this exact thing. Granted, it has been over a decade and he has put on a few pounds, but the upstart American, Sam, with his shining teeth and his shaved chin, does not know the way.

Davran breathes hard at the top. The way was long and difficult, and he schools himself against looking down. He will not fall. He has done this before. The guard’s footsteps retreat, and Davran slips over the top. Now it is a simple matter of staying in the shadows, behind the trees until he reaches the house proper. There, he blends in with the serving staff as they rush too and fro delivering drinks and food and warm, damp towels to the party guests.

Sabiha’s door is in front of him, and he pushes it open in triumph. His grin fades. Sabiha sits primly on the edge of the couch in her room, waiting. And with her is the American, Sam.

Sam’s perfect white teeth gleam as he smiles at Davran. “Let me guess, you went up the wall?” He makes a vague gesture towards the rest of the house, the music and the food and the people. “I just asked Sabiha for an invitation to the party.”

Davran’s head hangs in defeat. His hand inches back to where he keeps a pistol tucked into the waistband of his trousers.

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Sarah and the Goblin-King

A snippet (the first couple sections) of a longish short story I’m working on. Just thought I’d toss it out there and see what people think. In particular, do you like the sort of archaic ‘voice’ of the narrative?

 

 

There was once a young woman whose father was a mighty knight in the service to his king. They lived in the king’s palace, a beautiful castle with thick walls for protection and cheerful stained-glass windows for light and large fireplaces with deep chimneys for warmth. The young woman, whose name was Sarah, grew up there. Unlike the other ladies of the castle, Sarah spent most of her time watching her father train the soldiers in the courtyard, or riding his horse, or jousting with the other knights.

 

Sarah was a sweet girl, well-liked by most of the men-folk of the castle. The women tended to get frustrated with her, because she refused to spend time in ‘womanly pursuits,’ such as weaving and embroidering and cooking. She did play the harp, however, and such was her skill with that instrument that on those few occasions when she deigned to grace the castle with a song or two, it was inevitable that those present would stand still, as if spell-bound, until her fingers left the strings.

 

“It is amazing she can play at all,” Lady Beatrice, the king’s spinster sister, was heard to remark on more than one occasion. “Surely all the time she spends out of doors, playing with the boys, have left her hands far too rough and calloused for such gentle work.” And indeed, it was true that Sarah did spend most of her time in the yards, playing chase with the dogs, or riding the half-lame gelding her father gifted her with for her sixteenth birthday. She spent time with her father’s squire, watching as he polished and repaired her father’s armor and weapons, and it must be said that more than once Sarah did these chores herself while the squire, a sturdy boy two years younger than her, sneaked into the kitchen to steal hot, sticky buns or pinch a joint of fowl which he would share with Sarah for their afternoon snack.

 

So avid was the girl’s attentions to the duties of knighthood that Sir William, her father, was heard, more than once, to joke that all she needed was a firm cloth to strap across her chest and a mummer’s beard, and she could sit a horse in the summer games. At these times, the men would laugh and the women, particularly Lady Beatrice, would scowl. Sarah herself had no reaction to this joke, for her father was ever careful to make sure she was not present lest he give her ideas he might later come to regret.

 

Her father needn’t have bothered himself over the matter, however, as these were thoughts Sarah herself had come up with on her own long ago. “It is not fair,” she would complain to Gerard, her favorite dog. Sitting in the lee of the kennel, with her legs drawn up to her chest and Gerard’s head resting on her knees while she gently rubbed a silky ear or scratched his broad forehead, she would oft tell him of her trials and tribulations (as she saw them) while he, with the wisdom of his kind, listened in silence and accepted the head rubs that were his due. “I know as much about fighting as any of the new squires. More, even!” she would complain, and Gerard would lick her nose. It is a well-known fact that it is nearly impossible for a young woman to stay angry when there is a dog licking her nose.

 

This, then, was Sarah’s life. It was a good life, if a little dull. It was a happy life, if a little quiet. It was a peaceful life, which was really the problem with it as far as Sarah was concerned.

 

It wouldn’t last.

 

#

 

Winter was normally a quiet time in that part of the world. The ground was too hard to till. The air was too cold to grow crops. The roads were too icy to invade one’s neighbors. There was little to do except the day-to-day business of keeping up the castle. Even the training of the men-at-arms in the yard was, for the most part, curtailed except for a few hours a week to keep the men in what the king liked to call ‘fighting trim.’

 

As the days grew shorter and the stores of lamp oil grew lower, people took to their beds earlier and earlier. Thus it was that one night, scarce past the seventh bell, most of the castle folk were preparing to adjourn to their rooms or cells or mats in the kitchen, when there came at the thick wooden door to the great hall a raucous clatter. Curious looks were exchanged, and Sarah’s father went, with two other men, to see what was the matter.

 

One of the king’s men was there, shivering in the icy night air. One of the king’s guards he was, one of two who had the misfortune to draw the gate-watching duty for that night. “There is a man,” he said between teeth-chattering shudders, “outside the gate. He seems grave wounded and more than half-frozen.”

 

Weapons were swiftly collected by the men before venturing out into the cold. More than one war had begun and ended on the same night when an act of mercy was rewarded by a swift van of soldiers taking and holding the open gate until the main force of the invaders could arrive. Charity is a gift to the Gods, it was said, but stupidity profits only the Black Lady.

 

The precautions were unnecessary this time, however. The man collapsed outside the gate was alone and unarmed. The king called for the fires, previously banked for the night, to be built up again. The castle chirurgeon came down the stairs quickly, still tying off his night-robe around his frail old body. Curious on-lookers were made to stand back so that the chirurgeon had enough light to ply his craft as he looked over the nearly frozen man. From her place at the balcony over-looking the great hall, Sarah also looked the man over although it is unlikely that she and the chirurgeon saw the same things.

 

What the physicer saw was a man in his mid twenties, suffering from malnutrition, frostbite, and a particularly nasty gash along his left thigh. What Sarah saw was a man in his mid twenties, fair of skin and dark of hair, with a pleasingly handsome look to him and the well-worn clothes of one who has seen much and done more in his time. In short, she saw her One True Love, or so she imagined at the time.

 

“Oh, let him be well,” she whispered softly to herself. Many of the other young women in the castle expressed similar sentiments, and the older women smiled knowingly. If the young man lived, the collective fathers of the castle were in for a rough winter.


 

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And All For Ray

Jennifer and I saw the new Three Musketeers movie on Sunday. It is interesting to me how each retelling of this story chooses to emphasize certain elements and utterly ignore others.

This is inevitable, of course. If every single scene in the book were filmed with utter faithfulness, the movie would be about as long as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As a script writer and as a director, you have to chose what to include and what to leave out when adapting a book to a movie. I’m not explaining a great mystery here, anyone with half a brain can understand this. It is the choices that are made that I find interesting.

It gets even more obvious when you factor in things like changing social norms, and the desire to include a bunch of Steampunk stuff, because Steampunk is cool, right?

Actually, Steampunk is cool. And I can forgive the director, Paul WS Anderson, for wanting to include it. Cannon-mounted airships are cool. That honestly didn’t bother me. I feel fairly certain that if Dumas had ever heard of Steampunk, he would have included all those elements himself. After all, this is a book about guys called Musketeers who actually use muskets maybe once in the entire book (and never in the movie).

This is the first adaptation in recent memory that included the servants. Well, one servant. They sort of rolled them all into one guy. Probably because the movie already ran the risk of having too many people to keep track of. But still, the servant was there. And like the book, Our Heroes treated him like garbage. So that made it in, but the fact that Constance was married did not. I guess modern society can get behind verbally and emotionally abusing hired menials, but not adultery? Yes, the fact that they left the rape scene out surprised exactly no-one, but the adultery thing caught me off-guard.

And poor Aramis. No one knows what to do with him. Other than Jeremy Irons in 1998’s The Man in the Iron Mask, Aramis is usually treated as ‘oh and there’s him too. Isn’t he precious, with his quaint religious beliefs.’ For some reason, almost none of these movie adaptations show off the womanizing lech side of him. Again, I guess modern audiences can get behind the idea of a man leaving the priesthood so he can be violent, but not so he can have sex?

Porthos, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise. For a world still trying to wash the mental images of Oliver Platt and (*SHUDDER*) Gerard DePardu out of their minds, Ray Stevenson’s Porthos was everything the character should be: A sensualist who plays the dumb brute, but is actually intelligent and devastatingly effective at fighting. Of course we ARE talking about Ray Stevenson, so much like Jeremy Irons as Aramis, there was almost no way this COULD go wrong.

The same, sadly, could not be said of Orlando Bloom’s Duke of Buckingham. And it is sad, because if you remove Bloom’s performance from the issue, you can see that the writers did him justice. The character, as written, was every bit as calm, smart, machiavellian, and deadly as the Cardinal. The scene where they just decide to ignore their respective kings and hammer out the peace treaty between them was just as it should have been. But then they turned Bloom loose on the role.

The thing is, he’s not a terrible actor. He really isn’t. He’s just comfortable in certain roles, and this, his big break into villainy and a ‘serious’ role, wasn’t it. He tried way too hard. Every moment on screen was either him playing “Look at Me! I’m EVIL!” or “Look at Me! I’m INTENSE!” and neither worked for the part. Contrast this with Christoph Waltz’ Cardinal Richelieu who was brilliant, and you see why we spent the majority of every scene he was in Rifftraxing his performance in our minds.

And someone, for the love of PETA, release that animal on his head back into the wild.

Amusingly enough, the two ‘big name’ Hollywood stars in the movie, (Bloom and Mila Jovovich as Milady DeWinter) were by far the most awkwardly cast of the ensemble. Everyone else was at least competent at their roles (even Mads Mikkelsen’s Rochefort was adequate if not great). D’artagnan was as bland as that role normally is, and Matthew MacFadyen’s Athos could have read the phone book out loud and we would have been utterly captivated.

I had to caveat “hollywood” stars in that last paragraph before people start telling me about how big a star Waltz is in Germany or MacFadyen is in the UK. They are awesome actors, and the fact that they are starting to break into American consciousness is wonderful (MacFadyen in Frost/Nixon and Robin Hood, Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and Water for Elephants), and I look forward to seeing more of them. But so far, they are not household names in the States the way Bloom and Jovovich are. And oddly, I think the movie would have been better without those two, who seemed like they were cast just so there would be ‘known names’ to try to fill seats in US theaters.

So in all, it was a fun time, not very deep. You won’t remember it years later, and other than the one bit already famous from the trailer, no one will be quoting it decades from now. But it was entertaining, swords flashed, swashes were buckled fiercely, and there were airships. Was it worth the $6 we paid? Yeah. Was it worth much more? Not really.

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Демон

The Monster Inside saw its prey from across the playground and smiled. It began to stalk the sweet, tender morsel.

Donald saw the little angel as she jumped off the swing, the petticoat of her little frock billowing sweetly around her thighs. He licked his lips nervously, glancing around out of habit. A bad one, that, it made him look exactly like the pedophile he was. He would have to break that habbit, he told himself and not for the first time. But the girl was moving, crossing the playground and waving bye-bye to her friends. It was time to hunt.

Donald slowly stood, giving the little blond-haired moppet plenty of time to pick her direction. East, she went, and East he followed. He was careful to keep a good distance, half a block or more. Enough to keep her in sight, but not so close that he actually looked like he was following her. This technique had worked successfully six… no, seven times before. He almost forgot that one in Seattle. She had been so lovely, how could he nearly forget her?

He wondered if they had found her body yet. Not that it mattered, there was nothing to connect him to her. He picked his little playthings at random, and never near his hotel. Just like this little angel.

She turned North and he followed her. His pulse was beginning to quicken, he knew. He tried to keep himself calm. Sweaty, nervous-looking middle aged men in rain coats following little girls tended to stick out in people’s minds. He raked his thinning hair over his pattern bald spot, ordering himself to calm down. As extra insurance, he pulled out his cell phone and pretended to talk into it. Pedophiles never discussed business on phones while hunting, right? Everyone knew that.

The blonde darling skipped a few steps, and then turned and walked down a flight of stairs to the lower level of a tenement. He heard the door shut behind her. No sound of a lock being thrown, and she didn’t call out to anyone. A latch-key kid then. They were the best.

Donald glanced around to see if anyone was looking, and then followed the girl down the stairs. He eased open the door and slipped inside. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the substantially dimmer light inside. The room had clearly once been a laundry room, long since abandoned to that purpose. Graffiti covered the walls. The paint was faded and peeling. A perfect place for the hunt to end.

His little blonde angel was standing near the far wall, facing him. He smiled his most reassuring smile. “Hello little girl. Can you help me?” he edged closer.

“You can help me,” she replied. The lights dimmed and some… thing… emerged from the girl: smoke and shadow and cold, with long claws and teeth like the Reaper’s Scythe.

Donald screamed.

Angie watched impassively until the Monster Inside was done and back within her. She dipped a finger in Donald’s blood and added vertical line to the twelve already present on the wall behind her.  Her dimples appeared as she smiled.

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Blog-Hop 2011

Haley Whitehall is running a blog-hop today. For details, see her site.

Master List

Mike Lyons – https://therebycandlelight.wordpress.com

The Writers Bloc – http://socalwritersbloc.wordpress.com

Jackie Buxton – http://jackiebuxton.blogspot.com

Amber West – http://wosushi.wordpress.com/

TBC’s Recommendations:

Ken Broad – Fictional Campfire

Ozlem Yikici – yikici

Paula Guthat – The Paula Guthat Daily

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