Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Bird Killer (TipsyLit Entry)

I actually had time this week to put an entry together for Prompted. (Pretty excited!)

Typically for prompts I set my story in realistic modern times, but I just couldn't make it work for this one.  Introducing magic was the only way I could keep the story from going dark (not that that's necessarily a bad thing, it just wasn't what I was in the mood to write).

So here you go:

"The Bird Killer"
415 Words

“You shouldn’t be using your magic to kill birds,” Ammie declared firmly.

Kiv jumped, having assumed he was alone.  “It’s none of your business,” he snapped at the wiry ten year old; though he felt an immediate pang of guilt that he’d been caught.

“You killed the chickens last week didn’t you,” she pressed.  “Daddy had to buy more you know.  He wouldn’t have needed to if you hadn’t killed them all.”

Kiv grumbled angrily and turned away.  It had been easy for their father to assume some animal had snuck into the coop and slaughtered the chickens – there’d been enough of a mess for sure.  To avoid suspicion though, Kiv had shifted his focus away from domestic fowl and instead continued to refine his technique by sniping birds off tree limbs.  He could finally do it now without making them explode.  It was wholly satisfying and he hadn’t felt the least bit bad about it until now.

“I’m eighteen,” he declared haughtily.  “I can do what I want!”

“Why are you killing them?” she countered.


“For what?  For killing us?”

Kiv stopped and looked at his little sister, surprised.  He saw in her innocent eyes that she was only being abstractly philosophical, that she didn’t truly believe her brother would murder his family.  Still, he imagined the direction his little games could easily go if he continued and the wind instantly wafted from his sails.

“No,” he replied humbly.  “It was just something fun to do…” and he realized how empty his words sounded.

“You have all that magic and the only ‘fun’ you can think of to do with it is killing birds?” her hands were on her hips now; so like their mother.

The young man smirked and caused a puff of air to kick up a moat of dust in front of his sister.  She sneezed, as he knew she would, and they laughed.

“Well,” he replied.  “What fun do you think I should have with my magic?”

Ammie thought for a moment, giving the matter serious consideration.  Finally she suggested, “Daddy was thinking about felling some trees at the north end of the wheat field.  I bet you could blow them up right at the base and make them fall down easily.”

Honestly he’d never tried using his powers that way but it was in line with how they worked.  “Alright then,” he replied with a chuckle, taking the hand of his ingenious sister.  “Let’s give it a try!”

Monday, May 19, 2014

Totally Not Writing (Life Update)

Ah! I’ve hit that lovely place that every writer knows and dreads: that place where I just don’t want to write.

It’s not for lack of time.  Lately I’ve had a couple hours every evening (apart from Karate nights) where I’m all caught up on Facebook and have some enviable free time.

It’s not for lack of projects either (there’s so many kicking around!).  But once I open a file and try to start working on it I’m like a nine year old picking at their overcooked green beans.  I just don’t wanna!

Still, writing needs to happen so why not a blog post about why I don’t want to write right now?

I honestly think it's because my not-free moments are chocked-full of intensity.  I mentioned Karate and that certainly is a biggie presently.  I’m testing for my next rank on the 27th.  This is after only being back to class for three months after taking nearly a three-year hiatus (shortly after receiving my current rank).  I’ve been bustin’ my ass every Tuesday and Thursday in class as well as any Sunday I’m available for private tutoring getting to a point where I might juuuuust squeak by on this test next week. 

Why even go through all that effort then?
Because my Sensei asked me to and if he thinks I can do it then I’m going to do my best to do it!  

Plus it’s a hell of a lot of fun.  I enjoy challenging my limits (examples of which could easily take up a five-part blog series no doubt! <- which I don’t want to write btw. lol). 
The cherry on top of this flaming pile of “Why?” is that all this hard work has a foreseeable end point: that test next Tuesday.  This means there’s a clearly defined finish line to shoot for.

If I pass, I’ll have my third degree brown belt (yeah!)
If I don’t pass, I’ll have the summer to brush up on my skills some more and try again sometime next school year (these classes are tied in with the local school district – they even take place in the school gym – and are only in session during the school year).

On top of obsessing over Karate, my business partner and I are ramping up our small crafting business.  We got our DBA last Friday and are working on getting our Tax ID Number so we can open a joint business account, wave around a Tax Exempt form when buying supplies, and attend larger craft shows and conventions without being harassed as to whether or not we’re properly collecting and reporting sales tax.

Of course with taking our business to the next level it means we need more inventory, so we’ve been signing up for beading classes and making so many pretties to sell.  It’s certainly raising interest in those around us, and hopefully the floodgates will soon open and we’ll be busy selling things!

Let’s not stop there though!
Said business partner is also helping me plan my wedding which will be happening in the fall.  Fortunately everything is still on target in the planning department, but there’s a lot of ducks to keep lined up and a lot of money will being getting thrown around soon.

Speaking of money, I’m also trying to find a different job!  Not that I don’t like my current employment – I couldn’t ask for a better place to work.  The vector work I do is most satisfying and I never tire of it.  I’m good at it; I’m always improving at it and I’m appreciated.

I’m also making entry-level pay.  For someone whose been in their field for over ten years, who owns a house and will need to replace their car within the next year or two, this is not a good arrangement.

I could make more money as a desk receptionist somewhere (which is what I’m applying for honestly as I can’t seem to find decent-paying work in my field).  Of course I’m trying to get a receptionist position at a medical office as I’d like to go to nursing school at some point and such a job would (in theory) help move me in that direction.

So yeah.  I’m busy.
Though these lovely couple hours at the end of the day really should be devoted to any one of my many writing endeavors, once I close Facebook and stare at attempt number five at the start of my novel, or edits to my Tree Mage story, or yet another week of Prompted on TispyLit, I’m that kid picking at their soggy vegetables.

Can’t I work on something else? I whine inside.
Yes, you just did!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Pooh-Pee Power (Short Story)

I had wanted to participate in Tipsy Lit this week, but my first attempt was steering in a more morbid direction than I wanted to go and attempt number two was getting too preachy for my liking so I bailed on this week's prompt.

Instead I'd like to share with you all a little story I submitted to "Lightspeed" magazine for the "Women Destroy SF" issue.  Sadly it was rejected; but as it was my first real rejection letter I was actually quick thrilled about it!  As I have no further plans for this story I figured I might as well slap it up for for others to enjoy.

It's more speculative fiction than sci-fi.  The intent also was to be satirical but I don't think it swings far enough into the chuckle-realm.  If anything it's a cute idea.  Enjoy!

"Pooh-Pee Power"
Word Count: 1,034

“Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom!” Annette whined.

“Really Annette?” Jackie whined back.  “Can't you hold it?”

“No!” the eight year old declared with a pout.

“Fine,” the frazzled mother sighed, steering her shopping cart over to the nearest wall, wishing Annette would have waited till they were home.

Gone were the days when grocery store restrooms were tucked in the back of the warehouse or in some obscure corner, maintained in questionable states of cleanliness.  Now every business establishment larger than 5,000 square feet had at least one set of gloriously clean, publicly accessible restrooms located along every wall.

You no longer needed to leave your cart outside, you could take right into the stall with you if you so desired.  The contents of one's cart was registered by indifferent scanners before entering and double-checked upon leaving.  Contents could shift around in the cart, but if there was a discrepancy between the two scans, an associate would quickly come over and ask why something was added or removed.  Honestly it was rarely an issue though - people didn't use bathrooms for nefarious purposes anymore.

Jackie led Annette into the spacious ladies room.  She waved her phone over the reader on the nearest stall door and the girl quickly dashed in, leaving Jackie to park her cart in a little nook supplied for such purposes.  The mother flopped herself down on the plush couch next to the nook.  She noticed from the lower placement of the doors on the last two stalls in the row that this store even boasted a couple Eastern-style toilets – nothing more than a hole in the floor with a textured surface on either side so your feet didn't slip when you squatted over it.  This was reportedly a healthier way to relieve oneself than sitting on a pot.  She sighed at the one-upmanship that dominated the toilet industry.

“Are you done yet?” she called to her daughter after a few minutes.  Toilets no longer held water so you couldn't tell if someone was peeing or pooping.  Instead, the said waste products were caught in a beam on the way down and immediately vaporized - turning them into energy.  Yes, the world now ran on “pooh-pee power” – as it was jokingly referred to.

“Yeah,” Annette replied with a little uncertainty.  “There's no toilet paper though.”

Jackie sighed again.  “They're not going to have paper, hon.  There should be a blue button like the bathrooms at school.”

“Found it!”

It was hard for people used to cleaning themselves with toilet paper to give up the habit – Jackie and her family still used paper at home.  You could chuck anything you wanted down modern toilets; anything that wasn't human waste (or menstrual blood) would collect in the bottom of the toilet.  In commercial toilets, the contents would be quietly and instantly incinerated once the stall was vacated – the meager fumes and smoke gently wafted away by a built-in ventilation system.  The collection bucket for home-use toilets however was removable and had to be emptied by hand.  The die-hard toilet paper-users of the world would have their paper cleaned of poo and damp urine once it passed the beam, leaving the discarded paper to fall into the collection bucket, perfectly dry – in theory it was clean enough to use again.  Jackie had never tried that though.

The modern way to clean one's self was to hit a button which turned the beam upward where it would make quick work of any "remains" clinging to one's nether regions.  There was an odd tingling sensation when the beam hit something it could dissolve, but it was deemed safe and no studies had yet to conclusively prove that any harm came from direct contact with the toilet beam.  In fact, Jackie had to reach into a restaurant toilet once to retrieve her dropped phone with no ill affects to her hand or the phone.

“Annette!” Jackie warned after a bit more of a wait

“It's still tingly Mommy!” the girl called back cheerily.

Yet another long-suffering sigh escaped her lips.  “Open your cheeks a little so it can get everything.”  She actually kind of needed to go too, but she was going to wait.  Jimmy was away at summer camp so there was one less person using the toilet at home.  The house batteries were doing fine, but she really hated pulling off the grid any more than they needed to.  She had heard that cases of kidney, bladder and bowel problems were on the rise because people would only use the bathroom in specific locations (like home).

“Done!” Annette announced, leaving the stall and returning to her mother.

“Wash your hands,” Jackie said.

“Why?” the little girl asked, annoyed.

“Because it's a public bathroom; wash you hands!”

Kids weren't even taught hand-washing in school anymore.  There simply wasn't a reason to since hands never got near excrement.  Jackie was old-fashioned though and always insisted.  Sinks were still in bathrooms just in case a woman got some blood on her hands when changing her tampon.  People did still like to wash their hands before and/or after a meal and food prep workers also still needed to wash their hands before returning to work – though Jackie had a feeling that law would die out within the next decade or so.

Once Annette's hands were washed and dried, Jackie retrieved her cart and returned to her shopping.  The one consolation of the detour was she'd get a small discount on her purchase.  Businesses wanted people to use their restrooms as the energy produced went straight towards the onsite power.  Places that used to post signs sternly declaring “Restrooms for paying patrons only”, now displayed cheeky invites like “Get your butt in here”, or “Stop here if you gotta go”, or “We'd love your business after you do your business”.  To encourage restroom use, businesses almost always offered discounts for “contributions” – tracked via people’s phones.  When Jackie paid for her groceries by waving her phone over the payment node at the register, Annette’s use of the stall would take a few cents off Jackie’s total.

Kind of strange how commerce had changed so much because of pooh.