Novum Flash Fiction

I debated whether or not to show this story to the world. Sandoval became a figure far beyond my expectations, in the way characters often do, and as an almost mythical character, his voice had no place in Crucible itself – he existed best through others’ eyes.

When I stumbled across my concept notebook, however, this piece hit me afresh. This is Sandoval’s story.

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“It was a mercy.” The words sounded very far away. “You could have killed far more.”

“That doesn’t make this a mercy!” His voice was tight with grief. “What, because we spared the children—so that tonight, their parents won’t come home to them? The earth is soaked with blood, how is this a mercy?”

“You think because lives were lost, this is monstrous?”

“You think that because it could have been worse, this was mercy?”

“Anyone else would have taken out the city!”

“That doesn’t make this—“

“Benito.” Alex put his hands on Sandoval’s shoulders. “They started it, they rebelled, and you crushed their army without killing civilians. Whether you want it or not, you’re going to be a hero.” He stooped to look into Sandoval’s eyes. “I think you are. I do—”

“No,” Sandoval said, but his friend did not stop.

“—Yes. And when you get back to Delphi, you’re going to have to take your damned medal and make a speech and shake hands. Yes, you are. This is going to be one for the history books.”

The tentative smile died when Sandoval hefted his pistol. He thought he was going to choke. He could see the parade in his mind’s eye, and the strong handshakes of the commanders past their prime, reduced to snatching glory from another man’s brutality. They’d praise him. Alex was right, and right now the only thing he could think now was to put a bullet in his brain—as if, knowing he’d done that while looking at the battlefield, they might see, somehow, a piece of the horror. As if they might ever see this differently.

Mercy. Oh, god, he was going to be sick. The gun was shaking in his hand, slick with sweat.

Forty years later, he would still sleep with the same pistol on his nightstand, and in the mornings he would hold it and consider—and know that the moment was past. He’d lost his chance.

*******

-M

Novum Release Week, Day 1!

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Hello, and welcome to release week for Crucible!

Over the course of this week, we will be releasing character artwork and short stories to set the scene for the world of Novum! Today, we’re launching into things with character artwork over at Joseph Lallo’s blog, and a short story here, exploring the origins of the colony at Guan-Yu.

Until Friday, you can tide yourself over with a free excerpt available on Amazon here!

*****

Seed Colony: noun; one of the “non-intervention” colonies prepared for under the Vargas Treaty of 3128, which laid out several programs intended to safeguard humanity from war, disease, or accident. Each colony consists of a fully terraformed planet devoid of non-human sentient life, stocked with a viable population of volunteers. Volunteers consent to have memories blocked at the beginning of the experiment, and will be unaware both of their coordinates and of their participation in the project. These colonies are under military protection until such time as they develop spacefaring capabilities, and the coordinates of all seed colonies are classified. Intervention in a seed colony is considered treason against human interests.

      Joceyln,

They told me they’re only sending one transmission home, so I’ve been saving this up. We’ll be heading home soon, so there’s no point in putting it off much longer. I’ll tell you how things end up when I get back, but not much is going to change from here on out. We’re already starting to pack up; the tent village looks deserted.

I miss you terribly, I’ve been gone so long, but to be honest I can’t imagine leaving this place. I looked back at my journals and I spent the first few weeks complaining about the heat, but it started to feel normal at some point, I guess. It gets into your blood. I don’t know if you remember Nana’s house, back when Keeling was still a new settlement. You went out and played in the dirt and Papa yelled at you and said you’d get some disease. It’s like that here—we’re supposed to be very careful about quarantine, but there’s only so much you can do (and anyway, the people are going to introduce all sorts of microbes, there’s no way to do a full wipe of their systems). So after a while we stopped worrying about shoes and masks and…well, I guess I’ve just gotten used to the feel of dirt between my toes. The sun bakes into the earth all day and then the heat radiates back into your feet all evening, even when the air is cold.

Water is precious here, in a way I didn’t understand before. In a station, it’s all rations, you know? Purification systems. Here, the water goes into the land. Sometimes when you walk near the river, you can see new plants poking out of the ground. The break up through the earth, little spindly stalks but it’s strong enough, and then they unfurl. There was a week when I would come back every day to check on one of the plants. The botanists said it was just a weed, but it looked so strong and delicate at the same time, unbelievably green in this land of sand and hot winds.

I go for walks by the river at night, the sound is very soothing. You can walk, and walk and walk. It is an incredible luxury to be able to walk without anywhere to go; I have to be careful now that they can’t see me from the settlement camps, but other than that, I can go anywhere. No hallways. I’m going to miss open sky. Sometimes I think about running away and living in the hills. I know I couldn’t do it… I’d never make it here, it’s too harsh.

I’m so afraid for the people we’re leaving. We’re supposed to accept everything that’s going to happen, you know? But I can’t. I think they knew that. They told us before we came here that leaving would be the most difficult part, and they were right. Last night we named the planet: Guan-Yu, after a Chinese general from Old Earth.

None of it seems real most of the time, and then other times it does seem real and like a terrible mistake. Only sometimes, when I’m not thinking about it, I get this rush of wonder—it’s such a strange feeling, to have seeded a planet, so full of power, creating life! I told Simon that I felt like a god, and he laughed at me. I do, though. It’s this terrible sense of responsibility, like I should make sure they’ll all be safe, and of course they won’t be if I do my job correctly. I have to make sure that they’ll be in enough danger, and that the conditions are adverse enough, that they will start to develop technology.

We picked where to leave them right away when we got here: a harsh patch of earth with the river running through. Nearby, across a narrow strait, is a land of incredible fertility. You would not believe your eyes to see it! It is more green than I have ever seen in my life. The air smells sweet with flowers, and we found fruit trees and cereal grains. There is something like a gazelle, and we had a close call with one of the dogs that stalks them! It’s beautiful, and I hope the settlers get there someday.

But they can’t start there, they’ll be starting out somewhere less welcoming. Warm, of course, and the mountains will keep out some of the worst weather. Remember Ewing’s Conjecture, that I kept talking about before I left? It’s the one that says a society will develop technology most quickly if forced by adverse stimuli, but I keep having these nightmares that we used it incorrectly. There was a failed colony on a planet called Treherne, very cold, that proved that there’s a limit to it. They didn’t make it two generations. No one talks about it, but we’ve all been thinking about that one. And a thousand other things could go wrong, meteor strikes or some disease or something, but it would be so much worse to know that all these people could die from something I did.  I don’t know how I could ever live with that.

And I’ll never know, anyway. That’s what gets to me. It will take thousands of years to know that for sure. What if we’d chosen the coasts? What if we’d dropped them off in the green lands? I’ll never know that, and I’ll never even know the results of the choices I did make, and the ones I didn’t. When they do come back, in a few years, they’ll just scan from space—and hundreds of lives will be passing underneath, so much more than just life forms on a scanner. So much more. To anyone else, it will just be numbers. It has become more, to me. To all of us.

Leaving will be a lonely business, like I’m leaving a part of my soul. The people we’ve dropped off don’t know our names anymore—of course, they don’t know their own, either—and I feel such mingled hope and sorrow to leave them here like this. They all agreed of course, just as you kept reminding me before we left. We made them sign three times, after all of the disclosures and telling them about the survival rates and everything, and we even asked again when we got here. They still said yes. I asked some of them why they were coming—strictly against regulations, but I know Simon did, too—so I know what some of them were running from. Harsh as it is, this land is kinder than some parts of occupied space. That’s all I’ll say.

Some of them wanted to come, they had everything and they gave it up. Those were the ones that touched me. A few just wanted adventure, but one of them said that this was the future of humanity. He was very calm about it, and he thanked me for my work. Right then I felt so young, like I didn’t know a thing about what I was doing, just throwing these people out into the world. Like there was no way to know what could come of it but I was doing something…big. I don’t know, I don’t have words for it. It felt like it mattered, so much, and I was walking blindly, changing the world in these vast ways and not even understanding it. I’ve had trouble sleeping since then. Sometimes I wake up from dreams of what will happen here, and I can never remember them…

Anyway, they all made their choice. And I have my journals to remind me why this is important, why we need to do this. Of the choices I made before I knew what it meant.

But there’s so much for them to learn, and now they seem so helpless! What if in a few years, they would regret it? I know what they’ll be facing: poisonous plants, predators, disease. Most of them won’t survive, and I keep thinking we just didn’t explain that well enough. They will try to cross the strait eventually, or venture up into the north, and they’ll lose so many when they do. I feel responsible, knowing that I have put them here. They are humans, and humans have unquenchable curiosity, an absolute desire to go searching, even into danger. I’m letting them go into danger.

But I feel so much hope, too—I really think they can flourish here. Who can say what technologies they’ll build, what they’ll discover that we could never have known? I have to keep thinking about that. Someday, far in the future, we might all be gone, destroyed by our wars, and these people might flourish far away from all of that. They’ll grow, not knowing anything about us, and venture out into the stars on their own…

It’s late, I should go to bed. I miss you, and I wish you could be here to see this. (You’d hate it here, I know.) I’ll be home soon—a few months in transit, but we leave the week after next. Nothing more to say, I guess. I hope you liked your birthday present.

Love, Eleni

******

Gentle Readers –

I hope you enjoyed this first foray into the world of Novum! Stay tuned for more. For now, you can add Crucible on Goodreads here, and (if you have not already) sign up for the mailing list here.

-M

The Reading List (and News!)

Fullcover_for_internetA poll! Right off! If you had your choice of the following to be revealed first for Novum, which would you pick?

  • Cover
  • Character Artwork
  • Music

Leave a comment, and next Monday, the group vote wins!

Moving onwards, your friend neighborhood author has dived into a pile of books with wild abandon. First Earth’s Last Citadel, then Consider Phlebas, The Headmaster’s Wife, and Seating Arrangements. On my kindle now are The Privilege of the Sword, The Martian and How Not to Write a Novel!

I’ve got a varied and wondrous pile of things to work through in the near future, including:

…and that’s only a sliver! I’m also playing through Halo and Titanfall, as well as FFVI and FF Tactics, and have been told to watch Sherlock, Orphan Black, and Modern Family. (One of these things is not like the others, but I love me some comedy!)

As for the news …

Yours truly is working on the story and dialogue for a videogame! My goodness, yes! For now, the details remain deliciously mysterious, but there will be a blaze of concept art, story fragments, and gameplay demos coming along in the next couple of months. Stay tuned!

-M

Updating-ness

writers are not normal

Hello, Gentle Readers, and welcome to a new week!

A few updates for you, and assorted coolness from around the web…

Comments, questions, concerns? Queries about Novum?

-M

NaNoWriMo

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I admit, I’m having an incredible amount of fun with NaNoWriMo. It was only two or three weeks ago that I was feeling very derisive and smug. Ha! I thought. NaNoWriMo. That’s every month for me! So, that’s a very short turnaround. But then, writers can be fickle.

Truth to tell, NaNoWriMo inspires a lot of strong emotions, and you may be hearing contradictory messages about whether it’s a good or bad thing. So I’m taking some time when I really should be finishing my manuscript (due for professional critique by December 20th) to tell you a bit about my experiences.

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As with any other writing tool, part of NaNoWriMo is about choosing what works for you–very rarely do all of the rules work for anyone. Rules I am breaking include: starting a new piece in November (I was many months of planning and a few thousand words in at the start of the month, so November is about me getting down a middle 50k of words), writing without editing, and probably others I have not read all the way through.

The ideal of the program is to get things down on paper (or word processor) without letting that little downer voice in your head, well…get you down. This is, on the one hand, a very fine plan. I have never seen a quote from a career novelist to the effect of, “I like my first drafts.” A first draft is the exhausting process of flailing around with words until you find one gem of a sentence, and then starting all over again. A lot of it will be crap. A great deal of it will seem almost right, and your inability to find the right words will drive you crazy. So “just write and write and write and write” is a very good starting point. You may (and in fact, probably will) stumble across some incredibly cool plot point or turn of phrase, but at the very least, you’ll learn things about writing that you can only learn from experience. This brings us to our first point: No time spent writing is wasted.

novum quote 2

However, the imperative to write must balance with good storytelling. Venturing forward with a gaping plot hole in my wake feels like walking on rotten floor boards: eventually, everything will come tumbling down. A poorly-written passage may nag at you. Do not honor the mandate of, “write in November, edit later” above the mandate of storytelling. If you want to edit something, go right ahead. Just avoid Perpetual Revision Land, where you obsess over the same five passages, continue to hate them, and get nothing else done. It’s bleak in Perpetual Revision Land. No one likes it there. The problem is, it’s surprisingly difficult to extricate yourself once you get there. Remind yourself frequently that when the first draft is completely finished, you may have new ideas about how to edit these pieces. So point the second: Edit, but don’t obsess (yet).

An unexpectedly cool part of NaNoWriMo for me was the community aspect. Many writers, myself included, can be solitary people by nature. NaNoWriMo gives you a group of people cheering you on, offering advice and encouragement when you get stuck, and in general, being passionate about writing. This can be very heartening. Point the third: A good writing community is gold.

The fourth point is so important that it comes at the start of the paragraph: Write. Write joyfully, write with meaning, write when you don’t want to write, carve out time to write.

So should you do NaNoWriMo? If it helps you write, sure. Just have fun with it.

-M

Welcome, Fussy Librarian Readers (and an update)!

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Welcome!

If you are here from the Fussy Librarian, thanks for stopping by, and take a look around!

For those of you who have not yet heard of the Fussy Librarian, it is a daily book email…with a twist! Not only do you tell them about the genres of books you enjoy, but also the levels of profanity, violence, and sex you are comfortable with. Also, that name is genius. You can sign up by going to www.thefussylibrarian.com

Now, an update: one of the best, but also most infuriating, talents for writers is the ability to know when the story is…lacking. After plotting out the Novum trilogy, I could not shake that feeling, and I have spent about a week at this point re-focusing each plot line, adding in or taking out elements until each one is not only super cool, but ends with a bang and not a whimper! I am extraordinarily pleased with the result, and I hope you will be, too, in a few months.

Shadow’s Reach is in its final stages! Look for an email sometime next week to tell you it’s been released!

I am working on the next Author Feature – if you have any requests, leave a comment below.

I hope fall (or spring, for readers in the southern hemisphere!) is going smashingly, gentle readers!

-M

Update: Novum, Indie Authors, and Shadow’s Reach!

Shadows Reach for Email

Hello, Gentle Readers!

I have a few absolutely wonderful updates for you!

  • Novum is beginning to get into gear: characters coming into focus, obsessive bolting awake at night to jot things down… I will be keeping you all up to date here, on Facebook, and over on twitter as well. You can follow the hashtag #NovumTrilogy if you want to see where I am in the story!
  • There will be a new feature coming up on the website shortly: indie author features! In the lull between Shadow’s Reach and the Novum Trilogy, I will be featuring other authors and their works, so that you hand-picked recommendations of things to read! I have three features lined up for the coming weeks, and if you have an author that you would like to see featured, let me know and I can reach out to them!
  • As you can see above, Zezhou has come up trump again on another beautiful cover, this time for Shadow’s Reach, a series of short stories set in the Light & Shadow universe!
  • Speaking of Shadow’s Reach, the tentative release date is October 21 – don’t worry, I’ll send an email! (This would be a good opportunity to sign up for the mailing list. I will absolutely only send you Cool Things.)

I hope your weeks are going well!

-M