February 28, 2008

The Strangest Trip

Yesterday, one of my nightmares came true. It wasn’t so bad.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of heights. My first memory that I can date happened when I was two and involves being terrified of a long, open flight of stairs. I’ve worked on it, and it rarely gets in my way anymore, but it’s still there, lurking.

About five years ago, I took a job in a tall building. I’ve never worked somewhere where I’ve had to use the elevator before, so I’d never noticed how much I avoid them. I thought taking the stairs was just a health choice. But five years is plenty of time to notice how my stomach drops when the door opens before the floors are quite lined up or when the elevator lurches into motion instead of accelerating smoothly. It’s plenty of time to ponder all the ways in which elevators can misbehave, plenty of time to dwell on being trapped in a misbehaving elevator, to imagine how terrifying that would be.

Yesterday, it happened. Someone got out of the elevator on the twentieth floor, the floor below mine. The doors closed unusually quickly (greedily, I thought) and I had it all to myself for the long ride down. I reached the first floor without incident, as usual. Then the door didn’t open. Then the elevator started going up again, back to the twentieth floor. The doors still didn’t open.

That was when the really stunning thing happened. I didn’t panic. I clearly and rationally decided that if the elevator was going to move again without letting me off, I wanted to be in charge of where it went. I pressed the first floor button again. We went back down. (Yes, the elevator was a person by then--not a very nice person, but a person.) Since the buttons were still responding to me, I held my finger poised over the door open button. As soon as we registered being on the first floor, I leaned on it. The door opened and I got off. The end.

It was so anticlimactic that I completely forgot to warn the guy waiting that he might want to keep waiting for a different elevator. I did realize I should tell the security guard, so I did. Then I left. I waited for the reaction, but it never caught up to me. No shakes, no hyperventilating, no nothing. Not then. Not later. Weird.

I know the outcome was good and all, but I have the strangest case of cognitive dissonance right now.

February 21, 2008

The Good Life

Yesterday I wrote five hundred of the hardest working words I've ever strung together. I left a document open in the background and dropped in a line or two whenever I was waiting on a remote database. I added more at lunch, made some important decisions while sitting in a training session that turned out to be mostly review, and stayed a little late to finish and clean it up.

It's not quite as brilliant this morning as I thought it was yesterday, but it's still a good story. Even at that length, it's only superficially simple. Some of the language hits directly at the reflexes. Backstory is hinted at but left largely to the reader. There is conflict without a villain. I'm a happy writer.

Then I got to lie on the floor upstairs with Ben and watch the lunar eclipse. How does it get better than this?

February 14, 2008

Fun With Marines

If you know an officer or NCO in the Marines, here's a fun trick. Ask to see his sword. Look over the scabbard, then pull the blade out a bit. Hold it up to the light and take some time to admire how pretty it is. Then let your eyes wander to the point where the blade meets the guard and frown. Making sure you can see the fellow, say, "Dude, your sword wasn't even made in the U.S.!"

Then you can sit back and watch his face as justifiable pride in owning a lovely piece of Toledo steel wars with finely honed patriotism. It's quite the sight to see.

February 10, 2008

Top 10 Signs You're Reading My Fiction

This is one of the cooler memes I've seen. It started on Fangs, Fur, & Fey and propagated on Wyrdsmiths. The original was specific to novels, but until I've finished another, it will be difficult to generalize about mine. This post includes my short stories.
  1. The main character is not integrated into their society. Yes, this says a lot about me.
  2. You won't see a lot of central romance. The romance you will see is usually more a flag for a change in outlook. This says much less about me, except, perhaps, that I don't equate romance with drama. What can I say? I'm happy.
  3. Fear is a greater motivator than danger, and there are lots of things scarier than death.
  4. Work and economic circumstances are a strong presence in the story and may drive the plot.
  5. The past often plays a larger role than the present.
  6. Narrators (and close POV characters) are sort of reliable. That is, they won't lie to you, but their outlook is limited or their focus narrow.
  7. Characters are not all able-bodied and -minded.
  8. Families, if relevant, are small and have frequently been pared down by circumstance.
  9. Someone is going to discover that their deeply held beliefs about the world aren't so much wrong as based on incomplete information. This will be critical to the resolution of the plot.
  10. Reading over this list, it seems a little grim, but the endings of most of my stories are cheerful, triumphant or both.