The Last Drop

The following piece started life as an exericise in mood, atmosphere, and tone.

I’m waiting for some first readers to get back to me on it. One first reader offered, “I got a sickening chill when I got to the end.”

Hurray! I won!

Let me know what you think.


The Last Drop


People use to come from miles around to watch my father pour gas. He could pour gas through the eye of a needle into a siphon-tank without spilling a drop. They’d come, their near empty gas cans on the back of their buckboards, the cans braced all around so they wouldn’t fall over, spill, slosh around.

There were special gas pouring days back then and dad was the only one in our country who had a license to pour.

It was a wondrous thing to watch. He’d put one can on the ground in front of him, walk around it a few times, maybe put his hands on his hips or cross them over his chest and lift one hand to stroke the stubble on his chin, considering. Real difficult pours, he’d get down on his knees and hands, put his head down at ground level, looking around the can, checking for balance; would the can teeter as it filled? Would it slide as it neared full?

Then he’d start with a single, small, drop. A “test drop,” he’d call it. Everybody held their breath. He’d check the neck of the can after the test drop, make sure there was no spillage.

Warm days were the worst. Everybody’d have to stand back lest the fumes got inhaled. Couldn’t have that. Other pourers weren’t as careful as my dad. The fumes would escape and everybody’d have to go see the magistrate, explain what happened. Why weren’t proper precautions taken? My father never had to face that, never had to worry about asking the community to make a decision; make them decide what value would this person bring us? Is their contribution moving forward worth the gasoline fumes now resting in their lungs, in their blood? We can extract the fumes, reconstitute the gasoline, but the person would die.


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To-ing and Fro-ing

We’re going to build on elements from Using One-Line Summaries to Write Better Stories and Flashback as Story Frame to deal with another story challenge that often leads editors and publishers to stop reading and reject a story: To-ing and Fro-ing, something I first wrote about in Quit Stage Directing.

Simply put, To-ing and Fro-ing occurs when the writer/author has their characters move around or do things for no real story purpose; there’s no character development, no character revelation, the atmosphere doesn’t change, no plot elements are furthered or revealed, the movement is irrelevant to any established or impending plot points, the movement is unnecessary to the dialogue, et cetera.

The end result is weak writing, exposition, narration, and lots of uninteresting things happening just to fill the page. Most writers/authors fall down on “movement is unnecessary to the dialogue.” They’ll have two or more characters talking and feel the characters should be doing something while they talk.

The desire to have characters do something while talking is good, the execution is usually poor, and now we’re dealing with attribution via action which I’ll cover in another post.

Eating my own dogfood
I’m currently editing Cicatrix, a work-in-progress last picked up and put down in late Feb 2019.

What follows is the ninth scene in the story. I’ll share the scene’s original form first with brightly colored “Problems” buttons after each weak paragraph. Click on the “Problems” buttons for examples of that paragraph’s problems. Next I’ll share share a rewrite with brightly colored “Solutions” buttons. Click on the “Solutions” buttons for explanations of why the rewrite is better.

PS) this is more for my edification than yours. Feel free to disagree. Please make sure you explain your disagreement and offer suggestions for improvement. Always happy to learn, me.


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“Owen and Jessica” now on The Yard: Crime Blog

Subscribers may remember Owen and Jessica from previous posts. It’s a flash piece and always got laughs and applause when I read it publicly. I shopped it around, got lots of excellent comments from editors (who always asked to see more of my work) and no bites until this week.

 
Owen and Jessica was a fun, quick write that required little editing.

Blood gathered in the whorls of his thumb. He stared at it and chuckled before licking it clean.

 
It came out pretty much fully formed.

That’s an author’s way of saying “It only took twelve rewrites.” Most of the rewrites were for timing and tension; change a word here or there. One major (and important, me thinks) edit came late to the game; I added the third and fourth paragraphs from the bottom, from “He stood over…” to “…didn’t fit.”

Let me know what you think.

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Enjoy!

Litcon 2021 World Building Panel with Science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, dystopia, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, and Liz Tuckwell

 
Enjoy the panel discussion. Information on the participants is below.

 
Continue reading “Litcon 2021 World Building Panel with Science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, dystopia, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, and Liz Tuckwell”

(Video published – see link below) Join science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, special guest alt-history and dystopian author Liz Tuckwell and myself in a two hour talk on #worldbuilding this Saturday, 6 Mar 21, noonET on Facebook

UPDATE: You can watch the panel discussion at both Litcon 2021 World Building Panel with Science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, dystopia, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, and Liz Tuckwell and YouTube


Watch it live Saturday, 6 March 2021, noonET on Facebook!

 
About Minnesota based Claudia Blood
The Relic Trilogy – Which is YA sci-fantasy (or soft sci-fi)
Book 1: Company Assassin
Book 2: Horizon Found
Book 3: Time Rift — Goes live March 15th

 
About PEI based Geoff Genge
Terra Obscura series
My genre is alt-history/steampunk/sci-fi. What can I say… I’m complicated.
I like romantic dinners, stiff drinks, and long walks down abandoned country roads. Ya’know… since you asked.

 

About Temecula based Theresa Halvorsen
heresa Halvorsen has never met a profanity she hasn’t enjoyed. She’s generally overly-caffeinated and at times, wine-soaked. The author of multiple spec-fiction works, including Warehouse Dreams and River City Widows, in addition to various short stories and non-fiction articles, Theresa wonders what sleep is. Because she didn’t have enough to do, she also started No Bad Books Press with S. Faxon and edits for other spec fiction writers.), Theresa enjoys board games, geeky conventions, and reading. Her life goal is to give “Oh-My-Gosh-This-Book-Is-So-Good!” happiness to her readers. She lives in Temecula with her amazing husband, occasionally her college-age twins, and the pets they’d promised to care for.

 
About Lyon, France based F. Stephan
I have now 4 science fiction books in the same universe
The first two will tell you of Brian’s path to become a fully qualified starpilot and to overcome his worst fears
The third brings you back to Earth and the first trading space station above it, unsupported by the planet below
The fourth introduces you to a new character. She is forty, her birth has been deleted from the databases by the Federation until now and suddenly she has to find out what happened then.
I have pushed back the anthology of short stories
I am writing a fantasy book, set up in an alternate roman-styled world. When Giants attacks Antiago’s ally and northern border, General Torkal has only one choice. Step in. But the Giants are only the first threat he faces. We follow Allus Vernal, Scout Master of the First Legion, protegé of the General, from reconnaissance to battles, from throne rooms to secret fortresses

 
About North East England based C.G. Hatton
I write fast-paced action adventure military scifi (Thieves’ Guild), far future, galaxy at war, lots of intrigue, character-driven, complex, six books in main series, two so far in YA origins series set ten years before the main drama, new book out in April is the 3rd in that origins series…
Also editor of the Harvey Duckman Presents series of scifi, fantasy, steampunk and horror short story anthologies…
Background is degree and PhD in geology, worked at Durham Uni for five years, worked as a journalist, sub editor and editor on local newspapers for six years or so… started Sixth Element Publishing in 2009… mentor writers, run writing workshops, edit work, publish stuff… did some other stuff here and there

 
And from Special Guest alt-history and dystopia author Liz Tuckwell
I have written one dystopian short story and I’ve written several alternate history fantasy short stories about an alternative Rome. And a urban fantasy novella.

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