Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Tag: excerpts

Progress from the Fifth Week

I’m sort of burned out from last week.  And frankly, I kind of feel bummed that my efforts came all to naught in the end.  I wrote like a demon until almost the zero hour (you can see my progress under “NaNo Stats” here).  And still, Coeur d’Alene beat my region.  I think it was a combination of complacency (another heroic participant wrote enough for eight and a half people so almost everyone else thought they didn’t have to write as much) and a sense of “it’s done, so I don’t have to do any more.”  Oh sure, our region did manage to beat another neighboring region in the word war, but I felt it was a rather empty victory.  Even though Pullman didn’t win the word war, they did, however, have more people cross the 50k finish line.

And I think, right there, is why despite my efforts at trying to making Nanowrimo an awesome event for everyone, I feel like such a failure as a municipal liaison.  It isn’t about how many words you can write in a day–it’s about actually completing the goal you’ve set for yourself.  There are, of course, people who have legitamitely tried to get to 50k and didn’t make it or those who’ve had real life stuff simply overwhelm them and that cannot be changed.  But then there are those who do not even try.

Some people view writing a novel like some sort of painful artistic endeavor.  They moan about only being able to write in certain locations or certain situations.  It can only be done one way, they think.  And when they get stuck only a few thousand words in, they give up.  And since no one is fawning over their writing skills like they’re the next Hemingway, they figure–what’s the point?  And don’t try again.  My philosophy as a municipal liaison is that I’m there to get people to finish their novels.  Get the work done!  I’m not here to give anyone (probably undeserving) praise.

I see other participants who’ve had crazy things happen to them in November like having babies, having relatives die, work exploding, real life imploding, falling in love, moving across the country, spiraling into depression, having health crises–and yet they manage to finish.  This makes me wonder why other people who have so much more free time and less stress in their lives don’t finish.  So yeah, I sometimes expect more out of people than I really should expect.  Then I get disappointed.  And grumble about it like a cranky old man.

After reaching 90k at the very end of the month, I did not write anything for an entire day.  However, since then, I have been making progress, albeit very slowly.  I’m so close to the end of the story that I feel that it would be kind of a shame to let it languish even before the year is out.

Here are two excerpts from Dining with Small Monsters for the curious:

From Part IXa:

I looked at the vial. A few centimeters away from my face, it finally came into focus. At first, the translator on my eye screen did not respond. But then it started working. The script wavered and then came back into focus in Galactic Standard. “Whale pheromones,” I read slowly.

“What the hell does that mean?” said George.

“I know! I know!” said Vik excitedly. “It means whale pheromones!”

Everyone glared at him.

“Pheromones,” he repeated. “You know, chemical cues. I’ve heard that a lot of cultures use these chemical cues, particularly sexual chemical cues extracted from a variety of animals, as perfumes. The point of it is, of course, to attract the opposite sex if you happen to swing that way. It seems to be pretty popular.”

“I have no use for whale pheromones,” George said as I handed him back the bottle. “No amount of perfume will make me attractive to anyone.”

“Don’t be so down, George,” said Annette. “You just haven’t found the perfect person yet.”

“Everyone says that,” the sensory technician said with a sigh.

From Part IXb:

“Oh for blue’s sake, I am not doing the fucking filming out there,” I pointed out. “I can do it just fine in here. I can maneuver the shuttle’s feeds and adjust for magnification…”

Mot stared at me. “Euphie, you’re coming out here with me. Or else.”

And that was why I ended up suiting up as well. As I attached my holographic recording equipment on my shoulder, the cyborg handed me my helmet.

“Make sure you attach the safety line,” he said. “You have no idea what may happen out there. No one’s been able to study the space whale in depth.”

“No kidding,” I replied.

The jerboa, which was sitting on a ledge along the shuttle wall, gave me an encouraging chirp.

You can read more here.

Progress from the Fourth Week

I passed 50k on Wednesday, just before Thanksgiving.  Fifteen minutes before Thanksgiving Day, in fact.  That was pretty cool.  But does this mean that I can stop?  No way.  My story isn’t finished.  I’m going to keep writing until the bitter end.  Today, I’m going to attempt to finish the section I’ve titled “Main Course” and make a sizable dent on “Side Dishes”.  I really need to get to the section called “Dessert” by Tuesday.

Currently, I am in the middle of the chapter where I’m going to put the zero-g jello scene.  This is also where the cyborg attempts to kiss my main character, she tries to bean him with the jello, and the space pirates show up.  It’s going to be epic.

Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from stuff I’ve written the past week:

From Part Ve:

The tailor then brightened. “What about Brutus? I mean, with the toga and everything, he looks like he could play the part of that backstabbing traitor in that ancient play called Julius Caesar.”

“Julius Caesar?” This time it was Annette frowning. “I’ve never heard of a play called that.”

“It’s by Shakespeare,” I supplied.

“Oh! Right. I know Shakespeare. He’s the one who wrote Beowulf, right?”

I shook my head. “I think you’ve gotten your ancient literature mixed up, Annette.”

“If you say so. Ancient literature wasn’t my strongest subject in school. All I remember about it is that our class got to act out a tragedy and I got to pretend to stab somebody with a fake laser-sword.”

From Part VIc:

As I tried to shake myself from my sudden collision with the vat, I saw Vyne and Mot in the vat of wax. Mot was screaming as the cyborg finally pulled him out. From their waists down, they dripped with the green wax. In the next moment, the secretary android with a couple of other security robots burst into the room with wax extraction equipment in their arms.

“The emergency crew has been contacted,” intoned the android. “Please lie down and stay calm. They are on their way.”

“Calm? Calm?” yelled Mot. “I nearly became a candidate for Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum on Alpha Regulus!”

From Part VIIb:

The server widened her eyes as she observed the blue rodent flip the nearest menu, which happened to be George’s, to one of the pages and point to one of the items listed.    The jerboa squeaked again.

“It’s the second coming of Mukmuk!” the girl exclaimed.  And she promptly fainted.

“Holy marmot!” exclaimed Vik as he grabbed the holographic recorder that he had placed next to him to film the entire thing.  “This is awesome!”

“Is she all right?” asked Annette.  She looked up and waved her arms.  “Hey you over there!  I think we might need a medic!”

From Part VIIc:

“Have you guys checked the message boards last night when the Old Minoan episode aired in most of the Beta Quadrant?  They loved what they call the “pancake scene”.  There are fan sites springing up nearly overnight for Euphie’s pet.  He’s pretty much the star now.  He’s even got fangirls, from the looks of it.”

The jerboa, sitting at my elbow, nibbling on a bit of Minoan waffle and studying a data pad that had a puzzle on it, briefly looked up and chirped.

“This is ridiculous,” said Mot with a snarl.  “A rodent has fangirls and I don’t?”

“Well, you do have a fan site,” said George.  “And some fangirls.”


“But the fangirls are trying to petition for you to go to Gamma Cygnus for the jello wrestling championships.”


You can read more here.

Progress from the Third Week

For those of you just tuning in, I’m currently participating in Nanowrimo or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. In a concentrated burst of crazed writing, I managed to reach 40,000 words yesterday at an afternoon write-in. At the moment, I’m not sure anything is making sense. However, I have finally introduced the double agent character into the story. It’s not very obvious at the moment who he or she is.

The main characters of the story, a documentary team doing a show on food, have reached a space station near a black hole. They’ve timed it to coincide with a festival celebrating the ancient musical genre of techno. Needless to say, there are also some pretty psychedelic comestibles also present at said festival.

Here are some excerpts from the latest chapters:

From Part IVd:

“Oh, I don’t know about that. It may be because the creature has been engineered to be a genius, not because of any deficient brain power on your part. Weren’t you considered a chess prodigy while you were growing up on your homeworld?”

“That fact,” I said, “was supposed to have been expurgated from my records.”

“Expurgation doesn’t stop me when I’m trying to do research,” he replied. “Maybe we could play a game against each other some time. I’ll have you know that I’m pretty good at chess, too.”

“I would be too easy of an opponent for you. But if you’re so sure about your game prowess, why don’t you try playing against genius gerbil yourself?”

“No thanks. I’d rather keep today on the up and up by contemplating ways to wrangle you into dinner rather than getting beaten by a rodent in 3D chess.”

From Part Va:

“Sir,” I said, addressing the chef who was giving me the evil eye, “My involvement in the kitchen will be quite minimal. All I will be doing will be installing some holographic recorders so that we can get some scenes of you and your assistants working in your element.”

The chef did not seem particularly swayed by my explanation. “Art cannot be made with the eye of some authority looking over my shoulder! In the end, it will be the idiotic public who will be scrutinizing the way of the artist. And does the public know anything about art? No! They’re all ignorant about art!”

The lieutenant gave the chef a stony expression. “There are already security cameras in the kitchens so that people are already scrutinizing you and your assistants. The holographic recorders will not be any different.”

“It’s an invasion of privacy!” The chef’s voice, which was already at a loud decibel, rose even higher in outrage at this latest piece of knowledge. “Artists need privacy to create art!”

“Your art ends up being eaten by the public.”

From Part Vb:

That was the simplified explanation that Jardin gave to Mot while they had been talking about the drink. A more complicated and complete picture would have to be explained by a physical chemist.

However, the potency could not explain the men’s change in behavior. According to all the reports about Agoutain wine consumption, drinkers were said to become mellow and more sociable. Relaxed. They weren’t supposed to be unusually energetic. The first sign we got that something had seriously gone wrong was when Kameel abruptly decided to leave the table and pursue an attractive woman on the dance floor. Then Jardin suggested that they go out dancing with the rest of the revelers and Mot had readily agreed. From what Mot had told us during our last crew meeting, he hated dancing. And singing. And that no one, no matter how adamant or high up in the GBC chain of command, was going to coerce him into doing any of these stunts.

But here was Mot, dancing on a table with a light fixture on his head. Vik, of course, kept filming as he kept remarking to me in my ear comm, “This is awesome! Think of the ratings!”

You can read more here.

Progress from the Second Week

I reached “midway” point, that is 25k words, yesterday afternoon.  The story itself is going like molasses.  Probably because I’ve realized that I had planned for more plot than would fit in fifty thousand words.  Oh well.

The story also has developed an unexpected running gag which I’ve called “name the gerbil.”  In an earlier chapter, my main character had managed to acquire a genetically engineered blue gerbil from a contest she didn’t even know she had been entered in.  So far, the main character has resisted naming the gerbil although the other characters have been particularly helpful in suggesting Bob, Balthazar the Terrible, Blueberry, and Killer.

Onward to more ridiculousness.  Here are some excerpts from some of the more recent writing:

From Part IIIc:

“Not everything is a conspiracy, Mr. Zero,” Mot told George. “As far as we know, this is a perfectly innocent gift from the Antarians. What I can’t really figure out is, what is this thing in the middle? It looks like a fruit cake.”

“God, I hate fruit cakes,” Annette replied. “I had a particularly traumatic experience with one when I was a kid.”

“Did you get hit in the head with it?” I couldn’t help ask.

Annette looked at me wide-eyed. “Yes. Of course. How did you know?”

“Because I got hit in the head with one when I was five.”

“Me, too,” said Commander Tautu.

I exchanged meaningful glances with the other women in the room. Fruit cake was a menace.

From Part IIIe:

After carving a hole in the ice boar, the minister took off his gloves and then reached into the chest of the creature to pull out its heart which steamed and dripped blood. The minister was grinning in triumph and holding it up for the holographic projection before directing it toward Mot. “You have the honor of the first bite, Mr. Mot.”

If Mot was green before, he was now positively flashing the color as he looked from the freshly torn heart to the minister’s expectant face. He pointed to himself and then to the heart. The minister nodded encouragingly. He looked briefly at Annette who simply shrugged and mouthed, “Do you want to cause an intergalactic incident?”

Mot visibly swallowed before taking the heart from the minister’s hand. He stared at the heart for a long moment before he closed his eyes and put the organ to his face and took a bite, smearing blood all over his lips and cheeks.

The minister and the other Antarian hunters yelled in approval. Quickly, Mot gave the heart back to the Minister of Defense who took the second bite of the heart with relish.

From Part IVb:

“Can’t handle the capsaicin?” Vyne inquired neutrally, still not looking at me.

“Not when it’s been shoved down my throat,” I retorted.  “What about you?”

He shrugged.  “Most things don’t bother me.  I have nanobots that help neutralize anything harmful that I might inadvertently ingest.  And speaking of ingestion of harmful substances, you might not want to drink too much of that water.”

“What?  What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s heavy water.”

“Holy f—,” I capped the bottle hastily and stuck it back on the ledge near the monitor where I found it.  “The damn thing’s not even labeled.  And why the hell is there heavy water in here anyway?  I would have been guzzling the stuff non-stop to get the spices out of my mouth—enough that the crew would be one less holographic projectionist before the next episode.”

“Mrs. G’pin put the bottles here thinking that we might need a drink while we’re working.  She mentioned that the heavy water was great for growing the engineered heavy watermelons that seem to thrive on this planet.”

“Heavy watermelons?”

The cyborg finally looked up from his data pad with an indulgent look on his face.  As if he thought I was an idiot.  My hands itched to wipe the smirk off his face, but practically, if I tried to do that, I would break every bone in my hand.

Follow along here for more culinary sci-fi insanity.

Progress from the First Week

So the first week of Nanowrimo has come and gone.  I’m keeping up with my word count although I have to point out that for me generally, the first week starts out a bit slow because I’m still feeling out my story line and characters.  This year, I’m letting dares dictate where my story is going and I’m keeping a running tally of all of them that get used here.  This is also the first year that I’m really paying attention to regional word count totals.  Yeah, I guess I should have paid attention before since I’m the municipal liaison, but our region had never been involved in word wars until this year.  Hopefully this bit of friendly competition will keep everyone writing throughout the month.

As for how my story is going so far, um, here are some excerpts.  You can judge for yourself.

From Part IIb:

“That sounds like a paranoid conspiracy theory,” Mot replied dismissively. “It was confirmed by no less than three independent labs with the initial analysis that my ancestor died of food poisoning, particularly by a piece of Gardan goat cheese that went rancid during the dessert course. It was ruled and proved to be an accident.”

George crossed his arms against his chest. “Humph.”

“Never mind about that,” said Vik. “It’s old history no matter what the case. So is that what we’re going to do? Travel around the Delta Quadrant making a documentary about food? Isn’t that going to be kind of boring? There’s only so many ways you can make a holographic projection about cheese. It just sits there.”

“And everyone knows what it smells like,” George added. “It’s not like adding the other sensory aspects of the experience is going to suddenly gain the GBC a new audience. Unless you’re aiming for the geriatric crowd.”

“Are you sure old people can even smell anything in the first place?” said Annette.

“My grandmother can still detect a gas leak within a thousand paces,” I said.

From Part IId:

I waved a hand toward his garishly colored bags. “So it looks like you did some last minute shopping.”

“Cheese,” he replied easily. “Specifically, gouda made from the milk of North Krakenese dairy cows. It’s a delicacy around these parts. They say that it gets better the older it is.”

“Oh? And how old is the cheese that you have now?”

“Well, it’s actually only two months old. But I was hoping to age it myself. I have this arrangement with the captain of The Bacchus to install a special aging compartment on the outside of the ship. Once the hyperdrive goes into action, we’ll have instantly aged cheese!” He punctuated the last word with a movement of his hand that made his shopping bags rustle. “And considering the itinerary that Nigel Mot has planned for us, I will have the opportunity to obtain some much coveted Rillan cheddar. Do you know how much of a delicacy two hundred year old Rillan cheddar is for connoisseurs of fromage? How about two thousand after a bit of faster than light travel?”

Fantastic. I was stuck with a cyborg who was also a cheese fanatic.

From Part IIIa:

“I didn’t know you had a pet!”

“I didn’t either. It arrived unannounced with the rest of my belongings.”

“It looks like one of those animals that I’ve only seen in texts during grade school.” He snapped his fingers. “Ah, I remember. A gerbil, right? Have you already given it a name?”

“Er, no.”

“You should totally call him Bob.”

I had flashbacks to my former co-worker who had fainted on the job. “Bob?”

“Yeah, Bob. It has a certain ring to it. Bob the gerbil.”

The jerboa peeked out from the pocket again and actually stuck its tongue out at Vik.

“See, it even likes the name.”

“I don’t think so, Vik,” I replied. “I am not calling it Bob.”

Vik’s expression fell. But only for a moment. When the door to the lift opened again on the bridge deck, he was smiling again. “Well, if you’re not going to call him Bob, I’m going to call him Bob.”

If you want to follow along the literary train wreck, I’m posting as I go here.