Friday, May 25, 2012

Mai -- Episode 4. A serial story

Part 4 in the ongoing tales of Mai. Enjoy it. Let others know about it. Spread the love.

Episode 4
Yun crawled back into his cot. His feet hung over the edge and pushed a bump into the curtain. He looked at the ceiling and the venting that ran over his head. He listened to the air rush through the sheet metal tubing. He listened to the engines of the cargo hauler rumble. Only one was running, best as Yun could tell.
“Why run both?” he said to no one. “There’s not enough cargo on board to require the extra power.  Save fuel.”
That’s what his uncle would have told him. It’s what his uncle had taught him. Save. It didn’t matter what it was. Save. Always.
It was a lesson a much younger Yun had learned over dinner. Mai splurged. A big sale to a man looking for the big guns left a little extra money in his pocket. He called to his nephew as he climbed the hill when the sale was complete.
“Yes, uncle,” Yun shouted down to his uncle after Yun had scampered from the tent he’d been playing in.
He started to run down the hill. He was a 5-year-old tangle of under-coordinated arms and legs at the time. A soiled white t-shirt covered his top. A pair of tan shorts covered his bottom. Nothing covered his feet.
Mai smiled as the boy stumbled toward him and he stopped walking. He knelt down and stuck his arms out in front of him to catch his nephew. A wad of bills was still in his right hand.
Yun fell into his uncle’s arms and Mai scooped him up and hugged him to his chest.
“Tonight,” Mai said through a smile, “we eat chicken.” Yun copied his uncle’s happy face and cheered. He banged his hands together and Mai put Yun back on the ground.  Yun ran ahead of his uncle and reached blindly into the tent that they shared. He pulled out a pair of worn shoes. He sat on the damp ground, slipped them on his feet, and was back standing by the time Mai made it to the tent.
“Ready,” the eager little boy said.
“What about this?” Mai asked and touched the dirt stains that were across the front of his nephew’s shirt.
Yun pulled the shirt off, its neck hanging up on his ears.
“Ready,” he said, his shirt in his hand and hanging at his side.
“No,” Mai said. “Not yet. You do have to wear a shirt.” Mai was changing his own clothes.
Yun scampered under the canvas side of the tent and dug in a crate where he kept the few changes of clothes he had. He came back out a moment later in a wrinkled blue tank top. Mai smiled.
“Still not great, but it’ll do,” he said.
Yun banged his hands together and asked, “Can I go to the boat?”
“You can go down to it,” Mai said, “but don’t get in it. You know you wait for me before you get in.”
“Yes, uncle,” Yun said as he ran off down the hill.
Mai reached into the tent and grabbed a pair of sandals he kept by his bed roll. His good sandals. He put them on his feet, shoved his large roll of cash into the pocket on his best robe, and ran off after his enthusiastic nephew.
After getting Yun and himself settled into the small boat he kept roped to the rocks near shore, Mai yanked hard on the cord of the small motor at the back of the boat. It sputtered to life and the little boat pulled slowly away from the shore.
Yun worked his way to the bow and got up on his knees.
“Careful,” Mai shouted of the motor. “Sit on your bottom, please.”
Yun dropped to a seated position.
“Thank you.”
Once the boat was out of the cove of the island, Mai pointed it toward the lights in the distance. The City of Lights. He gave the little motor more gas and listened to it whine its disapproval. Mai didn’t like being out in the open water with the small boat and this small engine. The boat slowly picked up speed and the wind that rushed across Mai and Yun was cold. Yun dropped to his stomach and did his best to get below the sides of the boat and out of the cold.
Mai smiled at his nephew, and Yun waved to him.
“A few more minutes,” Mai shouted over the engine and the wind.
Yun nodded and smiled.
Minutes later Mai brought the engine to almost a full stop and Yun got back to a seated position. The darkening sky was lit by fireworks and the embers were crashing all around them. The water sizzled. Yun stared up, all of his focus on the explosions of color above him.
“You’re missing it,” Mai said to the boy.
“No, I’m not.” Yun turned back to his uncle.
“Oh, yes you are.” Mai pointed across the bow of their little boat.
Yun looked up to see a massive structure right in front of him, dipping and bobbing on the waves of the harbor.
It was built out of dark wood with four massive masts. From each of the masts popped three sails made of a deep red fabric. And on each of the main sails on each of the masts was sewn a black, coiled snake ready to strike.
Yun jumped to his feet and clapped and cheered the ship’s passing. He recognized the symbol of the rebels.
“On your bottom,” Mai shouted.
Yun dropped to a seated position and turned to his uncle and asked eagerly, “Do you think they’re on there? My mom and dad. Are they on that ship?”
“It’s possible,” Mai said, even though he knew the chances were remote. His sister would never make it on a boat. There was a better chance she was holed up in the hills somewhere coordinating an offensive strike. Huddled in a tent, a blanket wrapped around her, and studying some lines on a map.
Yun watched and waved at the ship. A few of the men on the deck waved back.
Mai fed the motor on the back of the boat a little gas and his small craft made its way into the harbor. He was dwarfed by all the other boats. Even if they weren’t as big as the massive rebel boat, they still made him small. Their sails extended and puffed from the breeze. He steered his way to the docks on the shore and threw his line to one of the men waiting there.
The man caught it and tied Mai’s boat securely to the dock. The man lifted Yun out of the boat and offered Mai a hand. Mai gave the man a fresh dollar for his trouble and the man smiled. He nodded his thanks.
“We’ll be quick.”
The man nodded again.
Mai took Yun’s hand and they walked to the market just up the hill from the dock. It was an aisle with booths on both sides. Women selling fruits, vegetables, and fresh meats. Halfway down the aisle was an open space where pots of food were cooking over open fires. Smoke disappeared into the night sky through a hole that was cut in the roof.
Large lights hung over every other booth and bathed the whole place in a bright glow. The ladies working the booths all smiled and waved at Yun. He waved back. The woman selling spices held out a stick of candy for Yun to take. He looked up at Mai before accepting her offer. His uncle nodded, and Yun snatched the candy from her hand.
“Good evening , Mai” said the women behind the booth. Carrots, potatoes, and turnips were displayed in front of her. “Hello, Yun.”
“I think we need six carrots, two turnips, and three potatoes tonight,” Mai said. “You think three potatoes is enough, right, Yun?”
The boy smiled and nodded, still holding on to the end of the candy sticking out of his mouth.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Million-year-old methane is invading the atmosphere

Am I the only one who finds this headline disturbing? The arctic is farting ancient methane into the atmosphere. Click the link and read it. It's short. Shouldn't take long.

I know. Methane, like from cow farts and all that. Ha ha. Funny.

But seriously. Million-year-old methane is escaping back into the atmosphere. This is methane that's been steeping for a million years. Like a teabag that sits in a cup of hot water for an hour, I'd say there's a better than zero chance that what's escaping is super-powered methane.

Even if there's nothing different about this methane, there's got to be a story here. Like along side this escaping methane was some sort of zombie super virus. That's what really killed the dinosaurs and now it's coming for us. BOM BOM BOOOMMM.

Someone let a thriller writer know. We need them to get on that.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What makes you feel old?

I saw this collection of items on Buzzfeed last week, 48 Things That Will Make You Feel Old.

I'll be honest. There's nothing on that list that makes me feel old. Most of it was culturally significant long after I stopped caring about stuff like that. Most of it is from the 1990s. I graduated from high school in the early years of that decade. I'm a child of the 1980s.

That reminds me. I read or heard an interview with Britney Spears years ago. She said that she grew up in the 1980s. No, you didn't. You were born in 1981. Your formative years were in the 1990s. Just because you and your parents choice of career stole most of those years from you doesn't make it less true. There are quite a few of us who were lucky to grow up in the 1980s. And I'm serious about that. The 1980s were a fantastic time to be a kid.

Anyway, give me a minute to put away my mini soapbox. My point here, is that I'm 38 and none of the things on that list made me feel old. Not much does, honestly. Most of the time I'm still waiting to feel like a grownup, much less old.

But there's one thing that will do it. It's when I flip around the radio and hear a song from my childhood on the local oldies station. It happened on Sunday. I was driving home from a writers conference and "Easy Lover" by Phil Collins and Phillip Bailey was on. That song came out when I was 11.  And that song's old in comparison to other songs from my childhood that I've heard on the oldies station. I distinctly remember being played at junior high dances that have been played on the oldies station.

For some reason that kills me. I start thinking, "No way can I be old enough to have songs form my childhood on this station." Then I remember that my 20th high school reunion is coming this summer, and, yeah, I'm old. Even if I almost never feel it.

Your turn. What makes you feel old?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mai -- episode 3. A serial story.

The next episode in the ongoing story of Mai. Hope you like it.
Episode 3
The large-hulled ship was thirty minutes away from the beach when the man who’d been on the left got up from behind the controls and introduced himself.  He stuck out a hand, palm slightly up, for Yun to shake.
“Maryweather,” he said and waited for Yun to take his offer of a handshake. “I’m Maryweather.”
Yun took his hand.
“That’s Jacobs.” He pushed a thumb over his shoulder at the other man, the one now flying the ship. “Let’s give you the quick tour.”
Maryweather pushed himself past Yun and walked into the cargo hold. He stood near the cargo door that the two men and Yun had used to enter the ship.
“This is it, really. There’s not much to this cargo hauler. Lots of open space so we can carry lots of stuff.” Maryweather pointed to a row of rooms hidden by three separate curtains that were on the opposite side of the cargo hold. “Mine’s the one on the left behind the green curtain. Jacobs has the middle. The one with the blue curtain. You get the one with the orange curtain. That’s your door, so keep it closed.”
Yun inspected the curtain from a distance. It was wrinkled and tattered. A tear that started at the bottom and extended to nearly the middle had been patched with a sloppy stitch.
Maryweather kept talking. He was pointing to a sink that was just past his blue curtain. “We eat there,” he said. “Or we prep stuff there. Quick-make dehydrated meals are in the cabinet above the sink. Don’t use too much water. There’s only so much we can carry around with us, and we need it to do more than eat.” He elbowed Yun in the ribs and gave the boy a goofy grin. Yun jumped.
Maryweather stepped away from the door and started walking toward the back of the ship and a pair of doors that were marked “Crew only.”  
“You don’t go back here,” he said, trying to sound stern. “This is for me and Jacobs only.”
Yun nodded that he understood.
“Now why don’t you go get comfortable in your room?” Maryweather patted Yun on the back once. “We’ve got a lot of flying to do. We’ll come get you when we’re preparing dinner.”
Yun nodded and walked toward the crate he’d carried to the ship earlier. He’d placed the bag he’d packed on top of the crate before they left the island. He grabbed his bag and headed to the orange curtain.
The fabric felt scratchy and unfinished in his hand when he pulled it to the side. There room was only as long as the cot that came from the wall. It wasn’t much wider either. Across from the bed was a pair of shelves, one high and one low. Other than the cracker-thin mattress on the cot, everything in the room was made of metal. Cold and grey.
Yun tossed his bag onto the bed and sat down. He stretched out his legs the best he could, never getting his knees to pop like he’d hoped. He sat still for a moment and then exhaled a long breath.
He pulled his bag onto his lap and undid the zipper across the top. He pulled out handfuls of clothes and put them in sloppy piles on the top shelf. The bottom shelf he saved for the few personal items he was able to hurriedly grab. His headphones and music player. A book his uncle said his mother sent to him. A bag of beads that his uncle was teaching him to make into jewelry. That was all he had, and he spaced it evenly along the length of the shelf.
He lay back on the bed and felt the mattress flatten to the point that it was almost nonexistent. His feet hung off the edge of the bed at least a foot. He wiggled his feet and watched them puff the soiled, orange curtain.
Yun stayed in the bed, trying to clear his mind. Trying to calm these nerves. Trying to stop his mind from replaying the day. Nothing, though, would work. He couldn’t get it out of his head that the uncle who raised him sold him for 200,000. Yes, he could buy more weapons to sell, but Yun was family. You don’t disrespect family, not matter how bad it gets.
Yun reached under the bed, where he’d stored the bag after it was empty. He pulled the scrap of paper on which his uncle had written the coordinates out of the inner pocket. He rubbed his thumb lightly across the numbers and thought about the island and how quickly everything had changed that morning.
Yun folded the paper gently in half and put it in the pocket on the front of his shirt. He took a moment to fasten the button over the pocket then got off the bed and opened his orange curtain.
He stepped into the cargo hold and headed toward the lights glowing in the cockpit. He’d taken his boots off and slipped them under his bed and his socked feet made little noise as he crossed the metal floor.
The voices in the cockpit were growing louder. It sounded like Maryweather and Jacobs were arguing. Yun stopped just at a point where he couldn’t be seen and listened.
“You shouldn’t be so nice to the kid.” It had to be Jacobs. Yun didn’t recognize the voice.
“Why can’t we be nice to him?”
“We bought the kid for a reason. If you’re nice to him now, it makes it harder later.”
“Not that much harder.”
“Still, it’s harder.”
“If he’s going to have to be with us for a while, then we should at least be polite to the kid.”
“Look,” Jacobs said, “we both know what’s going to happen to him. If you want to get all buddy-buddy with him then it’s your choice. But when the time comes, you can’t go and change your mind.”
“I won’t,” Maryweather insisted.
Yun backed up slowly, sliding his socks across the floor, then spun and headed for his orange curtain.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How do you choose which books you buy?

We've been doing some renovations around the house to get things ready for the baby we'll be welcoming in just about a month. Wow. That's soon. That's where I've been the last few days. I was trying to post three times a week. April I was able to do that. Then comes May and the house projects and my schedule got way off. Sorry about that.

But doing these renovations has us moving some things around in the house. That includes bookshelves and books. It gave me a chance to look through a bit of my personal library. What I figured out is that, as a reader, I'm a bit unpredictable. I don't have a certain genre I read more of. There was plenty of crime, plenty of sci fi, plenty of literary fiction. So, obviously, I buy whatever sounds good to me. You'll see the same thing if you looked at the stuff on my Kindle.

What about you? When it comes to buying books, do you stick with a certain genre, or do you just buy whatever looks good to you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What is a Christian author?

If you noticed in the first post that I did in the 5Ws and 1H series, I mentioned that something that really shaped my writing was my faith. Like I said then, I'm a Christian. It's something that shapes who I am as a person, and because of that it's something that shapes my writing.

So, what I'm wondering this week is whether or not that makes me a Christian writer. Or does it make me a writer who's Christian? There's a definite distinction. I don't write Christian allegories. I don't write stories about people finding God or finding their way back to Him.

I can't say that I won't ever write those things, but I don't plan on it now. I do write stories, though, that I hope have a nugget of hope in them. I think that is something that comes from my faith. It's something I get from it at least -- a sense of hope no matter the situation. So am I a Christian writer, or am I a writer who's Christian?

And, a second question since this is my blog and I can do that, would someone being classified as a Christian writer make you more or less likely to read something they wrote? Or would it not affect your decision at all? Does the term Christian writer come with connotations?

Tell me. I really would like to know.