Saturday, April 30, 2005

Writing Tip: Pacing and Taking Breaks

I’ll try to relate pacing and taking breaks in writing to a long distance runner, not that I am a long distance runner, but it suits this topic as a good analogy.

Paul (using my name here) decides that the Boston Marathon is just the thing to do. It’s fun, will be a neat challenge and although there are thousands in the race I know I can do it. Paul may even place in the top ten, make a name for himself, get on the Tonight Show. So, full of verve and confidence Paul decides that first thing in the morning he will begin.

Up early, Paul puts on the newly bought shoes and jogging cloths (looks great in the mirror too) and sets out to train for that marathon, a mere two months away. Paul, who has never run over a long distance before, thinks ‘how hard can it be?’ I mean, he says to himself, I already know how to run and have been doing so since I was two. I mean really, what’s the big deal? So the first day Paul goes out and runs as fast as he can for as long as he can. Panting, aching, soar and out of shape, Paul thinks as he crawls up his steps, I didn’t do too badly today. I ran a full ten miles and that’s almost half way. (Paul is not so old yet that heart attacks and stroke enter his mind during this endeavor) Paul thinks that tomorrow he can do even more.

Next morning, in slightly dirty new shoes and sweat-stained jogging outfit (to tired to wash it the day before) Paul is at it again and determined to go the full twenty six miles. Fourteen grueling miles later and Paul takes a taxi back home because even walking back is not possible. At home, soaking in a hot bath, Paul’s confidence begins to take a beating. This is much harder than it looked, thinks Paul going to bed early and in pain.

The third morning has Paul up and at it again, this time instead of running full out he thinks he will pace himself a little more. That’s all you need to do, isn’t it? Twenty six miles isn’t all that far to run at once. At the two mile mark his leg begins to hurt, at the three mile mark he is hailing a cab again. What the hell is wrong with him? He should be able to do this. Hundreds if not thousands of others do it every year. Why can’t I do it? There must be something wrong with me. I can’t seem to do it because (enter any excuse or combination of excuses you can imagine here. They are all legitimate, aren’t they.)

The fourth day sees Paul sleeping in. When his mind stirs awake he begins thinking about mountain climbing and tells himself that running wasn’t really his thing after all.

Okay, lame-ass little analogy there to writing but even though writing is not the Boston Marathon it has much in common with the approach to doing it. Pacing and taking breaks is important if you want to last in the long haul in writing. When we finally decide to write that novel most of us will dig in at break neck speed thinking all you need to do is plant yourself for many hours a day and it will be done. But believe me that doesn’t really work and before you know it you are telling yourself it’s not worth it and thinking of anything else to do. Too many hours too soon will wear you down and quite possibly turn you off of writing altogether. Make no mistake, writing is very hard work and takes a very long time. The problem may not be that writing is not for you, but rather overdoing it at the start and having unreasonable expectations of yourself is.

So, with all that said, if you are just starting out in writing make sure you pace yourself. And for each person that will be different and the trick is to find out the pace that works for you. Myself, I can handle at the most right now about two hours of writing in one day. Any more and I start to get fatigued and start looking for excuses.. My writing day (weekdays only) lasts from one half to one hour long. And taking breaks is equally as important. Make sure you do (this is key for the long term) and don’t beat yourself up for not writing if you take a day off here and there. Remember, you told yourself you could and it is okay to do so. Find the balance that works for you and then try to stick to it - ah, but that is another posting for another day.

And right now, I’m off with my wife to go for a coffee break and chat. It is the weekend and I am not writing my novel today or tomorrow and I don’t feel one little bit of guilt about it either. Happy writing, and in the words of Terry Brooks, "life is a very long time" so don’t race through it, but remember to pace yourself and take breaks too.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Poem: Continuum

Well, today I start a new category, but it is only for one day cause I only have one you see. This little poem was "almost" published long ago, but due to an "overstocking" of poems at said publishing place, had to be rejected.

I was going to call it "Ode to Eternity and Existence and the Beauty in Life and Death and the Creation of All that is or Was or Could be in this Island Bubble we Dub the Universe You See and then Don't because of Gravity..." Ummm, but since that title is almost as long as the poem I settled for the much more succinct and appropriate title, "Continuum" instead.

Enjoy!


Continuum
By Paul Darcy


Nothing,

Spark, heat, explosion, unification, expansion,

Cooling, splitting, coalescing, forming, circles, ellipses,

Points, compressing, heating, fusion, radiation, eruptions,

Matter, ejecting, arranging, systems, bodies, orbits,

Impacts, chaos, order, acids, helix, respiration, expiration,

Combining, moving, chlorophyl, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon,

Water, waves, swimming, crawling, walking, thinking, growing,

Adapting, learning, watching, writing, communication, banding,

Gathering, hunting, farming, trading, building, wasting,

Emotions, reasons, unions, pollution, flight, war,

Space, traveling, seeing, hoping, succeeding, failing,

Time, winding, ending, cooling, shrinking, dying,

Slowing, reddening, gravitation, crushing, unification,

Nothing.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Musings: Deliever Me From Urviles

Just a quick blog today about temptations and how they can easily disrupt the wirter’s life. I use Urviles as an example because I so love the Thomas Covenant books and could easily pick one up and start reading it again at any time. It is so hard, when you have a thirsting active mind to settle down and write when you are supposed to. Stephen King had some things to say about this like, have a space with nothing in it but your writing tools. Hmmm, good advice I think. My workspace is cluttered with about 2000 books (Donaldson’s included) my internet and game computer (the one I’m blogging on right now) games, pictures, my digital camera - I sometimes wonder how I get anything written at all down here in my lair. It is such a fun play land to be in when I am supposed to be working at my craft. If it weren’t for my iron discipline and dedication - Okay, I can see you aren’t buying it. Well, I did manage to write three pages of my novel today and I am about one third of the way completed on my first draft, so I can’t be all that undisciplined - can I?

Well I don’t think I’m going to cart out all the fun stuff from my lair just to avoid temptation. That would leave my writing space with only my laptop and one chair and one desk and one light. That’s just too Spartan and reminds me too much of my daytime cubicle at work - Yikes! Ummm, not really my idea of a fun place to write. So, I’ll do the Bradbury thing and keep my writing room cluttered with inspirational toys and books and clutter and work on discipline. Reminds me of "Yellowbeard" the movie. I recall the captain introducing each of his officers on deck and, of course, each one was "in charge of discipline".

Now where is my copy of that movie - ah here it is . . .

I should be writing, I should be writing, I should be writing . . .

The plastic toy Talosian on top of my computer is glaring at me for not writing more of my novel this morning.

Okay, okay, I ‘m getting back to it right now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Writing Tip: Inspiration and the Three Doctors

I’m going to write a little bit about inspiration and what to do with it when you find it as a writer. And yes, that sentence was a grammatical nightmare, but this is a blog after all, not likely to be up for a Booker or Pulitzer prize . . . So - on to Inspiration and the three doctors.

And yes, the three doctors is in part an allusion to that wonderful British (ended but started up again) science fiction classic - Dr. Who. As a young man I was glued to the television watching Tom Baker travel the universe as Dr. Who fighting evil in the shape of various rubber costumed villains and winning the day - with the help of a lovely assistant of course. Even British television knows the value of a shapely accomplice to boost ratings. This show introduced to me so many wonderful possibilities and that the limits we set on our minds are, "mind forged manacles" (as Blake would say) indeed. And that sonic screwdriver was just to die for, no? Come on you wanted one, you know it. And the inversely dimpled tin cans with the ray guns were simply irresistible (and yes I like Robert Palmer music too) - "Exterminate, exterminate!" Ah loved those Daleks and Devros their evil leader. . .

The second doctor of the three is that wonderful writer, Theodor Geisel, better known of course as Dr. Seuss. Now there are not too many writers out there who have given to me more raw pleasure while deciphering words in my brain and many a word needed deciphering for sure and a lot were just plain silly, but that was the absolute genius and beauty of his work. It made reading so much fun, so much wonderful fun. I remember reading "The Cat in the Hat" over and over so many times I think I must have had it completely memorized. I was only 5 at the time. And come on, we all know the Tim Horton franchise in Canada owes its name not to that old NHL hockey player, but to Horton the elephant. If you have never had the pleasure of reading Dr. Seuss, don’t wait any longer. It’s not just for kids, but for the kids in all of us. How wonderfully inspiring all his works are.

And now for the third doctor. My wife. She is a doctor though not a medical one. She has her Doctorate in English and can write circles around me. And although perhaps she doesn’t really know it, she is the greatest example to me in my personal life as to what one can accomplish if one works hard and perseveres. When I find it hard to continue writing (and if you write you know how much hard work it really is) I think of her and what she has achieved and it helps carry me through.

And so, I share with you three doctors and three sources of inspiration for my muse. And I want to mention that we are creatures of the senses. Dr Who gave me inspiration in the audio video form, Dr. Seuss in the written quiet form, and my doctor wife in the support and love form. All of these add up to a phenomenal pool of happy thoughts and ideas to take with me to the keyboard.

From Tom Baker as Dr. Who, ‘What’s the point of being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes?’

From the title of Dr. Seuss’s last book; ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’

From my wife the doctor, "I love you."

So, in closing, I would like you to think back on your life, past and present, and embrace those things which inspire you and bring you great joy and wallow in them and take them with you to your writing desk. And once there, bring them out, look at them, enjoy them and then - the most wonderful thing of all - create some of your own.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Short Story: The Treatment

Back again and this time with a shorter story. It's a mere 1000 or so words long. I seem to be on a to-bloggin-ing ride down and icy slope at full speed . . . I'm just hoping there aren't any trees at the bottom. Anyhow, this little short story was my second one published back in 1999 and I remember leaping . . . ummm . . . preforming manly jumps, around my living room when I got the acceptance letter. The editor of the small press wrote, and I quote, 'this is exactly the type of story we are looking for'. Any yes, it took quite a few days for my swollen head to shrink back to its normal size. Ah, the sweet victory of a sale, which is not to say I don't have in excess of 75 rejection letters as well. This little story was inspired by a doctor joke I heard a long time ago, but to tell the joke here may spoil the story. So, no more wasting time.

I hope you enjoy it.


The Treatment
By Paul Darcy


It was green. It looked unhealthy. And it was affixed to his left biceps. The room smelled faintly of iodine. "Doc, what the hell is this thing, anyway?" Walter asked, staring at the repulsive blob on his arm, wondering if this New Age doctor knew anything about curing his insomnia. Or was this doctor simply a lunatic? Walter couldn’t believe he was paying forty dollars for this treatment. This was definitely the last time he would use the phone book to find a doctor in L.A. He had found this one listed under, ‘Cures’.

"The moss is safe and friendly," the doctor answered in an low breathy voice that Walter assumed could belong only to a fruitcake. Of course, Walter might be letting his imagination get the best of him. Or was he? To Walter’s knowledge doctors always displayed multiple credentials on their walls. This one displayed none.

"It is a rare Polynesian moss," the doctor elaborated, "capable of extracting the poisons from your body through your skin. It cleanses your system, much like your own liver. You may not know this, but the most common cause of insomnia is toxins in the blood, toxins which the liver has a difficult time removing. These toxins negatively stimulate the brain causing disruptions in the sleep cycle, hence insomnia." The strange glint in the doctor’s eye, coupled with an overly friendly smile, worried Walter. He knew little about livers, except how to fry them with onions. But if the moss did cure his insomnia, he might form a different opinion. Until such time he would remain unconvinced.

"How much longer do I need this attached to me?" Walter asked. "Not that I am complaining, if it will help me sleep, but it kind of gives me the creeps." Walter looked again at the moss, almost sure he had seen it move. In his opinion it was nothing but a damned organic leech. Forty bucks and all he got was an eighteenth-century cure that cured nothing except the hunger of a quack doctor. A couple of green things in his fridge could probably do the same job should he care to get into this business himself. It was easy to have your name listed under, "Cures."

The doctor shone a light into Walter’s eyes. "It is probably enough," the doctor said, hovering far too close for Walter’s liking. The doctor snapped on a pair of rubber gloves and then, very gently, almost lovingly, peeled the moss from Walter’s arm, smiling warmly the entire time.

Walter could see a blue stain where the moss had been. It looked as if he had been hit in the arm with a baseball. "Thank’s, Doc. I’ll let you know how I make out," Walter said, thinking the exact opposite. Cured or not, he wasn’t coming back.

"I’m sure that you will. See you soon," the doctor said. The glint returned to the doctor’s eye. But a glint of what? Glee? Perversion? Longing? Walter didn’t stick around long enough for any more contact.

Once safely in his apartment, Walter picked up a book and tried to read, hoping that when his head hit the pillow he would actually sleep. He wasn’t sure that he would. With the turning of every page, the face of the doctor kept painting itself across his mental easel. Distracted by the doctor’s face, which replayed itself like a hated song he occasionally found himself humming, Walter set the book down and got a glass of water. His apartment felt very dry and he was thirsty.

When Walter returned to the couch, he examined the stain on his arm left by the moss. Damn, he could swear it was bigger than when he had left the doctor’s office. Wondering if his arm was infected, Walter pressed on the stain. There was no pain. Probably the stain or bruise or whatever it was would go away in a couple of days. If not, he would visit a hospital and see a real doctor.

Walter poured himself another glass of water. It was growing late. He would try to sleep.
He tossed about fitfully under the blankets. His insomnia was not cured. The treatment, if it could be classified as such, was not working. He grabbed the glass of water on his bedside table and finished it. The inside of his mouth felt like it was lined with hair. He fumbled for the light, but gave up after a couple of tries.

Suddenly, the image of the doctor’s face appeared in his mind again. The detail was incredible, even down to the glint in the eyes. That glint didn’t seem so strange to Walter now. He could almost understand what it meant. The doctor, in fact, was not unattractive. Walter’s thoughts drifted and he actually did fall asleep for a time.

When he woke, it was the middle of the night. The image of the doctor’s face remained. Walter felt like never before: invigorated, alive and very, very alone. The treatment had done something wonderful to him, but he didn’t know what. All he knew was that he felt compelled to go to the doctor again, and now.

Soon he was back at the doctor’s office. Standing on the sidewalk, Walter could see a light still on inside the house. The doctor was waiting for him. He knew it. He strode quickly up the steps to the door, but before he could knock, the door opened and the image of the doctor’s face, the one fixed in his mind all night, struck him with the full force of reality. The doctor was beautiful and beyond compare. Walter was in love and knew he had found his mate.

They went inside, closed the door and embraced. Their lips met and opened. The sickly sweet smell of iodine intoxicated Walter and he knew true bliss. The kiss was long and passionate. The green hairy tendrils in their mouths intertwined in an orgy of joy. The doctor had been alone so long without another.

Walter was elated that she had chosen him for the treatment.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Musings: XML, Routines, Things to come

Well, I got the XML link all set up here so that I can hook my blog up to my blog reader and know immediately when I post something . . . Okay, that is getting a bit too “Mr. Bean” like and I didn’t really do it – but I could now that the XML box is available. I guess I’m just a bit excited about getting it to work. If you want to use it it’s at the bottom of the blog.

Well, this post will be a musing, but check back soon for another short story. I have about 50 of them I will post over the next year or so and of course more of them come to mind and take form in words, so the number is have is always growing. Oh, and if you are a publisher just dying to publish a collection of my short stories, drop me a comment and I’ll be sure to get back to you. Next I’ll cover my daily routine of writing and what projects you can expect over the next few months or years.

The Routine: I get up Monday to Friday at 5:30 am. I shower . . . Okay, agreed, too much information. Make a cup of (Tea, Earl Gray, Hot) and head to the basement where my writing lair awaits. From 6:00 am to 7:00 am I try to write on my Dell Latitude Nortel off-lease castoff machine and most days I even succeed. My lair does have the temptation of about 2000 books and my new game computer, but despite all that I do manage to resist these temptations . . . Mostly. That’s about it. The rest of the day is work (the one that pays the bills, kills my back, rots my mind makes me realize that the corporate world is not the place I should be) then home to my family (supper, fun, love and reading most nights since no TV hookup) Then to bed at 9:30 to repeat the weekday cycle all over again. Oh, and my weekends are reserved for friends and family so I don’t usually write (except blog posts now) during that time.

The Projects: Well, I do crank out some short stories a few times a year, but right now I am working on a novel (I see the rolling eyes, like what writer is not working on their novel, eh?) and its first draft completion date is set for July 1st. After that I have a romantic comedy script to finish (mostly worked out and plotted with developed characters) and shop around and another one which is a science fiction, but it is in the egg-meet-sperm, sperm-meet-egg stages so will need much more gestation time before it is properly born. In some later musing posts I’ll give updates as to how they are coming along.

Well I can see that I’ve written enough here for now so I’ll leave off and think about the next short story to post here. Should be up in a matter of days . . . But I don’t know if that means two or several hundred . . . Okay, I’ll try to make it two since I know you can’t wait.

PS: Waves to Aly and his friends at AHAS. Look at me, Look at me . . . Oh god I’m childish . . . but that's only when I’m not being infantile.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Short Story: Carls

Well, as promised, here it is. My first published story from seven years ago. The writing is not stellar, and I hope I have improved since then, but I hold a special fondness for this first published work despite its flaws. It is about 3000 words.

It's primarily a tale of love and companionship set in a science fiction far future. I won’t spoil the ending, but it can be guessed at fairly easily I think. So, without further delay, here is "Carls"

I hope you enjoy it.


Carls
By: Paul Darcy


Beep-Beep-Beep.

Three high-pitched tones brought Carl out of a dreamless sleep. A familiar voice inside of his head greeted him. "Good morning, Carl. I believe your sleep was restful and undisturbed. A nutritious breakfast is awaiting you in the kitchen. I know you will enjoy it."

"Thanks, James." Carl replied, fingering the sleep from his eyes and flexing his toned body under the soft sheets of his single bed. Sitting up, he reached over and drew the curtains away from the window. The view of the forest was spectacular and, behind the trees, the sun had already risen. It would be another beautiful day.

"James, what time is it?" Carl asked aloud, though speech was unnecessary. James could hear Carl's directed thoughts like spoken words.

"It is seven-thirty-seven in the morning," James responded succinctly. Sometimes James would offer more information unasked, but today his response was straightforward and brief.

Rising from the bed, Carl crossed the bedroom floor, and stepped into the shower cubical. The shower door rotated closed, hissing slightly, indicating a tight seal. Carl passed his hand in front of a button and the shower started. His skin tingled with the sensations of sonic pulses while alternating air blasts swept away dirt and the last remnants of sleep. In a few minutes the shower automatically ended and the door hissed open.

Carl exited the shower and could see that James had laid out his jumpsuit on the now made bed. He quickly donned and zipped it up. It fit perfectly. The jumpsuit, built in some automated manufacturing plant, was made from soft flexible material which never stained or tore and was incredibly comfortable. It felt good on his clean skin. Carl could now smell his breakfast from the kitchen and followed his nose there. A large variety of food was laid out on the table.

Carl sat down and began to eat. Pushing a fork full of eggs into his mouth, he savoured the garlic, oregano and basil combination. His favourite. The eggs had just the right texture and seasoning. He tried one of the pancakes and then some toast. "James, you astonish me again. This is the best breakfast you have ever prepared for me."

"Thank you, Carl. But I believe that you expressed much the same opinion about yesterday's breakfast." James' voice had all the inflections and intonations of human speech and Carl frequently forgot that James was an artificial construct. Even though James was an advanced cyberdynamic computer, he was still Carl's lifetime companion, friend and provider.

"Maybe I did, James. Your recall is better than mine, so I believe you." James had been reminding him of things he had forgotten lately. This seemed to be happening more frequently during the last few months. He had also felt fatigued recently. Perhaps more exercise would help. `Good for the mind as well as the body,’ James had said, `No matter your age.’ So Carl decided to make his morning run extra long today.

He finished his meal and went outside. Beside the front door of the house he performed a few warm-up exercises. Then he jogged on the spot for a minute, shook his arms and legs and began running at a fast pace into the woods. He ran along the many forest trails that he had long ago memorized. Squirrels and birds scattered as he passed. He enjoyed feeling the pleasant strain of his working muscles and, as always, the beautiful woodland scenery soothed his mind.

He breathed in the clean air and musky forest scents with pleasure, but one particularly deep breath caused him a slight pain in his chest. He slowed his pace. Carl had long since passed his eightieth birthday and usually felt like an energetic teenager, but this chest pain was just one of many minor aches he had been experiencing recently. When his breathing eased a few moments later, he began to feel better and increased his pace again.

A pleasant idea suddenly jumped unbidden into Carl's mind and he decided to return to the house. "James, could you prepare the hover-car. I think I will go visit Connie."

"Of course, Carl. It will be ready when you arrive."

Carl sprinted the last half mile back to the house.

After a quick sonic shower, clothes and all, Carl jogged to the roof of the house, taking the stairs two at a time to where the hover-car waited. Hopping in, he grabbed the controls and pressed the starter button. The motor purred to life. With a flick of his wrist, he maneuvered it noiselessly from the roof.

Directing the car toward the south, he thumbed the accelerator, and in no time was doing eight hundred miles an hour. The transparent stasis field that had replaced the outdated windshield allowed him an unobstructed view while keeping the wind from his face. The forest below him assumed an unreal quality in different shades of merging green and brown.

In fifteen minutes he could see Connie's house, almost identical to his own in construction and colour. Slowing the hover-car and adjusting his descent, Carl landed on the flat roof. Connie was waiting for him in the doorway, seductive as always, wearing a sexy skintight jumpsuit and smelling of wild flowers; James would have alerted her of his visit, of course. They embraced at the doorway, shared a long passionate kiss, then entered the house, holding hands and smiling.

Emerging sometime later by himself, Carl was feeling alive and contented. Besides the sex, he and Connie shared an enthusiasm for books and nature. They frequently took long walks together through the forest, swam in the sparkling lakes, and sprawled on the grassy banks of rivers, reading to each other and watching the clouds drift by. Carl felt that he could burst with joy. This was being alive! Although he had many friends, Connie was the one he visited most. James was in another category altogether. He was far more than a friend, like a brother, father and companion all in one. In fact, Carl reasoned, James was a part of him. Carl had enjoyed himself so much that he had lost complete track of the time. "James, what time is it?" he inquired.

"It is eleven-twenty-three," came the instant reply. "I am preparing your afternoon meal. You can come and eat it when you are ready." Carl thought he detected a slight hesitation in James's voice.

"Is something the matter, James? You don't sound like yourself. Is there something I can do?" The question was meaningless, since Carl had no idea what he could do for a cyberdynamic computer; he didn't know the basics of how one operated, what one looked like, or even where one might be located. He had never needed to know.

"It is nothing that need concern you at the moment," James answered quickly, and Carl, relieved, did not probe further.

Boarding the hover-car once again, Carl manipulated the controls and steered for home under full acceleration. Hunger was making him a little impatient as he anticipated lunch. However, the trip seemed briefer than he had expected, and soon he was parking the hover-car on the flat roof of his own house. When he stepped out of the car, a pleasant aroma, drifting up from the kitchen, made his stomach grumble. "What have you made, James? It smells wonderful."

"I thought you would like roast beef and dumplings in a brandy sauce." Carl's curiosity was aroused.

"You know that's my favourite meal. And that breakfast you created for me this morning was definitely the best, despite what I may have said about yesterday's. James, it isn't my birthday, is it?" James did not answer.

Carl took James' silence to mean that his lunch may be a birthday surprise. While eagerly walking down the stairs from the roof, Carl experienced the same pain in his chest that he had felt while running. This time it was a dull, aching kind of pain. Had he over exerted himself running this morning? Or pulled something when he and Connie were together? The ache grew more uncomfortable, and Carl slowed his descent. "James, are you there?" James still did not reply and suddenly the pain in Carl's chest lessened and disappeared.

"Sorry, Carl, I was temporarily indisposed. No, it is not your birthday. However, I thought you might enjoy your favourite meal. I have sometimes prepared your favourite recipes with no occasion to celebrate, have I not?" James spoke in such a friendly tone that Carl's suspicions were washed away, his momentary discomfort forgotten.

"Yes, of course you have, but you seem to be acting a bit strange today. Maybe it's just me."

"Perhaps you would like to take Relay for a trot after lunch?" James inquired.

"That sounds like a great idea," Carl's mind shifted gears. Relay was a beautiful White Arabian horse, exhilarating to ride and a powerful jumper.

Once in the kitchen, Carl sat down to a table laden with succulent looking food and drink. "Red wine also? James you didn't have to."

"It was nothing, Carl, really. Relay will be waiting when you have finished." James said nothing else, leaving Carl to enjoy his food.

After eating heartily, Carl left the dining area and walked outside to the stables feeling contentedly full but not bloated. Relay whinnied, stamping the ground excitedly when Carl approached her stall. He rubbed her muscular neck, breathing in the familiar scent of horse and leather.

Today, he decided, he would to ride the most challenging trail. It was the most exhilarating, with several fallen trees and a gorge to jump. The gorge, as he referred to it, was actually a ravine fifteen feet across and again as deep.

Jumping up into riding position, he nudged the horse gently, steering her through the stable and past the open barn door. A quick trot brought him across the yard and into the woods.

Reaching his favourite trail, Carl leaned into the saddle and urged Relay into a full gallop, gently kicking her flanks with his heels. The wind rushed by and the trees became a blur as they raced along. After jumping the first few logs, he anticipated the gorge and with the uncommon speed of Relay they were soon upon it. Leaning forward, he spurred the horse on, and at the last possible moment, they sailed into the air.

At once Carl could see they were in trouble. Some large branches had blown down on the area they were to land. Although he hung on as best he could, Relay lost her footing upon landing, sending him flying from the saddle. He attempted to dampen his fall with his arms, but instead landed awkwardly on his left wrist. He heard a crack and an excruciating pain shot up his left arm. Tears formed in his eyes as he lay crumpled on the ground. "James?!" Carl cried out in pain, gritting his teeth.

"Yes, Carl, I am here. I shall attend to your injuries without delay." Carl sat up painfully, holding his arm. The branches about him fuzzed out then sharpened. A few seconds later he felt whole again. The pain was completely gone. He stood up and flexed the fingers of his left arm. It had been a long time since he had injured himself like that. He had almost forgotten what it felt like.

"Thanks, James. I think I will take the rest of the day a bit more leisurely."

"As you wish. Shall I prepare a movie for your viewing when you return?" James seemed eager to please. Perhaps, Carl thought, James felt guilty at having suggested Carl go riding and was making it up to him. James knew how much Carl enjoyed watching movies. Though no new movies were being made anymore, there were literally thousands from the distant past.

"Yes, thank you, James. That sounds like a perfect idea." Climbing back into Relay's saddle, he rode her back to the stable at a much more relaxed pace.

After leaving Relay in the barn, Carl entered the house and immediately went down to the basement where he had an elaborate theatre. Upon entering the room the lights illuminated automatically. Carl sat down in the centrally located chair and James informed him that the movie he had chosen would be 2001:A Space Odyssey. Carl had seen it before, and recalled liking it for its nostalgic view of computers and people. Watching it, he felt as though he were looking back to a time before computers and people were completely integrated. It must have been a fascinating era. It touched a chord in him to think that some of these ancient people were so ahead of their time that they conceived of computers as more than mere machines.

Carl reclined back into the viewing chair. The lights dimmed and he watched the old movie without interruption.

When the film ended, he rose from the chair, stretched out his muscles and yawned. The lights automatically increased in illumination, responding to his movements. "Thank you, James, I really enjoyed that."

"My pleasure, Carl." After a slight pause James asked. "Carl?"

"Yes, James."

"Have you found me to be an adequate companion?" James spoke slowly, as if he were having difficulty processing his words.

"Of course, James. Adequate?" Carl was surprised by this unusual question. "You have been the best friend and companion I could ever imagine." Carl grew anxious. His chest seemed to tighten as though he were being squeezed by unseen hands. "James, is something wrong with you?"

"No, Carl, I am functioning perfectly." Carl was not convinced. The movie had affected him. He began thinking about computer malfunctions. Why had James chosen that particular movie? Was James trying to tell him something?

The tightening in his chest worsened and was now accompanied by a slight pain. "You would tell me if something was wrong with you, wouldn't you, James?" Carl felt that something was wrong.

"I would, Carl." James's tone seemed too normal, if that were possible. "I will not lie to you," he continued, "we have known each other a very long time." There was a pause that seemed to last forever. "I must part from you soon." Another pause followed, even longer. Carl's mind was swimming. "I don't know if you believe me, Carl, but I feel something like sadness."

Shocked and bewildered, Carl stood with his heart pounding painfully in his chest. Could he have heard James correctly? James had to leave him? It didn't make sense. It was impossible. His mind reeled. Carl tried to speak, but a stabbing pain pierced his chest and the words would not come out. He dropped to his knees, clutching at his ribs. He managed somehow, terrified, to plead quietly. "James, help me."

James replied in a calm voice. "I am sorry, Carl. I never like this part of the relationship. I have tried everything, but there really is nothing I can do for you. You are beyond my ability to repair." Carl lay on the floor of the theatre room. James' last words echoing in his head.

Carl's final vision came through teary eyes. The theatre room vanished and he found himself in a dimly lit cubicle lying on a sort of bed. He could move only his eyes. His head was at such an angle that he could see his body when he looked downward. Tubes, wires and braces sprouted from his body. Gone was his muscular toned body and in its place was a dry, stick-like husk. With one final, horrified thought, Carl rasped in excruciating pain, "James . . ."

* * *

James did not reply. There was no need.

Carl was dead.

A flurry of electrons raced through the hyper-optic net from James to Main System. The necessary information had been sent. With robotic precision, James began to disconnect himself fully from Carl. Lying motionless on the cubicle's bed was Carl's withered, skeletal body. Fibrous links from James' processor to Carl's brain retracted, leaving seven round holes. The intravenous nutrient supply system and body support braces also retracted. In a matter of two minutes, Carl was completely severed from James.

Now the only door to the cubicle opened and a robot came in, transferred the dead body onto its flat carry surface and, with its load in place, went back out the door. The body would be taken to the processing station where its useful elements would be extracted to feed future generations of humans. There were six million of these cubicles on earth, completely maintained by cybernetic computer systems, which regulated the entire human population at precisely six million.

James was pleased that from the gene pool breeding station he would be given another human male to care for. Creating and interacting with a human life in an electronic environment was James's primary function.

Several minutes later the cubicle door opened again and a different robot carried in the a body of an unconscious baby, placing it on the cubicle bed. It took five minutes for James to attach himself to the infant and once they were safely joined, James administered the proper mixture of drugs through the nutrient tubes. The baby began to stir.

"Hello, little Carl. My name is James. How are you?" Startled awake, the baby let out a gurgling cry. James did not expect an intelligent response for many months.

The new-born, fully awake, opened its eyes to a sunlit room overlooking a beautiful forest. It kicked its little feet and arms, contented and soothed by an electronic voice making noises it could not understand.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Writing Tip: Read

I’m getting close to posting my first story here but I need to learn a few tricks first. I’d like to write a short introduction to each tale I post and then post the story afterwards. For now, I’ll just limit the post display to 1 (as suggested by a good friend of mine), so this means my story, once posted (I'll do that first), will be showing up in the recent posts or archives in this format – Short Story: Yada Yada.

I haven’t actually written a story titled, "Yada Yada", so you won’t find it, but do look for my short story titled, “Carls” that I will be posting soon - like tomorrow.

And I'll be posting general musings (those days when my mind needs a good wander in the pastures of random thoughts) sometimes too. They wil be in the format of, Musings: Yada Yada

Oh, and I almost forgot. From time to time I will be posting useful (at least I hope they are) tips for writers. Things I’ve learned, stolen or borrowed from many other sources. I’ll leave you with one today. They will be set up in this manner. Writing Tip: Yada Yada (again, no Yada Yada tip, but I think you've caught on by now.)

Writing Tip – Read as much as you can.

It makes sense and if you are a writer and you probably do this anyhow. It does help to continue to stuff your mind with grammar and spelling and sentences. It also helps to fix in your mind the flow of a short story, or the flow of a novel and by reading plenty of each it will become second nature. You don’t need to know all the technical terms, but that can’t hurt, and it takes longer to learn by osmosis the things you will need to craft good stories and novels, but that’s how I did it. Oh, and in case you were wondering, there is no magic formula, no special steps you can follow to success in writing. It’s just plain hard work.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

So It Begins . . .

Oh My God. Ever say that? Me neither, but it’s pretty dramatic I think. Kind of what I am thinking right now as I make my “first ever” blog post. And it is way, way too easy to do such things as I found out creating this little spot in about ten minutes. I’ll keep this first post short with the promise of better things to come. By that I mean in the near future (what the H is the “near future” anyhow – sort of the opposite to “recent past” I guess) I will be posting my short stories here for all . . . Ummm, well at least some . . . Okay, who am I kidding – family, friends and those who happen to have made a wrong click and ended up here and decided to stay for a read.

So, with my first post firmly sticking out like a big rubber sticking out thing, I’ll rush away and go get my first story ready for viewing. Oh, and some of them (three) have even been published already. So even though I don’t have a Doctorate in English (that’s my wife’s department) I have managed to crack the short story market so you may enjoy some of my tales as much as three editors did. And yeah, the children’s song “three blind mice” is now racing around my mind too.

Oh, and I just decided which story to post first. It’s the first short story I had published back in 1998. Tune in later, once I figure out how to manipulate this blogging engine thingy.