The Year In Books: 2014

Since 2010 I’ve kept a running list of the books I read each year. And since 2012 I’ve made a year-end post with some stats from the previous year. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have written any new books this year, but I did do major revisions on at least three and have written a few new short stories. My total list includes all the novels, graphic novels, novellas, and novelettes. As well as nonfiction books and short story collections. All age ranges are far game though I don’t count short picture books, individual short stories, or single issues of comics. However, I have started counting it if I read a run of issues of a comic book that would be equal to a graphic novel if I read them all at once but not if I read them a month to month as they were published. Without further ado, I give you 2014 in books.

 

88 read in total
42 print books
46 audiobooks

imageBreaking it down by category
25 Young Adult
6 Middle Grade
19 Graphic Novels
5 Short story collections
8 Nonfiction
11 Digital booksimage
11 Borrowed from the library
8 Borrowed from friends
11 Reread
4 Read for critique

 

Favorite Reads
The Perks Of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

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Honorable Mentions
The Mothers of Voorhisville – Mary Rickert
Locke & Key Volume 2 – Joe Hill
Veronica Mars the Thousand Dollar Tan Line – Rob Thomas
A Song of Ice and Fire 1 through 5 – George RR Martin
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
Forgive Me Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick

Favorite Author Numbers
Neil Gaiman – 4
Rainbow Rowell – 1
GRR Martin – 6
Maud Hart Lovelace – 5
Jim Butcher – 1
Bill Willingham – 1
David Sedaris – 1
Jane Austen – 1
Jo Walton – 1

Other book-related highlights from 2014
In no particular order

The MinnSpec reading where I read one of my stories to a largish crowd for the first time and met several other local authors.

Going to a signing by Jo Walton at Uncle Hugo’s.

Meg Cabot tweeted about my Betsy-Tacy reviews.

My critique partners continuing to be ridiculously awesome.

Reading the Betsy-Tacy Companion and realizing I now live mere blocks from my childhood favorite author, Maud Hart Lovelace’s first Minneapolis apartment.

So that was 2014 bookwise. Jo Walton’s My Real Children is going to be the inaugural book of 2015. Anyone else wants to share book highlights from last year?

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Always winter and sometimes Christmas.

I don’t have a Christmas drawing this year. So here are a few from J.R.R. Tolkien instead!

 

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Before anyone says anything, I do know the title of this post is a reference to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and that it was not written by Tolkien.

If you want to see previous Christmas drawings, they can be found here and here.

Winter Is Coming and I’ve got a cold

image(Did you see what I did there? Ice and Fire!)

 

I recently read all five Song of Ice and Fire books, and am eagerly awaiting book six. But since George R.R. Martin is dragging his heals, I thought I’d write it instead.

 

Disclaimer: I was on cold medicine when I wrote this.

 

A Song of Ice and Fire Book 6: A Crucible of Cats

Prologue: Character Who Is About to Die So No Need To Learn Their Name

POV character pushes open medievilish wooden door. An axe whooshes through the air like something quite sharp and axe-like. POV character dies very painfully. We won’t know that this death is significant for at least ten more chapters.

Chapter 1: Tyrion

“Hands of gold are always cold but a woman’s hands are warm,” Tyrion thought gloomily to himself. Then he did something super cool in the moment but probably foolish, if you can see ten steps ahead, but you can’t so it’s just entertaining.

Chapter 2: Arya

“Who are you?” asks the kindly man.
“Nobody,” replies Arya Stark of Winterfell.
“Liar. You are the most badass eleven-year-old in literature. Now go assassinate somebody who means nothing to you instead of one of the thousands of people who’ve directly wronged you.”
“‘Kay. Vhalor Morgulus.”
“The other phrase I don’t totally remember,” the kindly man says in response.

Chapter 3: Jon

“Winter is coming.”
“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
“Cut that out already! I know some stuff, and you’re just the echo of the voice of the chick I lost my virginity to, so it’s not like you’re a walking encyclopedia or anything. Ghost, to me.”
He walks off in huff, never to be heard from again. And you never find out who his real parents are. Neener neener!

Chapter 4: Daenarys

Daenarys finally flies her dragons to Kings Landing. Everyone loses their shit. Cersei is eaten by Drogon. Only Tommen escapes. He will maybe one day return to gain back his stolen throne, riding astride Ser Pounce, and it’ll be like a vicious circle. Like in Kill Bill when Uma Thurman told that little girl to seek vengeance on her. Or maybe not. Also something about Stannis but everybody skims those chapters anyway.

END

 

I think I really captured GRR’s voice.

 

 

 

What’s In A Name?

I’ve been reading Tor.com’s excellent Harry Potter reread series. It reminded me of something that always struck me as odd. Voldemort is only called Voldemort because young Tim Riddle was a fan of anagrams. You see Tom’s full name, Tom Marvollo Riddle, can be rearranged into I am Lord Voldemort. The whole thing is a bit of a cheat. If you’re going to create your new evil guy name out of your old name, why not use all the letters? Is Lord Volamdiemort that much sillier than Voldemort? Get it together, Riddle. Also could several generations of wizards have been spared a lot of grief if he’d reordered his name into Molar Mold Volt Ride. Would he have spent his considerable energy creating a theme park ride based in the wonders of modern cosmetic dentistry?
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Anyway it made me curious about the potential locked in my own name. This is what I came up with.

Title Saunas
Nausea Tilts
Use A Nit Last
A Sun Tat Lies
Aisle Taunts
At Suits Lane
Tai’s Nut Sale
I Lust At Sean

I’m probably not going to suddenly wake up noseless and go on a genocidal, magical, world domination quest. But I will start looking for Sean, he sounds hot.

In other news, my last Betsy-Tacy review for Forever Young Adult went up a few weeks ago. And my fabulous critique group has started a blog. My first contribution can be found here.

An Interview With Lost In Thought Author Cara Bertrand

I’m deviating today from my standard rambling format. Allow me to introduce my critique partner and YA author extraordinaire, Cara Bertrand. Cara’s first book, Lost In Thought is now available from Luminis Books.

-In Lost in Thought sixteen-year-old Lainey Young discovers that the visions of deaths she’s been having all her life are the result of being a Sententia. Can you start by telling us a little more about Lainey and the Sententia?

Sure! Lainey has had an unusual upbringing. Besides that little problem you mentioned–visions of how people died or are going to die–she’s spent her remembered life traveling constantly with her artist Godmother after the death of her parents when she was young. As much as she loves this lifestyle, she feels separate from the ‘typical’ teenage experience and socially awkward because of it. Northbrook thrusts her into a world that’s truly foreign to her and she’s surprised to find out how much she likes it.

 

The Sententia, Lainey learns, are the people just like her: the secret society of the psychically gifted. Lainey is a Diviner, whose ability allows her to read into the future or past. Others are Lumen, with their cognitive gifts, Sensors, different from Lainey in that they sense things about the now, Heralds, whose gifts project onto others. To learn more about them all, you’ll have to read the book!

-Lainey is given a legacy scholarship at Northbrook Academy, an exclusive boarding school that harbors more than a couple Sententia. I loved your descriptions of the campus. If it were real I’d seriously consider re enrolling high school. Is there a real world inspiration for Northbrook? What is the appeal of boarding schools in YA?

There actually IS a ‘real’ Northbrook! Or, at least, there used to be. My husband’s race team races at a track just down the road in New Hampshire, and my favorite part of every drive is passing thebeautifulschool campus. I always said, “If I ever write a book, the school will look like this…” just jokingly. But when I finally did decide to write a book, the setting was already waiting for me. The campus is actually, well, not abandoned, but has not been in use for many years. It was formerly part of the prestigious (andstill-running) Northfield-Mount Herman school. In the story, I borrow the basic layout of the campus, but beyond that, it’s all fictional.

Boarding schools are popular in YA for one very big reason: lack of parents. No one wants parents to be a big part of a YA story, and boarding schools make it easy to eliminate them! 🙂 It’s more than that, though. There’s the prestige, and the mystique, of them, the independence, the roommates and dorms. All good stuff for a writer to play with.

-Where did the inspiration for the Sententia series come from?

Well, as I mentioned, the school was part of it. The next inspiration was meeting ‘Carter’ in real life. He was, for a summer, a cashier at my local liquor store, uniquely handsome and no more than eighteen or nineteen. The first time I saw him, my first thought was, “He must have been really popular with the girls in high school. When I got home later, I wrote what I called a “character sketch” but was really a scene where a boy meets a girl in a bookstore. I didn’t know anything about them, but I knew what he looked like and where and how they met! After that, I spent days and nights day dreaming and traveling down rabbit holes on the internet…from there the Sententia were born!

-How long have you been writing? When did you decide to peruse a career in writing?

Heh. Well, Lost in Thought was really my first foray into creative writing, not counting a semester elective of it in high school and a single short story I once composed in anafternoon. But I feel like I’ve been training for it my whole life. I’ve been an avid reader since hiding books under my pillow to read by the light of my nightlight, I studied literature and literacy in college, and briefly taught it to teenagers. As a kid I always thought being an author would be cool, but it was the kind of thing that seemed like a dream, not something I’d ever do. So I didn’t. I didn’t write until 2010, when my husband asked me why I’d never written a book, and I realized I didn’t know. So then I wrote one.

It was making the 2011 ABNA finals that made me realize that maybe I could do more than just write—I could be a writer. I’ve been working on it ever since.

 That is oddly similar to my own experience. I never thought I’d be a writer until I sat down one day started writing a book.

-We met through the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award message boards. Lost In Thought was a finalist in 2011. Can you tell us a little about your ABNA experience?

Life-changing. It really was. Entering the contest was what I used to get myself to finish Lost in Thought—I work well under deadlines. I had no expectations, zero, zip, none. I didn’t tell anyone I’d entered, and at that point still only three people even knew I’d written a book. I started lurking around the ABNA boards, (but I didn’t really become a regular poster until the following year). I cried every time I saw my name on the new list for the next round of the contest, and when I made it to the semifinals, I had a nice running joke that I was going to miss the call to finalists—because I’d be in labor. I was nine months pregnant by then, and the traditional call day was my due date! In a way, I ended up being right. My daughter came a little early, and spent a week in the hospital, which is where I was, taking a nap with my phone off, when the finalist call came. Best voicemail ever! My mom came back to my room and found me crying over my phone and was like, “I knew you’d make the finals!” before I even told her.

After that, the rest of the experience was a whirlwind. They were so accommodating to us, letting us fly in and leave a day later, working to get us on the optimal flight (because we had to bring a 5-week old!). The contest was different then, in 2011, than it is now. All six finalists went to the awards ceremony and four of us went home as runners-up.  Obviously, I was one of the non-winners, and of course that was disappointing—who doesn’t want or hope to win?but it wasn’t unexpected. I called the winners the day the finalists were announced and I read all the excerpts. It was still an amazing time, though. Everyone was wonderful, the people from Amazon, Createspace, and Penguin, and of course the other authors. We were all nervous though. It was in the months afterwards that any of us really became friends.

I realize now, probably none of that is what you were asking. 🙂 So. What does happen to a finalist who doesn’t win? She gets back to work. The phrase FINALIST opens doors but it wasn’t a promise of anything. I got an agent, rather quickly and by a bit of luck. I spent months revising Lost in Thought. I cut thousands, nearly an entire short novel’s worth, of words. My agent helped me hone it and encouraged me, throughout a long, strange path, not to give up on it. And ultimately, we found it a home withLuminis Books, a small press capable of big things. As I type, Lost in Thought is face out in Barnes & Noble stores across the country. One of my imprint-mates, Laurie Gray’sMaybe I Will is currently a top 25 finalist for YALSA’s 2014 Teens’ Top Ten List!

-As your critique partner I got to read and early version of Second Thoughts, book two in the series. I felt like such a cool kid getting to see it before the public at large. I’ve enjoyed seeing it evolve into its final version. Has there ever been any feedback–from me or anyone else–that felt like it came from left field?

I wish I had something funny to share, but the answer to this is really no. I have GREAT critique partners. 🙂 After learning to work with thembecause, as you know, it’s kind of like dating…there’s a first date trial, a getting-to-know-you phase, a hey-I-think-we’re-really-working phase, and eventually you slide into a comfortable relationship—I’ve recognized that when I have an initial negative reaction to a comment it’s usually because it’s right and I hate having been wrong. And that some suggestions might not be what I want to do at that moment in the text, but they might have over-arching merit I shouldn’t ignore. I don’t always take my CPs advice, but I consider it all. A good friend, also a writer, once said to me that all writers had to learn to distinguish between: a) input that helps you get closer to your vision for the piece, b) input that’s well-meaning, but that doesn’t really fit with that vision, and c) input that’s not really well-meaning in the first place. Having great CPs eliminates c) and makes the balance of comments weigh heavily in a)’s favor. 🙂

 The abc rule is really good. I’ll have to remember that.

-Lost In Thought was previously independently published. How did the deal with Luminis Books come about? How does the Luminis release differ from the previous one? What drew you to Luminis?

I touched on this briefly, but yes, part of the long, strange path that Lost in Thought took was a brief stop as a self-published book. After a really great submission period that still ended in no publishing deal, I was ready to shelve The Sententia. And I did, for a while. When my agent came to me with an opportunity to take part in a trial of a new book recommendation service (Libboo.com—check them out), she, and my husband, finally convinced me that Lost in Thought didn’t have to sit under my bed. So, I did it, I published it and mostly just let it be.

At the time, I was busy writing another book. When that book went on sub, my agent suggested (again) we submit to Luminis, which I’d been hesitant to do. I had a thing in my head that a small press wasn’t for me, that I might as well self-pub, and my agent, who’s super smart and patient with me, convinced me that we should just submit, see what happened, and I didn’t have to decide anything right away. So, we did. Except they really wanted to see Lost in Thought, more than my other book, and ultimately, that’s what they offered for. I was still hesitant, but my agent set up a call for us, let me talk to them and hear in their own words who they were and what they brought to the table—which was basically everything a big publisher did—and sometimes a little bit more. I thought it over for a week, and it was a tough decision, in part because I had released Lost in Thought so I had some readers, and they were going to have to wait…a long time for a sequel. But, in the end, I went for it, and it’s been a great decision.

The re-release of Lost in Thought is not considerably different from my release. It’s a little shorter, as I worked to tighten up language and scenes even more, and a few namesone major—have changed. The storyline is the same. We kept the cover art and have been working with a designer friend of mine for the new art. The cover ofSecond Thoughts is awesome! I can’t wait to share it!

-What are your plans for the future of the series? Book two was clearly not the end.

There will be two more books in the series! It’s not a trilogy. I don’t know what a four-book-logy is called. Quadrology? 🙂 Lainey and Carter have a long road and some serious travels before their stories are done. Heartache and sacrifice await! That’s about all I think I can say without giving away secrets…

-What other projects do you have in the works?

“In the works” is a broad term…I don’t have a lot of time to actually work on anything but the project under contract, but I have other things flitting around in my brain that I’d been working on before and will return to. First up will be a YA contemporary that I’ve done the most work on. After that I have a bunch of things competing for my attention…another contemporary, two speculative, and—gasp!an adult book I so want to write but am not sure I’m ready for. Maybe by the time I finish all these other things 😉

 

And lastly, thank YOU for the interview! I hope I didn’t bore everyone!

 Definitely not. It’s fascinating.

More about about Cara and the Sententia series can be found here:

www.carabertrand.com

carabertrand.tumblr.com

And Signed copies can be bought here.

Progress Report: Everything is Great, Everything is Grand

http://youtu.be/t9_zKm2Ewaw

via The Muppets – Life’s a Happy Song [Official Music Video Lyrics] – YouTube.

Things have been going quite nicely as of late. The seemingly endless winter appears to be overish. My arm is healing. No more cast, no more pain, but I do have to do regular physical therapy to regain full strength. I’ve started a new job that I really like, though it is occupying some of the brain space that used to be devoted to writing.

On the writing front, I turned in my last Betsy-Tacy review for Forever Young Adult. I don’t know yet when it will be posted, but you can read the first four here, here, here, and here. It’s been great revisiting these books that meant so much to me growing up. As well as sharing them with people who feel the same. I’ll probably put a cap on the reread by reading Emily of Deep Valley, the only one I’ve never read. As well as the long out of print Betsy-Tacy Companion, which I treated myself to as a Christmas present. Since FYA wasn’t promised those, I’ll post the reviews here.

Last summer one of my stories won the Geek Partnership Writing contest. I’ve received the certificate in the mail and the official announcement is now posted here.

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Got to admit, it was really cool to see my name.

In other contest news, for the fifth year in a row I’ve entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. This is the third year for Random Acts of Nudity. In 2012 it reached the semifinals, last year it was cut in the first round. This year it’s reached round 2, but didn’t reach the quarterfinals. Still it bested last year’s result.

Speaking of ABNA, one of the fellow writers I met through the contest runs a blog called Word Soup. He takes five hundred words of a work in progress and “boils” or cuts and condenses it to trim out the excess without losing the content. Just reading the previous posts has trained me to look for the unnecessary wordage in my writing. So I offered up a passage from Tooth and Consequence to be boiled. You can read it here. While not every suggested rewrite sounds exactly like my voice, most are spot on. I’ll definitely be coming back to his suggestions when I start revising this manuscript. Considering that my most recent revision on a different story cut 15,000 words without fundamentally changing the story, boiling is a skill to hone.

This Sunday I attended a discussion with fantasy author Emma Bull, hosted by the Minnesota Speculative Writers Meetup Group. Ms. Bull is the author of many books, including the urban fantasy classic War For The Oaks, which happens to be set in Minneapolis.

A few of the highlights:

She is in the process of writing a short story, or possibly a novella, inspired by the character of Wonder Woman, if rather than a comic book super hero, she were an urban fantasy character. I want to read that! She thinks it will become a series, though it will have to be finished and published first. She admitted to working a bit slowly, so it could be a while before it sees print. If anybody hears about such a story, let me know.

She is also working on the sequel to her novel Territory, to be called Claim. The novel is set in Tombstone Arizona in 1881. The gunfight at the o.k. corrall will be a major event within the book. I asked her if the gunfight in the book would follow the course of the historical gunfight and she said yes, mostly. She’s clearly done extensive research on the gunfight and Tombstone. It’ll be interesting where the fantasy element comes in.

One of the things she was most excited about is a fitness app called Zombie run. The conceit is that the runner is a messenger for a town in a post zombie apocalypse world. You run with your headphones in and s voice gives you missions to complete and warns you when there are zombies chasing you and you need to speed up. It also follows an episodic narrative. After talking at a convention about how much she loved it (she’s now completed both a 5 and 7k) she was contacted by the story editor for the app, and has written two episodes since.

She said the fastest she’s ever completed a book was when she collaborated with Steven Brust on the epistolary novel, Freedom & Necessity. She started it out of the blue by writing a letter by a character she was discovering as she wrote. She realized it was a game and the only person she wanted to play with was Steven Brust. She put it in an envelope, drove to his house, rang the bell, handed him the letter and drove away. He had no idea what it was all about, and thought he’d done something so terrible she could only confront him in a letter. Once he opened the letter, he was on board. They then wrote the book in turns by answering each other’s letters. I kind of love that idea, where you have no idea where the story is going until you get your partner’s section. Though they did stop about halfway and plot out the end. I’d love to try this sometime.

Finally one of my favorite moments was when she said that during her research for Claim she saw an update in a Tombstone Epitaph from the period. It said something along the lines of “We still have no information on the origin of the severed arm found in the road last Monday.” She read that and thought “I know where it came from” and a new subplot was born. I like this because it’s so similar to a story Neil Gaiman told during a talk I wrote up a few years ago for Read Comics. In which he read a news story about a large brass bed found in the London sewer system, that no one could figure out how it got there and his first thought was “I know.”

To close out this list of good things and links, I made a batch of chocolate tarts filled with caramel whipped cream, for a charity bake sale at work. They sold out within ten minutes. They were delicious if I do say so myself. I’ll probably write up a post with the recipe soon.

A Problem With Princesses

A few weeks ago my niece, who is almost four, saw Frozen. It was her first movie in a theater and her first official Disney movie. She’s seen Studio Ghibli and Pixar movies on DVD, which are both associated with Disney, but are creatively independent of the Mouse. And of course she’s seen the princesses. Not the movies, just the princesses. She has seen princess dolls and sunglasses and bedsheets. She’s familiar with their looks and their names, but she has a very vague idea of their stories. As far as she’s concerned they fight bad guys and save their friends. Just like any super hero. I hope it stays that way for a long time.

 

I have mixed feelings about Disney, particularly the princesses. I loved them as a kid and watched the movies repeatedly. I enjoyed the wish fulfillment aspect of wearing fancy dresses and living in a palace and being undeniably important. (I still kinda want a tiara sometimes). But my wish fulfillment fantasies weren’t limited to princesses. I wanted to be a rock star and an astronaut and shortstop for the White Sox too. For me one of the biggest appeals of animated fairy tales (or any fairy tales in fact) is because they gave me a magic fix. I was a kid that believed wholeheartedly in magic. I ate it up. It’s no coincidence that my favorite of the original batch of princess movies is Sleeping Beauty, which has a dragon. A very scary dragon!

 

It’s also a complete rehash of the two princess films that came before it, using Snow White’s basic plot, while weaving in hallmarks of Cinderella. Not one but three fair godmothers, and using the same actress who voiced the stepmother as Malificent. It’s also the one where the princess in question has the least amount of screen time or personality to speak of.

I was equally as enamored with the second wave starting with the Little Mermaid. I own most of them. Because they held such a special place in my little kid heart. But But But BUT! As an adult they can be tough to watch. Not just because of the squeaky mice. It’s hard not to notice the screwed up messages about gender roles and romance in almost all of them. My perspective has changed.

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I haven’t seen Frozen yet. From what I hear it manages to sidestep or subvert the worst of the princess pitfalls. And I really enjoyed Tangled a few years ago. I’m glad Disney is course correcting going forward. But they’re still profiting off the back catalog. The problematic princesses aren’t going anywhere.

 

Disclaimer: I normally free hand the drawings I post here. But the broken arm made that too difficult. I took the easy route and traced over existing images to create these

I wrote a story about Neil Gaiman’s toaster

There are many things I should be working on right now, but the idea for this weird story would not release me until I’d written it down.

 

A Plan Gone A’Rye

In retrospect there were a few holes in the plan. Perhaps he could have been more thorough in his research, but Corsokrops of the Guidant Nebula was morphological life form of action. He was proud that his superiors had selected him for a preliminary role in what was sure to be a spectacular conquest. His assignment was to spy on the most powerful person in America. The intelligence Corsokrops gathered would be key in overthrowing the government. The global chaos following the crumbling of a super power would pave the way for a full scale invasion.

Corsokrops studied American current event publications, to find the one person who would have the most important secrets.  To be honest he skimmed the publications, as he was wont to do. He hated wasting time, not with such a glorious mission at hand. The articles were terribly dry, and while there were some recurring names, they provided few clues. He soon discovered, toward the middle of most of the publications, a list of public figures, ranked in order of importance. The same name appeared at the top of each list. The man carried an impressive title, American Gods. Not just one god—a pantheon. Clearly this was the man Corsokrops was searching for. He infiltrated the man’s home, disguised as an innocuous appliance. He settled in to absorb the state secrets.

He had misgivings from the start. The man’s appearance was altogether unkempt. He had a mass of wild, curly hair, that rose and fell in odd, abrupt angles, and several days’ growth on his chin. His clothes were rumpled and seemed to be chosen only because they were all of one color. There was none of the gravitas Coroskrops expected in one of his station. The man, for his part, regarded Corsokrops skeptically.

“Have I always had this toaster?” he wondered aloud. Corsokrops emitted a high pitched hum. A subliminal tone to assure the man that he had indeed always had this toaster and there was nothing to be alarmed about. The disheveled man shrugged and loaded Corsokrops with two slices of raisin bread.

This is where the plan started to fall apart. He had chosen the form because he had seen it in numerous American homes. It rarely appeared to be in use. Not like the large cold box or or the radiation cooker. He believed its function to be primarily esthetic. Of course he had made his studies late in the evenings. He was not one to wake early if he didn’t need to. The bread played havoc with his central processor. Soon he was billowing smoke from very uncomfortable parts of his anatomy.

“What’s the use of a toaster that won’t toast?” The man grumbled. He turned Corsokrops over and dislodged the charred bread. Corsokrops was grateful for his assistance, but damned embarrassed just the same. What a terrible miscalculation! “And look at this mess!” The man sighed. “Crumbs everywhere.” He lifted Corsokrops and carried him toward the waste receptacle. Corsokrops hummed frantically. “Well…maybe it can be fixed,” the man said, setting him back on the counter.

This routine repeated daily, but Corsokrops was initially optimistic. He could connect into the man’s electric thought translators. There was no doubt he was gathering vital information. There was a crisis brewing involving a woman with clothing fasteners for eyes, luring children into a parallel dimension. Corsokrops’s superiors would be very interested in this. The woman could be a valuable distraction or a formidable wrench in their plans.

He paid close attention to the event as it unfolded. A female child was currently in her clutches, but surprisingly it looked as though this insignificant minor could gain the upper hand. Corsokrops waited on baited vapor to learn the outcome. It was slow coming. Almost as if the man didn’t always know what was happening. Sometimes the events seemed to shift and rearrange themselves. As though reality had changed its mind. The eventual conclusion was not, as it turns out, relevant to the invasion plans. It was still quite satisfying.

He continued to watch the man’s devices, searching for vulnerabilities in the country’s defenses. America was far stranger than he’d initially realized. Sometimes it was called England. Ghosts often popped up. And assassins. Deities died and were born. For a while an entity called the Doctor was looking promising. Nothing came of it.

Corsokrops feared his superiors were growing impatient. He  was desperate to produce something of value. He expanded his searching to older thought translators. The man was constantly discarding translators in favor of faster, more distracting models. He found vast records of unusual and engrossing phenomena. A secret city that existed below and concurrent to a well known one. A fallen star that became a sentient being. And the discovery of something called the San Grail.

It was only recently that the penny dropped. The duck pond was what did it. It could not be both a duck pond and an ocean. Preposterous. What he’d taken as accurate histories were in fact flights of fancy from a remarkable—but insignificant to the scheme of things—mind.

He filed a disillusioned report to the home office. They politely informed him that the invasion plans had been scrapped over a decade ago. He was written off as lost in action. Their many extraction orders had gone unanswered. Corsokrops performed a diagnostic test and determined the problem was due to build up of raisins in his incoming message receptors.

“You’ll want me to come back then?”

“All espionage positions are filled at the moment,” the bored sounding bacterial life form said. “I’ll see if I can find you a place in accounts if you like.”

“I guess. No hurry.” The man had finally started the sequel to Neverwhere. Corsokrops hated to leave in the middle.

 

This story was inspired by this question and answer from an interview with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.

9. I don’t really have a relevant question, so I’m just gonna ask how many toasters you have at home?

NG: “There is only one toaster and it is TERRIBLE. It eats toast, and then I have to turn it on its side and shake it to get the toast out. And toast crumbs come out too and go all over the kitchen.

Why do I have such a toaster? Surely I can afford to replace it. Sigh.”

The whole Q&A can be found here.

Micro Story

In my last post I mentioned I attended CONvergence. While there I participated in the Iron Pen Drabble Contest. The challenge was this, write a one hundred word story, in one hour, and must include an object not to be revealed until the start of the contest. This year’s object was a fuzzy blue and yellow beanie with blue and yellow streamers attached to it.

I’d never tried to write a story quite that short before. And definitely not one with so many restrictions. It couldn’t go one word over or under 100. So without further ado, here’s what  I came up with.

 

Royal Wedding

by Susan Taitel

 

“This is the happiest day of my life!” Mara’s sister enthused.

“You don’t even know him.”

“He picked me!” She lifted the blue and yellow helm. The traditional noodles swept back and forth as she spoke. “I can’t believe he picked me!”

“I don’t think you’ve thought it through. What about college?”

“It doesn’t matter anymore. He’s the prince.”

Mara watched her older sister proudly stepped to her destiny. The prince’s talons closed around her. Her sister beamed as she was lifted to his gaping maw. As the last yellow streamer disappeared behind the royal teeth, Mara heard “I do.”

 

If I had to do it again I’d change a few of the words, but it’s 100 words with a beginning, middle, and end.