Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Free story idea – By Petep’s Boulder

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

This novel is almost written backwards.  By that I mean there’s an archeological excavation on an alien world.  The novel is broken up into ten or so parts, and each part starts with a page or two of the archeologists finding some item.  Then the rest of that part is set in the past showing how that item ended up at that location.  The next part follows another item a few meters lower down, meaning it was left there decades or centuries before the previous item.  Basically, we learn aspects of this world’s history, but we just start at the last chapter and read back to the first one.

So what’s this novel about?  At some place on this alien world, there is a giant sinkhole, like a hundred meters deep.  (You’ll need to do some math to figure out just how big it is because you’ll probably want it to take at least a thousand years for it to be filled with fist-sized rocks.)  Near this sinkhole is a monastery.  The story goes, that one day this monk named Petep was meditating and reach a point where he split himself into his good and evil halves.  The two fought, and the evil half was thrown into the sinkhole and a boulder was rolled down to bury him.  Petep took on some disciples, before going directly to the afterlife.  The disciples built on his teachings and started a religion.  The followers of the religion began writing their sins on some paper, wrapping it around a rock, and throwing it into the sinkhole, thus casting away their “evil halves.” And they believed that once the sinkhole was filled, it would be the end of the world.  Oh, and “By Petep’s Boulder” is a saying that over the centuries has been a battle cry, their version of “Goddamnit!” as well as their version of, “Aw jeez.”

The novel begins with human archeologists starting to excavate the filled in sinkhole.  After removing a layer or two of rocks, they find some of the sin papers are still there.  They find one with some mundane sin, and that becomes the item for the first part.  We see what the person who wrote it was going through.

As the archeologists dig deeper, it will be harder to find distinct items.  I think one item could be a special rock.  Like most of the rocks thrown into the sinkhole comes from a nearby quarry, but maybe they find a chunk of obsidian or something that came from the other side of the planet, so we learn why that person went through the trouble of carrying it all the way there.  Maybe for a time people carved their sins onto sheets of metal.  But that only lasted for a short time, since it was a waste to throw all of that metal away.  And maybe Big Quarry stepped in to stop it.

But there are also darker items.  Like maybe somebody stabbed someone and they throw the knife into the sinkhole.  This casts away their sin, but also conveniently disposes of the murder weapon.  Darker still is when they find a skeleton.  This turns out to be the last Pope-equivalent.  Petep had two main disciples.  At first, they worked together for the religion, but over the decades they started to split over doctrine.  Eventually two branches of the religion developed, we’ll call them A and B.  For the first two or three parts we read, there is no mention of A.  But then maybe the guy with the knife killed someone because he thought they were an A heretic, or whatever.  During the part with the skeleton, we learn that there was a civil war between the two and that B won.  To cast away the sin of A, they take the last A Pope-equivalent, and throw them into the sinkhole.  The two sides had lived mostly in peace for centuries, but they grew more antagonistic towards each other, eventually leading to the war.  And we learn about all of this in reverse.

Eventually, the archeologists get to the bottom of the sinkhole where there is a boulder that had been rolled down from the surface.  What is underneath it will depend on what kind of story you want to write.  There could be nothing under it, and we could find out that Petep just got high one day and had a vision that got blown out of proportion.  To the point that centuries later, when the people had finally filled in the sinkhole, they – on their own – fulfilled the “prophecy” that it would be the end of the world and they destroyed themselves, which is why it is human archeologists doing the excavating. 

Or maybe there is a skeleton under the boulder.  But whose is it?  There are several ways this can be taken.  Maybe Petep wasn’t a monk, he was just the guy that grew the mushrooms the monks used for their visions.  Maybe some of the monks in training befriended him so they could get some of these mushrooms.  And one day they were out by the sinkhole goofing off and one fell in, and they thought it was all a vision or whatever and rolled a boulder in on top of them.  When they sobered up they panicked, and came up with this “Petep split off his evil half story.” But Petep could only stay “good” for so long, and to keep him from blowing his part of the story, his disciples made him disappear, saying he went off to the afterlife.  But years later, one of the disciples wrote out their confession.  Maybe they threw it into the sinkhole, and somehow it survived the centuries, or maybe it was just hidden away in the Vatican-equivalent vault and the aliens only recently discovered it.  After the sinkhole was filled, and the world didn’t end, the religion died off.  So they started studying the history of it more.  The reason they aren’t doing the excavation, is that the site is still sacred, or taboo in some sense, so they hired human archeologists to excavate.  Any interesting items will go to a museum, and all the rocks will just be dumped back into the sinkhole.

Or maybe it’s Petep’s skeleton under the boulder.  Maybe, Petep was a minor monk who often meditated on the rim of the sinkhole.  From there he could see several boulders already on the bottom of it, and one day – after some mushrooms or other items – he had a vision of splitting off his evil half and imprisoning him in the sinkhole.  And for whatever reason, this idea took off.  Petep went from some nobody monk to someone with disciples.  But the power corrupted him.  Maybe he started sleeping with some of his followers, but things went too far and for whatever reason a couple of them killed him.  Maybe it was a spur of the moment thing, so they were limited in how to hide the body.  So they threw him in the sinkhole and rolled a boulder in.  Although, I’m not sure how well you could aim a boulder to cover a body.  Or maybe they planned things out and took the risk of going down into the sinkhole to bury him.  Although, would they have easy access to a hundred meters of rope strong enough to be able to climb down into the sinkhole?

Or maybe the monks were strict on celibacy, but Petep got a woman pregnant who threated to go to the other monks, so Petep threw her in.  Or maybe Petep was gay, and that was illegal at the time, and his lover threated to tell everyone.  Or maybe Petep figured out he could climb down into the sinkhole each night and find everyone’s sins to blackmail them, and one of the disciples killed him.  Or maybe the disciples were doing that, and Petep threaten to stop them so they killed him.  Or maybe Petep was actually a woman, but at the time women weren’t allowed to be intelligent.  So she became monk Petep to speak her mind.  And when the disciples discovered this, they killed her.

Or maybe Petep was like the Intro to Philosophy teacher at the monastery who taught this “split yourself into good and evil” bit as a thought experiment.  But a couple of his students made a cult out of it.  At first Petep was happy that more people were thinking about his ideas, but over time he saw his students were just using it as a way to gain money and power.  When he tried to stop them, they killed him.  But Petep had told his wife everything, and she wrote it all down.  And maybe this account was passed down through their family for a thousand years or more, until the world was ready to know the truth.  Or maybe it was hidden in the monastery.  After the religion died off, it was being torn down and the true history of Petep was found.  Or maybe the monastery was damaged in an earthquake and the documents were found while repairing it.


There are a lot of ways this novel could go.  Any of the ideas I had, some combination of them, or something completely new.  That’s for you to figure out.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Election Day Sale

Several years ago, I started having Election Day sales for my collection of short stories of a political nature, Political Pies.  For the last few sales, I’ve also included a few other of my books.  The main reason I do this is it’s me doing a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny part of hopefully getting people to vote.  The idea being you can download some of my books for free so you have something to read while you stand in line to vote.  It’s not much, but hopefully it does someone, somewhere, some good. 

There are those who think politicians should be the ones who decide who wins elections and not the voters.  The only way to defeat them is for “We the people” to vote in overwhelming numbers and show them that that is not how American democracy is supposed to work.  So if you live someplace where – often because of their interference – there is a long line to vote, grab any of these books that look interesting, and make sure your phone and/or Kindle is fully charged.  Then get in line, stay in line, and make your voice heard.  Democracy depends on it.

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The following ebooks will be free to download from Friday November 4th, through Election Day on Tuesday November 8th.

Political Pies

Everybody complains about politics, but does anyone do anything about it? My attempt to do something about it is to collect forty of my short stories with a political element into my Political Pies anthology. The stories are either politically neutral or equally condemning of the national parties. Instead of trying to sway you to one ideology or another, my goal is to just get people thinking about politics in the hopes a rose might grow out of all the political manure.

A Man of Few Words


A Man of Few Words is a collection of fifty of my flash fiction stories. What would really happen if a “T-Rex on steroids” attacked a city? Why do science fiction writers make the best lovers? How does a company get to Second Base with VIPs? I explore these questions and more using less than 1,000 words and in various genres from humor to horror and general fiction to science fiction.

The majority of the stories were previously published (most on my website) but all were revised for this collection. In addition, each piece is accompanied by some background information on the origin of the story or a funny tale about the writing of it to give a fuller experience.

The Future isComing


As a science fiction writer, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how technology will change the way we live. I’ve come up with these ten short essays about science fictional elements that will – almost certainly – one day become science fact as a way for people to start coming to terms with them. Because I’ve spent time thinking about clones and AIs, I feel I’ll be okay when they do finally show up whereas most people will probably freak out. I hope these essays will get people to start thinking about the future because, no matter what we do, the future is coming.

Duty


For reasons of safety and avoiding paradoxes, Time Travel Incorporated assigns a Guardian to all its travelers. So when there is an accident during political historian Roj Hasol’s trip back to 1968, it’s his Guardian Susan who sets out on the arduous task of cleaning up the mess.

Seventh Story Stockpile


Over the years, I’ve posted several short stories on websites that later – for one reason or another – died. While the corpses of some of these sites are still around where you can read the stories, many have vanished from the internet. And since there are few sites that will publish such previously published works, the only way you could read them was if I self-published them in a collection.

In addition to such “lost” stories, I’ve included some new stories that – for one reason or another – I felt I’d have a hard time finding someone to publish them. So Seventh Story Stockpile basically contains stories I didn’t know what else to do with.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Free story idea – Body parts

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

This is just the beginning of an idea I’m not entirely sure what to do with.  I see this as being set somewhere in the American west, maybe Texas.  Someplace that in the late 1800s would be ranches, and then maybe the railroad goes through and a small town grows up, hitting a few thousand people by the 1940s.  But since then the population has fallen to a few hundred and now it’s basically a gas station between two more interesting places.

The first part of the story has a series of time jumps.  It starts in the late 1800s with a father and his young son riding out to check on some cows.  They have a dog running with them that finds something in the brush and starts eating it.  They go over to see what it is, and find a left foot.  They look around but don’t see anything else.  They let the sheriff know, but they figure it was just a trapper or maybe an outlaw that ran afoul a bear or something.

One possibility that would let the story explore some issues, would be if the foot came from a black man.  As a white guy, I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing that story, which is why in my version it was just a very pale, white foot.  There is a reason for it being very pale, but we’ll get to that.

The next jump is set in the early 1900s.  A doctor is in his Model T going out to make a house call when he sees something lying beside the road.  He gets out and finds – in my version – a very pale, white, right arm.  There is the possibility that the doctor is the young boy who found the foot, or maybe the time jump is enough for the doctor to be that boy’s son.  Who knows.  The sheriff is told, and they do a quick search, but don’t find anything else.

Over the years, more and more bits are found in a 100 or so square mile area.  Sometimes they have been partially eaten by animals, sometimes they look burned, and sometimes they seem to appear from nowhere.  Like, maybe a guy from the 1950s is mowing his backyard when his wife calls him in to take a phone call.  He’s on the phone for five minutes, and when he goes back out, there’s a hand laying a couple feet from the mower. 

At some point, there are enough parts that people realize something odd is going on.  Someone suggests maybe someone killed someone and somehow preserved the bits to throw people off, only to be told that in the past eighty years they’ve found nine feet, six of them left ones. 

Perhaps that doctor started recording all these finds, and those files get passed down town doctor to town doctor as some dark town mystery.  Some of the hands are preserved in alcohol, or whatever chemicals are available at the time.  Eventually, when the technology develops, they do blood tests, and it turns out that all the parts they find all have the same blood type.  And then, once genetic testing becomes possible – and cheap enough – tests are done on recent bits as well as some of the better-preserved ones.  And the tests all come back as identical, which is weird because you have two left feet that were found a decade apart as being the same genetically. 

A few heads have been found, but most have been badly mangled or eaten, so it’s hard to tell if there is any resemblance.  When one is found pretty intact, they do take pictures of it, but nobody ever comes forward to identify who they were.

The story eventually gets to the main character in whatever time period the writer wants to set this story.  She might be the first female town doctor, who may be related to that original rancher.  She finds this whole town mystery thing interesting, and aggravating, but is afraid of going too far out on a limb with all these crazy theories: you know, satanic cult, aliens, bigfoot, whatever.  Then one night she’s driving down a road when she finds a naked man lying in the middle of the road.  She jumps out only to find that he is dead.  Maybe his chest is burnt and broke open.  He looks exactly like the pictures of the full head they’ve found and when they run a DNA test, it matches all the parts.  But nobody ever reports him missing.

And this is where things will depend on whatever story you decide to write.  One version is that shortly after this she is driving down the road and sees an identical man – although not pale – rooting around behind the gas station and when she goes after him he runs off.  Or, this not pale man shows up at her door.  It will all depend on what the story is, because he’s a time traveler.  Either he came back to meet her, or he is trying to hide from her.

Now, the reason for the pale body parts.  They’re clones.  Time travel hasn’t been perfected, so this guy isn’t going to go into the machine on the first try.  But if you’re building time machines, you’ve probably also figured out cloning.  So a bunch of clones are made of the guy, and since they grew up for a month or so in a lab and haven’t seen the sun they are rather pale.  And then they’re sent back to fine tune the controls.  There will be parts of these clones showing up for another century or more in this area.

There are a couple of issues with this story since time travel can’t just be simple.  If you were wanting to conduct a scientific test of the time machine, you’d label your test subjects.  If you knew they’d be blown up, you’d probably tattoo the subject number on multiple body parts so when you have all the records in the future, you can see the results of the test.  The original foot might have “011” tattooed on it, which might match an arm found in 1926 and a head found in 1942.  The full, naked man the doctor finds – from a near perfect test – might have “057” tattooed all over him.  But this would give the story away to any savvy reader.

Well, maybe instead of tattoos there are some micro, high tech trackers.  But do the people in the future have to dig up all these random graves to get the trackers, or do they transmit the data back to the future?  And if they already have these records of all these body parts, do they have to send the clones just to close the loop?  Or were there no records until they started sending the clones because that altered the past?  Or, was there some catastrophe that destroyed the records from this small town so that the people in the future never knew their clones were exploding over Texas?  Whoever writes this story will have to figure all of that out.

Another time travel question will be why is the guy coming back anyway?  Could it be that he eventually gets together with the doctor and they have a child.  And five or six generations later, is that the time traveler?  Or less icky, is the great-great-great-grandchild the one who figures out how to build the time machine and the traveler is just an adventurer?

If you start a story with exploded clone parts raining down over a small town for over a century, that needs to build up to something big.  What that could be, I don’t know.  That’s why I’m giving this idea away.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Writing Newsletter Third Quarter 2022

 

In the last three months I haven’t published any new stories or reposted any old ones. 

I haven’t been doing much writing these last few months, mostly because it seems like every time I think I’ll spend Tuesday writing, I wake up Tuesday remembering that I need to pick beans, or corn, or dig potatoes, or clean out the chicken coop.  Things I can’t really put off for later, and when I do sit down to write, I’m tired and end up rewatching some movie or TV show.  But I have slowly been grinding away at my project of The Uncapped Pen, but I won’t finish it until sometime next year.  We’ll have to see how the rest of the year goes.

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Image from Pixabay.


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Free story idea – A new mythology

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

This is an idea for an online collaborative project that would span years.  It’s possible something similar has already been tried, but I have no knowledge of that. 

It was probably at least ten years ago, I was flipping through the channels late one night when I came across a movie that was set in a time of Greek myths.  There was a period where several of these movies had come out, but I hadn’t seen any of them.  So I watched this one, and while checking the schedule during the commercials saw that one of these other movies was on the next afternoon on another channel.  I watched that one too, and they were both terrible.  I understand that each generation retells stories, dropping things that are no longer relevant or acceptable and adding new experiences.  But for these movies it seemed like they just took the Greek myths and put them through a shredder, then tapped together whatever random bits they needed.  And I thought, Why even bother?  Is the name recognition of Zeus so great you couldn’t just write an original story?

So at first I had the idea of writing out an entirely new mythology.  I started thinking about it, and I quickly saw how enormous the project would be.  I mean, it would basically be as large – or larger – than all the Greek myths we know.  It wouldn’t be just putting a new skin over Hercules and calling it a day, this would be entirely original gods, and heroes, and adventures.  One hope was to eventually build up to an Iliad size of story.

For some time it was just this great idea I’d never have time to do, but then I had the idea of just starting it and letting others fill it out.  What I came up with was to have a website with a map, and some basic world origin canon.  This world began when The Nameless Goddess grew lonely, so she created the world with her torso.  Her flesh became the land, her blood the seas.  Her left eye became the sun, her right the moon.  And her skull became the heavens.  But so this world wouldn’t be without gods, her left leg became god of the land, her right the goddess of the sea.  Her left arm became the goddess of life, and her right the god of death.  These gods appear as humans, and can have kids with humans, but their true form is a limb.  But they learned from The Nameless Goddess and some have made minor gods from toes and fingers.  All but death, who hasn’t diminished any of his power and remains the strongest.  I’m not sure what happened to The Nameless Goddess.  Possibly her essence builds a bridge to the afterlife, but who knows.

So that’s how the website would start.  What would then happen, is the site would be open for people to write historical stories based in this world.  Maybe someone writes a story about how a poor fisherman accidently caught one of the minor sea goddesses, but set her free.  In reward, she granted him treasure and knowledge to set up a kingdom of his own.  Members of the site could read this story, and if they liked it, they could give it canon points.  If it got enough, it would be reviewed to make sure it fit in with everything that already happened, and it would become canon as a historical fact in this universe.  After that, other stories could make reference to the characters and locations.  The hope is that you’d end up with dozens of little kingdoms that trade, and fight, and make alliances with each other.  And along the way there would be stories of heroes and monsters.

To keep things from getting out of hand, there would be a Year 0, set maybe a thousand or so years after the formation of the world.  No stories could be set before Year 0, but there could be myths, which I’ll discuss later.  When the site first goes live would be Year 20, and then each month twenty years would be added to the calendar.  And you’d only be able to write stories set up to whatever the current year was.  So in the third month, you could write stories set anywhere from Year 0 to Year 60.  If you had two stories about a war between two kingdoms, but with different outcomes, whichever story got the most canon points would be the true history of the world, while the other would be relocated to an alternate history section.

But stories on the site don’t all need to be about historical fact.  There would also be a section on the site for in-universe fiction.  Maybe that fisherman story happened in Year 10, so when Year 110 comes around and everyone in that kingdom is celebrating, a playwright from a rival kingdom could write a play that gives a twist on the events.  Instead of canon points, these fictional stories would get popularity points.  The more popular stories – ones that most people in-universe would know – could be mentioned in the historical stories.  But just like in real life, maybe a story isn’t that popular and few people know about it, until someone else comes along and gives it a shiny new coat of paint, and maybe that becomes a popular story. 

Other stories that would get popularity points would be myths.  These would be any story set before Year 0, and they may or may not be accurate portrayals of historical events.  Popular myth stories would likely be referenced in historical or fictional stories. 

So that’s the idea, but you can probably see the enormous headache it would be.  If there aren’t enough members on the site, then the world might grow too slowly and people would stop checking it out.  If there are too many members, then you could get ten stories about how these two kingdoms fought – or didn’t fight – a war, and maybe one gets declared canon before you can read all of them.  There could also be factions that just up-vote their own stories which doesn’t sound like fun.  And then the legal issues of who owns the stories and can they be taken down.  If you want to deal with all those headaches, more power to you.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

2,000 Days of Writing!

Just after midnight, I opened one of my many writing projects and typed a few words adding to a sentence.  While not much, it means – if my counting has been correct over the past few years – that I’ve written something for 2,000 days in a row.  That’s over five-and-a-half years of writing.  Which isn’t bad.

Of course, few of those days were ones where I wrote a thousand words.  The vast majority of them were days where I just wrote a sentence or two.  And yes, there are untold numbers of wannabe writers who don’t even do that much, but at the rate I’m going it will take 2,000 years to finish some of my projects.  Which, if that was an option, I’d be all for. 

Maybe in the next 2,000 days I can pick up the pace a bit.  We’ll just have to see.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Moon landing sale!

I am a big supporter of returning to the moon; I think it’s our best way of becoming a spacefaring civilization.  As such, I will often spend an hour or so going over the list of future moon missions on Wikipedia.  As I write this, CAPSTONE is on its way, but there could be a dozen more missions within the next year.  I wish them all success. 

But the reason for this sale is to mark the Apollo 11 landing.  Even though it happened before I was born, I do see it as an important day.  So to mark this year’s anniversary, I’m having a sale on three of my ebooks.  Just so you don’t think I’m just having a sale to have a sale, two of them deal with the moon, and the third deals with the future. 

You’ll be able to grab the following three ebooks for free between Monday July 18th and Friday July 22nd.

 


The Moon Before Mars

Over the last few years a lot of people have caught Mars fever. It seems a week doesn’t go by without a report of some new group wanting to send people to Mars, or some big name in the industry talking about why we have to go to Mars, or articles talking about the glorious future humanity will have on Mars. All of this worries me. In my opinion, a Mars base is currently not sustainable because there’s no way for it to make money. A few missions may fly doing extraordinary science, but if it’s then cancelled for cost the whole Mars Project may just be seen as an expensive stunt.

Fortunately, there are other places in the solar system besides Mars. While bases on the moon and amongst the asteroids won’t be as inspirational as one on Mars, they will have opportunities for businesses to make goods and services as well as profits, meaning less chance of them being outright cancelled. This will make life better on Earth and secure a firm foothold in space for humanity. The essays in The Moon Before Mars: Why returning to the moon makes more sense than rushing off to Mars allow me to describe my ideas on what can be accomplished on the moon and with the asteroids, and why Mars isn’t the destiny of humanity its cheerleaders make it out to be.

The Future is Coming

As a science fiction writer, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how technology will change the way we live. I’ve come up with these ten short essays about science fictional elements that will – almost certainly – one day become science fact as a way for people to start coming to terms with them. Because I’ve spent time thinking about clones and AIs, I feel I’ll be okay when they do finally show up whereas most people will probably freak out. I hope these essays will get people to start thinking about the future because, no matter what we do, the future is coming.

A Cabin Under a Cloudy Sea and other stories


Hopefully, in the not too distant future humans will return to the moon. We will build bases and colonies, make farms and factories, and live, love and learn. A Cabin Under a Cloudy Sea and other stories contains five short stories that are all set upon the moon. They give the tiniest glimpse of the possibilities awaiting us there.