All posts by N. E. White

Speculative Fiction Writer

Prince of Fools Contest

Remember that 300-word contest? The one to win an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Mark Lawrence’s much-anticipated upcoming novel, Prince of Fools?

Well, whether you remember it or not, the winner was announced!

Håkan Pettersson won the contest with his entry titled The Chauffeur. You should check it out (its only 300 words) and read the 83 other entries. All are worthy of a read.

Here’s my entry:

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13. New Solitude

A rock fell from the cliff above. Gilbert spun, eyes squinting.

A woman stood at the edge of the world. The morning sea breeze whipped her gown like a plague of microdrones. Her face was in shadow, but sunlight flowed along the glitter of technology braided along her bare arms.

“What do you want?”

She answered by turning into a swarm, diving down next to him and coalescing back into shape. He turned away.

“You look like her.”

“I am her.”

“I’m not a fool. I know she’s dead.”

“She was a flawed genetic clone. I am the original.”

His body shook, blood pounded.

“That fact does not make her any less special,” the woman said. Her appearance shifted. Any tell-tale sign of her technology disappeared. The iridescent shine to her eyes left, leaving the deep brown he knew so well. Her hand came up to caress his cheek and he let her.

“We only want what is best. One coupling and you will save humanity,” she said.

“You want me to fuck you?”

“We’d rather a complete integration.”

He pushed her away, and made a haphazard retreat. He tripped, going down on his ass on the sandy beach.

“I’m human. I don’t want to be—“

“Like me? I was human – once. Now, I am like a god.”

“Controlled by…what?”

“Code. A set of rules developed fifty thousand years ago. It has worked remarkably well for us. You are the last of humanity, Gilbert. A prince among none. Would you rather let the human species go extinct, or join a new one?”

“I’d rather be my own person. Make my own decisions.”

“We are all bound by our code.”

After a moment’s thought, Gilbert stood and walked into the ocean.

by N. E. White

The Writing Process (Blog-Hop!)

Last week, I got tagged by the wonderful Emmie Mears in a blog hop. Go check her out, she’s cool and she’s got a book coming out soon from Harlequin E!

So, what’s this blog hop all about? you may ask. And I may answer, something as important as air and water to writers: the writing process.

Of course, like all bodies of water and air, the writing process is varied and mysterious. Let’s explore mine!

1) What are you currently working on?

A science fiction story about a woman given the chance to start a new species but chooses to save an old one instead.

2) How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I write from the perspective of a minority, and I try to infuse my fiction with the diversity of characters I see every day in my life.

3) Why do you write what you write?

The dog will eat me.

4) How does your process work?

It doesn’t.

Eek! I shouldn’t admit that, huh?

I have managed to write three books. Two of which were about the same character, his story just kept changing! However, I wouldn’t say any of those efforts are worthy of your time to read them. So, detailing how I went about writing them probably isn’t all that helpful.

I’m still learning, but I do know that a combination of outlining my story and allowing the characters to interact and find their own path is the way that works best for me now.

But that’s just me – an unsuccessful writer. You might want to check out these folks (listed below) who happen to have gotten it right.

Until next time, write well.

Challenges aglore

Howdy Folks,

It has been quiet in my neck of the cyber-woods lately. And it will likely be quieter for the remainder of April. I have a few pre-planned posts that will go up later this week, but otherwise, I will not be around.

If you are sitting there completely bummed out about that and want more to read and/or do, check out these interesting challenges:

100 Happy Days

Can you be happy for 100 days in a row?

That’s the central premise of this challenge. You sign up, then chronicle the things in your life that make you happy – each day for 100 days. Why do it? Why not? Get your family involved and I’m sure it could be fun.

Blogging from A to Z – April 2014

A little late for this, but I’m sure you can make it up. The idea is that every day of the month of April is assigned a letter of the alphabet (i.e., today’s the 7th, so today’s letter is ‘G’). Pick a topic starting with that letter, then write a post and publish on the appropriate day.

I think there’s a Sunday or two you can take off, but essentially the challenge is to blog each day of April.

Ask Me Stuff

Enjoy the crazy answers from Aussa and Angelle in their series of vblogs.

H/T to Rarasaur – the best dinosaur on the internet.

The Scribe

A bit of flash fiction for your Friday.

WARNING: Adult content.

The Scribe by N. E. White

The scribe writes at a pace that would rival a snail.

“Is it always this hot in Alexandria?” I ask, then immediately regret it for the scribe’s quill lifts from the page. His face crunches up in what I surmise is frustration at the loss of concentration my question precipitates. I glance at the harlot on my arm. Her lavender perfume encircles me and all I can think of is the moment when I can satisfy my loins. I cup her breast in one hand.

“No, my lord,” the scribe answers. “It is usually much hotter.”

I look back at the scribe, sitting on the stone steps of the central library. His ink-stained fingers dip his quill into the inkwell. Balancing his writing tray on his knees, he resumes to transcribe my letter. He works quicker, and I began to wonder if he can read my mind, but then he pulls up again.

“And?” he says.

“And what?” I ask.

“What else would you like your letter to your wife to include?” The scribe casts a furtive glance at my whore.

“Read it back to me,” I say, my eyes and hands busy with the plaything I bought for only a few copper coins. Since landing at its port, Alexandria has received this one merchant rather well. I want to boast of my sales and reassure my wife that I would be back soon, but instead my letter tells of hard-earned bargains and the unexpected travails of foreign customs. The whore giggles when my fingers find her cleft moist with desire; I hardly hear what words fall from the scribe’s lips. It is long past finding a room.

I wave my free hand at the scribe, tossing a few coins. With my voice thick with lust, I say, “That will do. Send it off on the next boat.”

I walk away with my whore, not knowing the scribe hunkers over my letter for some time after. I don’t see him sand the ink, roll the parchment tight, and secure it with a seal. I don’t see him hand it to a runner who will carry it to the next ship bound for the north. I don’t see my wife open it to read a recount of what my hands did to that whore on the wondrous streets of Alexandria.

 

First lines

Over on A Tale Unfolds, Arkenaten listed opening lines of books he found on his shelves.

I thought I’d do the same, but with only the first line from some of my favorite books.

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Which would you read or not?

Ramón Espejo awoke floating in a sea of darkness.

~ Hunter’s Run by George R. R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, and Daniel Abraham

Idle reader, you need no oath of mine to convince you that I wish this book, the child of my brain, were the handsomest, the liveliest, and the wisest that would be conceived.

~ Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; be could hear them squealing as only happy children do.

~ Wool – Part 1 by Hugh Howey

 I was twelve when it all happened – when Jasper Leatherstone escaped Death Row and everything changed.

~ Leatherstone by David Patrick Pabian

The morning express bloated with passengers slowed to a crawl, then lurched forward suddenly, as though to resume full speed.

~ A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.

~ The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

A flattened and drying daffodil was dangling off the little card that I had made my aunt Atie for Mother’s Day.

~ Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

It was a death that began it all and another death that led us on.

~ Morality Play by Barry Unsworth

I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.

~ The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Old maps lead you to strange and unexpected places, and none does so more ineluctably than the subject of this book: the giant, beguiling Waldseemuller world map of 1507.

~ The Fourth Part of the World (nonfiction) by Toby Lester

“We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.

~ A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette.

~ The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.

~ The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Anyone who watches even the slightest amount of TV is familiar with the scene: An agent knocks on the door of some seemingly ordinary home or office.

~ Me Talk Pretty One Day (nonfiction) by David Sedaris

There are many other books’ first lines that I could list, but those are a smattering of some of my favorite books.

Your turn!

 

Deconstructing The Road – Part 4

When we last left our plodding hero and traumatized boy, the two were wandering south across an American landscape. Exactly where is not that important in the story, but I suspect it is somewhere in the mid-west.

Regardless, up until this section I’m about to dissect, the two have been alone. The only other person they had met before this was a man who had emerged from a burning forest, smoldering and smoking having just been struck by lightning*, and the memory of the boy’s mother, a specter who plagues our hero’s mind. Besides these two, no other humans are about. They may be hinted at, hiding behind walls and dark houses, but none are introduced to the reader. It is just the boy and his father.

And the father constantly wonders whether he did the right thing in keeping the boy alive or not. Should he have allowed him to die with his mother?

And we find out the reason this is such a conundrum for him in this next section.

In Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic world, the fact the earth is scorched and uninhabitable isn’t enough of a challenge for the author’s characters. Oh, no. That would be too easy! The reality of their situation becomes clear when a truck rumbles along the road.

The man and boy are asleep off the road when they near. The man wakes with a start when he realizes what it is approaching. He and the boy take off into the forest and hide, but there is nowhere to hide. They find a ditch, but it is poor shelter.

A group of men on a truck, with a few walking along it, prowl along the road for a ways before the truck breaks down. While it is being repaired, one of the men go into the woods to relieve himself and come upon the man and the boy. There is an altercation. The boy is nabbed, the newcomer is shot. They run for their lives and lose all their gear.

After a freezing night trying to stay alive, they double back to recover what they can from their abandoned cart and find the remains of the man they shot. He’d been eaten by his comrades.

The man and boy take what they can use and leave. They spend the next night in a semi-truck jack-knifed across a bridge. In the morning, the man discovers that the back of the truck is filled with dead bodies.

At the end of this section, the boy and father continue moving forward, ever south, but now they are without essential supplies and have only a few meals left. They must find food and shelter. They come to a town and search for clothes and food where the buildings have already been picked clean of anything usable and edible.

The situation seems very dire.

The earth has been scorched beyond anything capable of giving life and the sun is obscured by dark clouds so nothing can grow from the ashes, what humans remain have left their humanity behind and have resorted to eating each other. A world so barbaric, is it any wonder his wife killed himself? What is the point of living?

Again, Mr. McCarthy never states any of these questions out right in the narrative, the dialogue, nor the character’s inner thoughts. We are simply presented with what the characters are doing and feeling right at that moment.

After the altercation with the man who found them, the boy is visibly traumatized by the incident. He was attacked, and saved by his father, but at the cost of one man’s life. The boy questions who they are:

I should have been more careful, he said.

The boy didn’t answer.

You have to talk to me.

Okay.

You wanted to know what the bad guys looked like. Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand?

Yes.

He sat there cowled in the blanket. After a while he looked up.

Are we still the good guys? he said.

Yes. We’re still the good guys.

And we always will be.

Yes. We always will be.

Okay.

Even though the boy may not fully understand it, he wants to believe they are doing the right thing. That his life is worth the horrid ending of another. Maybe he is even wondering if his father is crazy.

And the father has made his own pact with his god. His god-given task is to save the boy and he’ll do anything to see that through.

I am tempted to over-analysis this section as I probably have done with the earlier sections, but I will leave you with your own thoughts. Suffice to say there is good reason the man questions his faith in both his god and humanity.

Until next time, read something fun!

*Which is a very odd thing, considering humanity is on the brink of collapse and this poor fellow gets struck by lightning? That’s got to be the worst kind of luck.

The Forbidden Pool

Fish – so juicy sweeeeet!

Frodo saves Gollum, linked hearts;

but fates will differ.

Want to read The Two Towers in Haiku format?  Of course, you do! Check out these posts:

  1. The Departure of Boromir (Laith’s Ramblings)
  2. The Riders of Rohan (Cimmorene)
  3. The Uruk-hai (N. E. White)
  4. Treebeard (Rob’s Surf Report)
  5. The White Rider (JudahFirst)
  6. The King of the Golden Hall (JudahFirst)
  7. Helm’s Deep (Cimmorene)
  8. The Road to Isengard (Rob’s Surf Report)
  9. Flotsam and Jetsam (JudahFirst)
  10. The Voice of Saruman (N. E. White)
  11. The Palantír (Laith’s Ramblings)
  12. The Taming of Smeagol (JudahFirst)
  13. The Passage of the Marshes (Cimmorene)
  14. The Black Gate is Closed (Rob’s Surf Report)
  15. Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
  16. The Window on the West
  17. The Forbidden Pool (this  post)

More coming soon: The Two Towers Haiku Project.

The Voice of Saruman

Guile and threats, old

wizard’s shield and sword. Staff

burned, seeing stone caught

Want to read The Two Towers in Haiku format?  Of course, you do! Check out these posts:

  1. The Departure of Boromir (Laith’s Ramblings)
  2. The Riders of Rohan (Cimmorene)
  3. The Uruk-hai (N. E. White)
  4. Treebeard (Rob’s Surf Report)
  5. The White Rider (JudahFirst)
  6. The King of the Golden Hall (JudahFirst)
  7. Helm’s Deep (Cimmorene)
  8. The Road to Isengard
  9. Flotsam and Jetsam
  10. The Voice of Saruman (this post)

More coming soon: The Two Towers Haiku Project.

Deconstructing The Road – Part 3

(Yeah, I missed a week, and I thought I would miss this week too, but no such luck for you!)

Unfortunately, I do not have time to delve too deeply in this next section of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and I’m sort of veering away from the sections broken out by Cliff Notes, but hopefully a quick summary will bring you up to speed on where I’m at. You can also check out this and this post if you are completely confused.

Summary (Pages 1 to ~30)

A man and his son are traveling along a road in an post-apocalyptic United States. As they move south to warmer climes, they encounter dead people, raging forest fires, bitter cold weather, a man struck my lightning and sometimes food. Most of their gear is carried in a shopping cart that they push along the road through snow and rain.

When last I summarized the story, they were heading towards a mountain pass. In this section, they summit that pass, and are now making their way down and south out of the freezing weather. They found a waterfall off the highway and spent some time there, but move on because if the site is desirable to them, it will be for others. And the father doesn’t want to meet other people.

The road passes over a gorge and a semi-truck is jack-knifed across the bridge. The father and son spend a night in the cab only to find out the next morning that the trailer is filled with dead bodies. They move on.

Revelations

Up until now, the reader has not been given too many explanations about how these two have gotten where they are at nor why they are traveling south. Though on a basic level, we know that south means warmer and a better chance of surviving in the blackened world.

But the man is haunted by vague dreams and a decision that he made and up until this section, we really didn’t know what that is. We knew the man was struggling with his faith, but we really didn’t know why.

In this section, it is revealed why.

The boy’s mother* kills herself. And she would have killed their son, too, if the father had let her. She argues that life is not worth living the way it is:

Sooner or later they will catch us and they will kill us. They will rape me. They’ll rape him. They are going to rape us and kill us and eat us and you wont face it. You’d rather wait for it to happen.

Yikes!

The man’s memories and dreams hint at a chaotic end to the world where once the food supply has run low, people have taken to eating other people.

The man must come to terms with the fact that despite the world being a true living hell, he has decided to live in it along with his son. And it doesn’t help that the boy thinks much like his mother:

I wish I was with mom.

He didn’t answer. He sat beside the small figure wrapped in the quilts and blankets. After a while he said: You mean you wish that you were dead.

Yes.

You musnt say that.

But I do.

Don’t say it. It’s a bad thing to say.

I can’t help it.

I know. But you have to.

How do I do it?

I don’t know.

Reflections

I’d like to discuss in detail some of the passages in this section, but I’ll have to save that for later. For now, I’ll just say that this section bugged me as much as it did the first time I read it.

In this section of the book, the mother is painted as the unyielding and  irrational partner. She’s given the most dialogue than anyone else in the book up until this point and her speeches sound more like sermons than anything else. Also, she damns herself repeatedly by saying she has a “whorish heart” and is a “faithless slut”.

Because she wants to kill herself?

The language the author uses to describe the mother is relentless and I really felt it was an attack not only on women but on folks who would consider suicide**. Coupled with the religious undertones of the previous sections, I’m beginning to wonder if McCarthy had a certain message he wanted to impart.

Join me next week and we’ll find out what that message might be.

*It is never stated whether the father and mother were married or not. It is possible that they didn’t get together until after the catastrophic event that destroyed civilization.

**Take note, the character, the man, is not so condemning of her, but she is of herself.