Latest Goings On

Before I get into the latest on me, let me take a moment to thank those of you that read, and have started following me. I’ve noticed a bit of higher traffic even though my posts are sporadic. I appreciate that some folks can put up with that.

On to the latest.

Firstly, you may notice a change to the website theme, and that it is no longer so dark. I had to realize at some point that reading light colored text on black background isn’t easy on the eyes. So, I switched to a much clearer and crisp layout to help avoid that.

In the meantime, I have been reworking and fleshing out a longtime project that really needs to be finished sooner than later. I found this site to be very helpful in fleshing out plots, characters, and acts in a story.

Writing A Novel Using The Snowflake Method

There is a book being sold on the subject as well at this site, but I found using just the outlines on that page to be helpful enough. I definitely recommend using this method, since it has greatly helped me get my ideas straight.

Besides writing, I have also been reading a great deal again. Just recently got into British author Neal Asher’s work, and I can’t get enough. The Polity novels have been my favorite. I really found myself loving the Transformation series. Dark Intelligence, and War Factory were amazing reads. I’m awaiting the third installment, Infinity Engine, when it releases in the US. I strongly recommend this author for those of you who love aliens, A.I.s, and far advanced tech.

The Transformation series of books is the only book I’ve ever done fan art for. I love the war drones, and a few of the alien creatures. I’ve only done two so far, but I plan to do others soon.

This one is of the war drone ‘Riss’. She was deliberately designed like a parasite that once plagued the ruthless Prador species. Just so happens that said parasites resemble a Terran snake.

riss2
“Riss, The War Drone”

 

The second piece is of the monstrous ‘Hooder’, and bio-mechincal war machines designed by an ancient alien race. They are like a horrible version of a millipede, with a front end with slicing/dicing ‘manipulators’ that pretty much dissect prey alive. I doubt I added enough of the appendages that do all that work, considering the scenes I read. It’s pretty brutal.

"The Hooder"
“The Hooder”

I’ll not spoil anymore for you. Be back soon.

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“Amphibian”

A flash fiction piece written back in October of 2012 for a contest over on SFFWorld.com. Decided to post it here to add a little something special since my hiatus.  I have another flash fiction from a few years ago that I will post next week, so stay tuned. 🙂

 

“Amphibian”
By Lynn DeRiso
679 Words

A creature swims upward and away from the darkness of its home. Something buried in its subconscious has called it to the surface. It doesn’t remember the surface, nor does it understand why it is drawn there.

Before it reaches the light green of the upper ocean strata, it catches a fish-like animal and gulps it down quickly. The aquatic creature has managed to survive in the darkness, hunting, feeding, and occasionally breeding. It doesn’t recall ever being an infant, or how it came to be here. It seems that life has always been this way.

It pauses a moment to look at one of its arms. There are marks down its length, and they stand out against the mottled flesh. These marks are permanent.
A flicker of hidden memory surfaces, and the creature begins to recognize the marks as letters and numbers. Though, it doesn’t understand their meaning.

As the creature breaks the water’s surface, a pale green-gray sky with angry winds greets its presence. Waves swell all around, sea spray stinging its eyes. Vision feels strained in the light, as its eyesight is more suited to life in the darkness.

There are large black objects suspended in the sky. Wispy clouds flow past in gale force winds, as red and blue lights pulse on the underside of the objects.
A long wand points downward from one of the dark orbs, emitting a series of nearly unnoticeable pulses of energy.

The creature looks at its arm once more, and lifts the limb fully out of the seawater. The slender arm terminates in an appendage with five digits, thick webbing between them.
The creature’s memory tells it that this is a hand. It knows this word, even the sound of it. It tries to speak this word, but all that it achieves is a gurgling noise.

It is in that moment that the creature’s deeply buried memories begin to surface. While it fails to speak a half remembered language, it realizes that its home of watery darkness is not its first.
A blue and green sphere, beautiful and precious, appears in vivid visual memory. Then, the last recollection of this world floats into mind.
The continents are pale and brown, and the seas are a dark gray. It is the dead home world of humanity.

The creature pined for the ability to say that world’s name, even for one last time.

The name John flashes into the mutated human’s mind. That was his name once. Now, the serial number tattooed on is arm is his only identity.
He remembers that he and others like him were brought to this alien ocean years ago, after being changed drastically to fit the environment. They were the first in a series of people to undergo forced adaptation.
He recalls being told about the wand, and that he is to come within its range periodically for exposure to its quantum waves. These waves, he remembers, function as a tune up for his mutated body. It keeps his cells from rejecting the changes, and strengthens his immunity.

As he looks toward the ships one last time, he knows that more humans live up there. They are the stewards of John’s kind, and of a project spanning many decades.
The mutated humans were the first phase of adapting to the alien world. There would be more soon enough.

John submerged again, dazed, and returned to the darkness beneath. His eyes readjust, and soon the others become visible once again. Their forms, once recognizably human, had a more serpentine appearance. Large, spiny fins sprout from their sides, arms, and tails. Male and female are nearly indistinguishable.

As John swam toward them, perhaps what would be one of his last recollections of irony occurred to him.
Humanity had reduced its home world to an uninhabitable rock within less than a thousand years. This new home would force a drastic change in them in less than a century. By the time they have fully adapted, this alien world will have consumed all that it is to be human.

New Year Update

I have not abandoned this blog after so many months of no posts, again. Plenty of things have been going on. I had been putting more time to marketing my artwork, and it became a job that eventually burned me out for a while. My parrot broke her leg, which was an ordeal of 2-3 months of special treatment for healing. There are other things, such as family health issues, but that’s really just adding to the excuses.

I 18,665 words invested in a project that I want to finish, and I have been reworking the prologue to extend some of the characters backstory. The themes are becoming more clear to me as I go along.

I can’t really even worry myself with the issue of publishing, as I think that whole bag of worms has evolved past traditional venues. By the time I finish a project, I believe publishing will be more electronic based and possibly easier for newer writers to get their stuff out. The marketing may end up going hand in hand with the electronic basis if some companies go with that route. There’s a part of me that would still like to see a traditional physical book if I get published some day.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading some classic scifi. Up The Walls Of The World by James Tiptree Jr. was very good. I enjoyed the world of the aliens and the communication they used; audible colors. Reminded me alot of cuttlefish, which are already are like little aliens. The human characters were also interesting, and some of their histories were a nice touch as well. I was impressed, considering this book had a black female lead character, but also its mention of female circumcision.  Of many science fiction writers at the time (1960’s-1970’s), few were women, or had many female character leads. Along with that was the rarity of diversity among the genre.

http://mfennwrites.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/up-the-walls-of-the-world.jpg

I have a few collections from Octavia Butler, which was likely one of very few authors to write from the perspective of others rather than the white male authors so prevalent at the time. I believe she emerged in the late 70’s (please correct me if I’m wrong).

 

Another book I read was a short story collection from Philip K. Dick.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/39/Philip_k_dick_reader.jpg

Many of his short stories were turned into movies, some of which read better than the films, and some of which don’t. A familiar line of paranoia and conspiracy sets the tone for much of Dick’s work, and it makes for a fun twist at times.

My favorite picks from this collection were “Upon The Dull Earth”, “Golden Man”, and “The Second Variety”.

 

Anyway, just wanted to let the readers of the blog know that all is well, and the blog is still alive despite my absences. I will return soon.

~Lynn

 

Quick Update, Not Too Much Writing Lately

While ideas are still stirring in my brain, writing has taken a bit of a back seat in the last few weeks.

I have been working on the self-employment front, and just opened an Etsy shop with art and sculptures I’ve made. You can take a gander here http://www.etsy.com/shop/VividDreamStudio  

Please visit, and share with friends!

I am also keeping up with reading, and have mowed through most of the Song of Ice and Fire series from George R. R. Martin.  I’m currently on the 5th book, “A Dance With Dragons”, and I’m only a quarter of the way through. This volume is over a thousand pages, and I’m enjoying the ride so far.

I picked up two new books for my collection after receiving a gift card for Barnes & Nobles.

I picked up “The Gardner’s Handbook” so that in the event when I move to a house with a yard, I can try my hand at vegetable growing and more. I may think about a greenhouse, eventually.

The second book that popped out to me was “Samurai Battles: Japan’s Warrior Lords In 700 Years of Conflict” by Michael Sharpe. As someone who has an affinity for samurai, and warriors in general, this was a book I wanted to read. The book chronicles the history and eventual demise of the samurai. If anyone’s interested, I’ll review this one.

In other news, “The Minions” (as I’ve taken to calling them) have been growing. Recently, I adopted three new hermit crabs from owners who could no longer care for them. I now have a total of six now. The tank is much more active socially.

With these new recruits, I’ve come to question whether or not wayward influences are involved. I’ve received pinches on several occasions during tank cleaning and handling. Even from previously well-behaved individuals. I suppose it can’t be helped, as crustaceans are a stubborn bunch and often stick together.

Safety protocol will require careful or minimal handling to spare human flesh. Hehe. ^_^

I recently added a new piece of mopani driftwood to their tank, and they really seem to be enjoying it in more than one way.

Wood is high in fiber, thus making the residents a little more regular. This photo is only a small pile compared to the others that have appeared. Mopani driftwood must be tasty…

That’s all the news for now. Be back with more soon. ~ Lynn

Non-Human Senses & Other News

Imagine for a minute that you, a human, could see in the Ultra-Violet spectrum, sense the chemical signals of pheromones, store energy from sunlight, or taste and smell with appendages other than a tongue. A rather alien experience it would be, but then that is exactly my point.

This little thought experiment is an excellent way to show and describe the senses and experiences of alien characters, or alien environments. And luckily, we don’t have to travel light years to get some interesting ideas. They’re right in our backyard.

Birds see in the UV spectrum, and even have polarized vision that aids in migration. Only few humans have actually been able to see in the UV spectrum, and it is largely due to eye damage. Occasionally, it happens to people who’ve undergone cataract surgery.

A good article on animal UV spectrum, and the functions it may serve.

http://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/the-artful-brain/alternate_realities  

Pheromones, at least in humans, seem a lot less noticeable than in other species, such as insects. An entire hive or colony is largely controlled by chemical signals. They also communicate a great deal of information through this method, which is probably why there never seems to be a work stoppage in said hive or colony. No unions there. Everyone works themselves until they die.

Luckily, us mammals have it a little easier. Our pheromones are more important when it comes to reproductive status, territorial marking, and sometimes mood.

Reptiles, and to a larger extent, plants, use sunlight to give them energy. A plant can create its own fuel within its own body using the energy from sunlight. Unless your sun was nearing its demise, you’d be set for life.

Reptiles are cold-blooded, therefore needing heat to warm their bodies to an optimum temperature so that they can not only digest their food, but also to fight disease. Instead of getting a fever like a mammal, they have to find just the right basking spot and sit for minutes to hours depending on how hot it is.

Tasting and smelling without the use of a tongue is actually done by many organisms. All manner of invertebrates usually achieve this with pairs of antennae. They are long and whip-like, and even short and stubby, and they are covered with millions of taste/scent receptors. Sometimes they also have bristly hairs growing on them to help catch the scent/taste.

Here’s an article discussing the nervous system an senses of the lobster.

http://www.lobsters.org/tlcbio/biology6.html

In other news…

I need a new writing desk. I had actually bought a used roll-top desk maybe a year ago, but since then realized it needs refinishing. It’s also a bit too large, and very cramped in my apartment. To top that off, refinishing requires that you completely sand the entire thing down to the original wood, and then add a stain or varnish. I have no room to do that here, and I hear it costs quite a bit to pay for it to be done professionally. So, it’s being sold, and I’m still waiting to hear back on one possible offer.

Walmart actually has some nice compact desks that strike my fancy, and the prices aren’t bad either.

Lastly, I have created a sister blog for my artist side of things, where you will be able to see how I do my work and much more. I only have a short intro post so far, but more will be coming soon.

You can check it out at http://pencilsandclay.wordpress.com/

Okay, that’s it for today. Have a good weekend everyone!  Thanks for reading.

~Lynn

Nov 21, 2011 : Sneak peak at short story “Chimera”

As promised, I am posting little sneak peaks of stories either in progress or finished. This is an unfinished work as of yet. Let me know what you guys think.

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“Chimera”

 

I was once a terminal cancer patient right on death’s doorstep. In what I thought might be my last few peaceful moments, my fundamentalist Christian stepfather came in to insist I change my atheist stance and make my peace with God. I hated my mother for marrying this asshole after Dad died.

I couldn’t help but see how petty and meaningless the things people did were. Everything we do, and everything we’ve achieved amounts to nothing in the face of oblivion.

After having my arm amputated for the seventh time, death seemed a bit more reasonable.

As the medical technicians injected powerful anesthetic into my limb, I stare at the table of barbaric instruments that will sever it.

I made the mistake of watching the process the first time. Now, I’ve learned to look away.

Even though I’m numbed from the shoulder down, there is still a faint sensation of cold metallic tools violating flesh. Then there’s the whine of the bone saw they use to cut through my humerus. And finally, there’s the disturbing reality of my arm falling away from my body. I never get used to it.

My wardens are harvesting genetic samples from the procured flesh in order to manufacture new drugs to fight disease among the population. Contractually speaking, I owe them. It was in the fine print of the contract I signed before my would-be death. You’ll agree to just about anything when you’re dying.

A company called GeneTech, had offered the deal. They had patented the cancer cure that few could afford, which made a great lure.

Later on, I discovered that I was hardly the only dying patient to be propositioned. Dozens were offered the deal, and in return from agreeing to he terms, they received full room and board at undisclosed location, expenses paid, and a chance to live longer.

However, on paper we’re all officially dead. No one knows we’re still alive. The reason for our supposed deaths is that human experimentation is very illegal.

We may as well be the unclaimed souls of grim reaper.

The techs did their best to keep me comfortable while they stitched me up, dressed the wound, and administered painkillers.

My arm will regenerate within a couple of months thanks to the Axlotl gene proteins in my cells.

All of us were given gene modifications via retrovirus treatments. The Axlotl set was standard fair for everyone. There were several animal genes that were being used in the experiments. One of mine was feline, which improved my night vision manifold. It was incredible to experience such clear sight in the dark. The virus had caused the development of a highly reflective lens like a cat, and so I produced the same eye-shine an animal does when facing light.

Even with the improvements in health, and comfortable living, being a high-class guinea pig is getting old.

We aren’t even allowed out of this building, because we might contaminate the domes healthy population. Sure, the company included plenty of stimuli inside or ‘apartment complex’.

We had wreck rooms, a gym, a pool, cable TV, you name it. You can’t fabricate fresh air, the smell of grass, or even dirt.

Being isolated from everything you know for the sake of legalities is a heavy price. I want more freedom than this. I know someone else does, too.

A few hours later, I called my friend, Quinn Ashmore, to come down to my flat in the building in which all the experimental patients lived. One of my sweater’s sleeves hung limp at my side as I sat up in my bed, dazed from the strong painkillers.

Quinn and I had become friends since our ‘rebirth’ in GeneTech’s program. Both of us had been inches from death, marked by hair loss, and wasting bodies. Now, each of us had full heads of hair and renewed vitality.

I had long locks of black hair, while Quinn had a mop of shaggy auburn and a goatee.

“Hey, Michiko,” he said as he opened my door. “I see they harvested again. How’re you feeling?” He closed the door behind him.

“Other than being in a drug haze,” I started. “I’m getting tired of pretending I’m dead.”

Quinn came over and sat on the bed next to me.

“I know the feeling,” he said. “But, what are we supposed to do? Genetic chimeras are illegal nearly everywhere. We’re not entirely human anymore, so it would be another death sentence. They’d take us apart just to see what we are now.”

I sighed, feeling the hopelessness of our predicament.

“There has to be somewhere… The Novosibirsk dome is busy enough that we might get lost in there. I don’t know how strict their laws are on things like us though.”

“That was where a clone claimed political asylum a few years ago,” he replied. “We might have a chance there. But, firstly, there’s the issue of getting out of this place.”

“I have a plan.” I said.

Quinn looked at me deadpan.

“Michi, you do realize that some of the worst ideas start with that line, don’t you?” Then he smirked at me.

During the next months that it took for my arm to regenerate, one of the other patients suddenly died. He was a young kid, just shy of nineteen, named Riley. I didn’t know him well, but something one of his friends said made me never forget him.

“Nothing was wrong enough for him to die,” one of the boys said. “They just wanted a full harvest.”

The boy stared at me with dead eyes, knowing that none of us was immune if the white coats wanted our flesh. That was the true breaking point for me, and it hit home for Quinn as well.

Quinn and I went around the housing facility, subtly conversing with the others to see how willing they’d be to risk escape. Some didn’t believe the rumors about Riley, and while passively discontent, they felt they were safe. Others were either glad to just be alive, or outright too afraid to even talk about it.

We wanted others to break out with us, but in the end they were just too afraid. Quinn and I only had each other to count on. Maybe it was better just the two of us, rather than a large group.

In the downtime, a combination of phantom pains, itching, and random zaps from re-growing nerves kept me amused. If my body had been over this routine six times before, why the hell couldn’t it find a way around the side effects?

Not only was there fear directed at the company that held us in captivity, but for the world outside the Moscow dome. Venturing outside the protective layer of the dome walls was an assumed death sentence.

Before the 3rd World War, domes were hastily built over a few major cities, at least in Russia, America, and Japan, to protect them from nuclear fallout. These domes were strong enough that they held together during the nearby blasts of the bombs. However, while they protected the cities within, they effectively trapped the populations there for hundreds of years because of the radiation levels outside. The corners of the world were cut off from one another for very long periods.

All that was said to have happened at least 100 years ago. That’s what we’re told anyway.

Outside the domes, the world has become a wasteland ravaged by nuclear war, and loosed plagues. Sunlight is still rare because the black clouds of ash and other debris block it out. Some say the blast zones are still burning out there.

Knowing this, it seems possible our makers wouldn’t even follow us outside.

Even if we last only months, those months will be spent free.

—————————————————————————————-

I have more written than this, but no completed ending just yet. For those of you over at SFFWorld, I’ll be posting the finished piece for critique as soon as I manage to finish it.

Okay, that’s all for now. 🙂

More sneaks to come soon.  So keep an eye out.

~Lynn

“Shoreline’s Dream”

760 Words

“It wasn’t as if anyone got hurt,” said Sophie. “You’re okay, and I’m here with you.”

She comforted poor little Xeelii as he trembled within his bed pod. His big, single turquoise eye was filled with fear from a bad nightmare. His three tentacle arms twitched nervously as he looked up piteously at his human caregiver.

“Dream felt too real,” he clicked with the little mandibles at the base of his ovoid body. “Xeelii scared.”

Sophie could see Xeelii’s skin had mimicked the shade and texture of the material in the bed pod. It was an ancient defense mechanism his species used to hide from predators, and apparently, from the occasional nightmare.

Sophie understood the alien dialect he spoke, and she caressed the top of his ovoid body, and an opaque lens covered his eye in that moment of safety. Warm orange and yellow hues washed over Xeelii’s body as he calmed. Specks of electric green danced on his tentacle arms as he inched toward Sophie and touched her hand with one soft arm.

The metallic shell of the bed pod glimmered in the early morning light that came through the porthole window. Sophie noted that the sunlight was nearly lost on Xeelii’s vibrant colors.

Sophie smiled softly. “When I was a youngling, I had bad nightmares too,” she said. “Sometimes, I would pull my covers up over my head until I felt safe enough to open my eyes again.”

“Really?” Xeelii asked, clearly surprised that she could be as afraid as he was.

Sophie nodded. “Even I was scared too, Xeelii,” she said. “You’re not as alone as you think.”

Xeelii crawled into Sophie’s lap, wrapping his soft tentacle arms around her. A swell of maternal instinct warmed her. She never knew she could love someone so alien, and yet so innocent. She set him gently on the floor and he propped himself up like a tripod and ambled forward. Sophie stood, and she felt one of his arms worm its way around her hand as they walked to the door.

She watched him as they walked. His mandibles clicked and chattered, but said no coherent words. It was a quirk he had. It was as if he was testing out sounds before he made complete words, not unlike an infant.

Sophie brushed her dark hair out of her face, then, returned her single arm to Xeelii’s clutch.

Sophie had watched over Xeelii since his egg was laid. His single, asexual parent had allowed her the privilege. Xeelii’s people had rescued her from a war ravaged Earth. During the ordeal, she’d lost an arm. The aliens had happened upon Earth in their travels, and too late to make much difference. They were saddened that such an astonishing amount of life was lost. They had tried their best to save a few other stragglers besides Sophie, but none survived very long.

It often overwhelmed Sophie to be the last human left in the universe. It was both a gift and a curse that she’d survived. To live amongst a species not her own, to struggle to adapt to their culture, and their world. They helped of course, by rewiring parts of her brain so she could understand their language, and the unique signals the chromatiphores patterned across their skin.

Sophie was not alone, and yet, she was. Attaching to this child, however, had giver her something to live for, something that would not allow her to give up. Xeelii’s parent had proposed the idea in the first place. Thankfully, it had worked. Not long before then, Sophie had seriously considered suicide. This little squid-like infant had saved her life.

Sophie knew Xeelii loved her. He always seemed to know when she was sad, and would either crawl into her lap or wrap a tentacle arm around her hand. Now, he was leading her outside toward the shoreline.

The sky was a vivid orange with wispy lavender clouds. The sea lapped at the clay-like shore, leaving strangely unique shells behind. The sound of the tide’s ebb and flow soothed them both.

Xeelii looked up at Sophie with his bright turquoise eye. He spread his mandibles wide, doing his best to mimic a human smile. Sophie laughed, nonetheless grateful for his attempt. Even in her darkest moments, Xeelii would be there. That they both knew.

Sophie and Xeelii continued walking down the shoreline. Sophie wondered sadly if Xeelii knew that he gripped the hand of the last living human, and that when she was gone there would be none like her again.