The Making of a Short Sci-Fi Story. “Sporelings” – Part II – 1st draft

I am currently taking a short story fundamentals class online. I decided to write about this experience in a series of blog entries that will document my journey as I develop a short science fiction story as part of my class experience.

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Hello, everyone! Happy New Year! Whew! The Holidays sure blew by very fast! But I, like most people, got caught up in all the things we get caught up in over the holiday time and am a bit late on this second installment of “Sporelings.”

As I mentioned in my last post, I am taking an online class about writing short stories and am developing one as part of the class assignments. I plan to post this short story as it develops and also the revisions based on the feedback to show how piece changes based on input from editing, critique utilized, etc.

If you missed this first post in this series, Part I – 1st draft of the story is located here: Sporelings – Part 1 of 3 – First Draft.

I decided to post Part II as written- in other words before edits or revisions to Part I took place because at this stage potential revisions to Part I don’t affect Part II. I’ll continue this idea with Part III, then we’ll go back to Part I with the revisions stage. This should give us a clear understanding of how the piece develops through the revision, critique, and editing process. The last post in this series will be the final draft.

Just to recant a bit from the last post, this short story is a work of science fiction. It will be written in three parts. Part I will introduce a grim future. where some cataclysmic event will change the world. This will be a world-building setup and quick character introduction. Part II will cover the last few minutes of. In other words, what happens as a result of this drastic change. Part III is what comes next. How does this world continue after a cataclysmic event? What does the future now have in store?

The working title is “Sporelings” and the first draft of Part II is presented below.

Image result for underground government bunker

“Sporelings” – Part II – 1st draft

Three months later.

Nathan pressed his cheek against the car window and strained to look up at the sky as high as possible with the windows rolled up. He saw nothing unusual, just blue sky. Something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. All the color drained from Nathan’s face when he saw the side of a large mountain fast approaching in the middle of the road. The car was racing straight into what he could only describe as a huge mountain of rock where the road suddenly turned into a dead end.

Nathan’s mouth gaped open in an almost scream and just before panic set in, the car deaccelerated for a few brief moments as a twelve-foot area of concrete began to separate. Instead of dead-ending into the large mountain, Nathan realized the road they were driving down led to an underground government facility.  As the car moved closer to the mountain it passed through an automatic chain-link gate speeding between the opening as thick concrete doors slowly parted and with just barely enough room, the car flew through. Nathan looked back and saw the caravan follow them.

After Nathan inadvertently released the sporelings several months ago, the first thing he did was contact the British Ministry of Defense. Minister Kettle did not know what to do so he immediately called the U.S. Department of Defense at the Pentagon in Washington DC. As the world started to crumble and cities started to fall the US government was still able to secure passage for Nathan and his crew, the British leadership as well as leaders from a few other European countries to come to the Pentagon.  Nathan’s face twitched, and his eyes became unfocused at the memory of the debriefing, no the god damned interrogation by the US officials.

#

“Tell me again, Mr. Gray. What happened when you touched the golden scarab?” Agent Wilson asked.

“I told you, Agent Wilson. Hundreds of little black things came out of it. They started swarming around my head,” said Nathan in a monotone voice. This had been going on for hours now.

“Hundreds?” questioned Agent Wilson. “How is it possible that hundreds of those things came from that tiny scarab? It seems impossible to me,” said Agent Wilson, flatly.

“I told you. I don’t know how it happened. But it did.” Nathan was at his wit’s end, answering the same questions repeatedly.

Agent Wilson shook his head. “All right, Mr. Gray. We’re done for now,” he said.

Nathan watched Agent Wilson as he turned and left the room. Sweat was pouring from Nathan’s face.

“What have I done?” he asked nobody, his voice cracking. “If only…. If only I didn’t investigate that damn pyramid, none of this would be happening. Good god, what have I done? How could I be responsible for all of this devastation?” He began to weep.

The door opened, and Alec entered the room. The agent that escorted him pulled the door closed and it shut with a loud thud. Alec spotted Nathan weeping and ran over to him.

“Nathan. Are you ok?” he asked.

“Alec. Oh, Alec. This is all my fault,” cried Nathan.

“What? What’s your fault? I don’t understand?” said Alec.

“This. All this. The spores. The destruction. The trouble we’re in. It’s all my fault,” Nathan said, despair in his voice.

“Nonsense, mate. You couldn’t have known there were those… those things in the queen’s chamber. There’s no way, any of us would have even dreamed that,” said Alec.

“But it was me. I was the one who…” Alec cut Nathan off, sharply.

“I said nonsense! There was no way any of us would have known. Stop this. Pull yourself together, man. We’ve got more immediate things we need to worry about!” said Alec.
Just then the door opened again, and Agent Wilson walked through the door.

“Mr. Gray. I need you and your team to immediately pack your things and get ready to leave,” said Agent Wilson.

“Leave? What do you mean leave? Where are we going?” Nathan asked

“Just pack your things and get ready,” commanded Agent Wilson. After a short pause, he added, “The President would like to speak with you.”

Nathan and Alec just looked at each other. Neither one of them said anything.

#

Alec shook Nathan’s shoulder and said, “Snap out of it, mate. We need to pay attention here.”

Nathan shook his head slightly and noticed everything become dark as the car continued down into the core of the mountain facility.

“It’s a bloody underground bunker,” said Alec.

“I’m surprised it still standing,” said Nathan. “Everything the American’s build is rubbish.”

“Well, Nathan, you’d better hope this place was built by foreigners. This whole damn planet is going to shit,” said Alec.

The car finally came to a stop in front of another set of doors. These were not made of concrete but metal, presumably steel perhaps even titanium. The huge metal door looked something like a bank vault door with a big wheel attached to the front of it, but also with a pair of electronic keypads, one on each door. The door was obviously unlocked as it was open wide enough for at least two men to pass through, shoulder to shoulder.

Agent Wilson was the first to get out of the car and walk back to the rear car door to let Nathan and Alec out. He opened the door. “Gentlemen, please follow me,” he said.

Nathan and Alec got out of the car and followed Agent Wilson. Others from the cars in the caravan that followed them also got out of their cars and began to follow too. They walked past the vault-like door and entered a long hallway. About a hundred paces there was another set of doors which resembled the entrance to an elevator, but there wasn’t any call button, just a black panel with a circular lens in the middle and a keypad at the bottom, about head height on the right-hand side of the wall.

Alec looked at Nathan and then at Agent Wilson, then back at Nathan. Nathan shrugged his shoulders. Agent Wilson stepped up to the panel on the wall. Nathan and Alec watched as he placed his face closer to the panel. It lit up with a bright, thin beam of red light and scanned Agent Wilson’s eye. A computer voice spoke from a speaker on the wall panel in response to Agent Wilson’s actions and said, “Identification scan. Special Agent, Harold Wilson, Secret Service.” After a short pause, the computer said, “ Identity Confirmed. Entry is permitted.” The elevator doors slid open.

Agent Wilson stepped back from the wall panel and motioned for everyone to enter the elevator. Nathan took a deep breath and followed Alec into the elevator, which was larger than he expected. Agent Wilson stepped into the elevator and looked at the floor selector. There were only two buttons. He pressed the bottom button, the elevator doors closed and they began to descend.

Nathan felt his stomach rise toward his chest as the elevator moved rapidly downward, faster than any elevator he’d ever been in before. Everyone was quiet for the ride down, so much so that he could hear himself breathing rapidly and realized he was nervous. On the way down from Washington, Agent Wilson told Nathan that not only did the President of the United States want to speak with him, but also the British Prime Minister, the German Chancellor, the French President and the Australian Prime Minister. No wonder I’m sweating he thought.

The elevator came to a halt and after a few seconds, the doors opened into a large control room. Nathan scanned the room with his eyes and noticed there were huge TV screens at the far end of the room all showing some horrific scene from different parts of the world. About two-thirds of the way in he saw a large oval conference table with finely dressed men and women sitting around the table. There were also heavily armed soldiers between where they stood now and the people at the table.

As Nathan and the rest of the party started to walk out of the elevator, Agent Wilson held his hand up indicating they should halt. The soldiers didn’t move, but it wasn’t because they were ignoring the group coming out of the elevator, it was more like they were coiled up and ready to strike at will. Agent Wilson cleared his throat. “Excuse me, Mr. President,” he said.

A man in a dark blue suit, white shirt and red tie stood up. All the people sitting at the oval table turned their heads and all eyes seem to be glaring right at Nathan. The room fell silent for only a moment, but it seemed like an eternity to Nathan.

“Agent Wilson. Is that him?” asked the President.

“Yes, Mr. President. I have brought Mr. Nathan Gray and his team, just as you requested,” said Agent Wilson.

“Good. And just in time too. We had a new development in just the past few minutes,” said the President, gravely.

Nathan’s nose crinkled in confusion. “a new development, Mr. President? What… what new development?” he asked.

“Yes, a new development, Mr. Gray. Just look behind me at the screens,” said the President. He motioned to the large monitors in the back of the room.

Nathan’s eyes widened, and his mouth fell open, speechless. On all the monitors, he saw the same thing. Reporters of every nationality all pointed their camera’s up toward the sky. On every screen in every location across the globe, the scene was the same. Massive large, black sleek alien ships hovered over Earth’s remaining major cities.

“It appears, Mr. Gray, that we have made first contact,” the President said.

 

End of Part II

That’s all for now folks. Please feel free to like, comment or share our journey! Let’s see how this story develops in our next installment, Part III which I will post next week!

Happy New Year!

The Making of a Short Sci-Fi Story. “Sporelings” – Part I – 1st draft

I am currently taking a short story fundamentals class online. I decided to write about this experience in a series of blog entries that will document my journey as I develop a short science fiction story as part of my class experience.

I am currently taking a short story fundamentals class online. I decided to write about this experience in a series of blog entries that will document my journey as I develop a short science fiction story as part of my class experience.

I plan to the blog everything from the first drafts, to the revisions, and edits to the eventual final draft as I work through the process and learn the art of writing short stories. This particular short story will be approximately 5000 words.

This story itself will be written and revised over the course of the next few weeks! I decided to tackle this story in three parts and model it off of an anthology idea that I was once a part of but never got to finish because the anthology group fell apart and everyone went their separate ways.

This short story is a work of science fiction. It will be written in three parts. Part I will introduce a grim Future. Some cataclysmic event will change the world. This will be a world-building setup and quick character introduction. Part II will cover what happens in the last 5 minutes in this word that has a grim future. In other words, what happens as a result of this drastic change. Part III is what comes next. How does this world continue after a cataclysmic event? What does the future now have in store?

I haven’t decided on a title yet. The working title is “Sporelings.” As the story develops and as I go through short story fundamentals class, we’ll see if there is a need pick a more descriptive and appropriate title.

All right then, let’s get right into it!

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“Sporelings” – Part I – 1st draft

For thousands of years, mankind has been driven by insatiable curiosity to study the great pyramids of Egypt. What secrets hide inside these ancient wonders? Could they hold the key to mankind’s future, or perhaps missing links to the past? The quest continues…

#

 Present day—El Giza, Egypt— The Great Pyramid

After eleven previous investigations over the past decade, Archaeologist Nathan Gray and his team once again entered the queen’s chamber of the Great Pyramid. This time they were equipped with the excavation robot, SARTI (Standard Archaeological Robotic Technology Inc.). A small remote-controlled robot, SARTI was able to scale narrow shafts and scan targets with infrared and ultrasonic waves.

“Alec,” Nathan said. “The target is above the queen’s chamber. That two-meter slab is where I need the bloody robot.”

Alec Cooper, the team’s chief engineer, tapped on the computer interface. “We’re ready, Nathan.”

SARTI began the ascent.

As the monitors came to life, the team eagerly watched the robot climb to the top of the shaft. A few minutes later, SARTI rotated and began a heat scan.

Twenty minutes passed, and a frustrated Nathan glared at Alec. “Oh, for crying out loud, that godforsaken thing is bloody useless. There’s nothing but rock.”

“Hold on,” Alec said. “Give it another few minutes. Let SARTI run the full program.”

The screen went dark. A scan using low-frequency waves began, followed by one with ultrasonic waves.

Nathan watched the screen for a few minutes more, then scowled, impatient with the lack of progress. “Still nothing? How much did the bag of bolts cost us anyway?”

“Bloody hell, Nathan, give it a few minutes, man!”

The computer signaled a target, displaying the ultrasonic image of a dark oblong shape in the center. Alec pointed to the monitor. “Look, there, SARTI found something.”

“Brilliant!” Nathan couldn’t turn away from the screen. “Well, get a move on,” he said. “Go! Go! Tell that idiotic robot to bring it here!”

#

Several hours later

Once SARTI had brought the artifact from the queen’s chamber, Alec put on protective gloves and reached inside the specimen tray. Carefully, he picked up the object. “Outstanding,” he said. “It’s a golden scarab. You suppose it’s some type of jewelry?”

Rubbing his chin with his fingers, Nathan stared at the scarab in Alec’s hand for a few moments. Puzzled, he reached for the shiny golden bug. “Jewelry?” he repeated Alec’s question, pausing for a moment, contemplating on an answer. “Hidden between the queen and king’s chamber. I wouldn’t think so.” He gently picked up the scarab and rolled it over in his hand. Look here, there’s something more!” He pressed his finger down lightly on the scarab’s head.

It snapped open.

Nathan’s eyes widened with awe. Darkness rested in his palm, an empty void, as though he peered straight into a black hole from the deepest space.

“What is it?” Alec asked. “What do make of that?”

Nathan didn’t answer. He couldn’t take his eyes away from the darkness inside the scarab. What have we found? he thought, full of wonder. A dark, bottomless, pit … inside a golden scarab? “It can’t be,” he whispered.

The scarab began to grow hot in his hand. “Damn!” He dropped it, the palm of his hand blistered.

“What the hell?” Alec said, slowly backing away. His gaze remained locked on the dusting of dark, odorless material rising from the scarab. “You think it could be a type of fungus maybe, or spores?”

“Yes,” Nathan whispered. “They… they look like tiny… sporeling” The name just came to mind. As he watched, the dark mass pulled into a tight circle, then pulsed. Nathan jumped when the circle loosened and doubled in size above his head. Seconds later it repeated the process. It’s breathing, he thought. But getting bigger on every exhale. The first twinges of unease tickled at his mind.

The sporeling were multiplying at an alarming rate!

“Let’s get out of here!” Alec yelled. “Nathan, we don’t know what it is!” He turned to run from the room, not waiting to see if Nathan followed.

But Nathan hadn’t heard him, too mesmerized by the growing void of darkness above him … so much like the one he’d viewed inside the scarab. A black hole being birthed into a gateway in the ceiling.

Terror struck Nathan at the thought; it tore through his guts, a cramping, almost crippling pain. What if the black swirl above him pulsed again and sucked him in?

He didn’t wait around to find out.

Nathan ran.

#

In less than a week, the sporelings Nathan accidentally released from the scarab had spread across the planet. It didn’t take long because every time they pulsed, the dark cloud doubled in size, releasing more of their progeny into the air. At the end of the tenth day, the swirling mass floated down and settled into the soil. It attached to all plant life and began to manipulate their basic structure on a cellular level. Fragile flora, green stems, leaves, and flowers were transformed, turned black and indestructible. Botanists learned the shiny obsidian material affected every variety: cacti in the hottest desert, worldwide forests and jungles, and algae and seaweed in the deepest oceans.

Nothing was spared.

#

It took only ten days to send the world into chaos. As the plants continued their metamorphosis, they began to pulse, releasing more toxins into the environment. Desperate scientists searched for ways to combat them but were defeated at every turn. Volcanoes erupted, earthquakes rumbled, tornados and hurricanes wreaked havoc. The land waged war against man, destroying everything in its path.

Cities crumbled.

People died.

Then Botanist learned the new species of obsidian plants absorbed the sun’s energy at fifty times the level of their native species. The added warmth quickly raised surface temperatures. Polar caps melted, but the newly released water evaporated almost immediately—along with the water in every river, lake, and ocean. It soon created a canopy of water in the stratosphere causing a greenhouse effect below. The increased atmospheric pressure made the oxygen and carbon dioxide richer.

But would anyone be left to reap the potential rewards?

#

On the twelfth hour of the twelfth day after Nathan released the sporeling, the alien plants reached maturity. Almost as one, the shiny obsidian leaves turned upward toward the heavens and began a rhythmic pulse. The few people still left watched, worried it might be a signal of some kind, a beacon.

But a signal to whom?

Or what? 

End of Part I

Ok! Now, as I submit my work in the class and as I get feedback, I’ll post revision, edits and of course when it’s time, Part II or what happens int he last 5 minutes in this grim future!

A shout out to Critique Circle – Writers this is a must see!

Greetings! I hope you are having a lovely Sunday morning! Here in Long Island, NY the sun is shining, I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and it looks like it’s going to be a great day! My first book, Silver Icon has been on sale for about a week now at both Amazon and Smashwords and I am so excited! I want to share some information to fellow writers about an awesome tool and web site that can help you with your goals to publish your own work. No, it’s not a publishing company, or any gimmick or trick. Also it’s not a magic wand!  What it is, however is a great place on the web to meet fellow authors and writers, both published and unpublished, and exchange critiques on each other’s work. I am talking about www.critiquecircle.com!

While I believe there is no substitution for professional editing, Critique Circle will come pretty damn close. And for the indie author on a tight budget, the price is right! Critique Circle’s membership is free! The site is a place where writers can post their work and other writers will critique your submissions. You can write critiques for other authors and form crit buddy relationships with many talented people. There is a “donation” method to become a premium member, but all of the main features of submitting and critiquing are available to all members. The premium membership, which is really a donation to keep the site running, gives you a few extra added perks, but is not required to get extreme value out of the site in regard to your work.

Critique Circle

The basic functions of the site include the ability to submit your chapters into one of the various Queues, classified by type of work or genre. The site works on a credit system. When you submit your work, it costs a minimum of three credits. When you write critiques on the work of others, you earn credits, anywhere from half a credit and up depending on the length of your critique. As other writers begin to critique your work, and as you critique other writer’s work, you’ll find buddies that can become regular crit partners! I’ve made several friends in the past two months and regularly write and receive critiques — almost daily. I’m a bit addicted to the site! 🙂

Critique Circle Submit Story

Many other useful features are available on Critique Circle. The site has a novel system, so you can chain your submissions together and crit buddies can follow your novel from start to finish. Authors can add a synopsis for their novel and for each chapter, content advisories for adult or mature stories, outlines for settings, plot and character sketches. The site also has a forum and message system so you can socialize with your fellow writers and crit partners.

Critique Circle Novel System

The credit system is nothing to worry about. I quickly became immersed in several of other author’s works, and in just reading, writing critiques and offering grammar or spelling suggestions, I very quickly grew a nice credit balance, enough to submit many chapters and stories. Since I started using the site, I’ve not ever run out of credits for submissions. I think I am actually critiquing more than I am submitting. I believe the main reason for this is because I am learning so much about writing, prose and style from the stories I read and the critique’s I have given other authors. This exchange from author to author is sharpening my writing skills as well as those of my crit buddies. The forums provide a lot of value too. For example, you can tie your story submissions to a personal forum thread–focused on that story so all your crit partners can collaborate with you and each other.

Critique Circle Forums

In summary; if you are an author on a budget, don’t have access to an editor, or just want to bounce your chapters, stories or other writing pieces off on other people to receive feedback and edit suggestions, Critique Circle’s an awesome web site to do all that! I highly recommend the site to indie authors and would absolutely welcome new critique partners!

For the official “What is Critique Circle About Page,” click here.

Happy Writing!

-Nick

Tools, Tips and Guidance for Writers

To coin a phrase from my video gaming life, when it comes to writing and being an author, I’m a noob.  If you’re not familiar with the term noob, it can be thought of as an antonym for veteran or experienced or possibly even expert. I did not major in English, Literature, Grammar, Journalism or any other potentially related field to what I would expect a full-time writing career would require. I am making this up as I go along, with the help from a lot of people on the Internet. From Googling, to blogging to tweeting to FBing- i.e. via Social Networking and tapping into the minds and worlds of some wonderful people I am starting to figure this all out. I have become acquainted in cyberspace (mind you not face-to-face) with people from all over the world and have gathered some useful tips, sites and tools that hopefully will help me achieve my goals of self-publishing my work. I thought it only natural to share what I have learned along this journey so far and hopefully inspire, educate and help another “noob.” out.

The following is a short list of things, places, sites and tips I have discovered so far. If any of it helps you out, I’d love to hear it.

Book Covers

Book Covers. I didn’t realize how important and how expensive choosing or designing a book cover was until I start shopping for one! I found a few places online where you can tap into royalty-free images and use them for an eBook cover. There are several “Stock Photo” online sources that are good for Independent authors and self-publishers just starting out (like myself) Here are a few notable ones.

123 Royalty Free:  http://www.123rf.com
CanStockPhoto: http://www.canstockphoto.com
Dreamstime: http://www.dreamstime.com
Fotolia:  http://us.fotolia.com

Eye Color Chart

Describing your character’s eyes is important. Getting the color right is important too. There are tons of different resources you can find searching the Internet. Here is my favorite eye chart (http://eyemakeart.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/eye_colour_chart_by_delpigeon.jpg)

Name Generators

Seventh Sanctum is an awesome place if you are looking for a little random name generation. This applies to people, places, things, magic spells, organizations, governments, and whatever else you can think of. There are tons of name generatorslisted on this site.

Seventh Sanctum: http://www.seventhsanctum.com

Text Editors

I’ll assume in this day and age your main writing tool is a computer and not a typewriter. There are so many options to choose from to use a computer and a word processor to write with. I’ll summarize just a few of them here and note my favorite tool.

If you have access to a computer you basically don’t need to spend any money to start writing. The simplest tool you can use is the built-in text editor that comes with any PC running a Microsoft Windows operating system or any Apple computer running Max OS X.

In Windows you have two options. Notepad and Wordpad. Notepad is just a simple no frills text editor. Wordpad is essentially the same thing but it allows you to use basic rich text formatting (to make things bold, italic, centered, etc.) In Mac OSX you have TextEdit. There are also a ton of free programs you can get on the Internet as well. Just perform a google search for “free text editor” and you’ll see what I mean. Or on a Mac just go to the App Store and you’ll find several.

Word processors are the preferred tool for most writers. Modern word processors like Microsoft Word or Apple Pages will give you all of the basics the free text editors do plus a ton more formatting options and a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface. The word processor is pretty much the standard tools of choice. However there are other tools that combine a writer’s goal of producing a well formatted manuscript and ensure proper grammar and error-free spelling and have all the benefits of a full-fledged word processor. There are other choices as mentioned above that you can find on the Internet. My editor of choice is Scrivener.  Basically it’s a full-fledged word processor but it also allows you to create an outline on a “cork board” like canvas. It helps me arrange my thoughts and plot my books before I even write a single line of the story. It also has the ability to compile your work to various formats, like ePUB (for Apple iBooks), .mobi (for Amazon Kindle), .PDF, .RTF, DOC.  It’s available for both Windows and Mac OS X. I prefer the Max OS X version as it has some more features that are not yet implemented in the Windows version.

HTML Editors

When you need to comment online and need a quick HTML editor, here’s an online one that works very well. It’s basic, but gets the job done. When your tags are all formatted correctly, you can just cut and paste! Online HTML Editor: http://www.onlinehtmleditor.net/

If you do not like to work online (i.e require an Internet connection, then you’ll need to download an HTML editor. Again, a good old “google” search will net you several free choices of HTML editors. (CoffeeCup, Bluefish two notable free HTML editors.) There are a bunch of paid choices as well but these tend to get very pricey very quickly as they are geared more toward web development rather than helping bloggers format their posts. Adobe Dreamweaver and Microsoft Visual Web (the evolution of Microsoft Frontpage) come to mind. (As of this writing, Visual Web Developer Express is a free, limited function but very usable offer from Microsoft.)

How many words makes my story a novel?

I am still not 100% sure about this one. There seems to be a lot of different opinions. However I did find a general reference guide that answers this and I think it is a good guideline to follow.

The best answer to this question I found was from author Lee Masterson of South Australia. The summary below is from Lee Masterson article- the full article is here ==>Click here for this article

Writing type Approximate word count (k=1000)
Short Story 1k -7.5k
Novelette  7.5k – 20k
Novella  20k – 50k
Novel  50k – 110k
Epics and Sequels > 110k

That’s all for now!

Well that’s about all of the tips, tools, advice, guides, etc that I have discovered so far. As I discover and use more I’ll update this post. I hope you find the information useful. If you have any questions or comments, please use the comment form here or use the global Contact Nick link at the top of the page.

Happy Writing!

-Nick