Deciding Which Book Blurb

I hired three different people from fiverr.com to create a book blurb for my new ‘Shoulder Fairy’ science fiction book I expect to self-publish next month. It will be my fourth book.

Creating a blurb for this book is a little tricky because the story is difficult to explain in just a few words. The worst case is “The book is about a salesman goes to another planet to sell electronic tablets.” While that is true, it’s missing the motive, the obstacles, and the dangers that the salesman experiences. He’s not in it for the money.

I’ll share all three blurbs below.

_DSC0254-NoLogo

The year is 2198. It’s been thirteen years since Robert Vasquez saw the light of day. He spent most of his life seeking knowledge and educating others; a wealthy man who was never been understood by his fellow mankind. No longer able to find his purpose on Earth, he traveled the universe toward the star Procyon A and the planet known as Sonik.

Humanity has intermingled among the locals of the planet. Sonik was nothing like Earth with its hazardous atmosphere, unfiltered air, and radiation levels that threatened human health. Strange creatures and unknown landscapes await his journey. Here he plans to start again, and to spread education and knowledge throughout the new world. But his mission is threatened by internal politics.

In his journey, he meets a fairy-like creature convicted of a grievous crime whom he confides in. Unnatural thoughts invade his mind as his paranoia continues to grow. He learns about a prophecy and an ancient civilization about the history of the planet. He becomes a fugitive from his own kind. One after another, he is tested to the brink of his existence. But is he prepared to learn the unexpected truth that has been living inside him?

The above blurb is by Almuntassermohd @ fiverr. I thought it was pretty good. The grammar issues were annoying but fixable. He does emphasize some of the dangers and obstacles in a vague way. Vague is probably good for a blurb. I don’t want any spoilers. I may choose this for my back cover.

He came to their world to teach. Instead, he learned how to fight… Robert Vasquez is a teacher. Resourceful and innovative, he has traveled to the distant planet of Sonik to spread Earth’s knowledge and culture, and improve the lives of the natives. But not everyone is so eager to change the status qou… He soon finds himself under the watchful eye of Ambassador Garth Knight… a corrupt bureaucrat who wants to keep Sonik’s population ignorant and docile… Easy prey for a militaristic Earth to take over. As Robert travels across this new world, he discovers a bizarre growth on his shoulder… and a strange voice, whispering in his head. But before he can deal with a possible mental breakdown, Garth’s spies turn the natives against him. Forced to flee into the wilderness, Robert must battle savage alien creatures, local bandits, and the harsh environment in order to survive. Guided by the voice in his head, Robert discovers a hidden archive of the planet’s knowledge and history. Along with a treasure trove of ancient but advanced technology… including a fleet of ships that could give the sinister ambassador the military edge he needs to dominate the planet once and for all… Shoulder Fairy is a thought-provoking science fiction adventure, featuring alien worlds, galactic politics and a relatable hero. Fans of Glynn Stewart, K. R. Fox and Sara King will love this thrilling tale of knowledge conquering ignorance.

The above blurb is by Aawarren @ fiverr. This one seems to amplify the danger and excitement even more. A couple of the details are not exactly correct but close enough to the truth. I am tempted to use this one also. He doesn’t mention the fairies directly, but he does mention some trouble that was caused by them.

“One is never afraid of the unknown;

one is afraid of the known coming to an end”

~Jiddu Krishnamurti

Robert Vasquez was an Earthling who found himself living on the planet Sonik. Although he missed those he had left on Earth, he saw this place as one that could help promote his electronic products. His goals were to bring Science and Technology to a foreign land.

He decided the best place in which to promote his products would be at a university. He felt if were to gain the acceptance of educational scholars, his product sales would skyrocket. Will he be successful in his quest to introduce a new product to this vast land?

Or will he find that the people will resist his attempt at discovering new technology delivered by a foreigner’s hands? If he was to fail will he find himself seeking to return to his homeland?

This blurb is by another person @ fiverr. Sorry, but I was disappointed by this one. It makes it sound like Robert was just interested in money. A salesman story with a profit and loss spreadsheet in each chapter. That criticism is exaggerated, but where is the danger? Being deported back to Earth was a concern, but so was death. And where are the fairies?

I have two blurbs to choose from. And now I am awaiting the material to put in the appendix of my book. I had hired six authors from fiverr.com and freelancer.com to create science reports and short stories about various characters in the story.

The two science reports were completed yesterday. One to discuss the plausibility of space travel as depicted in my book. The other is a biology report that discusses the plausibility of parasites and small people that fly (fairies) as depicted in my book, complete with references.

I am still awaiting my four short stories. It’s so fun for me to have appendices in my books and hire people to fill them. I plan to give them credit, each with their name under their short story title.

My Editor’s Reaction to My Book

Space

I was excited (as always) to receive the results from my editor, and I want to share my editor’s general comments about my book. This editor is from Scribendi.com. Editors from Scribendi.com are always anonymous (editor number 1479 in this case) so I don’t know if it is a he or a she. Here are his/her general comments:

Hi, and thank you for the opportunity to edit your book. Before I go into detail about this edit (and how much I enjoyed reading your novel!), I’d like to apologize for the lateness of its return. I was not the original editor on the project and saw it pop up on our work interface as a nearly-overdue manuscript, so I assume the original editor had some sort of emergency, but I don’t know the circumstances. As a novelist myself, though, I’m very familiar with the frustration of waiting for feedback and the desire not to lose momentum at this stage, so I prioritized your project and set a goal to return it to you well before the new deadline.

All that being said, what a thoroughly fun manuscript this was–skillfully written, already quite well-edited, and with such an enjoyable plot and so many laugh-out-loud lines that it felt as much like a book I’d recommend to friends as a project I needed to help polish. I should assure you, though, that you were wise to submit it for editing–as the “All Markup” option will show (under the Review tab, and then the Tracking section), I made many corrections for missing words, mistyped words (such as “and” when you meant “an” and such), some punctuation issues (missing quotation marks or periods, occasional misuse of semicolons, etc.), and other errors that can be distracting to the reader and lead to grouchy online reviews if they are not caught and corrected in time. You will find that most of my comments in the margin are praise for great lines and clever plot twists. However, my edit was careful and thorough, with three full passes to catch any sneaky little issues. A couple of bigger-picture suggestions:

1) Though your protagonist’s voice was exceedingly well-done and your POV usage perfect (something I rarely see in this job, to be completely honest), there were a couple of important moments where I felt like Robert’s naivete was too great to be fully credible. Specifically, when he completely disregards the advice on the train not to let the fairy touch him under any circumstances–he’s putting his head against the “birdcage” bars to take a selfie, then getting in close with the fairy and falling asleep–it doesn’t feel properly set up that he’s been given enough reason to trust the fairy and disregard the advice. On my second read it was especially clear to me what a wonderful and even delightful job you did constructing the dialogue and plot progression such that the “hosting Diamond-san” bit unfolded perfectly. It’s the initial setup that I felt could use a bit more credibility, and I don’t think this would be difficult to do at all–I think we just need to see a bit more (and I do mean “a bit”–like, one or two reasons) of Robert’s thought process as to why he doesn’t trust the advice to begin with or why he trusts the fairy so readily.

Similarly, his lack of concern about his growing “tumor” seems a little unusual. Especially in light of the fact that he was warned not to let the fairy touch him, and then she did, and he proceeds to have this increasingly large growth that is visible to everyone, it seems like the average person would be alarmed, worry about disease or infection, or reflect that maybe the fairy lied to them, etc. It makes *complete* sense that he thinks he might have caught a mental illness from the lunatics and that he doesn’t draw a connection between the onset of that and the growth of the “tumor,” and that’s a fun and clever aspect of the plot, but it doesn’t quite add up that he seems so unconcerned about the growth. It doesn’t seem like it would be difficult for him to come up with an alternate theory for it (wondering if it’s an allergic reaction to the fairy’s claws, or thinking it’s an infection but it doesn’t hurt or seems under control) that would allow him to credibly shrug it off.

2) This is more minor, but the matter-of-fact chapter titles could use a bit of brightening up or rephrasing for more intrigue. They don’t seem to quite match the lighthearted yet snappily-paced tone of the rest of the book.

Overall, however, this story is so imaginative and vivid, immersing the reader in a world that feels quirky, credible, and consistently fun. I find it especially commendable that you managed to do this around a plot of selling electronic tablets, which, on paper, seems like it would be difficult to make exciting. Yet through a great main-character voice, quick pacing, and a normal-ish yet odd and funny sci-fi world, you not only pull it off but hit it out of the park. Even the non-human side characters feel three-dimensional and unique, which is quite an achievement in 36,000 words. I know it may seem like I’m going hard here with the praise, but I read a lot of fiction as an editor and also in my other jobs (I evaluate self-published books for an industry review publication and I also serve as a judge for some of the big fiction writing contests), and when an author is really getting it right, I feel like they deserve to be told that.

You asked in your client notes that the editor ignore font and formatting issues. I ignored the issues with the margins, but I did change the entire doc to 11-point Arial (I did not have the two fonts you were using loaded into my Word software, so I chose another common sans-serif font) for consistency. This was mainly because it was distracting as I edited–“Ambivalence” (but not the “-tar”), in one section, was a different size than the rest of the words in the sentences–and I didn’t want to miss any legitimate editing issues due to my attention focusing on that. You can easily change the font or size, of course, with the “select all” feature.

At Scribendi we always recommend returning for a final proofread, as this is the best way to ensure that no new errors have crept in during the revision process. If you wish to request me for a future order, you can do this during the order process after uploading your document. There is a text box at the bottom of the order page that says “Editor Code (Optional).” Just type my editor code, 1479, in this space. When you place your order, the system will automatically send your request to me. Thanks again, and I wish you the very best with this book.

I have addressed the issues he/she pointed out (except the tumor, which I have a good idea on how to address that). Throughout the manuscript, I reviewed the grammar corrections and the suggestions and accepted nearly all of them. I really appreciated the good work and the encouragement he/she gave me.

The price tag (for editing my entire 36800+ word “novel”) was $1,149.66. I thought it was worth it, but not everyone has access to that much spare money.

I Hired a Map Maker

Sonik Republic Dvd

I hired an editor to critique my science fiction manuscript. In his report, he suggested I have a map made since it was challenging to keep track of all the locations. I like maps, so that suggestion excited me.

At Fiverr.com I found quite a few fantasy map makers. I chose exoniensis. I wrote up a list of locations with a brief description for him, he created this image. The price was US$68 (with a modest tip) and I got this color version, a black and white version, and various other versions. I am very happy with it.

The town called ‘Landing’ is the location of the one and only human settlement where the humans first landed on the planet. In the story, Robert travels to every city to sell his educational materials to the planet’s natives at the colleges. However, in six of the cities, Robert’s adventures are not detailed and are only mentioned in passing. The pink Wilderness of No Return presents most of the adventure and suspense.

After the editor’s critique, I made several changes to the story and sent it back for manuscript editing. I expect the results on Tuesday.

After that, I plan to hire people to create short stories and science essays for the book’s appendix. With past books I have written, I enjoyed having the backstories of various of my minor characters in the book in the appendix. I already hired one person to write a story about the ancient ancestors of the natives as hinted about at The National Archives on the map.

This time, seeing how I tried to keep the story scientifically plausible, I want to hire someone to write a science essay on the future of space travel. Specifically, I want it to include how plausible or not so plausible various aspects of my story is as far as how space travel is portrayed in it.

Thanks for reading.

Felipe Lira

For the science fiction I am currently writing, Felipe Lira has been providing the illustrations. He has created eleven illustrations so far, and I believe he has agreed to five more.

Crystal-san

Fairy

Gareth

Earth’s Ambassador to Planet Sonik

I had recruited Felipe from twine to come up with a picture for the front cover of the book. After that, I had expanded the story quite a bit. I hired him to create more illustrations for the book interior.

ProcyonB

Book Cover Illustration

To see more of Felipe’s work (beyond stuff he created for me) click here.

I have completed several drafts of the story by now. Saturday I sent the latest draft to the editor for content editing. He will write a review or critique of the story, plot, characters and the writing in general. After I react to that, it will be ready for the lower level editing.

I also expect to hire people to write short stories for the appendix. In my past books, I enjoyed hiring people to create a short story of a minor character’s backstory, or of some related incident of their choosing and published those stories in the appendix of the book (giving them credit for their stories).  I will probably post the job on freelancer.com this month and hire the most promising bids.

 

The Contest Winner Is …

Beast 1

In my last post, I had started a contest at Freelancer.com for ideas for a specific chapter of the book I am writing. I got 13 entries, but only seven are visible at the link unless you log in to Freelancer.com.

I loved most of the ideas I got and it was a tough choice choosing the one official winner. I chose the entry from Faith I to be the main winner and to get my $100 prize. But then I decided to buy the ideas of three others as runner-up winners (at a lower price they agreed to).

The picture if of one of the beasts pulling the carriage.

The whole chapter is rather long so I divided the chapter writing into four parts:

  1. Entering the Wilderness
  2. Creature Attack
  3. Bandit Attack
  4. Approaching the Destination

Then I set up to write each part individually to keep my mind focused. I seem to do better when I focus on one scene at a time, especially when I am trying to combine ideas from five authors (including myself).

This post will focus on Chapter part 1: Entering the Wilderness.

First here are the four winners:

Faith I

Faith was the grand prize winner. In the contest I had asked for a synopsis of the proposed chapter, and an excerpt of the hypothetical chapter. Faith wrote the whole chapter. She wrote a new part for the previous chapter also, which I added (reworded) to the previous chapter.

Here is an excerpt of her suggested chapter, only the chapter part for Entering the Wilderness, otherwise this blog would be too long. It will already be too long as it is.

By the time we approached the wilderness, the day had already changed to dusk, the forest breeze was rather unwelcoming, and it seemed as though there were no other life forms present save for the trees and bushes. As soon as the wilderness was in full view, the buffalos came to a sudden halt causing the carriage to jolt slightly.

“What’s the matter?” I asked my alternate self aloud as I peered through the carriage window.

I don’t know, maybe the buffalos decided they’ve had enough and stopped for the night. This was followed by a wild laughter and I somehow found myself laughing along.

Meanwhile the others in the carriage stared at me like I was some kind of loon.

After a moment of blank silence, Hunger-tar spoke, “the buffalos are frightened of the wilderness, it gives off bad vibes and the beasts can sense it”.

Again, I wondered what could be so scary to such great beasts, before I could get a chance to ask, I heard the driver and one of the guards outside trying to get the buffalos to move. After several thunderous roars from the beast and yelling from the stage coach operators, our carriage was back in motion.

We proceeded through the narrow pathway of the dark, thick forest at a significantly slower pace than we had been moving earlier. As we went, there was nothing but dead silence, the guards had advised us to keep it quiet so as not to attract

any dangers. Still it seemed to me that everyone was unduly agitated, after all, there was not a single soul in sight nor any sounds except the snapping of twigs and branches as we passed through.

I found myself dozing off after a little while and soon, I was fast asleep. When I woke up, it felt like I had been asleep for years, a feeling that felt all too familiar.

“Oh, he’s finally up!” Ink-san said, and the rest of the crew chuckled. I slowly sat up, blinking my eyes to see all of them staring at me.

“Honestly, I don’t know how you can sleep through this, I mean, doesn’t this place creep you out.” Said Copper-san as she flew over and landed on my shoulder.

Looking out the window, I noticed that it was now nearly pitch dark outside, save for a faint beam of blue light coming from the front of the carriage, I imagined it was what the stagecoach driver used as he guided the carriage. It was at this point that I noticed how ominous the forest was, nonetheless, I decided to put up a brave front. To distract myself, I focused on eating the food we had gotten at the marketplace, the others joined me and for a good while we were all able to ignore the sinister nature of the dark wilderness.

I used many of her ideas in the first part (and second part) of my chapter.

Sasha S

The next runner-up is Sasha S. I use many of his ideas but I didn’t use them for this first part of the chapter.

Ravi N

The next runner-up was Ravi N. I used a few of his ideas. For the first part of this chapter I mainly used the idea of the pink color for the strange forest leaves. This particular wilderness is strange even for the planet Sonik.

Robert, copper san, Ink san, and Hunger tar along with the coach guards and driver departed for the national archives. The national archives was a place that was situated in the middle of the vast forest, filled with unspeakable dangers, but Robert and his group were mostly unaware of this. After travelling for half a day through their carts, the group reached the outskirts of a vast forest. The forest was an entire world of its own, its trees were tall reaching almost the sky, and the peculiar thing about the forest was that it wasn’t green in color but rather had a dark pink hue to it. It looked absolutely beautiful. Everyone was dumbstruck on seeing it, even the people who’ve heard about it before were no exception.

Seeing the peculiar dark pink hue of the forest, Robert asked copper tar if she knew anything about it, but to his surprise, she had no idea about it. After some moments, their carts entered the forest, the instant they entered the forest, they felt a chill which made their hairs stand on back. Every one of them had an idea that this forest was more than just beautiful. The buffaloes of the carts were hesitant to pull the cart inside the forest, but they were helpless against their masters. The group kept travelling but at a considerably lower speed. The forest had different trees, and some peculiar plants, one plant which looked like a sunflower devoured a small leopard like an animal. Seeing that, nothing came out of their mouth. Soon the day was about to set, it wasn’t the time for the sun to set, but the thick canopy of the forest was preventing the sunlight from entering, which led to early sunset. The group decided to camp for the night but at that instant, they heard a roar that sounded very angry, all of them heard it and everyone felt the fear in their hearts at that moment. Hunger tar asked Robert what was it? But Robert was also at a loss, even his other half was a bit terrified. Copper san and Ink san were so scared that both of them were holding Robert’s head standing on either side of his shoulders, the scene despite the situation was looking pretty comical. The buffaloes were all kneeling on the ground, the sound was there only for an instant and wasn’t heard after that. But the buffaloes refused to get up for a long time. The night came and the forest looked even more mystical, the scene felt like it was straight out of a dream. They made supper from their ration, ate and went to sleep. When Robert was sleeping, he could hear the sound of a small child who was sobbing and talking in broken sentences. Initially, Robert thought that it was his other half, but it soon became clear when his other half complained about the same thing. They heard it for a few minutes then the sound disappeared.

Nicolas C

The last runner-up was Nicholas C. His ideas were valuable, and I use a few of them later, but not in this first part of the chapter.

Jimm Grogan

So, here is the first part of the wilderness travel chapter as an example for this post. This is the official first draft of my version of the chapter part. I merged in many of Faith’s ideas and a few of Ivan’s with many alterations of my own.

By the time the wilderness was in the distant view, the day had already changed to dusk.

There were no farms, agriculture or homes in sight, so technically we were in a wilderness already. But the normal wilderness had sparse trees, grass and visibility into the distance. I saw occasional furry creatures scamper away from the road, resembling pikas on Earth.

But up ahead, there was what appeared to be a distinct boundary. On one side was normal wilderness. On the other were dense tall trees raising a canopy of pink leaves, sloping steeply upward from the boundary. It was a wall of trees and brush, with no visibility to what might be behind or inside that wall.

The road led to a dark hole in that wall.

I was appreciating the humor of the wilderness’ name less and less; the ‘Wilderness of No Return’.

As we neared the hole into the dense forest, the chill breeze wafting from the entrance felt unwelcoming. The sky was partly dark already, but as we entered the hole it quickly felt like midnight. The buffalos came to a sudden halt causing the carriage to jolt slightly.

“What’s the matter?” I asked as I opened the carriage to lean out.

Hunger-tar spoke. “The buffalos are frightened of this wilderness, it gives off bad vibes and the beasts can sense it.”

One of the carriage guards turned on one of those ‘ultra-bright’ fairy-sized flashlights I had been giving away as a bonus to fairy’s who bought my tablets. I looked up at him as he climbed down from the carriage roof to the ground.

“We’ll be fine,” he whispered. “I got one of these magic lights some human has been giving away. The beasts will follow the light. Just stay quiet so we don’t attract attention.”

Hey, aren’t those lights reserved for fairy customers? My twin personality complained.

As long as the fairy buys a tablet, she can do whatever she wants with the light as far as I was concerned. I was actually flattered that it found a use in some profession.

The guard walked out in front of the beasts, lighting the way. With the driver’s slapping the reins on them, the beasts started forward again, but slower.

Ahead, I could only see the road and tree trunks and gloom. The ultra-bright light didn’t seem so ultra-bright here, but it worked. We could see.

I closed the door. “Why do we need to be quiet?” I whispered to my fellow passengers. “Whose attention is available in this place?”

“There are evil predators from this forest,” Ink-san said. “Some are attracted to noise.”

I laid back and closed my eyes. “Maybe things will look more interesting in the morning,” I said.

“Really? You’re going to sleep?” Hunger-tar asked.

Oh yes, though my other self.

“Oh yes,” I muttered aloud. My previous worries about Garth finding me had kept awake last night. This was an excellent time to get caught up on my sleep.

A jolt of the carriage awoke me. I opened my eyes tentatively.

“Oh, he’s finally up!” Ink-san said. The rest of the crew chuckled. I slowly sat up, blinking my eyes to see all of them staring at me.

“Honestly, I don’t know how you can sleep through this. I mean doesn’t this place creep you out,” said Copper-san as she flew over and landed on my shoulder.

Looking out of the window, I noticed it was still dark. “It’s not even morning yet?”

“It’s morning,” Ink-san said.

I opened the door and leaned out while Copper-san clung to my ear. I could see the pink canopy overhead. All direct sunlight was blocked by it. But is was light in a pink gloomy way. I could see the road and the tree trunks. The species of tree was different in this wilderness. Besides having pink leaves and being outrageously tall the trunk bark was a deeply textured black.

The guard was no longer walking in front of the buffalo or using his light. We were traveling faster now though approaching a speed bump crossing the road. The dirt was broken in a straight, two-meter wide line straight across the road. I braced myself as the carriage jolted over it.

I closed the door. Everyone inside seemed depressed or worried. To distract ourselves, I focused on unpacking the food we had gotten at the marketplace. The others joined me and for a good while we were all able to ignore the sinister nature of the dark wilderness.

 

 

I Started a Contest

I was having trouble deciding how a particular chapter in my book should go. I knew what the purpose of the chapter was. In general, I needed to get a group of people (including the protagonist) from place A to place B.

One idea is to keep the scene at place A that I already have, and the scene at place B, like I already have, and skip the travel scene.

But, I really wanted to show that the wilderness they traveled through was treacherous and had bandits. It was information that helps the plot. I could just have the people in scene B talk about how treacherous it was and that there were bandits. But many books on writing say you should show information, not tell it.

So I started a contest at Freelancer.com. Here is the link: https://www.freelancer.com/contest/Science-Fiction-Idea-for-Chapter-1547242

The prize is $100. The job is to give a synopsis of how the chapter could go, and a sample excerpt or paragraph for the chapter. I get to use the winner’s idea when I write my chapter and the winner get $100.

So far I have one entry and 7 notices that people are preparing their entry and to please be patient. The contest has seven more days and I expect to let the contest go to full length. The one entry is good and I could be happy with that, but I want to see what others propose. Maybe some of them will be even better.

I suppose that eventually, I could have come up with some idea myself, but a contest is so much fun and it the past contests have produced good results for me.

Meanwhile, the finished first draft is not done yet but is in sight. And after it is done, I will need to go through the whole thing again to get it all coordinated since I changed some elements and details in the course of writing and the beginning of the draft needs to not contradict the end.

 

Half Done (With First Draft)

RobertThis is a continuing blog series about the latest science fiction story I am working on: Shoulder Fairy. The picture is an artist’s interpretation of what protagonist Robert Vasquez looks like.

I got the estimated first half of this first draft finished last Saturday. In this second quarter of the story, trouble and obstacles arise for the protagonist Robert Vasquez. By the end of the first half he prepares to travel to the planet’s National Archives, a fort with the vault full of ancient records. It’s in the middle of a notorious wilderness, out of contact with the rest of the world. There he plans to hide from human ambassador Garth Smith for a while.

Below is a scene near the end of the first half of the story. It shows a confrontation between Robert and the ambassador. Robert came to the planet (Sonik) from Earth with the cause to convert the natives to technology, selling electronic tablets loaded with educational materials on Earth knowledge. The ambassador is opposed to educating the natives because he feels they should be left vulnerable to Earth dominance and be assimilated into the Earth empire.

There are two types of native people on the planet Sonik, “fairies” which are small and can fly, and “tarlocks”, which are human-sized and don’t fly.

With those clues, see if you can figure out what is going on in the scene:

I put on a fresh layer of sunscreen, my hat, and my glasses. As we were heading out through the building’s exit, there came the swoosh of a hover jet landing. That would have to be someone from the human settlement.

The hover jet landed, and its engines were kept idling. Two humans emerged from it, leaving the pilot inside. Copper-san hid in a wizard’s pocket to avoid the turbulence from the jet. The female human—probably the translator—started to talk to some nearby tarlocks but then noticed me. Both of them wore human clothing, which meant that I couldn’t see any of their skin, except for the parts of their glistening faces that the floppy hat brims didn’t obscure. Because of the way he walked, I knew that one of them was Garth.

“I was at a meeting with the Sonik leaders,” Garth said as he approached me. His voice was louder than necessary. “Do you know what they’re so excited about?” He waited for my answer.

“Your presence?”

“No. They’re excited about your plan to spread education to all of Sonik. Do you even remember what my orders were?!” He was shaking a clenched fist.

Orders? “You suggested that I teach only our language to the natives, and nothing more,” I said.

“Suggested?!”

The hover jet alone was a crowd magnet. His voice, however, was bringing even more attention our way.

“Perhaps I wasn’t clear,” he said, his voice softer, though still harsh. “I said that if you teach modern Earth education to the hicks anywhere on Sonik, I will forcibly deport you back to Earth. And now that you’ve gone against my orders, get into the hover jet now. Right now!”

“No,” I said.

He opened his overcoat and pulled his gun from its holster, keeping it near his waist and hidden from most of the natives. They wouldn’t have recognized such a device anyway. Garth’s translator stepped away from him with a look of surprise on her face.

Another unnatural thought surfaced. Garth is not our friend.

“Wait,” I said. “You said I could teach the Earth Standard language.”

“And you went so far as to mention teaching them to travel to the stars and make machines.”

“Oh.”

“Yes. Oh.”

“It’s true that I manipulated the bureaucrats to get permission to sell my stuff to the younger generation here at the universities. The students are suckers for video games and social media. I didn’t realize the leaders would take me so seriously. You don’t think they’ll find out what I’m really doing, do you?”

Garth thought about that for a minute. He put his gun away.

“Robert, you were dishonest to our allies, which is fine if you remember that what you say to government leaders can cause a backlash. As long as they don’t find out, it should be okay. Just teach a token number of students our language, and we can claim that you fulfilled your promise. What’s that thing on your neck?”

The bulge on my neck had grown beyond any reasonable explanation. I just shrugged.

Garth strode away, and his companion followed, struggling to match his speed. Before he boarded the hover jet, he yelled, “I’ll be checking up on you!”

As I watched the hover jet soar over the rooftops and disappear into the horizon, Copper-san landed on my shoulder. “You lied to your leader,” she said.

“He’s not my leader. He might have some jurisdiction over me, but I’m not his employee. Anyway, I don’t lie. Well, I try not to lie. But I didn’t lie to him today; I just didn’t tell the whole truth.”

How could Copper-san know what I’d said to Garth anyway? My whole conversation with him had taken place in Earth Standard language.

That is a mystery, thought unnatural alternate consciousness.

One Quarter Done

This is an update to my last post. I am rewriting a short story that lost in a science fiction contest. Above is another illustration I hired someone to make for the story.

I am an estimated one quarter done with the first draft of my longer version of my short story that I am excited about. At 8,272 words for the first fourth, it is still going to be a shorter than a novel, but probably three times as long as it was before.

I usually plan my stories in quarters, where in the first quarter I introduce the setting, the situation, the protagonist, and some of the other important characters and try to build up interest. It ends at a decision point or event that sets the story in a new, riskier direction. Hopefully that is accomplished in this new first quarter of the story or will be in later adjustments.

Calling this ‘One Quarter Done‘ is deceptive because even for people who preplan before they write, the first draft is not the last draft. I had a busy couple of weeks with relatives visiting, my real job, and other interruptions. And next week I will be helping at a week long boy scout camp in a wilderness where the internet is not available. But after that I should be able to make good progress.

I want to share the first part of the story here which is currently the first scene of chapter 1. This may become the prologue or the whole chapter 1. This scene was not in the original short story.

Originally I started the story on the alien planet with Robert newly arrived. That seemed to beg much explaining and exposition. To exaggerate how bad it was, it went something like this:

I looked out my window from my hotel suite in the human spaceport on the planet Sonik and saw all that alien landscape… etc. etc. I had arrived yesterday from Earth … took 13 years to travel here …. woke up from hibernation … in the Procyon star system … outer space, outer space, outer space, etc. Oh yeah, and now I am here.

So I made this new scene where Robert can experience his arrival in a spaceship at the same time the reader is reading about it. This is intended to make the information more a part of the story than being just information. This is my official first draft of the new first scene:

The blurry face resolved to that of the hibernation technician, Uzoma, who had been trying to put me into an induced hibernation for the last fifteen minutes.

“I’m still conscious,” I complained.

“Incorrect wording,” said Uzoma. “You are conscious again.”

I felt cold, foggy headed and miserable still. The intravenous tubes and other cables were still attached to me, but the fluid in the tank I was submersed in was at a lower level. My face was above the fluid and I was  breathing air. Did that mean I would have to acclimate to breathing liquid all over again?

How much torture did I have to go through before I could be launched into space, escape Earth, and be on my way to the star Procyon A, my first interstellar trip. I decided to be patient a little while longer. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else.

“Your blood will be warmed to a normal temperature in six minutes.” Uzoma said. I can then disconnect you and you will be free to go.”

That was alarming. “You mean the flight is canceled? What’s wrong.”

Uzoma rolled her eyes and smiled. “You’re here. On Sonik.”

I was on the planet Sonik? Already? The gravity did feel a little heavier, I think. It was hard to tell. “What’s the date?” I asked.

Uzoma looked at a display panel. “UTC Earth time is 2:52pm, August eight, 2198. Local native time is the second hour of the afternoon, the 9th day of the 7th week of the 17th month, of the 2806th year since people were created.”

That meant I was unconscious for about thirteen years by Earth time. Space ships that traveled at near-light speeds made travel to Procyon possible, but not quite practical. My girlfriend on Earth, Fiona, would be thirty four years old now. My age would be complicated considering near light speed time dilation. And according to medical theory with the stasis of artificial hibernation, I had only aged about one month during the trip. I wasn’t feeling particularly young at the moment.

After a long wait, I had the strength to sit up, and Uzoma helped me out of the tank to a chair. She dried me off and helped me put on underpants and a gown.

“Robert, you’ll continue to feel foggy and weak for the remainder of the day,” Uzoma said. “Your hotel room is ready, your suitcase is already there, and your cargo trunks are in the luggage office by the settlement foyer. After a night’s sleep you should feel fine. Are you ready to be wheeled to your suite?”

I nodded, eager to lay down wherever there was peace and quiet.

There you have it. If you have never seen a first draft before, here is one. Comments and suggestions are welcome. I don’t guarantee that I will obey them all, but I do want to read your insight.

New Short Story

Fairy Concept

I had submitted a short story to a contest last year. Last month I got notice that from the thousands of entries, I didn’t win. Now that the story is mine again, I plan on rewriting it to contain adventures beyond the contest limit of 17,000 words. I want to add more of the perils and obstacles that Robert faces as he attempts to raise the natives of the planet ‘Sonik’ above their current medieval level with education of Earth language and science.

The story titled ‘Shoulder Fairy’ is about Robert Vasquez’ journey to the star Procyon A where humans have an outpost on a world that the natives call ‘Sonik’. He brings hundreds of electronic tablets full of educational apps and plans on being a missionary for education.

The planet has two races of people: small (17 cm) flying people with wings called ‘fairies’ (in Earth language) and the ‘tarlocks’ which are human sized and don’t fly.

Robert finds things don’t go as simply and smoothly as he had expected. There are dangers and medical hazards to living outside the human outpost among the natives. The humans in the outpost present other problems. Robert finds that his definition of success may need to be re-evaluated, and maybe include his own survival.

I expect to publish the work this year. Shoulder Fairy will still be short, maybe half the size of a novel. It is not in the Tomek universe with my previous books. I hope to provide an update of my progress each month. Thank you to any who read my slow blog.

Experimented with Twine.fm

ProcyonB

I commissioned an illustration from an illustrator at Twine for a short story I am planning to self-publish. The guy I hired made me the beautiful piece above.

The Twine experience was a little different than the freelancer sites I have used before. I am still trying to figure out if I will use it more.

Fiverr.com is great for quick typical needs, but if you want something a little more custom or special, they don’t seem adaptable. You would often need to change your project to better match the definition of the job the creator advertises as his/her specialty. You cannot post a job and have creators give you bids.

Freelancer.com is great because you can post exactly what the job is that you want to have done, and the creators will search you out and give a bid, sometimes too many bids to review. This is perfect for me because most of the illustrations or other art I need are custom situations. However, this process can be a little burdensome if you just want a quick little thing. Also, Freelancer pesters you with several small fees during the process so you never know exactly how much the project will cost in advance.

Twine.fm is more similar to Freelancer.com. You post a job, and the creators submit bids. Twine seems more casual and the personnel seems more eager to give you their personal attention to help you through the project. Besides the bid price you agree to with the artist you choose, to pay exactly 20% extra to Twine. I think that is better than a bunch of little fees, but it does seem a little more than I expected. On Freelancer.com they charge the hired artists fees also. As far as I can tell, Twine does not charge the artists any fee, except an annual subscription if they want to enjoy premium perks. Also, Twine specializes in visual arts like videos and illustration, not in writing or other tasks.

I will probably give Twine some more business. I still expect to revert to Freelancer and Fiverr on occasions.