Kay knew she irritated people with things like drumming her fingers and jittering. She had not been that nervous and distractable last year, but could not go back. Teachers gave up after a few weeks and just lived with her looking out of the window rather than following class whenever she felt like it. Until, that is, she got up in the middle of a test and walked outside to better watch squirrels, leaving behind a sheet covered with doodled flowers rather than answers.
The school called her parents, and her mother gave her a dressing-down. Kay tried to listen, because not doing so would make her mother more angry, but instead kicked her feet and watched the patterns the light made on the floor and walls.
“Oh, Kay, what’s gotten into you?”
The girl only shrugged, “I had to go out.” She was close to tears, not understanding herself.
“Maybe her angel is sick,” came a small voice from the door.
Their mother took a deep breath and tried to calm down. “Honey, angels and demons are just stories. And eavesdropping is not nice.”
Kay’s little sister looked confused. “But Mattis said—”
Your demon gave you ideas, and your angel helped you stick with one. Kay had heard the same; everyone had.
While Mother shooed her to the kids’ room, Kay spun ideas. Maybe she had to find her angel and save it. Or talk to her demon. It was still with her, and might know something. Only she did not know how. Maybe she should go—
“I need to make some phone-calls. We should go see doctor Hames soon.”
Kay nodded. Doctor Hames was all right.
“Go and get started on your homework, honey. I’ll help you when I’m finished.”
If you like supporting creative projects directly, whether by donations or giving people ideas, see if there's something of interest here. It's a collection of projects that caught my eye, particularly fiction Fishbowls where you leave prompts for someone to use as basis for writing. At the end you'll find links to stories written to my prompts in February, as well as my activity last month.
Networking on Twitter
If you run a project - writing, drawing, anything else - which involves asking people for prompts, and you plug it on twitter, consider including the hashtag #promptcall
Updates of last month's projects
With a bit over two days to go, Plunge, the ezine for queer women in genre literature, is fully funded.
I don't think any of those stories need content warnings, though I can't vouch for other content you might find looking around.
Hopefully I didn't forget anything; I need to get more systematic about the bookmarking.
The Law & Order Fishbowl I ran in February will probably end up with relatively few stories; there is a pattern of someone's general prompt working together with someone else's more concrete one to create one story idea. I'm not as far along as I wanted to be by now, partly because I spent the last three days getting my computer to work again. While I did not lose any actual writing, I'm not sure I'll be able to recover my organised notes with the prompts and ideas based on them. (More frequent and thorough backups in future for me.)
The file with the stories from the Horror Fishbowl is at the editor's.
And lastly, five of the requests from the last Small Art Call are finished now.
That project is going more slowly than I'd like, too, but I'm picking up the pace and hope to get most of it done before March is over.
Fran wished there was more to the stories of poltergeists, if she had to be not-quite-dead-enough. No moving of objects or whispering of threats for her. Richards might feel her touch, but she had tried only once. He had looked up with a grin splitting his face, revelling in her powerlessness, and finished strangling his next victim.
A lock of the boy’s hair had gone into an old paint can and up on a shelf right under the low ceiling of Richards’ shack. He was not the last.
Turning her attention inward hardly shielded her from those scenes; her sight and hearing were not bound to eyes and ears anymore, and she could feel the fear and pain running through her like a current. She did not even have the solace of company in this prison. Judging from Richards’ occasional bows and thank-yous to the “loge of spectators”, there were indeed several ghosts, but Fran found no way for them to communicate.
All she had was a vague sense of their presence, which might have been her imagination. That, and what Richards called his shows, which, death by death, chipped away at her sanity.
Inspired by the prompts "Invisible witnesses" and "Crimes against ghosts and spectres" by Tango
Paypal has drawn the ire of a lot of self-published erotica authors by requiring Smashwords to remove books with certain subjects from their platform. Those subjects include rape for titilation, incest, pseudo-incest (that's sex between someone and their step-parent), and bestiality.
There is a lot of ranting about censorship and danger to free speech. "Moral guardians run amok" seems to be not the only possible explanation, however.
Selena Kitt includes some findings in her blog post Slippery Slope: Erotica Censorship. (That's the website of an erotica author. It didn't look terribly racy to me, but I'm not 100% certain it'd pass as "safe for work".)
What I discovered was that most merchant-services (i.e. companies that allow you to use Visa and MasterCard on their site) which allow adult products charge a $5000 up-front fee to use their service. Then, they take exorbitant percentages from each transaction. Some 5%, some 14%, some as high as 25%.
Now it was starting to make more sense. The credit card companies charge higher fees for these “high-risk” accounts because there is a higher rate of what they call “chargebacks.” You know that protection on your credit card, where if you dispute the charge, you don’t have to pay for it? Well they’ve determined that happens more with porn and gambling and other “high-risk” sites than others, so they’re justified in charging more money to process payment for those sites.
So worst case, and friendliest interpretation for Paypal: If Paypal allowed porn, the credit card companies would classify all of Paypal as a high risk account, with higher fees that would have to be passed down to the customers.
The scenario that suggests to me is lots of people buying porn, their spouses seeing it on their credit card bill, the buyers going, "No, I never bought that!" and getting chargebacks, until credit card companies took notice. It brings us back to morals, but as a more spread-out factor than a random crackdown from a small group of moral guardians: Porn being a "guilty pleasure" a lot of people won't admit to.
Reality is always more complicated (why are incest, rape and bestiality singled out if the issue is "adult" content?), but the business angle should not be ignored.
[P.S.: If you care about my opinion on the topic of "is it OK to make certain books hard to impossible to sell?"... well, I dislike the topics listed, but considering it logically, murder is pretty disturbing, too, and some of my favourite books feature a hired killer as a viewpoint character, so it would be right hypocritical to support banning other fiction.]
I received prompts from 15 people, including 3 new prompters.
Donations cracked the level required for a basic ebook, so once writing is done, I'll get that put together. I'm planning to get the initial flash-for-prompts finished in the next few days, and the extra short story some time in March.
So far I've finished 9 stories, 3 of which were published. They're all listed here. One or two more should go public; I'm waiting for an answer from one of the tippers if they'd like to sponsor a particular story, or leave the choice to chance or me.
One more story (based on prompts from 2 people) is drafted but needs some edits.
Three more people need to get stories, one of them two, but that might result in a total of two or three more stories rather than five - this Fishbowl has rather more stories grown from combining prompts than the last had.
I counted 16 linkbacks to the call, so that's at least 800 words of setting notes, with ~250 covered by the basic Emergent and Identity landing pages. Does anybody have something they'd like to see addressed in setting notes? It may be a bit early for this question, but thought I'd ask. :)
For getting prompts from 14+ people, I promised a short story, and would like to take a straw poll - which of the following ideas would you rather see me write?
One idea, an older one, is in the Identity setting, dealing with the legal and emotional fallout when it becomes known that someone led two separate lives and married two people, who had no idea.
The second one has at its core a twist on the "angel and devil on your shoulder"-idea: A superstition that each human has an angel, associated with order, and a demon, associated with chaos. A girl suddenly has problems concentrating on anything, and gets the idea in her head that something happened to her angel. (This is an expansion of the story "Scatterbrained" from this Fishbowl.)
Lastly, I'd like to ask how should tips that went to partially sponsoring a story be treated?
It interacts a little oddly with my habit of posting one story, usually picked at random, from the ones that are not published yet. This week there was one that was 40% funded, and for that I gave it 4 extra "lots" in that drawing - and it ended up being posted.
The tip thus got the story chosen by the donor posted earlier than it might have been otherwise, but no additional words. Does that seem fair to you? (I did promise 400 words in addition to the two freebies per $10 donated this time, and I'll make sure that happens.)
Thanks to everyone who played!
If you have any questions, suggestions, or other comments, please speak up. :)
Trying to keep control of her temper, Juno tapped her driver’s license lying on the countertop hard. “This is no fake,” she hissed, waving at the yellowed newspaper clippings about her death and recovery ten years ago she had produced as corroborative evidence. “If the state thought my actual rather than apparent age determined if I was allowed to drive a car, don’t you think the same should apply to other age limits?”
“I’m sorry, hon, it’s not that I don’t believe you—” her eyes flicked to a photo in the clippings, which was still accurate apart from the haircut “—but it would be just not right. Kids thinking you were their age seeing you smoke, what kind of example would that be?”
Behind the concerned face Juno saw a smug presumption of moral perfection. It made her want to break something, by preference the woman’s neck. After taking a few breaths to calm down, she collected her papers, by necessity slowly. Her fingers shook both with anger and withdrawal, and she did not want to damage the old newsprint further.
When the woman started another apology, Juno cut her off with “Fuck ‘think of the children’,” and stalked out of the little corner shop. The third attempt today. She never would have thought that the cashier at her usual shop quitting would cause that many problems. He had had no compunctions about selling cigs to someone who looked like she was ten.
Inspired by the prompts "Is it okay to sell cigarettes and alcohol to a hundred-year-old vampire in the body of an eight-year-old?" by Tango and "Moral versus legal" by Ellen Million
Don’t you hate it when you sit in your favourite bar and just want a drink and some quiet and someone asks “what’s up?” Fred was just the type to do that to me, and yesterday she followed it up with “Are you still chewing on that self-defence overkill thing from last week?”
“Nah, that’s up to the courts now.” I would rather not have thought about that one again. Imagine you come to a scene with one person with several broken bones, and another calmly waiting for the police, that is, me. There’s way worse, sure, but it’s damn creepy when the person waiting is full of bullet holes. Did they have to fold up a human to suitcase-size, if they don’t mind being shot?
“So what’s new?”
“I’ll quit.” Hadn’t meant to blurt it out like that.
“I just can’t take it anymore. There’s those freaks you can’t stop. How do you put handcuffs on a ghost? I saw one shove a person out of a window today. Right in front of me. Couldn’t do a thing.” And it knew exactly what it was doing, giving me a grin and a wave before floating through a wall.
That at least shut her up for a short while, but she started up again. “Still, most cases are normal crimes, nothing but regular humans.”
“Doesn’t feel like it, lately.”
Fred shrugged. “A blip in the statistics. Don’t rush things.”
I snorted. “If at least there wasn’t that much up in the air with civil rights for those freaks. There’s your problem right there. Call them human rights like you should, and it all becomes easier.”
Fred pulled a face. Her problem, she’d started the conversation.
I picked up my half-empty glass of beer again, and she kept staring at me while I drank, which got on my nerves. “What’s up with you now?”
“Just wondering if it’d make sense for you to join that new unit for supernatural crimes.”
“And handle more of that shit? Are you crazy?”
“They are looking into ways to neutralise, ah, unusual threats, and are bound to be the best informed on the general topic of all of us.”
Put like that it wasn’t that far-fetched. Still disgusting. Fred raised her hands, “Just a thought.”
“I’ll think about it.”
I’m still thinking.
Inspired by the prompt "A cop who keeps encountering preternatural creatures and incidents that make it harder and harder for him to do things "by the book," which he wants to do." by Elizabeth Barette aka ysabetwordsmith. Sponsored by Tango
The Republic had decided the “werewolf” question. Reading the detailed account in the paper did not make me feel any less disgusted than the short version on the radio had.
How many of the people actually affected had the lawmakers listened to before signing their names to that bill? Three? Well, they had talked to three, but they obviously had not listened. Must have been hard to hear about the media clamour, granted. That rampage in Mearen apparently had been too good for sales to pass up.
Following a morbid impulse I looked up some websites of sensationalist papers. Yep, right there was the rant about the pressure from the League of Nations that had led to that ridiculous “compromise” of classifying werewolves and similar shapechangers as animals for two weeks a month. Only.
At least nobody in my town knew I was one of Them. That tiny taste of it-could-have-been-worse turned sour when I came across the “perfidy of monsters hiding among us, ready to strike”. The rag had been crass enough to use a scene-of-crime photo of one of the Mearen victims at the end of the column. A young girl, I didn’t look too closely. Even a publicity still from Blood Moon Hunters or a similar pre-emergence horror flick would have been in better taste, and consistent with their habits.
I feared meeting people I knew. Who would be overjoyed being within their rights to shoot someone like me dead on sight in the right half of the month? For a long moment I considered looking into emigrating, but for all I knew it was only better on paper elsewhere. And I had to get ready for work, anyway.
What's a Fishbowl? The very short version: You give me prompts, I'll use these as inspiration to write flash fiction.
A prompt can for example be a keyword, a phrase, a question, an image, a random real-world fact, or a what-if question. If you're familiar with my writing, you can ask for a continuation of an existing story, or more about a setting or character. Topics I won't write to are fanfiction and erotica.
I do accept general prompts, but this time I'm particularly looking for prompts to the theme "Law and Order" - making laws, breaking laws, old laws not coping with new situations, police work, morality, bureaucracy, contracts, wise laws, silly laws, natural laws, cosmic principles Order And Chaos, or whatever else comes to mind.
You can leave as many prompts as you like, you can come back and leave more in a second comment if you think of more later. Please also don't think that because I accept tips, you should not prompt without tipping - the more prompts, the merrier.
I decided on the "Law and Order" Topic for this round after Lyn Thorne-Alder requested "more of this!" after reading the following drabble from the last Fishbowl.
“You don’t look happy.”
“And you know why. This is big. And messy. But mostly big.”
“Your first serial killer, eh?”
“That is the question, isn’t it?”
“She killed people and ate them. No wonder you’re losing your appetite.”
“Tch. Be serious, will you? Laws on murder predate the emergence of supernaturals. My client targeted vampires exclusively. They were already dead. That meets the definition of corpse mutilation.”
“Oh. Yes. Very messy… You might end up with being a vampire being a case of interfering with one’s own funeral...”
“The hell with it. It must be cleared up some time.”
I try to write each story self-contained in 100-300 words, but they often turn out longer, occasionally shorter, and sometimes more open-ended than other times.
The result won't neccessarily be one story per person, since several prompts may combine to form one story idea, but I will do my best to use at least one prompt from each participant.
If a prompt you left plays into the creation of a story, you will get to read it right away. I'll share it with you privately, either via email, or via internal message if you leave your prompt at the Livejournal or Dreamwidth mirror.
Two stories from this Fishbowl are guaranteed to be posted publicly soon, one this Friday, and one the next. Remaining works will go into a pool from which I publish one random story each Friday. Tips will sponsor additional stories that get posted right away.
For each Link back to the prompt call I'll post about 50 words of setting notes or other background material. I may substitute drawn character sketches or the like.
Fishbowl #1 had 10 commenters, #2 had 12 - if we get at least 14 this time, I'll write an additional 1000+ words story to the Fishbowl theme.
I accept tips via Paypal.
If you tip,
I'll send you a link to a google doc with all not-yet-published stories from this Fishbowl. You also may decide which story or stories to sponsor for public posting with your tip (but if you don't want to decide, you don't have to).
You can pick at least one story based on a prompt you left that goes public, regardless of wordcount. (So if you tip $3, but a story I write for you is so long I'd ask for $8 to sponsor it, you can still have it go public.)
I will write two stories based on your prompts (or one that's at least 600 words, if it works better with the prompt(s) you left). If I find myself absolutely out of ideas, I may ask for new prompts.
If you tip at least $10, I'll send you links to older not-yet-published stories, too. (At the moment 4 from the previous Fishbowl.)
In addition there are perks based on the tip total.
$20 - I'll make a basic ebook (with a text-only cover) in epub and mobi format, and anybody who prompted or donated will receive a copy.
$50 - The ebook gets a cover illustration.
$80 - I'll write an additional story for everyone who left enough prompts. That's 3 stories for tippers, 2 for others.
I'll also make sure that at the end at least 400 words per $10 donated are posted publicly. (Rough timeframe by the end of the month.)
If you prompt it would be nice if you could also include the following information:
Do you have any preference how you're credited? (which name and link)
Did you spread the link? Where? (On Twitter I can tell if you include @Anke)
If you found this through someone else spreading the link, who was it? (I'm curious, and could use some data to help with considerations about future perks)
The guests at the Princess's christening were in awe, and her parents proud as could be, as the three wise women of the Realm had accepted their invitation. All noise stopped when the trio stepped up to the cradle to give her good wishes, in solemn voices sweet as summer wind.
“She shall have a mind clear as ice, so she can detect the flaw in any plan, thing, or person,” said the first.
“She shall have a heart strong as steel, so she won’t be hurt or swayed by trifles,” said the second.
“She shall have a tongue sharp as a knife, and wield it expertly,” said the third.
The suddenly stricken silence was broken by the door opening, a messenger bursting in unanounced and out of breath. “The wise women are dead. I saw their bodies in a ditch...”
The impostors let their glamour disperse, showing skin pale as snow and eyes dark as night sky. One smiled at the messenger, the other two bowed mockingly towards the parents, holding all present spellbound long enough for their parting words.
“She will be strong, and smart.”
“She will do all our Realms proud.”
All three faded like a mirage.
Based on the prompt "The fairy godparents aren't the nice sort of fairy." by rix-scaedu.