fiction

Musings on a New Semester

…and a new quarter, too. As DU is on the quarter system, my two classes for them begin this week. one is an online course called Writing the Short Story, which is a graduate-level writing workshop on, you guessed it: short stories. This is a new one for me, so right now I’m doing the dance of the teacher-as-pirate: deciding what materials to keep from the other professor’s work, what to invent of my own, and how to adapt. It should be fun–the most fulfilling courses I get to teach is when I help students with their creative work. Of course, it’s also the most hard work…

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I found this on my facebook feed, so I have no credit for this image. Wait–do you have to give credit for a meme?

The other DU course I’ve got going on is an on-ground course called Discovering Creative Energies. It’s a course for undergrads (adult learners), about the form and function of creativity: what it is, what it does and means cognitively, etc. Plus we get to keep a journal, which I always love. And need. I don’t do enough creative work on my own without external requirements like this, and even though it’s actually a requirement for my students and not me, I impart the deadlines on myself too. As my Mom always taught me, too: it’s good practice as a teacher to do the generation/output with the students–to model the process as well as be inspiring with her product.

At Metro, I’m riding along in Week 4 of an online class called Staging Cultures, which is an upper-division course for undergrads that centers on diversity in theatre through history. This iteration of the course focuses on colonialism in particular, and how that feeds into the theatrical works of both the conquerors and the conquered. We read a play a week in that class, and most of them were ones I hadn’t read before teaching this for the first time last Fall. Celebrating the brilliant obscure, in many cases.

Finally, at Front Range I’m teaching three (count ’em: 3) sections of Composition I. Beginning essay writing for incoming community college freshmen. Times three. Twice a week. Right now we’re in Week 3, and they just handed in their mini-essays (look for prize-winners here forthwith), and are now beginning Exemplification Essays. Which are essays that center on use of examples for support. Also I know from this class one shouldn’t use “finally” in one’s conclusion as that’s hacky high school writing. That reminds me: I actually have a few high school kids in these classes. So far they’re right up to par with the rest.

Of course, at Regis I’m doing my normal handful of one-on-one writing courses and Capstones. I’ve got a Creative Non-Fiction student this session, which is refreshing as I don’t work in that genre very much.

So.

Yeah.

I’m not picking this semester to quit my addiction to caffeine.

Theft

And…there’s another fanfic bit of mine floating around the Thief archives. This from our shady protagonist’s POV. Those of you who went to grad school with me will recognize this scene, and will also recognize I have revised it since, to make the two characters’ voices more distinct. Right now they both sound rather Garrett-y.

Anyway, here’s the opening bit, and if you want to know what happens next, read the rest at the Thief-TheCircle archive, here.  ~Jenn

He stepped in, and eased the hall door shut behind him. The hinges creaked a little just before the latch clicked. Reaching up by his head, he turned the wick all the way down in the lamp. A thin strip of orange light spilled in through the crack under the door. He kept his feet out of it. He leaned gently against the wall just next to the door and counted to ten, waiting for his eyes to adjust.

Ten. A large wardrobe to his right with a gold bauble on top, catching faint light from the chink in the drapes. An endtable in the corner, a potted plant. Straight as he looked, a long plain desk with a blotter, a ledger, some papers scattered on it. An inkpot cast a tiny black shadow on the tapestry hanging behind. The tapestry was surprisingly small, a perfect square, hung low above the desk. A family crest design, gold-fringed. He moved forward, casting glances at the window as he did. Fourth floor, midnight, probably okay. Still…

He leaned his bow against the side of the wardrobe and tried the handle, just to see.

Behind him, the hall door opened, creaking.

He melted into the near corner.

This is Garrett from Thief 4, not Thief 1, but eh. He looks really cool here.

This is Garrett from Thief 4, not Thief 1, but eh. He looks really cool here.

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Finders Keepers

Hey lovely lurkers: remember when I reviewed Thief 4 and mentioned that I had written fanfic in the Thief universe? Yeah. I went on a little journey onto the Internet and found it. Here’s the opening of one of them, called “Finders Keepers.” In it, I decided to take the POV of one of the hapless guards we constantly are clubbing in the game. You’ll notice I channel Lieber and Bradbury, too, and I’m not sure it’s in a good way.

If this beginning hooks you, read the rest at the old Thief-TheCircle archive, here.   ~Jenn

What was that?

Brother Mortimer, second guardsman and acolyte to the Master Builder, halted in his tracks. Fingering the handle of his iron hammer, he whirled around, frowning into the corridor behind him.

The hallways in the Stronghold were ornate–symmetrical yet unusual-a true tribute to the Builder’s glory. Yet those same carvings and deep doorways that made the architecture vibrant also cut through each space with blocks of shadow. Mortimer, to amuse himself, often imagined that each corridor was a puzzle, and would attempt to fit each shadow into geometric shapes.

He was not amused now. Anyone could hide within those wedges of impenetrable black, and he thought he had heard a noise. But as he peered, he could see no glint of steel, no movement of any kind, nay, not even the whites of startled-still eyes. He sighed, and shook his head. Nothing now.

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Fiction Selection

I came across this clip from an unpublished story that’s the first of 5 I need to get my butt in gear with and edit, proofread, revise, and freaking publish already! Or, at least I think I do. What do you think, lovely lurkers?

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From Sweet Revenge, 2000 (unpublished)

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“Take that, spawn of the devil!”

Thwang!

I whirl around. Protruding from the mast, inches from my right shoulder, is a sextant, the sharp end embedded into the wood. It trembles with the impact. I turn back around to face my assailant.

Three rigging-lackeys lounge on barrels, ropes, the rail. The man in the center, one Arbitor, curses at his near miss. The other two laugh.

“Here’s the instrument to stick in a pretty walking map!” the mustachioed pirate on the left jeers. The right-hand lackey, lounging on the rail, grabs his trousers and gestures lewdly. I frown. Jack O’Napes is nowhere in sight. Meeting my uncle the Captain, no doubt. The rest of the crew is far from us. Arbitor fidgets. He looks uncomfortable; he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. His two flanking cohorts advance on me, leering, muttering under their breath. I catch a few phrases: “Tie ‘er up and hang ‘er,” “Our treasure…” “Nothing but a little girl.” At that, the right-hand lackey clutches himself again and replies, “I’ll make ‘er into a woman, Skrike. You hold ‘er.”

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The main characters from a sequel to this story. You can see Gemma on the far left labeled as “Cap’n.”

I tense, every muscle on the alert. Arbitor backs up slowly, biting his fingers.

“Now!” shouts the right-hand lackey, and lunges at me.

I draw my sword so quickly, he runs straight into it. The point pierces his abdomen. He gasps in pain and fury. I wrench the sword free, and whirl to face my other opponent, who whisks his sword out of its scabbard and squares off with me. Arbitor drags his bleeding, cursing other crony downstairs, calling for the Captain. I do not hear him. Skrike swipes a cut at my left side, which I parry easily. He is already breathing too heavily, in anticipation. I can see his next move in his eyes.

I thwart his expected thrust and bind his blade around, surprising him with my strength, and exposing the left side of his back. I cut quickly towards his kidney, but he somehow twists out of his awkward position and beats my blade away. I hear running feet belowships and on the hollow-sounding stairs, but all my thoughts are on my man, my breathing, my footing. His blade, my blade.

His next thrust is far too sloppy, he being still off-balance. I tack aside the off-center miss, and aim this time for his right calf. He won’t expect a blow so low.

Just as I thought: the cut draws blood. He sucks in a ragged breath and falls to his knees.

He’s not through yet, however. He shoves his blade straight, like a battering-ram, towards my solar plexus. I parry the blade, and this time envelopée the sword right out of his hand. It circles, out of his control, and clatters to the deck. It flings itself across the floor and lands at the feet of Jack O’Napes, who has appeared from belowships. The Captain stands next to him. I point my sword at the hollow of Skrike’s throat. He, panting, sweating, eyes me with awe.

“Apologize,” I say between clenched teeth. When he does not respond, I place the point of my blade right up against the depression at the base of his neck. He swallows, with difficulty.

“A-po-lo-gize,” I sing to him. “Say you’re sorry in front of the Captain–” my vision widens, and I notice that the whole crew has assembled like a theatre crowd. “–and all the crew. Then,” I lower my voice and move a step closer, “kiss my foot and promise you shall never try me again.” At the word ‘never,’ I prick his skin ever so slightly. He tenses.

“I…am sorry.”

“That’s right.”

“Cap’n Jonquil, sir, ye crew, I behaved like an ass.” This makes the crew growl in malicious laughter. “I’ll never threaten the Gem again, to ye all do I swear.” His voice seeps with humiliation. I move the sword away from his throat. A tiny bead of blood wells up from the spot. We look into each other’s eyes for two heartbeats.

Then, he bows to the floor and brushes his mustache against my left foot. I smirk. The crew bursts into a roar. Captain Jonquil picks him up by the scruff.

The crew quiets.

Captain Jonquil speaks, holding Skrike by the back of his neck.

“Know this. If any one of you ever so much as dreams of touching our Gem with unclean intent, you shall be fodder for the sharks, understood?” A murmur of assent. “She is my child, more than my brother’s, and is no devil’s whelp. She shall get her share, you scurrilous son of a pig,” this last comment is directed at the wounded and gasping rigging-lackey I skewered. “and she’s a better seaman than you, Arbitor.” The man bows his head.

“For you, Skrike, to be this badly beaten by a woman should be enough punishment for you, yet the proper punishment for the attack of a fellow crew member, according to our code, which you dutifully signed when you boarded,” the crew murmurs again. “is nineteen lashes with the cat o’ nine. O’Napes, take him and bestow the honors upon him.” Jack hoists the sagging Skrike by the arm and drags him away.