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Messages - JMack

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1
[JUN 2019] 2TTDFT / Re: [Jun 2019] - 2TTDFT - Submission Thread
« on: June 17, 2019, 12:01:59 AM »
Oh, yeah. First in this month!
About 1,450 words.

IMAGINE DRAGONS

Spoiler for Hiden:

“Entwhistle?” William Wilswilson pulled his attention away from the painstaking procession of fresh lettering on vellum at which he’d been laboring since six bells. “My mother was born in Entwhistle.”

“Well, not any more, I’d say. Praise Great Dragon.” The central committee messenger dropped the hastily scrawled form on William’s desk and moved down the line of scribes to deliver a copy to the cartographers.

“Praise Great Dragon,” echoed William. He unfurled the scrap of paper. Terrible quality stuff - more lint than pulp and more pulp than rag. Give William good smooth, scraped sheepskin any day. And the penmanship! If you could call it that. He could hardly make it out.

City formerly Entwhistle to be removed all national records. Revise maps ‘Corbinslake.’

Corbinslake? Whenever William’s poor dead mother had mentioned the denizens of that benighted burg, she’d leant over and pretended to spit. What had Entwhistle done to lose its name to Corbinslake? William tried not imagine. Imagining only got one into trouble. Wasn’t it one of Great Dragon’s Seven Sayings that imagination is to humans what fire is to a forest? A killer of old and young, a destroyer of peace and home. Though sometimes when he heard that Saying, William remembered walking through a wood in childhood a year after such a blaze and marveling at the new shoots and saplings emerging into the open sun.

“Entwhistle,” thought William, mourning his mother all over again, “I’ll remember.”

A chill ran through him. He looked quickly side to side. He’d just committed a memory sin, and him an archivist tasked with keeping the nation’s records in keeping with the committee’s edicts. He was like a cockroach let in to count the harvest.

He set aside his pens and organized his scalpel and scrapers. He had books, records, maps, and more to change.

*****

William walked to his solitary flat through a grey drizzle that slipped under his umbrella and crawled down his shirt collar. Great Dragon took credit for all good things; so who was responsible for the rain?

Though he couldn’t see it for the weather, William felt the bulk of the old castle like a weighted shadow where it brooded over the city from the far bank of the Tamed River. He knew it still belched smoke from fires born a century before when the Dragon slew the nobles and founded a people’s paradise for the nation. “Fire frees!” proclaimed the central committee. Which William enjoyed thinking of nonsensically as “Fire freeze!”

Unlocking his door, William paused before entering. The minutes he spent walking from the Archives to his flat were like precious pearls between shards of glass, his only moments of true privacy.

“William Wilswilson,” a voice intoned from inside the flat.

William entered. The Scale hanging on his wall glowed silver as he hung his coat and removed his shoes. The apartment was large for being a single room, a mark of William’s status as a historian but also easy for the Scale to see everything he did there. He’d developed strategies, of course - he imagined everyone did. How else might a married couple, well, live out a married life? Though he didn’t know. No one spoke of such things when the oval-shaped dragon Scales were everywhere. Listening, counting, and speaking.

“Welcome home, William Wilswilson,” said the Scale. “Your walk took five minutes longer than the average today.”

“It’s raining,” William explained.

“You will receive less one cheese ration this week,” said the Scale.

“Thank you,” William said. “Correction makes us better citizens. Praise Great Dragon.” He felt as grey as the soot on his single window and the weather beyond it.

The silver surface of the Scale took on a red sheen. William’s body tensed involuntarily. “You do not speak with confidence,” it said.

“Correction makes us better citizens,” William repeated.

“Again,” ordered the voice. “Display more fervor. Again. Again.”

*****

Two hours later, William joined the stream of people queuing for their meal at the citizens’ temple. He thrust his hands in his pockets to hide their shaking. When it was his turn, he told the woman at the serving station to leave out his cheese ration.

The woman scooped beans into his dish and added a slice of brown bread. “Food is a shared responsibility,” she said. She tapped her spoon harshly against the rim of the bean pot. William met her eyes. They were brown, bordered by thick lashes, and set deep in a strong-boned face. They flicked downward. William looked down. The woman’s first finger pointed along the line of the spoon. He looked up. She flicked her eyes to the right, motioning him to move along. William went to a seat at one of the the long refectory tables, his heart pounding.

What had that been? The tapping, the eyes, the finger - a secret sign? - the eyes again. It was all so personal. It was terrifying. William’s imagination raced.

He glanced back at the queue. The woman was still there, mouthing platitudes to each citizen she served. William tried to guess her age. About his own, perhaps. She was slightly taller than he. Thin, even gaunt, and made thinner by the grey of her uniform. They eyes met for the briefest moment again, across the distance. It was enough to send William’s pulse galloping again.

The finger sign. William thought he’d heard about something like it. A single finger thrust down. A sword or a lance. The sign of the Knights Errant, a rumored group of revolutionaries said to be working against the Great Dragon and the citizen's central council.

Gods, thought William. The Knights Errant. Why would one of them reach out to him?! He was just an archivist. He was just -

She was coming over. William forced himself to focus on his tasteless meal. She brushed by, dropping a small wedge of hard, yellow cheese in front of him. “Entwhistle,” she said.

Or he thought she did. Imagined? She disappeared through the door to a back alley. A lifetime of imprisoned words crowded behind his tongue, ready to be shouted into every ear and from every rooftop. Damn the Great Dragon. Damn the central committee. Damn the Scale. Damn everything. He grabbed the cheese and followed.

The alley was dark as a cave. The woman stood at the far end, her back to him, just a shadow.

William forced his feet forward, fighting against every fiber that strained to retreat and comply. He swiveled his head, searching for Scales. They could be anywhere. The woman didn’t move as he drew closer. His teeth chattered. He stopped just three feet away.

He pushed one whispered word past the horde that begged to be spoken. “Entwhistle?”

The brown-eyed woman turned her head to him. He couldn’t make out her features, except for a dim red reflection in her eyes. “Knights... Errant?” he ventured.

Pain exploded in William’s head. The red in the woman’s eyes flared, expanding to fill his world with flame.

*****

Julia looked through her Scale into the re-education room where William Wilswilson screamed. It was a shame, really. He might have been useful to the Knights if he hadn’t been so incredibly poor at concealing his thoughts. As it was, she had to do her job - the one the committee knew about, not the one she’d dedicated her life to. He’d been pathetically easy to manipulate, his ache for release so raw.

She disgusted herself.

She leaned forward to speak through the dull silver oval to the mage in the room with Wilswilson. “Remove his mother,” she ordered. “She’s connected to Entwhistle, possibly the very root of the memory.”

Entwhistle. Gone now, Julia knew. Its ruins glowed and smoked. Its folk hauled off to feed the dragon’s brood. The horse-sized hatchlings chased them through the charred hallways of the old castle.

Yes, Julia disgusted herself, but no one would ever know it. Her will was iron. Her dedication was absolute.

“Make him an orphan. But not from Corbinslake. That’s likely to create problems.”

The mage spoke back at her through the Scale, his mouth tight. “I know my job.”

“Well, do it.” Julia felt the distant questing of the dragon’s mind, like a beam of light that moved from place to place and stopped to pinion anything that moved. She walled off her mind, as she’d been trained by the Knights. “Remember, we’re here for his own good. Fire frees.”

The powerful, questing mind moved on. Julia strained not to show the relief. Though an agent like her looked through the Scale, someone else was always looking back at her. She wondered who it was.

She imagined it was someone she knew. Sometimes she imagined it was even herself looking in at herself, like a mirror in a mirror. But in the end, it was only the imagining that mattered.




A few notes:

Spoiler for Hiden:
My two usually incompatible themes:
> Dragons
> Totalitarian dystopias, ala 1984

And the title is a reference to the rock group, Imagine Dragon. Couldn’t resist.  ;D

2
Just reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for a massive change of style.

I knew something about the story and style, but never actually read it in full.

Curiously enough, I'm blazing through it, already 12 chapters in. There's the wit, the nuances and the great passages, sure, but above all, so far, the best is that it's a very... sincere book, so to speak. No holds barred speaking truths, specially about love and society, but done in a very classy, lighthearted way.

I like “Persuasion” next best.

3
The mix of old classics and newer books is quite interesting.

4
Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Active members with novels
« on: June 06, 2019, 05:30:16 PM »
Brand J. Alexander wrote:
Quote
Wish I was more active. The downside to being an introvert I guess. I'll get there. 150 posts. Should only take about 3 or 4 yrs. Hah.
I was just thinking to myself that I should schedule my entry in this post to sometime about a century from now...

I've looked for a few posts to join in on. I've even begun writing a few. But have deleted more than I have clicked post.

Post we don't bite apart from when I turn into a werewolf.

This is what eclipse looks like after his transformation



How did you get a picture of me?

5
Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Who reads short stories?
« on: June 06, 2019, 12:57:29 AM »
I much prefer William Faulkner’s short stories vs. his novels.
Just saying.


(Faulkner = important, excellent U.S. southern writer)

6
Order placed! Releases here June 11.

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Writers' Corner / Re: Grammar Quesiton...
« on: June 05, 2019, 01:44:55 AM »
Unrelated to grammar calling them "tops" makes me immediately think of gay sex. Capitalizing helps. A little. But yeah I still think of gay sex. Are the people who live in the other part of the city called "the bottoms" ?

My brother used call “top!” whenever we had to choose between bunk bed levels.
I was stuck with bottom.
Just saying.

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[JUN 2019] 2TTDFT / Re: [Jun 2019] - 2TTDFT - Discussion Thread
« on: June 05, 2019, 12:53:02 AM »
This might be a good theme to return to action.

Damn, I was looking and the last time I wrote a story was in early 2017.

I think I might have an idea already (and it's only the 4th of June!).

Excellent! We need 3 votes. Plus Lanko goodness-stuff.

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[JUN 2019] 2TTDFT / Re: [Jun 2019] - 2TTDFT - Discussion Thread
« on: June 05, 2019, 12:36:04 AM »
Working on an idea

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: What did you read in May 2019
« on: June 03, 2019, 03:10:06 PM »
A pretty good month for me. 9 in, 9 out.

Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea - Adam Roberts - I think this is a semi-sequel to the Jules Verne, which I've never actually read. Quite good fun, but I didn't really get the ending.

The Black Cauldron - Lloyd Alexander - Second book of Prydain. I was surprised how much I'd forgotten from the first, and how little it bothered to recap, but it was fairly enjoyable.

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen - Lois McMaster Bujold - Disappointingly slight entry in the Vorkosigan saga. Mild romance and not much happening.

Ruthless Magic - Megan Crewe - FF's SPFBO finalist. I really enjoyed this one. It might hit a few YA standards, but it's well-written and exciting. I'd have rated it higher in the contest.

The Nursing Home Murder - Ngaio Marsh - My monthly crime novel is a break from my regular Agatha Christie, but still a Golden Age Queen of Crime. Not bad, but a little unsatisfying.

Ritualist - Dakota Krout - A LitRPG book I borrowed on Prime Reading earlier in the year. I thought it was time to get it read and free up one of my Prime loan slots. I liked it a lot, and will be reading the second one.

Drawing for the Absolute Beginner - Mark Willenbrink & Mary Willenbrink - An old freebie I accidentally started reading on my Kindle Fire (which I tend to use for non-fiction). It was short and mainly pictures.

The Stone Sky - N K Jemisin - Concluding part of the Broken Earth trilogy. A fairly solid if inevitable conclusion. The main interest, I think, was the extra background material from the deep past.
 
A Closed and Common Orbit - Becky Chambers - I've been thinking of signing up for a Worldcon Supporting membership so I can vote in this year's Hugos. The third book in this series is up for Best Novel, so I thought I'd better get on and read the second one, and now I'm annoyed with myself for not reading it sooner. I didn't love the first book as much as some people seem to, but I really enjoyed this one, despite a couple of annoying science niggles (the body kit is a perpetual motion machine?)

@DrNefario

I’m currently reading “Death at La Fenice”, a police procedural set in modern Venice. The enjoyment for me is in the careful description of interpersonal interactions (and sometimes impersonal ones). It has some of the weight of PD James without the utter melancholy. Many small laughs, too.

Bujold seems to have lost interest in space opera hyjinx (sp?) which is a shame. I’m a Miles
fan from way back.

Agree about “Stone Sky”

And yes, I could always skip The Book of Three, and probably Castle of Llyr, too.

11
General Discussion / Re: Congratulations Cupiscent
« on: June 01, 2019, 03:32:27 PM »
Only two of you. But I’m not far behind!

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General Discussion / Re: Things that make you happy
« on: May 31, 2019, 01:47:56 PM »
Weddings of nieces and nephews. And my kids. I assume. Though it hasn’t happened. Yet?

13
Mrs. JMack will watch a fantasy movie if forced - and did love GoT - but she’s no genre fan. She likes memoirs that reveal interesting new things. And she’s particularly fascinated with sickness, death, sleep, and stuff like that. So the most recent post was perfect for reading to her!  ;D

14
Ok,’just to mix things up, I’m going to bring one of @Nora’s favorites: The Terror. Too long. The payoff is incredible, mind-bending, fantastic. The build-up is often tedium piled on tedium. It’s the one thing the show did better. It got the build-up and completely screwed up the ending nine ways to Sunday.

Too short? The Murderbot novellas. Absolutely loved these last year. But they’re like one episode each of a tv show and any one of them could be a book by itself. Then add on the price for each and its a very expensive decent length novel paid in 4 installments. Still, brilliant, lovely, cool.

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General Discussion / Re: Congratulations Cupiscent
« on: May 31, 2019, 12:39:55 PM »
Oh yay. Heh. Thanks. @Eclipse I certainly couldn't have done it with you! Or, really, all of everyone here. It's such a great crew to hang out and talk about great books with. Drinks all round!

Dunno about being an Auror though.  Sounds like waaaaay too much work. Can't I just sit in the corner and be a smartass instead? :D

We have many smart asses here. What we need are smart smart asses.
Oh, yeah, you pass!!  ;D

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