Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Last Post!

Fiction Improbable is Open!

Hi everyone, just wanted to let people know that I'm officially sunsetting this site. I'll leave this where it is and let the archives stay as long as necessary, but I won't be actively posting any more. Fiction Improbable is the place to go to see everything I'm working on, all my daily posts and new stories and news.

Thanks for your time and comments here, and hope to see you at my new home. Take care!

Gord McLeod

The Price of Independence - Rough - Day 11

It took several minutes after knocking at the door before it creaked open a crack and a wizened, cloudy eye appeared. A thin, reedy voice inquired, “Yes? Who’s there? Speak up, I haven’t got all day.”
“Uncle Eldrid? Eldrid Tremaine?” Now that he was here, he was feeling the pangs of trepidation, though he couldn’t put his finger on exactly why. Unease at the circumstances he found himself in, he supposed; visiting long-lost relatives was a new occupation for him after all.
“Altman Dolet? Is that you, boy? I’m pleased you accepted my invitation. Come in, come in!” The door swung open, revealing a short, stooped man, thin not just with age but of build, long grey hair spilling out of a dusty old hat of a fashion that had passed years and years before. He was dressed simply, everything with a faded look about it, from the soft leather slippers on his feet to the brown trousers, vest and light coat worn over his shirt.
They stepped into the foyer and the man—Tremaine—crinkled his eyes in puzzlement. “You didn’t travel alone? No, I suppose you wouldn’t at that. Well let me introduce myself then. I’m Eldrid Tremaine, Altman’s great-uncle.”
“Uncle, I believe you know Kaylene Aynesworth already? And this is my friend and fellow Academy graduate Deman Buxton.”
“Kaylene! Why it’s good to see you again, it’s been months. And Deman, did you say, nephew? It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, I’m sure.” Altman frowned and looked closer at his aged relation; his eyes were more than merely cloudy, he was well on his way to losing his sight to cataracts unless he missed his guess completely. “Come in, come in, is that all of you? Come on in, autumn’s cold may not bother you young folk, but it passes right through my bones, it does. Let’s get some food and drink in you and maybe Kaylene will grace me with the story of how she came to know my most impressive nephew.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Price of Independence - Rough - Day 10

“What a waste,” Altman muttered as the building vanished behind the foliage once more.
“I’ll say,” Kaylene agreed. “At least it wasn’t for nothin’. Your uncle bought the place years back, as I understand it, though why I couldn’t say. Tired of the city, I suppose.”
Altman looked back at Deman, who was bringing up the rear. He was lost in thought, a frown still pasted onto his face. He didn’t appear to have heard a word they’d said.
Before the house grew clearer. It sat on a small rise with a commanding view of the valley floor some distance from the Ralladran river. The trees thinned as they approached; a large area had been cleared around it once, and the woods had only gradually begun eroding the edges of the clearing. Oak dominated these woods, and one single mighty tree remained in the rear yard, so large the foliage was visible over the top of the house itself.
Smoke rose from several chimneys poking upward toward the sky. The slate roof was stone-edged, the ornamental blocks apparently designed to give the look of a castle. Altman frowned; they looked out of place and somewhat jarring. “Looks likely he’s home,” he said, curiosity growing with him.
They dismounted their horses and tied them outside the gate, entering the yard. A broad but shallow stone staircase led them to the main door.

Continue to The Price of Independence - Rough - Day 11

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Blessing & Curse of Self-Imposed Limits

This year has been a year of experimentation for me. I've undertaken two huge projects, both exercises in self-imposed deadlines, and both have been profoundly beneficial, but with costs.

The first enormous task I undertook was the Goodreads 2011 Reading Challenge.  I'd felt that for the longest time I hadn't been reading enough, and it seemed like a good way to get back in the habit. The other, of course, was NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.

The gist of the Goodreads challenge is that you set a goal for yourself. You're going to read X number of books over the course of the year. Every time you indicate to Goodreads that you've finished a book while the challenge is active on your account, it counts toward your goal.

I set my goal this year to 100 books. I'm a pretty quick reader, so I thought this would be ambitious but doable. I still believe that to be true, even though as of 5 minutes ago I'm sitting at 80 out of 100 books read, 20 left to go, and only 14 days left to read them in.

Having a limit, or a goal, or a deadline, can be incredibly useful. In NaNoWriMo, it was a fantastic driver that enabled me to complete 50,000 words in a month. But with the Goodreads reading challenge, I find there are trade-offs. Even though I've read far more this year than I have in many many years previous, I often don't enjoy it as much. And that's not because I'm not enjoying the reading; I've liked each book I've chosen so far. But I feel constrained in my choices.

I'm a fan of long books. Hundreds and hundreds of pages is fantastic. I've read very few of those this year; the only ones I can think of offhand are A Game of Thrones, and Elantris. I've steered clear of most long books because they take longer to read.

80 books in one year is a LOT, and if I don't make it to 100, I won't be too upset. I would at least like to make 90. But for 2012, I will absolutely NOT be setting the limit to 100 again. Maybe 30 would be a better target. Lesson learned; limits are good, as long as you don't limit yourself too much.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Price of Independence - Rough - Day 9

Kaylene leaned in closer; Deman rocked back, stunned. Altman ran his fingers along blades of grass near the faint blue glow; they were darker, sickly-looking, and a bit stunted. “Electrite?” Deman’s voice was tight. “That ... But that’s incredible! Are you certain? The Conclave would pay a fortune for it!”
“I am certain, but I doubt this would make us rich,” Altman said conclusively. “Even as rare as it is, there’s not nearly enough. It just seems to be this one spot. If there were more in the area, the signs should be visible, and ...” He looked around, deeper into the woods, back up the slopes of the hill, “I just don’t see any signs of it.”
Kaylene was puzzled. “Electrite? What is it? Why is it so valuable?”
Altman straightened and brushed dirt and leaves from his cloak. “It’s a rare mineral with some unusual properties that make it very useful in scientific pursuits. The Conclave values it highly, and they own all the mines at every major deposit of electrite that I’ve ever heard of. If we’d discovered a sizable new deposit, well, we could have sold the knowledge of its existence and the claims to it for more wealth than you’d ever dream of. None of us would ever have had to work again.”
“You’re certain there’s no more of it here?” Deman gazed at the small dark spot with disappointment radiating from him in waves.
“I’m afraid I am. Tiny amounts like that aren’t so unusual, but on their own they aren’t terribly useful since they require special handling to avoid harming the carrier. Larger amounts would leave visible marks in the area around them, and I’d certainly know the damage to spot it.” He remounted his horse; Kaylene did likewise. Deman lingered a moment longer, looking back at the near-invisible spot on the rocks.
“Such a shame ... So close to such wealth, for want of a little ore.” He remounted and followed after.
The rest of the trip took little enough time. The animal trails through the woods were faint and rough, as though not used often, but were easy enough to follow. Finally a building came into view in the distance, just barely visible through gaps in the trees ahead. It was a large house of an old design, stone-walled, with several wings and multiple storeys.
Altman nudged his horse to pace Kaylene’s. “That’s it there? Why would my uncle choose to live in such a place? Why does a house even exist here?”
“You’ll have to ask him why he chooses to live here. I never asked him. As for the ‘ouse, it’s been here far longer than your uncle. My family’s known of it for years. The way I hear it told, it once belonged to a young lord who thought to win favor by expanding the borders of the kingdom into these unsettled lands, but his ambition outreached his brains and his purse, and after building the house he found he could do no more. He never attracted settlers, never even lived in the house.”

Continue to The Price of Independence - Rough - Day 10