Mother’s Milk: Short story pt 1

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Image taken from the Hubble telescope, gotten off of Wikimedia Commons.

A science fiction short story that I’m working on about androids and what it truly means to be human. Does the first part of the story not indicate that? Don’t worry. The second or third part will.

“Hurry! There isn’t much time,” my mom was pulling me by her right hand and my six year old sister Nabiki by the other.  

It was hard for me to keep up. Not only was I small by the standards of a thirteen year old, but crowds of people were pushing and shoving. I was worried about being trampled upon by the mad rush of the crowd trying to get to the rocket. Still, despite my annoyance, it was hard for me to be angry at anyone.

Time was of the essence. My mom had flown us out a week prior to Mexico City in order to make sure that we could board the rocket before the destruction happened. An asteroid was rapidly approaching, a harbinger of death. The collision course had been predicted a year in advance, but that year wasn’t enough to construct spaceships for everyone. Only a few shuttles had been built and only a small population of people from all over the world could board them. My father had been a brilliant scientist at the University of Tokyo. He had discovered ways to recycle oxygen using greenhouse plants aboard spaceships for long voyages. It was greatly in part of him that my mother, sister, and I were given priority aboard one of the three ships. Sadly, my dad would not be joining us. Cancer got him. All those years of smoking did him in, combined with the stress of his job, I tend to think. But his death did not negate our assured passage on the Pilgrim.

It loomed before us. The Pilgrim was a massive ship that looked more like an early 20th century Zeppelin than it did an actual rocket ship. Its rotund body gleamed silver from the solar panels that were laid over it. At the back of the ship were rockets as huge as the base of a building and thirty feet tall. But what was most interesting was this large glass dome near the top of the ship. I couldn’t imagine what it was for. 

“Are you Jun Tanaka?” asked a guard at the ramp in Spanish.

“Yes, that’s right,” my mother said in perfect Spanish. “And these are my children Nabiki and Takeshi.”

“We’ll need to verify.” He took out a scanner and scanned my mom, my sister, and I. “You’re good to go,” he said, after the scanner located our chips. “Welcome aboard, Senora Jun Tanaka. It’s a pleasure to have you. Hasta luego.”

The escalator took us up to the Pilgrim. A hatch was open and we found ourselves in an airlock with a group of people. All of the metal flooring and steel beams made me think that I had entered a cell instead of a new home. Among the side walls were all manner of robots and robotics, not yet activated.

A man stood before us. He carried himself tall and proud. He wore a white buttoned uniform, pressed black slacks, and had a cap on his head. “Buenos dias, everyone,” he said, jovially. “I am Captain Fernandez. Welcome aboard the Pilgrim. I hope you will all feel at home here.”

I don’t remember verbatim of what he said. But I remember the gist of it. He told us not to worry. That we were in good hands, that he had piloted many starships before, and that together we would find a new home. If not, he reassured us that the ship had all the comforts of earth life. I certainly didn’t feel such comforts at the time with the airlock being my first view.

Also it went without saying that I was already mourning for my friends and extended family. Though the asteroid hadn’t hit yet, they were as good as dead, and there would be very little the shelters could do to protect them. Particularly, I thought back to my best friend Hiroshi and how growing up we would alternate between exploring the mountains around Hyogo to wasting an evening away at the arcades. Those days would be no more. I would live while he would die. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. What made the thousands of people on board with me and the people on board the other two ships more important than the millions of people worldwide being left behind? Aside from rank and prestige, I still can’t figure it out. For did not the person who worked as a janitor or the person who worked as a cook matter as much as the doctors, scientists, and artists? While I was aware that many of the people who boarded with me did much to advance the human species as a whole, did not the fry cook who spent every evening of his life helping out friends and family matter just as much? How many people must one benefit to be considered important? One life, two lives, ten lives, one hundred lives, a thousand, a million, a hundred million? Even today I don’t have an answer and I don’t think anyone should have to play the part of God in deciding.

Captain Fernandez was right about the ship though. He gave us a tour of it, and it was more than the airlock with its robots. The first room we saw was a sort of dining room, if it could be called such. A polished white floor spread before us, glistening under equally white light. Rows of tables and chairs were attached to the floor. There were lunch counters where we would order our food. Behind the counters were cabinets filled with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. We were told by the Captain that there wasn’t any danger of running out of food or drink on the ship, and that he would show us why in a moment.

The next things on our tour was the theater that played movies and hosted stage plays. It was built to look like one of those early 20th century theaters, with bright red curtains and paintings and designs etched into the stage and surrounding walls. Next was the library, overflowing with books. While it was true that the ship had books digitally available, the great minds – my father perhaps being one of those who offered input – had decided that it was best to have physical copies as well. Next we were shown to our living quarters. Here a maze of halls spread out before us. We would soon learn that our dorms would not be very big. They would be tight, or cozy, depending on how one looked at it, with only a few beds, a TV that piped in hundreds of thousands of shows and movies from earth, some dressers for clothing, and a bathroom and shower. But such rooms would suffice.

The last part of the ship we saw answered my earlier question about the bubble dome, as Captain Fernandez took us up an elevator shaft and into a spacious garden in the middle of the ship. On one end was a small wood of trees of pine, juniper, and aspen, with a trickling waterfall coming out from a crevice of rocks, leading into a small stream. Flowers further added colors to these woods. The other portion of the garden were the essentials, in which fruit trees, fruit bushes, and vegetables of different climates grew. To help the trees grow were varying degrees of heat lamps hanging above them. Already this was my favorite part of the ship. It was here that the Captain told us that barley was grown for bear, grapes for grape juice and wine, and fruits and vegetables for food. Although, he hadn’t needed to tell us that, it being obvious.

The rest of the ship we weren’t privy to, it being labs where scientists and engineers manufactured meat from cells for food, and created water from oxygen and hydrogen atoms in explosion proof rooms. The other rooms were the mechanical rooms where the mechanics worked, along with the bridge.

We were assigned to our quarters as the ship took off. I sat with my mom and Nabiki, the three of us cuddled up in the already cramped quarter conditions. We could hear the rockets ignite. They were loud like a class five earthquake. The lift off wasn’t intense like I feared. I felt slight movement and that was it. The asteroid was hurtling toward the earth at a rapid pace. The next day was the day it made impact. I looked out my window and said goodbye to my friends, my teachers, my neighbor, my extended family as I saw the earth shatter. As I said my goodbyes, Nabiki started to cry. She had everyone reason to. We all did. There was no question then that I was leaving behind the sunlight for the darkness of space. Little did I realize that the darkness of space wouldn’t be the worst darkness I would face.

 

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Keeping Sanity with a Day Job

Lily pads

Oh the innocence of youth! When I was a preteen and teen, I was under the false impression that in order to be a successful author I only had to sit down at the computer to type up a manuscript, and send it to a publisher who would readily accept it. From then I would receive accolades and hefty paychecks as my writing inspired generations of people. If only!

Much to my chagrin, my life isn’t one of mingling with fellow intellectuals in wine and cheese parties, – not that I’d drink wine, but I love cheese – nor is it having funds to travel the world as much as I’d like. Instead, it’s working a monotonous day job, in which many of my coworkers could care less about literature or just books in general. It’s a job in which I bag groceries for demanding customers who would rather talk about trivial and meaningless pursuits, such as football, rather than the philosophies of Plato or Descartes, or mythological epics such a Beowulf, or classics in fantasy and science fiction by J.R.R. Tolkien or Arthur C. Clark. Nor does anyone want to talk about the book on the current bestseller list, or the latest news of ecology or new planets and solar systems discovered. During lunch, I dare not stay in the break-room, but rather eat outside and then head to the bookstore next door to read my novel or philosophy or world religion book in solitude. In all fairness, the company I work for is excellent, treating me and their employees very well. My employers are fair and good people, and I work to please them. But despite their kindness towards me, to which I am most grateful, it’s not a job I want to do for my whole life.

So, how do I keep my sanity in a job with demanding customers and coworkers who seem to have no spark of wonder for the world around them? As previously mentioned, I take my book to read at the used bookstore during lunch break. Though lunch break is usually only an hour, and sometimes even only thirty minutes, that small amount of time still does a lot to recharge me for the remainder of the day. For those thirty minutes or an hour, I can be transported to another world of fantasy or I can fill my head with fascinating facts about the world and the earth. Even being in the bookstore itself works as a brief sanctuary, elevating my mind to a higher plane of existence.

Speaking of a higher plane of existence, I also transcend my thoughts to a happier place, in this case I think about my writing and all the ideas I’m going to incorporate into my stories. Jean Paul Sartre said that we are destined to be free, that we always have freedom, even if just a little bit. While I am under obligation to come into work and follow regulations and protocols, I let my mind soar high as I world build, craft characters, compose epic stories, and overall act like a god in my head. I may physically be at my job but my mind is elsewhere.

Most writers have to work a day job. It can feel confining when we believe that day jobs and the monotony they entail are not our callings in life. For those who have been touched by the hand of the muse or drunk from the mead of Suttungr, it can be hard not to go mad, especially since they have a little madness in them to begin with. Nonetheless, we keep writing, even though it feels like the words we use to paint images onto pages fall upon many blind eyes. Why do we keep at it? Because it’s our calling and it helps us tolerate our day jobs.

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Who Shall Lead? Ch 1 2nd Segment

This is the second segment of a Fantasy novel I am working on. I hope you all enjoy it.

Copyright by Jonathan Scott Griffin

“Then there’s only one way to cure that,” he said before shortly taking off, the air whistling to a near screech because of his speed. After all these years, age hadn’t slowed him. He still soared over the land, even with a staff in hand. It was Arinthia who had to keep up.

She could hear each blade of grass pummeled under his feet, some blades sloshing and some crunching and some doing a little of both, depending on the amount of water they had received. The flapping noises of the tents against the light breeze and the crackling of the morning fires grew fainter as they neared the mile mark out of the tribe.

They were approaching over the Dead Plains; a misplaced name if there ever was one;  considering they were far from dead, or being anywhere near the thresholds of death. Rather, the plains were living and breathing with all manner of life placed by the loving gods above. Soft thuds of insects echoed throughout the Dead Plains, accompanied to the thunderous tunes of the hooves of the mighty shagrits. Sometimes the mighty shagrit beasts snorted, causing the air to reverberate around their breath. Arinthia could slightly hear the shagrit’s fur crinkle when a small fly landed upon them. Aside from the shagrits, other animals could be heard nearby. From the ground, came a light but steady scratching, as the tiny claws of the little blue and red moles constructed their tunnels. Sharp teeth gritted, like a rocks being scraped against other rocks, about a quarter of a mile away. It was the ulyix’s getting ready to hunt their prey, the shagrits.

Arinthia chided herself. While her ears were too enraptured by the cacophony of nature, Jorgek had already found a suitable hiding place behind a boulder. The air whistled around the musical note of his bowstring as he slowly pulled it back. The first kill would be his. Not that his obtaining the first kill mattered in the scheme of things, but she and the old Xibian had a contest as to who could achieve the first kill. For a moment it look as if it would be his. But, as luck would have it, Jorgek, in his anticipation, didn’t pull the bow string back far enough and the arrow thudded just a couple of inches away from the shagrit’s hoof.

The rumble and dirt being kicked up from the lumbering beast indicated that it was running to the west. With no time to lose, she took a shot at the beast. Her arrow whistled through the air, singing of death, piercing her ears. But it found its mark. The shagrit fell to the earth. The beast’s heartbeat, still pounding like thunder, grew fainter and fainter until it was mere whisper, to whence it was no more.

“Looks like dinner is on me tonight,” boasted Arinthia.

“I let you have it,” snorted Jorgek. “Besides, I’m getting too old for hunting and cooking anyway.”

“And yet you were able to outrun me,” she pointed out to the old man.

“Is that so? No wonder I had no energy left for hunting.”

“Come, old friend,” Arinthia patted his shoulder. “I’m going to prepare you a dinner fit for a village chieftain, using only the finest herbs and spices.”

“Such as the kind you can get from the fields on any day,” he pointed out.

“You have no imagination,” laughed Arinthia.

“I’m afraid I burnt mine out many years ago,” he sighed.

“No matter, old man. Dinner is still on me.”

Back at the tribe’s encampment, Arinthia was greeted by the gossip of the women and the girls, and it was no wonder. She had blood on her from when she and Jorgek had carried down the large shagrit; something that was very unbecoming of a woman, both the hunting of an animal and the lifting of anything heavy. To further the indignation of the tribe, Arinthia had broken another code by not washing after she had cut up the pieces of meat to leave hanging out by her tent before cooking them. If a woman or a girl was to get herself dirty, she was to wash herself immediately, something Arinthia had always refused to do. It was bad enough when the women of the tribe got a speck of dirt on them, but to have specks of blood, that was blasphemy to the gods themselves.

Jorgek would have fended her from the malicious gossip and the outright verbal abuse, but he was incapacitated, having hurt his back helping to carry the strips of meat of the animal. Not that Arinthia minded being alone. She saw herself as far from being a damsel in distress. She could hold her own, particularly against the three primary instigators, even if they held important positions of power within the tribe. There was Zylin, a daughter of a high priest, Hymla, one of daughters of the chief’s advisors, and finally, conducting herself with the greatest of pomp and the greatest of self-aggrandizement, there was Kywal, the Chief’s daughter. Zylin and Hymla followed Kywal as though she were a goddess herself, worthy of their admiration and subjugation. Certainly the chief’s daughter did order them about, but in the end they found it worth it to be a part of the elite. There were numerous members of the tribe who they snubbed their noses at, but Arinthia was by the far the one they enjoyed showing their condescension to the most, and the reason was obvious. For at least the other women, even though they were of lower rank, still knew their place as women. But it stirred the hearts of Kywal, Zylin, and Hymla to anger that Arinthia couldn’t accept her place.

“Still acting beastly, I see,” Kywal’s voice grated like a spear piercing animal bone. “Really Arinthia, would it hurt you to exercise more feminine restraint and dignity?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Arinthia shrugged. “I had no one as an example to learn it from, least of all you three.”

The sounds of Kywal’s fists clenching, along with the rapid beating of her heart, collaborated together to produce a dissonance of rage. By the sounds of things, Arinthia knew that she had crossed a line, but she didn’t care. Though Kywal wanted to strike her, Arinthia knew that she wouldn’t. Even those at the top of the hierarchy had their code of honor that they were expected strictly to adhere to, for it was given by the gods themselves, and defiling it could invoke a great cursing.

“Ignore her,” Hymla implored Kywal. “She’s just a leech, hardly worth getting upset about.”

“Leach!” exclaimed Arinthia. “You must be mistaken Hymla. From what I understand, you three always leach after what your fathers provide. As for I, I provide for myself by my own hard work.”

“Such insolence!” shrieked Kywal. “Are you insinuating that we are idle?”

“I didn’t think it was much of an insinuation as it was a statement,” retorted Arinthia, not being one to miss the mark.

“I’m sure the gods will forgive you if you strike the smugness from her face,” Zylin goaded Kywal.

               “Remember the precepts,” Hymla reminded her two friends in not so much a humble way, but piously, in the hopes that they would show Arinthia that they were every bit her superiors.

               “You’re right,” said Arinthia, hoping to humor them with her false humility, though she knew it wasn’t very likely. “I am unworthy in your presence, and I could certainly cultivate a spirit of meekness in following the precept the gods have set before us, which, in my case, is learning to be more lady like.”

               “I guess we can’t all grow up possessed with natural grace,” Kywal feigned pity. Her insincerity was evident enough, but if she would toy with Arinthia, Arinthia would toy with her. “Perhaps I was too hard on you,” the chief’s daughter continued. “Bad habits aren’t easy to break.”

               “This is true,” said Arinthia. And unable to resist one last jab she added, “Just as many of us who have the unfortunate habit of spending our time in the company of spineless urchins who only tell us what we want to hear, rather than what we need to know.”

               “Indeed,” huffed Kywal, as her two friends huffed in exact unison with her.

               Kywal walked the opposite direction of Arinthia, Zylin and Hymla trailing behind her like two obedient canyon wolf pups.

               Sadly, the gossip didn’t stop with those three. As Arinthia made her way back to her tent, the whispers flew through the air, stinging her ears like hornets. It went without saying that the other Xibians knew that whispering, no matter how low they tried to keep their voices, amounted to very little. Rather whispering was just considered a form of being polite within their culture. Why? Arinthia could never figure that out. There seemed to be something condescending about pretending to be polite when one could just be upfront. At least with honesty you didn’t have to worry about trying to conceal your heart rate. Yet, she didn’t care as much about the gossip circulating among the adults. For there’s was spoken to one another more in a voice of concern, instead of condemnation, for Arinthia, unlike how Kywal and her two lackeys spoke of her. Yet, a tribe devoid of gossip would be the ideal.

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Who Shall Lead Ch 1 Segment

Here’s a segment of a fantasy novel I am working on. It’s entitled Who Shall Lead? I hope you enjoy it. Either way,  I look forward to your feedback.

Who Shall Lead

Copyright by Jonathan Scott Griffin

                                                                                         

A very light breeze blowing a couple grains of sand past the tent made it to the ears of Arinthia, an obnoxious brushing sound, causing her to wake up. The scratching of a tiny volmont spider grated against the grains of wood on one of the tent’s poles. Five feet away from her tent, she could hear a plains hopper, a small insect, chomping away on the grass.

 Like all Xibians, Arinthia was blind, but with keen ears that more than made up for it. She could hear a blossom fall from a flower, or the first drop of rain splash from almost a quarter of a mile away. If sounds grew too intense, she was able to shut them out; a light gift that came with the curse. Blindness was not a deterrent or handicap to her people. For thousands of generations the Xibians had lived without sight, the very concept of it being foreign and incomprehensible to them.

 Arinthia arose yawning and put on her robe, the dandel hide feeling good against her skin on such a cold morning. Winter was coming, that much was certain. She could even hear the change of seasons crackling in the air.

Crawling out of her tent, she was greeted by the noise of a pair of footsteps walking in a wide gape, carrying a quick stride. Everyone in the village recognized it to be that of Keyro, one of their top hunters.

“Good day, Arinthia,” he said, too loudly which almost hurt everyone’s hearing. “How are you this fine day?”

“I don’t know,” said Arinthia, “seeing as the day has only just begun. What do you want, Keyro?”

“For you to join me on the hunt.” The air whistled as he extended an arm.  

“And by hunt,” she formed the sentence slowly, “do you mean that I’ll be able to carry a bow and take down animals as well?”

“That’s silly!” he made no effort to disguise his disgust. “You’re a woman. Your job is to clean the carcasses and to cook.”

“Can’t do it,” said Arinthia. “I’d probably burn it, or season the meat with the wrong herbs.”

“It’s not that hard!” protested Keyro.

“Then if it’s not that hard, then I’m sure that you can manage.”

“But it’s not a man’s job.”

“Nor is it my job either,” said Arinthia, hoping to cut the conversation short.

“You really need to be put in your place!” he chided.

Arinthia sighed inwardly. No such luck.

“You were made by Father above to be subservient” continued Keyro, his finger noisily cutting through the air. “What do you think he’ll say when your spirit passes through the gates of the dead, up the bridge to the island above? Can you imagine how disappointed he’ll be in his disobedient daughter, always mouthing off? He’ll teach you a lesson, you can be sure. Father will punish you by having you clean the pots and pans of the Eternal Kitchen forever.”

“Well, if that’s the case, then I’ll have an ally in Mother above,” huffed Arinthia. “She’ll chastise him as only a woman can, and she’ll make him sleep alone while she takes all the royal bedding. Then she’ll threaten him with an annulment of their marriage.”

“How dare you speak lightly of Father above,” roared Keyro.

 “How dare you,” she raised her voice even louder, hoping to cause his ears to bleed, “to even think I’d want to be sealed as your companion when you’re not a man, but a mere boy who failed his rite of initiation.”

Now she could her Keyro’s blood flush in his face and the grinding of his teeth. In a sense, she could hear his anger, and it was palpable. Her sharp tongue had cut through a nerve.

“If you weren’t a woman, I’d slap you across the face,” he hissed.

“What difference does it make it I’m a woman or not,” she retorted. “You shouldn’t be hitting anyone, be it male or female.”

A heavy staff thudded upon the dirt, reverberating like an earthquake.

“Lay a hand on her and I’ll lay my staff on you,” came the raspy voice of Jorgek.

“You don’t scare me, old man,” boasted Keyro.

Stupid, Arinthia thought to herself. If you wanted to lie, you had to lie well. Keyro couldn’t lie to save his own life. He couldn’t even control the thumping of his own heart. The perspiring sweat streaming off of him, like a roaring river, didn’t do him any favors either.

“Shall I knock you on your backside,” ventured Jorgek, the air rushing across his staff as he raised it up in intimidation.

Keyro backed off.

“That impudent brush hopper!” exclaimed Jorgek. “My dear, did he” – The old Xibian paused, completely puzzled. Arinthia was laughing. “I fail to see what’s so funny,” he said.

“You don’t?” she asked.

Arinthia always loved Jorgek. The oldest of the Xibians in the tribe came across as grumpy and bitter to a lot of the others, but that was only because they never made time to get to know him. Those who did found a kindly old man under the rough exterior, quick to right wrongs. In that sense, he was much like Arinthia.

She had known him for years. When she was a child, she had originally feared him. But unlike all the other children who had feared him, she alone had approached him, having possessed the courage that many her age had lacked. It was the courage to listen to listen to each and every one of his footsteps. To hear the way he gritted his teeth in frustration, or the sound his eyelids made when they opened and closed. She let her ears swallow and digest each of the old Xibian’s sounds until she grew to learn what kind of a person he was. She grew to hear his inside appearance, not his outside. His heart was the most useful in helping her come to a conclusion regarding his personality. Certainly he yelled at young children to keep their distance, and he didn’t, generally speaking, have much patience with just about anyone else, even those his age. But when people were frustrated or in pain he was the first to lend a listening ear if they would let him.

It wasn’t to say that she became friends with the old Xibian overnight. Jorgek had many social barriers he had put into place to guard himself with. But in time, just by listening, she began to be able to relate to him. This slowly opened up communication, and eventually a mutual understanding. Then, as the years passed, a friendship blossomed like a flower in the spring after a long winter. From her later childhood to the present it was common for her to hunt with him in the fields, to help him make leather from the wild shargits, and to sometimes to just philosophize about life. He had taken upon himself the mantle of a grandfather she had never had.

There were only a couple of topics that were points of contention among the two of them. One such was regarding the Vun. Jorgek believed peace should and could be made between them and the Xibians, whereas Arinthia knew better. Those that could see were enemies, having killed her parents and many others. They had robbed her people of their birthright years ago. Some things could never be forgiven. But she could forgive Jorgek for holding at that faulty viewpoint.

Regardless, she wasn’t thinking of any of her qualms of his at the moment, being far more grateful that he had come to her aid. Hence her laughter. She was laughing because she knew that he would be there, for at least a little while longer, to protect her.

“You should have heard the way he ran off, the way his heart was about to burst through his chest, and the noise of his sweat flying off him,” laughed Arinthia.

“My dear girl, I heard it all,” said Jorgek. “I’m not deaf, yet. But when I am, you know what to do.”

Indeed she did. If a Xibian ever lost his or her hearing it was considered an act of mercy to take them upon the altar to offer them up as a blood sacrifice. When one had outlived their purpose, their blood could potentially heal the land if the gods were well pleased with how they lived their lives.

“I do,” said Arinthia. “But let’s not think of that now. Did you not tell me yesterday that you wished for the two of us to go hunting this morning?”

“Yes. I’m so glad you remembered,” his teeth clacked and his lips smacked into a smile. He sighed. “But I digress. I’m getting old. You know this. What hope does an old Xib like me have against the freshness of youth?”

“You mean to tell me that you just lied about being able to give Keyro a beating? Don’t doubt yourself, old man. You’ll grow senile before you lose the strength of your legs.”

“Why, you’re just as impudent as he!”

Arinthia shrugged. “Did this just now dawn on your mind? Don’t tell me it took you over fifteen years to finally come to this conclusion. I want to think that your mind is as quick as your legs.”

“Ha!” laughed the old Xibian. “My fists are the quickest, and if you insist on being treated like a man rather than a woman, I’ll knock you on the ground so fast that you won’t hear the wind rushing past my fists.”

“No, I give up,” she laughed. “You really could give me bruises.”

“You’re absolutely right on that account. When I was a young man, I was the envy of the tribe, able to take on the Chief himself. I could have any woman I wanted. I was the pinnacle of” –

“Now you’re just making stuff up,” interjected Arinthia. “Are you going to keep babbling on? At this rate the herds will have moved out of our territory.”

“My dear, you know perfectly well that my hearing is superb and that I would have been the first to hear them. Not you. But I do grow weary of your biting tongue. Maybe some good old hunting will shut you up.”

“I think you’re right,” she nodded. “I’m growing impatient.”

 
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It’s Never Enough

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The cover to my upcoming collection of short stories, illustrated by Rowan Trea McCarty

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings. – Stephen King

The first step in getting a book published is sitting down and writing it. This may seem like an ordeal in and of itself, but it’s nothing compared to rewriting it. One has to look to see if there is bad sentence structure, misspellings, and to make sure that there is solid characterization, a smooth plot, and no contradictions. Sure, it’s nice to have an editor, but many of us beginning writers can’t afford them. Therefore we do our best to rewrite our own work.

In order to rewrite one’s own work, one must have an impartial mind, something that can be a challenge when the writer worked hard to create his or her novel or short story to begin with. But as Stephen King wisely said, “Kill your darlings.”  And believe me, I have had to kill plenty of my darlings, scrapping whole novels I put my heart and soul in. On a less dramatic note, it can mean just rewriting it. Such as has been my challenge while writing my book A Treasure Greater: And Other Short Stories. Writing short stories should seem simple enough, but I have learned that even short stories, if they are to be worthwhile for people to read, take a lot of time and effort.

I like to think that I am getting close to finishing my collection of short stories, but the stories of A Treasure Greater have proven more difficult to write than I anticipated. Each of these five fantasy stories has had to be rewritten, some just mildly, some heavily, and one story, which was to be the first story and the main story, turned more into a novel that won’t be in this collection. As I write and rewrite, I ask myself when will it all be finished? When will it be good enough? Will it ever be sufficient? There is a quote attributed, though often disputed, to Michelangelo, in which he says, “If people knew how hard I worked to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Those nights I stay up late or those times I work throughout the day, as I work on polishing up my stories, don’t seem so wonderful at all. There are times I feel like I am making progress and other times I feel like I am stumped. And yet, perfectionism can also be a problem, in which writers think that there writing is never good enough, but in truth there writing is good enough for the majority of readers. So, on one hand I have to worry about not taking my work seriously enough, causing me to release sloppy work, whereas the other problem is worrying about perfectionism in which I never release my own work because it’s never in my mind good enough. I have to strive for a healthy middle ground in my writing.

Hopefully my collection of fantasy stories, A Treasure Greater will be published by January or February of next year. Yet, the process has taken longer than I thought it would. Writing a book, even just a short story, isn’t easy. Let no one tell you otherwise.

(C) Jonathan Scott Griffin

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