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For this month's writing prompt write a scene using the following sentence to start;

The streets were deserted. Where was everyone? Where had they all gone?

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Our monthly writing tips are written by our very own TerishD. You can read more in Terish's Blog located in "The Abstractions" area of the forum.

Look Back

When not able to write ahead, it helps to look back. In my case I had written a paragraph ahead of the story. What I needed to do was add a section of exposition (talking) presenting some facts. In going back, I realized that I could insert a section where a 'tour' of the surroundings could be done. This allowed for character interaction, story development, and other things that enabled me to present the facts in an entertaining manner.

One should not face a writer's block with the mentality of bursting through it. I have found in my own experience that a writer's block is usually due to my mind indicating that it has a problem in 'channeling' the story. One reason might be a re-imagining of certain story points. Another reason however is that there is a problem in where you are at in the story, so you need to look back and find out the problem with the 'journey' that prevents the tale from advancing.

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 Outside - Photographs and People

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Number of posts : 1287
Age : 58
Location : Ringgold, Louisiana
Current Mood :
Registration date : 2008-07-21

PostSubject: Outside - Photographs and People   October 12th 2010, 8:09 am

Outside - Story Nineteen
Photographs & People

Part One

Let me speak of my pleasure in being able to make this report. I really am not worthy. I did not do the work. I however am the reason, so the honor became mine. I hope that I do it justice.

After spending the majority of decades of my life traveling alone in space, I now had people surrounding me. I could now expect to see certain faces as they moved to and from their places of work. A few people would regularly drop in and spend time with me. I had the ability to move out and make contact with others. This latter was limited, but after decades of not being able to directly confront any other, I felt as if I now was living among a multitude of people.

I heard many of you mention the fear that I might feel crowded by the crew of the Menlo Park. Let me say again that I did not feel that way at all. I had finally gotten lonely, and the slightly more than a dozen population of the Menlo Park caused me to feel that I was no longer alone. As I felt my body becoming more and more of a prison around me, I gained comfort in having visitors to remind me that I was no longer isolated.

For those that have not yet picked up on the references, I am Doug Grafton. I am the one responsible for numerous pictures of other worlds. I don’t do the nebulae shots. I wished that I had the capabilities of rushing off thousand of light years into space to get fabulous full vistas of one of the grander gas sculptures that God caused to exist. I however have honor because I have visited systems that others had yet to visit, but suddenly gained a desire from the visuals that I brought back.

This story picks up one day as Thor visited me. I should have expected it. Well, truthfully, I did expect it. One, it came quicker than I thought it would. Two, he came in person instead of simply being a communication over a speaker. Finally, three, he brought some whiskey.

“Do you drink?” Thor asked while carefully pouring me a shot glass in the limited gravity of my surroundings.

“It was one of the things I gave up going into space,” I replied. “It is not that I am against the stuff, but I knew better than to ever drink alone.” I picked up the small glass, then said, “I probably should contact Naomi and ask her about this.”

“You probably should,” he said before downing his. “But I wouldn’t.”

I sipped mine. The jolt from the alcohol struck me hard enough that I had to cough. Regaining my composure, I remembered a life long, long ago, and the following sips went down easy.

As I held the glass out for a refill, I asked, “What brings you here with alcohol?”

“You didn’t send me all of your money, did you?”

“No, only twenty percent. I also transferred five percent to whoever happened to be in the picture.”

He whistled, downed another shot glass, then spoke as he refilled it. “I would never have guessed that you were paid so well.”

“I usually see my bank account disappear when I have somebody come out with fresh supplies.”

“I know the feeling. Three times I felt that I was wealthy, and each time I spent the money quickly and easily. I believe that I am going to feel wealthy again, but again I feel that it will leave my account. Still, thanks for the gratuity. It was not a part of our contract.”

“I don’t want you to ever feel bad about my presence here in your ship.”

I downed the last of the whiskey in my glass, then set it down bottom up to indicate that I did not want a refill. He put the top back on his bottle, then downed any drops that remained in his glass. With both of us holding our gazes steady, he spoke.

“I hire the best. I never considered that I might need a photographer. I felt that whatever pictures I sent back would be good enough, as what I hoped to find would be fantastic enough. Still, I have seen the pictures that you have set up with the crew. You have made our work look even grander than what I consider it to be. I feel that you belong on my ship, Doug.”

“That wasn’t an offer of employment?”

“No, but they were words of acceptance all the same. Keep doing whatever you are doing.”

I gave the man a salute, then asked, “Oh, Thor, how about if I want to call a stop?”

He looked at me oddly as he replied, “I might charge you, but considering the amount that you sent me, I might simply wait for your next transfer to my account.”

I verified his suspicion. “It would be for a picture. They never gained me any fame, but I often took distant pictures of the solar systems I was advancing upon. Long exposures sometimes revealed some really interesting details.” My face showed that I allowed that he might disapprove of my request as I admitted, “Those pictures never gained me much, but I always enjoyed them.”

I believe that I showed surprise when he asked a sensible question. “You are doing things digitally now. Do you need long exposures?”

“Yes. Even digital cameras have to collect those faint rare photons from far away.”

“Could we drone it? I have a couple of those things. I mean, they don’t travel at tachy very well, but you shouldn’t need any long distance precision flying. Release the thing where you want, then perfect the position by remote. Let it sit and take the shot while we perform our scans. Malcolm or Darlene could then summon it before we leave.”

I know that my face showed surprise as I replied, “I never thought of that. How would I go about it?”

“I don’t have the wildest idea, but I do have the best crew. Start with Clover, but you will need to involve Sandra as well. I bet you that they will get you set up in no time.”

I thanked Thor. After seeing him leave, I did contact Clover. As Thor had said, he contacted Sandra. I soon was thanking both of them as they mentioned that my request could be easily managed.

I was never certified as a pilot. I gained my ship from my company and given basic instructions on how to fly it, but that was it. Luckily, space was still such a new frontier that one could get away with things like that. Truthfully, my company considered me just a delivery boy. I was actually to fly the ship to its pilot. My job was to be a reporter and photographer of the new settlements about Jupiter. The real pilot however died in a situation that resulted from a gambling game. Learning that no one else was available, I gained the duties of pilot of the ship as well. After twenty years of being in space, the company that sent me into space gave me the ship. It was symbolic, but also stopped any bickering by those that claimed that I stole the vessel. At that time I was also given a pilot’s license.

Having the knowledge of flying a spacecraft, the board that Clover brought up on my system to fly the drone was understood by me. I wanted better cameras, and thrusters able to maintain stability for capturing an exact image. I soon had calls from Castle and Felix as well as Sandra as they worked to assure that I approved of what changes they made to a drone and that I understood how things could be controlled from my computer.

As we were approaching another solar system, I went ahead and released the drone. I flew it around to check my ability with the controls. As great as our computer logic could be, there was still an inability for artificial intelligence to guide itself through space. Many did not understand this, as there were a multitude of vessels in space manned by one person. I, myself, until very recently fit into that category. I however remembered many times having to consider a number of factors before establishing my next set of vectors. I knew of no set series of steps that I used to resolve my piloting problems, and by the fact that no one else had written code enabling a drone to fly solo told me that no one else had discovered the secret of piloting either. Understanding that the drone would depend upon me to guide it, I worked to learn the controls for the craft.

I set up the picture as I usually did. Being alone in space, I could always take as much time as desired to find the right angle and give time for the exposure. While I was no longer alone, I also did not have any demands on my time. I thus focused on my work to get the right picture.

“Hello, older than me.”

My head jerked around in hearing a voice. I guess that I still found it strange to have actual people around me. I looked at Diamond and waved as I responded.

“Working on a shot.”

“Cool, just checking on you. Might drop in to chat after I finish my shift.”

“By then I might be waiting for the exposure, so wanting something to help me pass the time.”

He turned to leave, then spun his head back to ask, “You got beer?”

“No. What is it with the crew of this ship and alcohol?”

“The way that I heard it, Thor said that one could not have a good celebration without the stuff. Since he expects us to have reasons to celebrate, he wanted his ship to have a supply. He made sure that his wife drank, then hired me because he knew I drank. He even made sure that Naomi would drink before he accepted her.”

I had not really been troubled by anyone being drunk, so I said, “Well, all of you tend to be able to handle it. I will see about having some beer when you return.”

Diamond settled into a relaxed position in my doorway as he asked, “You don’t drink?”

“I have been in space alone, so I never ordered alcohol.”

“You are not alone anymore.”

Knowing that the man had work to do, I tried to end the conversation. “I said that I would have some beer when you return. Be glad to drink with you.”

Diamond was not one who usually rushed, and his stance showed that he felt like talking for a time. “I hope that it does not kill you.”

“I hope the celebration where I drink that much is worth it.”

“Oh, it is coming.”

Since the man wanted to talk, and he had brought up a certain topic, I tried to see just how much he would say. “What is it? I keep hearing references.”

“I can’t tell you. I was the first to see the thing, and even I have trouble believing it as being true. Glad to have a photographer on board. Maybe you can help make us believe it.”

Over the speaker came an electronic voice asking, “Menlo Park, what did you release this time?”

Diamond spoke, but not to me. “You know, Thor, that we really should take those guys out.”

The voice of our captain did not respond to Diamond. “Look at your read-outs, saucer people. That is just a drone.”

The electronic voice returned, “I can see that it is a drone, but you people use drones for deadly purposes.”

“Oh, name it. Name the time that we have used a drone for deadly purposes. If I felt like using force, deadly or otherwise, I used it.”

The lights of the Menlo Park switched to red. It was an annoying color, but it also clearly let everyone know that a hostile threat was considered present. The lights in my own apartment did not switch their range of frequencies, but with Diamond in my doorway I clearly saw the lights in the berthing hall were glowing their warning. I thus waited for what would happen next.

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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Number of posts : 1287
Age : 58
Location : Ringgold, Louisiana
Current Mood :
Registration date : 2008-07-21

PostSubject: Part Two   October 17th 2010, 8:05 am

Outside - Story Nineteen
Photographs & People

Part Two

An electronic voice that spoke with rather clear tones said, “No need to prove a point, Menlo Park. We will accept that the drone is not hostile.”

The lights out in the berthing hall returned to a full-spectrum white as Thor replied, “Our photographer wanted a picture of the coming solar system from this distance. To keep his work from interfering with ours, we set up a drone with some cameras for him.”

“Oh. I actually like those distant shots. I was looking at some of those not that long ago. I want to apologize for all us shadowing you, Doug – and those of the Menlo Park – for suspecting the drone.”

Diamond moved into the room and checked some settings on my speaker panel before saying, “Thor, am I wrong in thinking that the saucer people were trying to set us up?”

“I leave the intuition to my wife, but I just go with my gut. Still, while I want to take those guys out, up to now we have maintained the illusion of being the good guys.” A pause, then the captain added, “Felix, did you hear that?”

“Roger, Captain, illusion. I am ready to head out. Where are you, Diamond?”

“Right here with Doug. Be in my boat in a moment.”

Before Diamond could get away, I asked, “What are you guys not saying?”

“Sorry, Doug, but you are simply along for the ride. Still, keep your eyes open and your cameras taking pictures. We really don’t want you missing anything.”

Finding myself curious, I went to work doing research on the coming system. It was one that had been purchased by a number of explorers, but passed up by all for various reasons. A polite agreement existed among the Outsiders that those buying a claim would cover the expense of the one holding the claim, and Thor had honored that unwritten law by paying a hefty sum for the right to the system.

No one expected anything of worth in this star system. It did show an abundance of hydrogen, so there was the possibility of a watery planet that might support life. No sign of water, or even oxygen, could be detected from a distance however, so all had fallen short of coming to this system. The young sun and the presence of two gas giants did give hope of life possibly developing in the far future, but far too late to pay any bills that one owed now. Explorers had thus gone elsewhere to look for something of worth.

I then looked at the path the Menlo Park had taken through the cosmos. It was not a straight line. With our method of moving at faster-than-light speeds demanding that we follow certain vectors, most explorers just tried to pick an available line that happened to have a number of stars along it. The Menlo Park had chosen such a route on their previous voyage, but this one was more circuitous. While it had proven profitable, I found the course being set to look very improper.

I had been gaining hints that the crew of the Menlo Park had a special destination in mind. While I gained the impression that it would be coming soon, I also could tell that they did not expect anything from this system. I looked along the registered path of the Menlo Park, but could find no correlation between their present route and that of their last voyage. Wondering what other path of research might reveal clues, I sat back and thought.

“Doug, do you mind if I bother you?”

It was Naomi. The young lady worked hard at her position as the ship medic. While she did have experience in tending to animals, being called upon to treat people was something that those with years of training still had problems managing. Naomi did study the vast wealth of information available, as well as speak to those who had the official education that she lacked. She also took advantage of the fact that she had a limited set of clients in a closed environment, so could directly involve herself in their lives to stay aware of what problems might develop. Old age was my disease, and I welcomed in the young lady so she could check up on me.

She did check my vitals. When I was alone on my own ship, I used a machine to perform the routine. Naomi once mentioned that there was such a device on board, but she knew of no reason not to perform the activities herself. I sat through the process with my smiling face stating an agreement.

While she brought up the usual topics, I heard nothing new so decided to change the subject. “Naomi, where are we going?”

“Out into space.”

I saw the answer in her eyes, but knew to speak. “You have been told, haven’t you.”

“I believe that I agree with Rachel. We ladies might as well get pregnant, as there won’t be much else to do for a time.”

Not at all the answer I expected, so I simply blurted out, “What?”

“I know where we are going, but it didn’t help the others then and they are rather certain that it won’t help them this time either. I also won’t help you if I tell you. Just keep taking pictures, Doug.”

“They found alien life?”

“Don’t force me or anyone to reveal anything to you, Doug. Trust me, everyone will want you to take pictures, then you will have a lot of time to look them over. As we travel, and I probably become pregnant, you will have plenty of time to speculate with the rest of us about where we are going.”

Understanding certain things about the people on board the Menlo Park, I said, “I will not ask any more. I know that money is involved.”

Her face showed a desire to make another comment, but she did not. Naomi instead began talking about the latest messages from her mother. Now being recognized as a member of the United Inhabited Worlds, Neosalem had not changed, although had as well. The Amish settlers were not being infringed upon, but they had also noticed a change in policy. They were part of a system that had a major mining operation going on in the outer regions, and the company had considered them as unwanted guests. The attitude had now become something of the local guardians. The inhabitants of Neosalem felt free to continue with their lifestyle, but they also worried about their true independence. I spoke on the topic with Naomi understanding that the subject on aliens needed to be dropped.

The voice of Thor over the speaker asked, “Doug, how long of an exposure time do you need?”

“I usually give it a few hours. Photography is more of an art, which means that I often simply go on my gut, although I often use the word ‘experience’ when I speak to others.”

Clover’s voice now came over the speaker. “Doug, you are now using digital cameras. Call up the image on the camera and see if it needs more time or not.”

“Why are you two even concerned?”

It was Thor that answered, “Because we are about to do our initial flight through the system. Don’t want to disrupt your picture.”

“Stay faster-than-light and you won’t disrupt a thing.”

Kert fields did generate light. It was actually unwanted, but nothing was perfect and plasmas were rather energetic. The physics of light however went crazy at faster-than-light velocities. At such speeds, any photons generated should be left behind. Light however stayed at its speed relative to us even as we zipped at speeds that it should not be able to manage. A person at relative rest to a stable point could not see a vessel moving at faster-than-light speeds. The theory had then been developed that that the light created by a Kert field going faster-than-light generated tachyon photons. Extremely high-speed cameras had proven that they were emitting light with all the normal properties with the resulting theory simply that the photons were being cast out in very low concentrations due to the tremendous velocities.

I did not know if Thor was actually speaking to me or not as he said, “Well, we usually travel with a known star as we take time to look. Still, okay, we have a vector. Slightly over two times the speed of light. At the end of this run we will need to go in.”

I replied, “Should have a picture by then, Thor. Thanks.”

Clover said, “Well, go ahead and check it now, Doug.”

The process of simply looking at the photograph while still developing was not simple. The program made for the cameras assumed that if you wanted to look then the picture was finished. I had to have Clover help me with the menu options to find out how to simply retrieve the picture information without disrupting the developing. Eventually, however, we were all glad that we had checked.

I hit the buttons to put my voice on broadcast before asking, “Okay, which one of the saucers bothered my picture?”

After a short period of silence, Darlene said, “I’m checking the video feeds, Doug.”

An electronic voice now said, “Vortex. Sorry, Doug. Did not mean to disrupt the picture. I was only acting on commands to verify the purpose of the drone.”

Our helmslady replied, “You could not use magnification?”

“I still needed to get a front view.”

“Directly in front?”

Even electronically modified, stress could be heard in the voice of the pilot of the Vortex. “I said that I was sorry.”

I did not know what Darlene was doing, but I suspected that I would like to know as she said, “You know that I usually handle the chatter on the public Outside frequency?”

“Then, I hope the universe hears me saying that I am sorry for ruining Doug’s picture.”

Suddenly, a number of voices came over the speaker laughing and making sarcastic statements about our saucer people. Comments about ‘superior alien technology’ ranged from the humorous to the highly defamatory. While many mentioned hearing the apology, most spoke of the poor logic behind the need to have done the action in the first place.

I had been listening to our saucer people. Years of traveling alone caused me to often search for frequencies where I could hear honest conversations between people. Music and movies were entertaining, but often I simply sought some connection to other people. While most private conversations really have no redeeming value to those not directly knowledgeable about the people, I found such talk to often aid my mind in remaining sane. Since Harley, the communication officer of the Menlo Park, worked right outside the hallway from my apartment, I often spoke with her. She kept track of the chatter between our pilots, and had located the private frequencies used by the saucers. I had thus often switched over to our shadows when our own pilots were being quiet, so knew some of the private details of the supposed aliens. It thus did not catch me completely by surprise when the pilot of the Vortex erupted in anger.

A clear electronic voice from one of the elders aboard the large saucer said, “Vortex, apologize.”


“No, ‘buts.’ They are correct. Apologize, then take the abuse.”


“I said…”

“Yes, Evert.”

The apology that came was weakly stated. A few told the pilot that he was a good boy. I expected another comment in return, but the pilot stayed quiet. It was the clear voice that spoke in return.

“This journey has definitely been a learning exercise for all of us. We are still learning. Let me speak for all of us in the saucers when I say that we are sorry for spoiling Doug’s picture.”

The voice of Thor now came over the speaker. “Well, time is money and you just cost us having to spend the time to redo the picture. Doug, any idea how long you will need?”

I replied, “Yes. Looking at the corners of the shot, I can get an idea about the exposure time.”

“Good. We are going to make our flyby. You get your shot while we set up to make our scans.”

“It will take some time, but I will let you know when I am finished.”

A clear electronic voice said, “We will hold our position as well. Take your time, Doug. We are not out here for the money, so can wait.”

Like I said, the distant shots never won me any fame. I took those for myself. The red glow from the surrounding hydrogen did give the solar system an angry aura, but I just considered that part of the beauty of this part of space. It also fit in with this story about the picture. I hope that you enjoyed it.

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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Outside - Photographs and People
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