Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Audio Fiction

I had the privilege to be a guest today on a Christian women's organization's podcast.

Yesterday I got a message on Facebook from the founder of Maryland Women of Worship. I wrote a couple of short articles for them in 2008, and we've been in touch ever since. Tomorrow's guest on their podcast The Ellie Show had to reschedule, she said, and would I like to fill the slot? Of course I said yes, I'd be honored. And it turned out that I got to be on the very first episode of The Ellie Show.

Ellie gave me a very nice introduction, both in the podcast and on MWOW's blog, and I read portions of my novel Resist the Devil.

Listen to the Episode.

While The Ellie Show is brand new, Ellie herself is not new to online broadcasting. She also hosts The Gospel Music News & Video Showcase.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Writing Blitz, Day Twenty

Chapter Six is ready, but this is just getting to be too confusing, posting a chapter at a time and trying to provide all the links to previous chapter-posts. The entire story so far (or that is, the small portion of it that's ready for reading) is now posted in convenient tabs at the top of the page.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Writing Blitz, Day Fifteen

I'm catching up. Now I'm officially only two days behind. Here's Chapter Five:

As soon as I was alone I headed straight for the bathroom, yanking the blue microfiber t-shirt over my head as I walked. At least the mirrors in this strange place were more or less normal. I pulled my bra strap down over my right shoulder and took a good look at my collarbone area: no scars, no visible lumps, nothing different from how it always was. I ran the fingertips of my left hand over the spot, feeling carefully. Nothing.
Photo: Seventeen.com
I put my shirt back on and checked my left ankle. Also nothing. So whatever that little charade was about on the table, they hadn't actually done anything. Maybe just a cheap way to keep me away from the exit doors. Well, at least now I knew where to find them. If only I could get out of this room.
There were no windows in my room: it couldn't be that easy, of course. I stood for a moment and looked at the ceiling. It wasn't a dropped ceiling, of course, and it didn't look any more promising than any other part of the room. I walked around and took a quick look at the floor: no particular reason to think I'd find a quick escape route through there, either. I wished I had some way of knowing which storey I was on, whether this building had a basement, and all sorts of other details. But I didn't, so for now at least I'd have to work with what I had. I decided to start with a thorough examination of the walls, to see how strong they were and whether there were any places where I might be able to break through. There was no telling what would be on the other side, though, but I'd figure that out when I came to it. I started at a random stretch of blank wall roughly opposite the door, and knocked on it with my knuckles. It didn't seem to be made out of sheet rock, but I couldn't tell right away what the material was. I kept knocking, moving my hand by increments up the wall, then over to my right, then down again. If it had been a traditional wall of sheet rock or some other wall board laid over studs, I would have heard and felt a change as my knuckles passed over the studs, but in this case there didn't seem to be any change. So maybe the wall board itself was some sort of strong material and part of the actual structure of the building, instead of just being a covering over the structure. In other words, maybe I wasn't going to be able to break through it. I decided to see if I got any different results from another part of the room.
I knocked on the walls at eight different places and got the same results every time. The only place I hadn't been was up high, close to the ceiling. Now, how was I going to get up there? I'd already stood on the desk, but the ceiling was high enough here - or else I'm short enough - that I still couldn't reach to the top of the wall. I picked up the chair from behind the desk and carefully tried to set it on the desk without breaking the computer. It wasn't that I cared whether I broke the computer or not, but I didn't want to leave any clues as to what I'd been doing. It was better, at least until I had a fuller understanding of my situation, for my captors to think of me as the shy, compliant type and not to feel they had to watch me too closely.
The chair wouldn't fit. The shape of the desk and the shape of the chair meant that I couldn't get all the chair's feet on the desk at the same time, and jostle it even slightly, without one of the feet slipping off and taking the rest of the chair with it.
So I carried the chair to the bed, moved the pillows and set it near the wall. Then, very carefully, I climbed onto it, then gingerly stood up, taking my time and using the wall for support..
The moment I was fully upright, a jolt of electricity shot through me. I fell off the chair, missed the bed entirely, and hit the floor with my side, knocking the wind from my lungs.
In that long, desperate moment before the air came painfully back, I heard Gul Dukat's voice say calmly, "I'm disappointed in you, Teryn."
I raised myself to my hands and knees and coughed, and struggled to breathe. When I could speak, I said, "Gul? Can you hear me?"
"Of course I can hear you," came the answer. "I didn't know you enjoyed building towers so much. Are you an architect?"
"No," I answered, and coughed.
"No," he repeated, "but you have deceived me."
I wondered how I should respond to that. I wondered how I could have been so dumb as not to realize they would have bugged the room. I wondered where the cameras and microphones where hidden, and whether the Gul could see me now as well as hear me. I wondered if any of my bones were broken.
"Did you hear me, Teryn?" Gul Dukat persisted. "You've deceived me."
I wondered who Teryn was, and why he'd confused our names. "Yes," I answered. "I'm trying to figure out what you're referring to."
"You seemed happy enough to sleep with me last night. I thought we had something good going. And now I find you trying to escape."
"It won't happen again," I promised, and meant it. I wouldn't be touching the top of the wall again, at any rate.
My breathing was becoming more regular now, and I got off my hands and knees and sat on the floor. Moving hurt: I was badly bruised, at best. I felt very grateful that I hadn't landed on my head.
"Gul?" I asked.
"Go ahead."
"I think I need a doctor."
"Why? Are you dying?"
"No, but I think I could have cracked a rib."
"A souvenir, then. A reminder to improve your behavior in the future. Is there anything else, besides your medical status?"
I couldn't believe he wouldn't let me see a doctor. "Yes," I replied numbly. "Are there any other places I should be aware of, that are off-limits, besides the top of the wall?"
"The top of the wall isn't off limits," he answered. "Insulting me is off limits. Consider yourself warned."
"Of course," I answered, confused now. "Did I insult you, Gul?"
"I would consider attempting to run away from me insulting. Wouldn't you?"
"I didn't mean it that way," I said.
"I trust you see it differently now."
"Yes, of course. I was just wondering, are there any other places I need to avoid touching, any other places that have live current running through them?"
The Gul chuckled. "You think there's an EM current running through the top of your wall?"
"I'm sorry," I said, "I don't know what EM is."
"Oh. Yes," I replied, feeling foolish. "I did think that."
"Your quarters are safe, Teryn. You have permission to touch any surface you wish - as long as you do it for appropriate reasons. The EM surge you felt came from your implants; I decided a mild buzz would do you good."
"I think I understand now," I said, feeling deflated. What they'd told me about the airlocks, then, could be true, too. I wondered why they called them airlocks. This place was far too big to be a submarine.
"Good," the Gul responded. "Dukat out."
I got up and limped to the bathroom and pulled up my shirt in front of the mirror. I don't know what I had expected to see, besides a large red mark where my side had hit the floor. Wincing, I felt each of my ribs on my right side. I didn't feel any obvious breaks. It still hurt to breathe.
I went back to the bed to try to get some rest. I wished I'd had something to read. I couldn't even count the ceiling tiles, since there were no tiles to count. I decided to review everything I had seen and heard since the linguistics conference, and see if I could come up with any useful conclusions. Then I fell asleep.
Someone woke me with a tray of food. It was a scars-and-fins male again, in the gray uniform. I'd never seen any of the people with scars only on their noses doing anything except scattering before I got close to them. And I hadn't seen any women with the scars and fins, only men. Maybe they were the result of a genetic experiment that produced only males.
The only part of the meal I could identify at all was some kind of fish, and even then it was a variety I'd never seen before. It didn't taste very good but it did give me energy, and that's all I cared about. And anything would have been better than not eating, which I hadn't since the rouladen with Derek the day before.
I ate and forced myself to do some gentle stretches on the bed and walk about the room. I knew I'd hurt more in the long run if I didn't take care of myself now. Then I sat in the chair, propped my feet on the desk and tried to recall everything I had seen, heard, even smelled, in the past two days.
They brought me another meal, built around what must have been a goose egg, and other than that I was left alone. I went over every detail I could remember, but nothing gave me a clue as to where I was, how I got here, who would have done this, or why. I couldn't help feeling like Derek had had something to do with it, though.
Eventually the door swished open a third time. "The Gul will see you now," said my visitor. It was the same guy who'd brought me the goose egg.
“Tell him,” the Gul was saying over his intercom when I arrived in his quarters, “he'll obey my orders or I'd be happy to grant him the privilege of becoming the first Cardassian ore-processor.” He dismissed the guard with a flick of his head but didn't acknowledge me. I clasped my hands behind my back and stood waiting.
After a few more exchanges he said, "Dukat out" and turned to me. "Teryn, do you know how to mend clothing?" he asked.
"Usually," I answered, figuring I'd better qualify my response before he accused me of deceiving him again. "It depends on what type of clothing it is, and what's wrong with it." That turtle-shell armor top he wore, I wasn't sure I could mend, but the pants would be okay.
"It's a lost art, perhaps," he remarked. "Being a Gul isn't always as glamorous as it seems."
"You're the commander of this station, right?"
"And Prefect of Bay Jour," he sneered. "But my little Teryn is here now." He had been standing, and now he sat down in his desk chair and slouched lazily. "Come here," he ordered.
I went to him and he pulled me toward him, hurting my injured ribs. I gasped and stiffened.
"What's wrong?" he asked, looking offended. "You don't like me now?"
"Sorry," I said, "it's just my ribs."
"Whatever you did to your ribs by your own misbehavior," he said, pulling me toward him again, "should not affect your performance for your Gul."
I nodded. "Could I have something for the pain?"
He brushed a lock of hair out of my face with a tender motion of his hand and shook his head. "If I took the pain away," he explained, "I'd be robbing you of the chance to learn your lesson. But enough of this subject. What shall we do tonight?"
I really did try to please him, but he was beyond pleasing. By the time he finally fell asleep, he'd added several bruises to my face, to match the ones on my side.
But in the morning he was all charm. He opened his eyes and smiled. "Good morning," he said. "How did you sleep?"
"I don't think I slept much," I replied.
The smile disappeared. "Pain?" he asked.
I nodded.
"You should have asked me to give you something for that," he chided, and got up. He came back and knelt on the bed beside me and used that hissing thing on my neck again. The relief was dramatic, and immediate.
"Thank you," I said sincerely.
"Don't mention it," he replied, and I wondered if that was an order or just another way of saying 'you're welcome.' I decided to be on the safe side and not bring it up again. "Are you hungry?" he asked.
He must be on drugs, I thought. I wasn't hungry, but I figured I'd better eat while I had the chance. "Sure," I said, "breakfast sounds good."
A framed photo caught my eye, for two reasons. For one thing, it looked so ordinary. In a station full of strange walls, strange desks, strange video monitors, strange turtle-shell-armor uniforms, even strange faces and necks, here was a regular photo in a regular plastic stand-up frame. The other reason was the people in the photo itself. In the middle was a smiling Gul Dukat, and on either side of him were people with the scars on only their noses. On his left was a man, and on his right a woman.
Dukat with Bajoran leader Major Kyra Nerys 
"Is this you with some of your friends?" I asked, hoping to learn more. 
He stopped on his way to the alcove. "That was taken when I became Prefect of Bay Jour."
He'd said something similar last night. I decided I'd better keep the tone light and not appear to be pressing him for information. "You look happy," I remarked.
He nodded. "It was a happy occasion. As soon as I took office, I started making changes. The death rate for those poor people dropped twenty percent."
"Death rate!" I blurted out, in spite of myself. From his behavior yesterday, I could well believe there was a death rate.
"A very unfortunate situation," he said. "They're just not as advanced as we are. But we're changing that."
I felt impressed, in spite of myself. I stood there for a moment looking at the faces of his two companions. "Are these leaders, or spokespeople, for the people of Bay Jour, then?" I asked.
He looked up from the alcove. "They look so innocent, don't they?"
Breakfast was just plain odd. It wasn't good, but it wasn't bad, either. Or maybe I just wanted to get away from the Gul and back to my room. Not that that was going to be the same anymore, either, since now I knew he could spy on me whenever he wanted. What I really wanted was to go home. I missed my kids.
"I'm having company today," he said cheerfully between bites. He seemed to be enjoying the breakfast, at any rate.
"Family?" I asked, then wondered if I should have said that. If he was a result of a genetic engineering project, he may not have a family, exactly.
He didn't seem to mind, though. "A colleague. A fellow Gul, in fact. We have a lot in common."
"Oh, good. I hope you enjoy the visit," I said sincerely.
"I'm more concerned that he enjoys the visit," he replied in a serious tone. "I'll be lending you to him tonight." He leaned toward me and seemed to pin me in place with those awful eyes. "Be sure that you make him happy."

Writing Blitz, Day Four

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Writing Blitz, Day Ten

Chapter Four of my NaNoWriMo projectAn Analysis of the Cardassian Language:

I was hoping they’d give me clothes to wear before taking me to the Gul, but they didn’t. One of Tahmid’s guards picked up my purse and then grabbed my arm, pulling me up out of my seat and out the way I’d come in, all the way to the balcony. We turned right and walked for a few minutes, people scattering in front of us. Thankfully, I didn’t see anybody staring, but I wondered whether that was because they all had good manners, or because they were used to seeing prisoners walking naked along the balcony. 
Photo: memory-alpha.org
We followed the balcony's slow curve to the left, and eventually stopped at a door, which swished open before us. The guard pushed me ahead of him through the doorway, but not roughly, and remained behind me.
I found myself in an office of sorts. In style it looked a lot like Glin Tahmid's interrogation room, but except for the desk it was furnished differently, and more simply. A man sat behind the desk, with the grey uniform, the facial scars, or whatever they were, the neck-fins and very intense eyes. It seemed to me that his whole being emanated power. He nodded to the guard behind me and I heard the door close. 
"I've been watching your interrogation," he said without introduction, waving me toward him and pointing to a strange, almond-shaped flat screen on the wall. I walked around the desk and stood beside him. My own face stared back at me, frozen, from behind my hands and the rod that held my handcuffs. 
He settled back in his chair, still looking at the screen, and said, "Continue playback," and immediately my face on the screen came to life, and my fingers started moving stiffly.
 "How old are you?" came Glin Tahmid's voice. 
"Thirty," I saw myself answer, through my hands. 
"So you turned thirty, five days ago. Happy birthday.” 
“Thank you.” 
“I have no more questions for you at the moment,” said Tahmid's voice, and two seconds later the back of his head blocked the view of my face and hands. 
"Stop playback," the man beside me ordered. The almond-shaped screen went dark, and he turned to me. "Do you find me attractive?" he asked, staring me down.
I lowered my gaze, but had no idea what to answer. I didn't find him attractive. I found him creepy and scary and rude. "I'm not sure," I replied lamely. "I just met you." 
"You're shy, perhaps," he said gently. 
I nodded. 
He turned, getting half out of his chair, opened a compartment in the wall behind him and pulled out a large item, made out of some sort of maroon-colored fabric and folded. He handed it to me and settled in his chair again. "Put that on," he said curtly. 
I unfolded it and found that it was a blanket, far too hot for the over-heated room, but I didn't dare disobey, so i wrapped it around myself. 
"Sit," he ordered, patting his knee.
I sat, reluctantly. I could see where this was going, and I didn't like it, but at least it was better than what I'd thought I was in for with Glin Tahmid and those guards. And at least, if I had to sleep with this Gul person, he wasn't bad, physically - that is, if you didn't look at his face. 
"I like you," he said, "but you'll have to wait for me; I have work to do." He touched the front of his shirt, or his armor, or whatever the top of his uniform should be called, and said, "Send me a soldier for a prisoner transport." 
Photo: memory-alpha.org
Almost immediately, the door swished open and there stood another guy in a grey uniform, with the scars and the fins. I was beginning to wonder what the other people did here, the ones with the scars only on their noses, who scattered whenever we got near them. On the other hand, I had no idea what these people did, either, when I wasn't around. 
"Take her to my quarters," the Gul ordered, "and restrain her." He pushed me off his knee and I held onto the blanket and walked around the desk to where the soldier stood. 
The soldier looked to the Gul for dismissal, then gestured to me to walk ahead of him out the door. 
The restraint was a comfortable wide fabric band around my ankle, attached to a lead that gave me a little freedom of movement. What I didn't like was, from what I could see and what I'd heard, I gathered that my new location was the Gul's bedroom, and that the lead was attached to his bed. 
After making sure the restraint was secure, the soldier moved a few things out of my reach and left. 
Exhausted from the interrogation and alone for the first time since Chicago, I lay on the floor and slept. 
The whispering swish of the door woke me and I was on my feet in an instant. It was the Gul. 
My blanket had fallen in my hurry to get up, and I bent over to retrieve it, fumbling from nervousness. Finally I stood again, with the blanket around me. 
"Still shy, I see," the Gul commented with a hint of a laugh. "I'll give you something to help with that." 
"Thanks," I answered, "but I'll be okay." I was hoping to get out of here with my brains intact. 
He turned his back to me for a moment, and when he turned around I saw he had something nearly concealed in his right hand. He came toward me. 
I forced myself to breathe. 
He grabbed my hair with his left hand, and I prepared myself for him to pull it hard, but he only tipped my head gently to the side and held it there. He brought his right hand up to the exposed side of my neck, and I felt the same hissing sound and odd sensation I had when I first sat at Glin Tahmid's desk. The Gul let go of my hair. 
"What was that?" I asked, again. 
"Something to calm you," he answered, turning around and putting away the thing in his hand. 
I passed a more or less agreeable night, at least compared to what it could have been. It was just sex and sleep, except that I couldn’t sleep. I tried to be very still so the Gul could sleep, because I didn't think it was in my best interest to annoy him. But he must have noticed because he administered another one of those hissing things to my neck, and I fell asleep in less than a minute.
 If anybody had seen us in the morning they would have thought we were a regular couple - except for his bizarre appearance and the fact that he had to take that cloth band off my ankle.
He showed me how to use the shower. Or at least he called it a shower. I could have sworn there was no water coming out of that thing, yet the refreshing and cleansing effect was undeniable. And I had thought the toilets in this place were strange. 
"I've given you permission to replicate clothing for yourself," he told me when I came out. 
"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't know what that means." 
He stared at me with those freakish eyes of his, and his lips twitched at the edges, but his voice stayed even. "What size garment do you wear..." He touched my back. "...here?" 
"Medium," I answered, hoping that was specific enough. 
He led me to an alcove that looked very much like the one Glin Tahmid had gotten the drinks from yesterday, and announced, "One garment for the top half of the body, female, Terran, early 21st Century, size medium." There was a soft sound and a whirling of light in the alcove, and a sky-blue microfiber T-shirt just appeared there, where two seconds before there had been nothing but air.
I shrank back from it and stared. 
The Gul laughed. "Order the rest of your clothing and get dressed," he ordered, then called in the direction of the door, "Enter!" 
A soldier came in immediately and the Gul went out. 
It took me a few minutes to get the hang of ordering from the alcove, and that was with a little help from the soldier. When I was dressed he gestured toward the door in that deceptively-polite manner I'd been seeing a lot lately.
Soon we were back on the balcony, and I screwed up the courage to ask, "Where are we going?" 
"To fit you with a security device." 
Either it was a shorter walk this time, or else I was just getting used to these walks, and found it much nicer to be clothed.
We entered a suite of rooms that looked a little like Tahmid's: full of objects I couldn't identify. Two guys were waiting for us. 
"Lie down," the shorter one said to me. He patted the top of what could have been an exam table or a high cot.
I obeyed, of course. 
The two of them wasted no time. One pulled my top away from my neck to reveal part of my right collarbone, while the other pulled my left pant leg up and my left sock down. At least they're not cutting them this time, I thought. The soldier who had brought me stood nearby and watched. 
It was hard for me to follow what they were doing, mostly because I was lying flat on my back and couldn't see anything but the ceiling and the shorter guy's face. I thought they cleaned a patch of skin over my collarbone, and another on my lower leg, like nurses do before giving shots, but I couldn't be sure.
Then suddenly, they both backed away and the taller one said, "You can get up now." 
I stood up. 
"You'll need to stay out of the airlocks," said the taller one. 
"What did you do?" I asked. 
"We fitted you with security implants," he replied, then repeated, "You'll need to stay out of the airlocks. If you go into an airlock, the implants will kill you." 
"What are the airlocks?" I asked. My voice came out in a whisper. 
"I'll show you," said the soldier who had brought me, and he gestured to the door again. 
The airlocks looked like giant metal donuts fitted with giant metal plates. I stayed well back. "Exit doors?" I asked my guide. 
So much for escaping, then. But maybe I could find a window, or drill through a wall... 
We walked on again, stopped at one of the regular swishing double doors, and entered. "These are your quarters," he said. It was a simple room, but comfortable. It had a bed and a desk, one of those alcoves in the wall, and a strange toilet and shower like the ones in the Gul's own quarters, but without as much space. 
"When will I be able to go home?" I asked. 
"I don't know," he replied. "That's up to the cat." 
"Who’s the cat?" 
"Not the cat. Dukat. Due- kaht." 
"Oh, then who’s Dukat?" 
"You spent last night with him." 
"Oh, the Gul?" 
"Yes, Gul Dukat." 
"Could I have something to write on?" 
"No," he replied simply, and started toward the door. 
I looked around. "What is there to do here?" 
He shrugged, stopping in the doorway. "Not much for a prisoner, I'm afraid, but there is a computer here with a limited database." He took another step and the door swished shut. 

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Writing Blitz, Day Four

Friday, November 9, 2012

Writing Blitz, Day Nine

It's now day nine of NaNoWriMo, and I am officially three days behind. I do have a new installment for you, though:
Photo: 3quarksdaily.com 
Chapter Three 
Tahmid leaned back in his chair and looked up at me. “What’s your birthdate?” he asked cheerfully.

“September 13, 1985.” On a Friday. I’d never been superstitious about it, but now I was beginning to wonder.

“Explain,” he said.

Explain what? I wondered, but didn’t dare ask. “I was born on September 13, 1985,” I answered.

“Is that a date?”

Back to the obvious questions, again, or else he was just badgering me. “Yes.”

“By what calendar?”

“I think it’s called the Julian calendar,” I answered, getting sick of these obscure historical questions, “or possibly Gregorian? I’m sorry; I don’t know much about calendars.”

Tahmid had something on his desk that looked like a game controller, and he touched a button on it. A rod began to come down from the ceiling. It was nearly directly above me and pointing straight down like the rod the fan had been on in the restaurant. But there was no fan on this one. I tried to back up a step, in case it came down too low, but the guards held my arms. It kept coming, six inches in front of my face, and finally stopped when it was about at the level of my chin.

As soon as it stopped the guards grabbed my forearms and raised them, fitting the end of the rod into a small hole in the middle of the handcuffs. They locked together with a metallic click. Then the one on my left pulled my shoes and socks off and the one on my right made five quick cuts with his knife, and I was naked.

“I hope we’ve been able to come to an understanding,” he said in a friendly tone. “Think back to the last thing you remember before Terra Knorr. You got out of the cab, and then what?”

“I paid the driver…No, I paid the driver before I got out. Then I got out, and I walked. I had had him stop in front of the wrong building, so I had to walk a little.”

“Go on.”

“I got to my building and I was just about to go up the steps.”

“Your building?”

“The building I was staying at.”

“And then what?”

“That’s all I remember. I was turning to go up the steps.”

“And your next memory is of being on this station?”

“That’s correct.”

“Tell me about that.”

Photo: MemoryAlpha.org
“I was lying on the floor, and I saw a lot of people.”

“What were they doing?”

“Just walking around, I guess. I didn’t have a lot of time to watch them.”

“Go on.”

“Well, then the people started crowding around me, looking at me.”

“What species were these people?”

Oh, no, back to that game again! “Human.”

“They were human?”


“They looked like you?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“Did you scan them?”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it didn’t matter because he didn’t wait for an answer anyway.

“Did you bring a tricorder?” he asked.

“No.” Whatever that was, I didn’t bring one.

“What did these humans look like?”

“They had scars on their noses.”

“So you came this station and saw humans with scars on their noses,” he mused. “What species am I?”

“Human,” I answered, with a little hesitation. The last time we’d talked about his origins, he’d had one of his guards give me a bloody nose. And the stakes were higher now.

“Have you heard of a people called the Kardashians?” he asked. Only he pronounced it ‘Kardassians.’


“Tell me about them.”

“They’re a family. Three beautiful women who got famous on reality TV.”

“What is TV?”


He shook his head. “That word’s not translating. But are you telling me you think that the Kardassians are three beautiful women?”

“Yes. Well, they’re a whole family. But the famous ones are three women.”

He touched the scar above his left eye. “What is this?” he asked.

“I’m not sure.”

“What do you think it is? Give me your best guess.”

“A scar?”

He touched the scar below his right eye. “And this?”

“Another scar?”

He touched the fin-thing on the right side of his neck. “And this? Is this a scar, too?”

“I…don’t know what that’s called.”

“What happened after you saw the people with the scars on their noses?”

“They left, and two other guys showed up.”

“What species were the two other guys?”

“Human.” I was getting used to this bizarre question, and I wasn’t sure that was a good thing.

“Did they look like you?”

“Not really.”

“Go on.”

“They looked like you.”

“Oh,” he said, “did they have three beautiful women with them?”


He took his eyes off me again and looked at something behind me. I didn’t turn and follow his gaze this time because my wrists hurt and my hands ached. I’d been moving my fingers a lot to keep the blood flowing, and it had worked to some extent, but it hurt, too.

“How old are you?” he asked after a long pause.


“Do you know today’s date?”

“September 18, 2015.”

“So you turned thirty, five days ago. Happy birthday.”

“Thank you.”

“I have no more questions for you at the moment,” he said, getting up and coming toward me with the controller in his hand. He touched the controller to the handcuffs and immediately my wrists were free. The handcuffs remained locked to the rod. “You’re welcome to have a seat,” he offered politely, and went back to his own chair.

We must have sat for about ten minutes, while I rubbed the feeling back into my hands and he busied himself with a couple of off-brand iPads. Finally he said, “We’re about done here. The gull wants to see you.”

I wondered what the chances were that he was referring to a shore bird. Not very good, I figured, but anything was possible.

He must have read my face again, because he asked, “Do you know what a gull is?”

“A bird?” I ventured.

“Perhaps in your universe, where Kardassians are all beautiful women, gulls are birds,” he conceded. “But in our reality, Gul is a military rank. There is only one Gul assigned to this station, and he is its commander. I know it doesn’t come naturally to your people, but if I were you…” He paused and drilled me with his gaze. “…I would be very respectful.”
To read more of my NaNo-novel An Analysis of the Cardassian Language, see my website, MaryJeddoreBlakney.com.

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Writing Blitz, Day Four

My NaNoWriMo 2012 Project

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Life, Interrupted

Sometimes life gets in the way of...well, life.

I had intended to write at least 1,667 words of An Analysis of the Cardassian Language, every day this month. I had intended to post here at least every other day or so. Then life happened.

Photo: Adclassix.com
It's not that it's any big secret, but if I shared it all here, it would be so boring you'd swear never to visit here again.

But...I do believe that when life interrupts life, it tends to teach us lessons. Maybe even lessons we don't know we're learning. And I can't help feeling that somehow, this little interruption is going to make Analysis a better novel.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Writing Blitz, Day Four

It's Day Four of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, in which participants try to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days). It's still early, so I haven't done my writing for today yet, but as of last night I was up to 7,500 words. And I'm loving it!

Here's what I've got ready so far:

September 21, 2015

I've been kidnapped. 
I have no idea where I am; this could be absolutely anywhere on earth. The room they've locked me in doesn't look Western, but then you can't always go by architecture and decorating. For all I know, if I could get out I could walk home. Or I could be in a remote corner of Afghanistan or Ethiopia or Peru.
It's a long story how I got here, but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to write anything down. I'll try to remember everything.

Chapter One
It started in Chicago.
I met Derek at a conference on Linguistics. He shared my passion for making the world a better place, my vision for our field’s potential to solve major social problems. Other attendees called us both idealistic dreamers, and Derek and I hit it off almost immediately.
On the last day of the conference we grabbed some coffee between sessions.
“Lunch?” he asked.
I looked down at the table beside the coffee pots, at the cookies and the squares of fruit and cheese impaled with toothpicks. “Sure hope not,” I smiled. “But I wouldn’t worry, it’s only nine-thirty.” I grabbed a cookie.
“No,” he said, “I meant, what are you doing for lunch? I’d like to take you out.”
“My cousin doesn’t get home till five-thirty, so I have the afternoon to kill. I just need to call my kids first, after the last session.”
“You’re lucky you can stay with your cousin,” he said. “Hotels here ask for your firstborn.”
“Which would leave you out on the street,” I replied. Derek didn’t have any kids.
“I’d just kidnap one of yours,” he shot back. “Forge a birth certificate. They’d have no way of knowing.”
“Good thing school’s in session, then, and my kids are back home safe in New Hampshire.”
“Alone? How old are they?”
“Oh, no, they’re with their grandmother. They’re eight and ten.”
“Sweet,” he said. “I like kids. But I’ll have to settle for their mom for now. One o’clock okay? I’ll meet you out front.”
He took me to a quaint-looking German place in the ground floor of a red-brick nineteenth-century meat-packing building. “You have to try the rouladen,” he said. “It’s the best I’ve had since Frankfurt.”
“Oh, when were you in Frankfurt?” I asked. “I’ve never had rouladen, but I’ve heard it’s good.”
“I went to university there, undergrad.”
“Oh. Any particular reason? Have relatives there or anything?”
“No. Well, my ancestry is German - Bavarian, but that’s going way back. I’ve just always liked Germany, so when I had the chance to do my college there, I took it. Are you warm enough?” He glanced at the fan that whirred at the end of a long rod reaching down from the ceiling twenty feet above us, then studied my face.
I lowered my eyes for an instant and confirmed my suspicion: my nipples stood out in two chiseled points under my clothes. Note to self, I thought, feeling myself blush, don’t wear a knit bra and a knit top together around cute, intelligent guys. But I’d brought a sweater, so I put it on.
“What’s this vision you keep hinting at,” I said, recovering my dignity, “about linguistics as a tool for social change?” I asked not only to change the subject, but because I was burning to know. I myself wanted to find the universal language patterns that would allow me, in partnership with a good computer programmer, to create software that could translate just about any language into just about any other language. The possibilities were staggering. This software, loaded on either a regular computer or a small, tough device built for the purpose, could empower indigenous businesspeople all over the world. It could let ordinary individuals build relationships across cultural boundaries, lessening international tensions on the grassroots level. It could reduce war, oppression and poverty by building bridges and eroding misunderstanding, fear and hate. But I wanted to hear what Derek had in mind. I knew it was going to be good.
His smile showed his dimples. I was beginning to suspect that when the dimples didn’t appear, he was just being polite. I smiled, too, because I had a feeling I was going to have plenty of time to test that hypothesis.
“It’s simple,” he answered. “Purity of language. I’m applying for a grant for it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it starts with a study to find the pure form of the language. I’m hoping to begin with German first.”
“Naturally. You must be fluent.”
“I am, but that’s not why. German is a whole lot less corrupted than English or even Spanish. It’s a good place to start. The world isn’t ready for the purification of English yet.”
I still had no idea what he was talking about. “So you find out the pure form a language, and then what do you do after that?”
He shrugged. “It’s a long shot, I know, especially with the way things are trending lately, but the hope is that people, governments, will embrace the pure form of the language and reject the corrupted versions.”
I wasn’t sure I liked where this was going. “For what purpose? What would that do?”
“Our cultures have been weakened,” he explained. “It’s insidious. I’m not sure if you’ve ever looked into it, but you may be surprised how many words from inferior races have gotten in there, even in German.” 
We managed to part on friendly terms, mostly because for the rest of the meal I pasted a smile on my face and just listened and made small talk. It wouldn’t do to stalk away in a self-righteous huff: it was kindness that would reach this man, if anything could.
Finally it was over. We confirmed that we had each other’s numbers, and I took a taxi back to my cousin’s.
I paid the driver and got out, and then realized I’d had him stop in front of the wrong building. Should have just given him the address and let him do his job. Fortunately, he didn’t hang around to watch me walk. After two buildings I got out my copy of Connie’s door key and turned to go up the front steps.
And that was the last I saw of Chicago.

They must have drugged me, I guess, because the next thing I knew, I was waking up. I was lying on the floor in a big, noisy, busy place. The first thing I saw was lots of pantlegs and shoes, walking about in different directions. They were scuffed and smudged and dusty and worn, but that's all I had a chance to notice before somebody noticed me, and then I was looking up at faces. They looked smudged and worn, too, and unless it was my imagination, they all had nearly identical scars on their noses. Maybe they didn't and it was just the effect of whatever I'd been drugged with. I didn't get a really good look at them, anyway, because after a few seconds all those people scattered and two others came along.

The new guys, both male, wore some sort of grey uniforms and their faces were hideously scarred. They had scars instead of eyebrows, scars on their foreheads, scars on their chins... The scarring looked so even, and was so similar on both sides of their faces, and even so similar on both men, that I began to suspect as soon as I saw them that they were victims of some sort of horrific ritual. I couldn't help feeling sorry for them.

"How did you get here?" one of them asked. He sounded surprised, but his face didn't show it. No wonder.

I sat up. "I don't know."

The other guy offered me his hand, and I took it and got to my feet. "Where is 'here', anyway?" I asked, pulling my purse onto my shoulder.

"It's a big station," the first guy answered, "Easy to lose your way. Did our workers hurt you?"

"No. No, not at all. I just..." I stopped speaking when I realized I couldn't explain, I had no idea what had just happened.

The second guy, the guy who had helped me up, was looking at something in his hand, some sort of gaming device I'd never seen before. "You're not registered as a guest here," he said. "Is your ship still here? I'm afraid you'll have to go back to it immediately." He grabbed my arm and started walking. He had the kind of grip I've seen cops use when they're arresting a guy who's drunk out of his mind, the kind of grip that means you've got to start walking if you don't want to be dragged.

"I...I don't know," I replied, trying to keep my feet under me. "I don't think I came on a ship. I've - " I was about to say I'd been kidnapped, but then I wondered if they'd been kidnapped, too, and ritually scarred and forced to work here. "I think I got here by accident," I said instead. "I'd be happy to get out of your way as soon as possible."

"I think our commander would like you," said the first guy, walking on the other side of me and looking at my breasts. Men and women scattered before us. They did all have nearly-identical nose-scars, but they didn't look nearly so bad after seeing these guys.

"He likes Bajorans," said the second guy.

"He may like a lost human, if she's lost."

"Federation people don't just get lost in Bajoran orbit," the second guy countered. "She's a spy."

"Even the Federation makes some attempt to hide their spies. If she were a spy, she'd be a registered guest with a mouthful of excuses. What's your plan, to throw her out an airlock?"

"It's an efficient solution."

"It's a wasteful solution, either way. Either she's a spy or she's lost. If she's a spy she ought to be debriefed, and if she's lost, the cat may want to keep her."

"The cat?" I repeated, trying to make sense of the conversation, but they didn't explain.

"Let's take her to Tommy, then," said the second guy, "but I doubt the cat will like her."

"I'm not a Federation person," I objected, not at all sure I liked the idea of being labeled a spy and 'debriefed.'

"The Federation would probably disagree with that statement," the second guy replied. We'd come to the edge of the big room, and he led me through a large open doorway onto a spacious indoor balcony. I couldn't see over the edge, but from the sound of it, the floor below us was full of people.

"What Federation are we talking about, anyway?" I asked, as we turned right. The wall was on our right now, and the railing on our left. The balcony stretched out in front of us like a concourse in an airport.

"It makes no difference to us," said the first guy, who had dropped back at the doorway and was walking a little bit behind us. "You can give us any story you like because we don't need to know who you are or what you're doing here. But Glenn Tommy does. You may wish to be much more forthright with him." I was trying to place his accent. To my New Hampshire ears his "Glenn Tommy" sounded like 'Glinn Tahmmy'. Midwest, probably, and not too far north. Southern Illinois, maybe.

Two minutes later we stopped. There was a door there and it must have been connected to a motion or weight sensor because it opened with a swishing sound. The second guy still had my arm, and he pulled me inside with him. The first guy stayed on the balcony, and the door stayed open.

“What is this place?” I asked, looking up at that scarred face and trying to keep my voice steady.

The guy let go of my arm and turned to leave, then stopped and looked back at me. “Interrogation,” he answered. Then he went out and the door swished shut.

Chapter Two
I was surprised to see the door close between us, as close as I was behind him. Fighting panic, I walked right up to it, but it remained shut. I turned around and gave myself a head start and approached it again, walking at a good, confident pace, but it still didn’t open. I stuck my fingers as far as I could get them into the crack in the middle, where the two halves were supposed to slide away from each other, and pulled as hard as I could, but of course it wouldn’t budge.
It’s probably just that I’m not heavy enough, I told myself with an effort. I placed both hands on the corner of the door frame, braced myself and pushed my feet hard against the floor.
“I apologize for making you wait.”
I jumped, half-screamed, and wheeled around to see who had said that. Half a second later I felt the blood rush to my face. I had no reason to think I was really alone in here, and would stay that way, but now somebody had walked up and greeted me and I had made a fool of myself. It was a new guy, wearing the same grey uniform as the other two guys, and with the same scars on his face. But I was beginning to wonder if they really were scars after all.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said politely. “My name is Craig Tommid, but you may call me Glenn.” He had that same south-by-midwest accent.
“Nice to meet you, Glenn,” I said, shaking his hand. “Faine Channing.” He had a nice firm, confident grip.
“Not Glenn,” he said, looking me in the eye. “Glynn.”
“Oh, Glynn, sorry. Do you not like Craig?” I asked, taking this opportunity to get a good look at him. Whatever those things on his face were that looked like scars, he had them on his neck, too, and the ones on his neck couldn’t be scars. They looked more like fins there, like the fins on the back fenders of some old cars. The others had had them, too.
“Who is Craig?” he asked, tipping his head slightly and giving me a quizzical frown.
“Why are you called Glynn if your name is Craig? Do you not like Craig?”
“My name is not Craig,” he explained. “It’s Kreg. You would spell it K-R-E-G. Kreg Tahmid. Glin is my title. It’s a military rank.”
“Glin is a military rank?” I asked, confused. Or maybe he was the one who was confused.
“Yes. Can I get you anything? Coffee, tea…”
“Water,” I nodded. “Thank you.” It was hot in this place.
“This way,” he said gallantly, bowing slightly and gesturing toward an open doorway. “With lemon or without?”
“With, please,” I answered, following him out of the small, rather plain room into a larger one, furnished with all sorts of things I didn’t recognize. It would take me several minutes to take it all in.
“Ice, I assume?” he continued, walking to a small alcove in one of the walls.
“Yes, please.”
“Ice water with lemon?” he asked again, standing in front of the alcove with his back to me.
“That’s right.”
“Hot fish juice,” he said, still facing the alcove.
“No, thanks!” I laughed. “Ice water is fine.” Maybe it was the power of suggestion, but I suddenly thought I smelled the stench of a fish market.
He turned around, my ice water in one hand and a steaming mug in the other. The smell was coming from the mug. He gave me the water.
“That was quick,” I commented, and took a sip. It felt good, even if the fish smell made it taste bad. “What military is that?” I asked.
Glin Tahmid gave me a look like I wasn’t fooling him, and answered, “Ours, of course.” He crossed the room and I followed, preferring even his company to the feeling of being alone in this room full of strange objects. “Please have a seat.” He waved his mug toward an odd-looking stool on the near side of what must have been a desk.
I sat, not wanting to be rude, but I had no intention of sitting for long. I was going to finish my water and leave.
He didn’t immediately go around the desk and sit down, himself. For a moment he lingered beside me and briefly touched my shoulder. I heard a hissing sound and thought I felt a strange sensation in my neck, but I couldn’t be sure.
“What was that?” I asked.
He ignored the question and walked to his own chair and settled into it. He drank from the stinky mug before asking, “Tell me your name again?”
“Faine Channing.” My water was half gone already.
“Your business on this station?”
“Don’t have any,” I answered honestly. “Like I told the other guy, I’d be happy to get out of your way. I appreciate the water.” I held up my glass. “But I don’t want to take up your time. I can be on my way as soon as I finish this.”
“On your way where?” He settled back in his chair, looking comfortable, and held his mug with both hands like he was enjoying its heat.
“Back home,” I shrugged. I’d need to pick up my suitcase from Connie’s first, but that wasn’t something to bother Glin Tahmid about.
“Where is home?”
“New Hampshire.” I could have my suitcase shipped, if necessary. There was no point in complicating matters here.
“And where is that?”
“New England,” I answered. “North of Massachusetts, west of Maine.”
“A colony, perhaps?”
“Yes, actually. New Hampshire was one of the thirteen original colonies.” So this fellow had an interest in history, then. I hoped I wouldn’t be around long enough to find that bit of trivia useful.
“You admit that you have no business on this station,” he continued. “Why are you here?”
“I didn’t mean to be here,” I said truthfully, realizing how lame that must have sounded.
“Transporter malfunction?” he offered.
I opened my mouth but didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand his words, it was just that if you thought about it, those words didn’t exactly mean anything. It was an official-sounding way of saying that my transportation screwed up. “You could say that,” I agreed at last.
“And where did you transport from?”
“Another colony?”
Back to history again. “Nope, Illinois was never a colony.”
“Chicago is on Illinois, then?”
Oh, great! I thought. This guy is nuts. I’d been suspecting that ever since he’d said Glin was a military rank. “Chicago is in Illinois, yes,” I answered patiently.
“Tell me about Illinois.”
“Well, it was settled by the French, I think. The name comes from Illini. I guess the Illini lived there originally. I don’t know much about it, to be honest with you."
“Honest with me is what you should always be,” he answered. I wondered if the menacing edge in his voice was really there, or it was just my nerves, imagining it.
“Of course,” I smiled, forcing myself to meet his eyes. I finished my water.
“Where is Illinois?” he demanded.
Does this mean I’m no longer in Illinois, or even close to it? I thought. No, it just means I’m locked in a room with a crazy person. Aloud, I said, “West of Indiana, south of Wisconsin, east of the Missisippi River and north of…” I shook my head. “Gee, I don’t even know what it’s north of.”
“I see you just want to play games,” said Glin Tahmid. “Guards!” He took his eyes off me, for once, and focused somewhere behind me.
I turned and saw two more guys walk in through the same doorway that we had, again with the grey uniforms and the facial scars, or whatever they were, and the neck fins. They marched right up to me and stood on either side of me, and I began to stand up. Each guard grabbed one of my arms, and they pulled me the rest of the way to my feet. One of them took my purse away and set it on the desk, and the other one produced a metal rectangle about two feet long. While I was still trying to figure out what it was, they’d locked my wrists in it. How foolish I’d been to think I was going to be able to leave when I’d finished my water!
The guard on my right let go of my arm, and the one on my left pulled me away from the chair. I stood there on the open floor with my hands in the strange rectangular handcuffs, and looked at Glin Tahmid. All at once it occurred to me that he may not be crazy after all. All those stories about secret government research programs, of genetically engineered humans and all that, might just be true after all. Not that that would explain how I’d gotten here.
I cleared my throat, hoping that would keep my voice from squeaking. “Glin,” I said, “I don’t want to play games with you. I just don’t know how to answer your questions.”
“They’re simple enough questions,” he replied. “All I want is the truth.”
“I’m, um, not in a position to argue,” I said, hoping to get back on his gracious side, then added, “obviously.”
“Obviously,” he agreed. “So, if you’re feeling cooperative, tell me, where were you born?” He made a small signal to the guards with his hand.
“New Hampshire.” I couldn’t help feeling like we’d just started the whole bizarre conversation all over again.
“The problem,” he answered in a superior tone, “is that I have no idea where that is, or what that is. Is it a city? A plateau? A continent? A planet?”
“Oh,” I said, “it’s a state.”
“A state. A sovereign governmental entity?”
“No,” I answered, “just one of the fifty American states.” For a split second I wondered if my little ‘transporter malfunction’ could have taken me to a foreign country, but then I dismissed the thought. Glin Tahmid and the first two guys all had American accents. He was playing dumb, then, and playing some sort of head game with me. And as I had said to him, I wasn’t in any position to object.
“American,” he repeated. “At last, a name I recognize. Would it be accurate to say that you were born in a region of North America called New Hampshire?”
“Yes, it would.”
“Good. And are you currently living in New Hampshire?”
“Good. When did you come to Terra Knorr?”
“I…don’t know what Terra Knorr is,” I said hesitantly.
“This station. Perhaps your government calls it by a different name, but we call it Terra Knorr. When did you come to this station?”
“Oh, just a few minutes ago.”
“On what ship?”
“I don’t know,” I answered nervously, then added quickly, “I was unconscious.”
“You were transported unconscious to keep you from knowing about your travel arrangements?”
“That’s right,” I said. It sounded like a plausible explanation, at any rate.
“Who made those arrangements?”
"I don’t know that, either.”
“Well, then, who was your contact?”
“I…it may have been a guy named Derek Dellinger. At least that’s the name I knew him by.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.”
“Is Derek Dellinger a member of Starfleet?”
“I couldn’t tell you that,” I answered, then quickly explained, “I mean, because I don’t know. What is Starfleet? I’m not familiar with it.”
Tahmid signaled the guards again, and the one on my right said quietly, “Hold still.” The left guard held both my arms, above the elbows, and the right one reached up and took a hold of the neck of the top I was wearing. It took me a few seconds to realize that he had a knife, and was cutting it off me. Soon after, it fell to the floor, and for the second time that day I wished I had chosen a thicker, more modest bra. But I didn’t have much time to dwell on that, because as soon as he was done with the top, the guard started cutting my slacks. He must have had a very sharp knife and a lot of practice, because all it took was two quick, neat cuts down the sides and the slacks had joined the top on the floor. I was left standing in my shoes and panties and bra and the strange handcuffs that held my wrists about shoulder-width apart.
Tahmid gestured to the guards again, and asked me, “Is Derek Dellinger a member of Starfleet?”
“As far as I know he’s not,” I answered, “but I’m not even sure if that’s his real name.”
“Is Derek Dellinger human?”
A flag went up in my mind. I’d heard of this technique but never seen it in practice. The idea was that they ask you several questions in quick succession, all of which are easy and innocent and take yes answers. Then in the same tone of voice they ask you to confess to a crime, hoping you’ll answer yes without thinking and incriminate yourself. I took my time and repeated the question in my head before answering. “Yes.”
“What’s the last thing you remember before Terra Knorr?”
That wasn’t a yes or no question, so he must have picked up on my hesitation, realized I was onto his game. That gave me a fleeting sense of victory, until I realized that he had just read me. Interrogators, of course, are supposed to be very perceptive, but I had been subconsciously hoping this one wasn’t. I made a mental note to try not to lie. “I’d just gotten out of a cab in Chicago,” I answered.
“What kind of cab?”
“A licensed yellow Crown Vic.”
“Explain the term ‘Crown Vic’,” he said, seeming relaxed again. “I’m afraid there are many details of your culture I’m still not familiar with.”
“You’re not – “ I began, then cut myself off. “I’m sorry,” I said, “Crown Vic stands for Crown Victoria. It’s a Ford model, and it’s used, a lot of times, for police cruisers and taxis.”
“A vehicle, then?”
“What were you going to say?” he asked. “I’m not what?”
“Oh,” I answered, “I was just surprised to hear that you’re not American. Your English is so good, I thought you were.”
He laughed, a dry, cold laugh, and said, “Oh, you thought I was American. And now what makes you think that I may not be?”
“When you said,” I paused, trying to recall his exact words, and gave up. “Something about not being familiar with my culture.”
“How perceptive of you,” he sneered. “I am not American.” He signaled to the guards again, and almost immediately a strong hand smashed into my face. “In the future you will refrain from sarcasm in this room,” Glin Tahmid ordered.
“Yes, Glin,” I answered breathlessly, hoping to prevent any further blows. I wondered what I’d said that he’d taken as sarcasm, and decided to leave the subject of nationality alone as much as possible. Warm liquid trickled from my right nostril to my lip. It was blood.