>Someone Left the Door Open

>and all the mad ones have escaped! Or maybe they’ve been taken by the grays who have no pants. Either way, this is your chance to sneak inside and toss your ideas into the pot. Mix well and stand back to see what happens.

Just like before, if you have something you’re working on and want some input, post a small snippet here. If you have a query letter you want folks to take a look at before you send it off, now’s your chance. Same with any questions you might have.

So come on in, make yourselves at home and let us know what you’re thinking. The only rule is no politics — unless it’s part of your story. This is also your chance to let us know what interests you. Is there anything you’d like us to blog about over the next several weeks? Let us know.

The safety seal has been broken and the floor is yours. Please be sure to leave it when you return to your normal lives. Sarah hates trying to mop a dirt floor, something about dirt and water making mud [shrug].


  1. >Is this a hint, Amanda? I'm going to ask Amanda a question offline before I post anything from the aliens with no pants story. So here's the beginning of my rough draft comedy "Confronting the Black Tower". I'm unsure as to lenght, so hopefully this fits with what is wanted…The knight rode his armored Steed through the gilded marble gates of his tower and down the well-manicured road. The road – covered with a soft, dry dust and edged with marble paving stones – meandered down the mountainside. But the knight was in no mood to meander. He charged down the road, lance lowered, visor ready to drop at a moment’s notice. Blond hair showing through his helmet, blue eyes narrowed in rage, the valiant hero charged his horse past the solitary oak tree that comprised Lots-of-Trees Forest. The horse never paused as it crossed the trestle over all fifteen meters of the Never-Ending Sea. However, the knight halted his forward progress long enough to allow his Mighty Steed to drink from the stream that made up Mighty River before crossing the ten-meter sand circle of the Deadly Desert. Past the deadliest of the journey’s hazards, the knight guided his mighty stallion through the lowlands of Wheat Harvest before encountering the Mucky Swamp. A full two kilometers after departing his White Tower, the knight slowed his charge. The gate of the Dark Tower was fast approaching. Rusted black wrought iron festooned with skulls, plus bits and pieces of would-be challengers, not to mention a pretty pink bow, the gate stood in abject silence. It mocked everything the White Tower stood for. The enemy within though – the “Mistress” of the Black Tower – she demanded even the most valiant hero tread carefully. Or at least an iron gate required a hero to do something other than run his horse into it at full tilt. “Open up!” The knight cried from atop his mighty beast. “I demand that you release my servant at once or face my righteous wrath!” The heroic knight’s demands were answered with underwhelming silence. “Evil mistress of the Dark Tower! I demand the return of my servant at once!” Again silence. The knight, overcome with rage at this lack of respect for his demands, dismounted his Mighty Steed and strode over to the gate where he delivered a mighty, armored kick. Nothing. The hero walked slowly back to his horse, pondering as he went. So lost in thoughts of charging the gate and breaking into the tower to rescue his servant was he, that he almost didn’t notice the little black box with a red button sitting on a pole nearby. Ah, but the knight did notice this box with a button. And, being of noble mind and gallant heart, he determined to press the button. Oh, press it he did.

  2. >Chris, you are an evil, twisted man. That's why we like you.That said, you might want to look at flagging the humor a little earlier – the first paragraph has nothing in it to suggest anything other than the most generic of generic fantasy.Oh, and teensy nitpick – if he's charging with his lance lowered, his visor is down. You are going to share the rest, right?

  3. >"You want me to infiltrate those things?" Captain Erob looked at the hologram in horror, unconsciously rubbing his left hand over the gleaming green scales of his right arm. The creatures were hairy where they weren't naked, tangled masses of variously colored hair over sickly pale skin. Crude garments that appeared to be made from the hides of (hopefully) other types of animals. Clubs. A few long spears, some with large points on them that appeared to be chipped from stone."Fortunately they are erect, two armed bipeds. Pity they don't have tails. Or muzzles."Erob felt his body temperature dropping. Nano skin alterations would be bad enough, but, but, his tail? And that much facial reconstruction was going to be painful."They look pretty primitive, surely they wouldn't care one way or the other about a tail…" He dribbled off into silence at the look he was getting from Colonel Alic."Now," the Colonel drew his attention back to the meat of the report. "The cometary scavenger viruses have fully contaminated the outer reaches of this system. They must have been there for hundreds of millions of years. Obviously, with an intelligent species, however primitive, we can't just nova the star and be done with it. We're going to start cleansing the outer system, and work in. We need to know if the virus has reached this planet, and if so, whether the animals there have been able to fight it off. If the native life forms have developed immunity, there won't be a problem. If not, we may have to take drastic measures.""Right." Erob straightened his spine. Somebody had to do the tough jobs. "So, I need to tame some of these…people, and set up a shop sampling and testing biota. How many agents are you inserting, and how long a time span are we looking at?""Fortunately the cometary virii spread between systems so slowly that we don't need to rush. We're sending you in alone, first, to survey the situation. We're planning on several agents on every continent. We'll start by dropping you in the center of this continent. The sophonts have not reached it, or at least hadn't when the preliminary robotic survey was made. We think a ten year survey, and then we'll move into the sophont's territory." A light flashed on the Colonels desk. "Now, if you accept this assignment, the nano lab is ready for you."Ten years without a tail. No scales. Otherwise, a plum assignment. Erob felt his usual pre-mission excitement rising. A whole new world to explore, a newly discovered intelligent species that was, superficialities aside, very like them."Of course I'll go." He nodded decisively to his superior officer. ***The warp point flashed briefly into existence, the pod flicked out and almost immediately hit the atmosphere. It dropped quickly, braking all the way and landed on the flat plain. A nice central location, but Captain Erob wished it had been closer to the mountains for a bit of scenery. When he had a window, that was. Right now, the ship was digging in, and camouflaging the top surface. Once he'd located, or not, the natives, he'd reorganize it. It was nearly dawn, local time. He dressed in an approximation of native clothes—you should pardon the abuse of the term—grabbed his weapons—and climbed out the top hatch.It was a spectacular morning. Clear crisp air, a pink blush in the east, slight breeze.The only thing he could see in the rolling green savanna was a long straight line to the south. Could it be a road? The increasing light gleamed off fast moving vehicles. An approaching roar pulled his eyes up to the sky. The absurd construction had two stiff rectangular wings sticking out each side, and a propeller on the front. It roared overhead, showing the dangling wheels. With streamlining like that it was hard to believe it could even get off the ground. Very primitive.He ran a hand through his tangled hair, and frowned down at his hairy skinned toga. The faux-stone tipped spear. Not this primitive. "Oh, crap."

  4. >Chris, would I toss a hint in your directions? More to the point, would I do it when I'm being in getting my comments to you on a short story or two? ;-)I will agree with Kate that you need to show the humor just a tad earlier so you let the reader know this isn't the run of the mill fantasy.

  5. >Matapam, love it. It does, as Kate said, work as flashfic. However, I want more. I want it now. So…where is it? What are you waiting for? I'm going to hold my breath until I can read the rest of the story…okay, I'll just wait as patiently as I can. Sigh.

  6. >Well, two of you have determined that I am definitely twisted. Yay! Sorry though Amanda, Kate has the full version of the Tower story now… you were too slow. XDNow, as to Amanda bating me… With her permission, here is the opening to "Pants", my story about why those stupid Grays don't wear clothes:What a strange species. Xerog thought to himself. The little gray person was in his study watching one of the millions of radiated energy signals this species produced at prodigious rates. His wall, currently configured to display these signal for him, showed two of the species engaged together in some sort of horizontal act. One of the aliens had short, dark colored hair. The other had long, light colored hair. They were energetically bouncing against one another. An audio signal was playing a discordant noise that Xerog had yet to determine the significance of. He directed his computator to save and catalogue this signal for later study and began searching through the myriad other radiated mediums. His wall displayed hundreds of small images as each signal was decoded and presented. Embedded sensors in Xerog’s large, bulbous eyes tracked each image and aided his brain in absorbing the information they represented. Relaxing in his couch, Xerog propped his spindly legs on a hovering footstool and allowed the information to be absorbed. Here a strange four-legged creature with horns was eating a common plant species. There an orange and white furry creature was pouncing on a black and white member of the same species, resulting in odd noises being generated from the strange species off screen. One image was of another quadrupedal creature with horns suddenly running away as a primitive projectile weapon struck it, to the hushed yet excited vocal emanations once again off screen. And back over here was— Oh my! What are those creatures doing? Xerog stared in amazement. A constant procession of the longhaired variant of the species was marching purposefully down a long stage. Upon reaching the end they would stop, make some funny looking, but obviously purposeful, gestures and then march back up the stage. But their skin! Every single hide was different! That one flapped all about. This one seemed to encase the entire locomotive mechanisms in a flexible sheath. Some even appeared to just change color in the species pelvic and chest region while remaining light or dark everywhere else. And then–! And then one of the creatures reached the end of the stage and pulled a piece of skin off! It then draped it over its shoulder and made the funny movements before walking back up the stage. Xerog had an epiphany. “That isn’t skin!” He exclaimed. “It’s, it’s… I don’t have a word for it, but they’re wearing it! By the stars they’re wearing it!”

  7. >That's the prologue to "It's All Sarah's Fault" She started it, and my sense of humor got loose. Next thing you know there space aliens, shape changers and spies all in the middle of WWI. Well, no. Actually right at the end, but . . . Oh, and a witch. Must not leave out the witch.Caves in the mountains. Romance and betrayal. Sabotage. Daring escapes.Thirty thousand words of totally unpublishable tripe. Very theraputic. I should stick it up on my Live Journal page, just so I can inflict it on someone.Oh, yes, I did get a mention of the Red Baron in there, but he was dead before the story started. Honest.

  8. >Chris, The Gray Alien is excellent. The Knight made me feel like I'm watching a kid playing with his toy soldier/knights. As the others said, get the humor warning in early, and also more context. Let us know what sort of universe this story is being played out in.And do all this without a data dump!Sigh. Looking at Sarah's Fault, I see that I'm starting with a prologue, jumping forward in time to start Chapter One with a whole new character as she wakes from a nightmare. ::sigh:: How many times have I told people to not do any of those things, eh?

  9. >This is the start of a renaissance fantasy/sci-fi type thing. It's getting close to ready.Scott (who lurks here all the time but has never commented)———-The winch mechanism, ten meters tall and half that wide, was a hulking, cast-iron monster. Bolts as large as dinner-plates pimpled the dark surface. Rust, like dandruff, flecked its shoulders. Braced and chained and wedged, it looked into the night over the edge of the skyland, groaning and humming with internal tension. It strained invisibly against its bonds.Kade felt like the winch. Standing in the inland corner of the Local Yard he strained silently against the invisible bonds that held him to this inconsequential skyland, to its insignificant people.A group of boys, milling about in the dust, looked from the winch to Whiparill's part time soldiers to the Watch Tower. They pointed at each shift in cloud beyond the wall as if it were the first hint of what was to come.Kade couldn't see anything much at all but he knew Tribalin was close by. It was as if the other skyland had a gravity all its own or a siren song he couldn't resist."Be a while yet before we dock."Startled, angry, Kade snapped his attention away from the shifting clouds and looked around. He saw Laro climbing down from his lorry near the gate.Kade tried to calm his breathing. A little while longer. Soon, none of this will matter. "What?"The old man gestured to the Watch Tower as he went through the ritual of lighting his pipe. "We'll start to see some action up there before anything really happens."Most skylands docked fairly regularly so everyone knew how it worked. Everyone had seen it dozens of times before. Even so, the awe was evident in Laro's voice. It was evident in the faux casualness of the boys and the obvious impatience of all the other spectators. Two flying islands coming together like kissing leviathans was not a sight that one quickly grew bored with. Any other day Kade might have been as excited as everyone else. But not today. Not this time.

  10. >Scott, a good start, with a strange version of a moderately familiar mechanism to catch our interest. You tell us right away what sort of universe this is. What we don't know is anything about Kade. A hint of his position in the society (visiting outsider, spy, local guard just expelled???) might be usefully added, if it doesn't come up pretty soon.

  11. >Chris,since I suspect most of us here are flies, [if not all of us] your lack of sanity isn't exactly news to those of us who've been paying attention. 😛

  12. >Scott, great description of the winch. It grabbed my attention and kept me reading. I do want to know more about your POV character and who/what he is. That said, I'd love to read more. Good luck with it!

  13. >Matapam, I thought everything was Sarah's fault. At least when it comes to some of our more, er, interesting writing ideas. She does seem to bring them out in us…and laughs the whole time she does. ;-p

  14. >Chris, keep in mind that those data dumps are useful for you to keep as a reference. So write them, then make a game out of it. "What is the absolute minimum I can give the reader, and let their experience and imagination fill in the rest?" You just have to steer the readers imagination a tiny bit.I'm not an expert, but on this offering, I did a pretty good job. "You want me to infiltrate those things?" Captain Erob looked at the hologram in horror, unconsciously rubbing his left hand over the gleaming green scales of his right arm.First sentence, what have I got? Hologram implies a high tech environment. Captain implies a military or governmental agent. Green scales establishes that we're talking aliens and implies something about them.Mind you, it's a bit of a clunker of a sentence. But it keeps the reader from veering off into imagining a human or a historic period.Later, I imply something about the period in Earth's history with a biplane. Which timewise doesn't really work, with a WWI story setting just fifteen years after the Wright brothers. It's one of the many things I'll have to fix, should a fad for insanely silly stories ever arise.

  15. >I've changed the second paragraph (well, just added an extra sentence) to give a bit of character info. ———-Kade felt like the winch. Standing in the inland corner of the Local Yard he strained silently against the invisible bonds that held him to this inconsequential skyland, to its insignificant people. He was the thief, but Whiparill had stolen ten years of his life.

  16. >Matapam, if it was WW TWO I should as hell hope the Red Baron is dead. NOT that that will save him. It will avail him as much as Marlowe…You know what? After I dig out from under the current pile o' stuff I should read that thing, then come on down to Taixas to visit Amanda (will be summer by then, probably September, actually) and we hsould meet halfway between and you and I should beat this thing into some form of shape. If it's my fault, maybe I should get you out of it. Even if it ends up being a collaboration, the way Jim wanted it.

  17. >Glad the helped. Extra sentence helped. I didn't want to give too much away too early but obviously don't want to leave people floundering too much.And, unfortunately, there are no winch wenches anywhere.

  18. >WW one. Definitely. You made some comment about Ultima running along the cliff, and Black Ops Witches, and my brain took off with it. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.;)

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