What is the difference between Rock and Metal? Mental refinement–something like properly aged wine that comes with hard work, but sold at a reasonable price. The manifestation of that complex emotional ore vein hammered into something intelligent walks into the room. Pocket protector fully stocked. Too many keys swing from his belt loop. Kind eyes smile out from behind thin framed glasses floating above a beard of mostly gray. 70% of what he says makes sense, but the other 30% feels, looks, smells and sounds like a psychedelic trip into the encyclopedia Britannica. You feel smarter and dumber at the same time. It’s comfortable and inviting. Intimidating and inspiring. You can hear the waves crashing in his past. His triumphs over tribulation are listed in his prideless confidence. He is a friend and you can’t help but be happy about that, because friends like this are priceless.
It wasn’t until I heard a subdued cackle at the mention of my character, Darrin The Defenestrator, that I noticed her.
By Jay Gurley
It wasn’t until I heard a subdued cackle at the mention of my character, Darrin The Defenestrator, that I noticed her. How or when she drifted to the table next to ours was unknown, but I couldn’t deny her presence now. She didn’t impose herself on the conversation, but she fell into step with the campaign discussion easily. She looked like she was made for the coffee shop; her hair matched the wood accents of the furniture, her clothes were cozy, and the gently-held book in her hand was apparently well-traveled.
The story of Artemis contains a large number of items from the list of things I look for in fiction, as well as some surprises.
Jazz Bashara is a criminal.
Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.
The concept of this book was already fun. A city on the moon, created by the Andy Weir who wrote the #1 New York Times bestselling novel The Martian? Yes, please. Apparently everyone else had the same thought, because with its recent release, this book was checked out at all my city’s library branches, with even more people calling dibs on its return. I only got my hands on it through conniving schemes and shady deals.
I read The Martian earlier this year and found its penchant for scientific accuracy well-balanced with simple, humorous explanations. You don’t need a degree in science to understand it or Artemisby any means. So don’t let its nerdy reputation stop you, because you’d be missing out.
The story of Artemiscontains a large number of items from the list of things I look for in fiction, as well as some surprises. For starters, Artemis, the moon-city, doesn’t originate from the United States or even Russia (like one comes to expect from science fiction after a fashion), but from Kenya. A refreshing twist. The city’s population is a showcase of realistic diversity in race, religion, socioeconomics, and sexual orientation. At least five women (that immediately come to mind, though there may be more), each kickass and multi-faceted in their own ways, play prominent parts. There are rich people who aren’t evil so much as cunning and ambitious, and rich people who are spineless cowards. There are enemies who rescue their enemies who in turn rescue their enemies, all in keeping with the complexity of human nature. Romantic allusions spring up all the way through, but the main romance–rather than the fantasized version of love I’ve come to despise–unfolds subtly and naturally, low-key enough that it didn’t leave me rolling my eyes.
Jazz Bashara, the Arabic main character, is the smart, snarky, morally ambiguous woman version of Han Solo I’ve dreamt of all my days. Andy Weir already has a good handle on varied and interesting characters, but Jazz herself comes to bright and vibrant life on the page–a natural conglomeration of flaws, bad life decisions, regrets, virtues, experiences, joys, goals, and individual history, to which she alludes throughout the tale, revealing her backstory as a unique person over the course of time as if the reader were getting to know her. She might be the most relatable depiction of a woman written by a man that I’ve ever read, though I’m sure it helps very much that he consulted an army of women (whom he acknowledged and thanked in the author’s note) to make sure he created an accurate representation. I love Jazz. I would have a drink with her and ask her to be my friend. If any more novels featuring her, or really any more by Andy Weir, crop up, it’ll go straight onto my reading list.
There are creatures in this world who mimic useful, everyday objects in the hopes that some hapless animal or person will stray too close, or pick it up, and become the mimic’s next meal. I nearly made the mistake of picking up this UPS vest. For what UPS worker would just leave a work uniform hanging on a dumpster? Curious.
It was alluring, attention-grabbing; soft brown and subtle yellow in the dawn light. Out of place enough to pique the interest of human prey. But as I reached for it, I paused. Swallowed the sudden dryness from my mouth as I turned my wide-eyed gaze on the dumpster itself. Only a UPS worker who’d had no choice would leave this behind. Probably one facing the first stages of digestion right now.
When I came back later, intent upon tossing my trash into the dumpster down the alley, I discovered that only my ordinary dumpster remained, UPS vest vanished. The mimic had moved on, it seemed, perhaps having decided that this area wasn’t good pickings after all.
The first thing one noticed about her was a certain sense of friendly aloofness; she seemed to watch and process the world in a curiously intent manner, spending the spoken word in a rather cautious way that illustrated that mighty currency’s inherent value
I don’t like setting the same goals or learning the same lessons.
Here it is, the second day of the new year, and I’m just now getting a goals post up. New Year’s resolutions about becoming a better person? Please. I’m definitely out to become a better writer, with the hope that the two will somehow equal out in the end. Here’s something of a 2017 recap to segway us into the 2018 future of your lovely scribbling word nerd.
In 2016, I began making a true effort at writing more. Well, writing at all, really. Funny how much getting to college graduation takes from you. At the end of the year, I tallied up my word count to find that I’d written roughly 75,000 words in total. Not too shabby. Like, three quarters of a slim novel’s worth of words. So I made this year’s goal to beat that word count. In an earlier post, I noted that I blew that goal out of the water 9 months in advance of my deadline. So since then, I’ve been keeping track of how much I wrote this year.
So… I didn’t get much farther beyond that goal, but 120k is nothing to sneeze at. The first 100k was 4/5ths of a novel. That extra 20k is made up of thirty (30) character descriptions and seven (7) individual short-stories, one of which received publication in Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol. 2–which I’ve written about extensively at this point–and another of which will be featured as an honorable mention in the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Collection. (Don’t believe me? Go look for the title “Connections” with my name next to it. I’m super proud.) Two were for birthday presents, two are incomplete, and one was a total disaster and will never see the light of day. I don’t regret writing it, because experience points, but wow did it suck.
I can’t say at the moment that I’m too keen to try to beat 120k+ words for this new year. The point of the goal was to get myself writing, because in this craft, any amount of writing equals higher quality and greater skill. Just by setting and meeting that one goal, I expanded my knowledge and understanding of crafting fiction.
Okay, I probably could beat that word count in 2018 if I applied myself. But I don’t like setting the same goals or learning the same lessons. It’s those two incomplete short-stories, as well as the mostly but not quite finished novel, that keep snagging at the fine silk cloth of my accomplishments. I even have another half-done novel from 2016 that’s still awaiting my attention. Clearly there’s a trend here.
So the new goal is this: finish three manuscripts begun in 2017.
In which I update on the future of character descriptions content at Word Nerd Scribbles
The time has come for theCharacter Description Project, which I began in May of this year, to end. That is to say, I ran out of character descriptions to schedule. For a refresher, over the course of a week of vacation from my day job, I wrote some thirty-odd descriptions of my friends on Facebook as if they were characters in a book. I’ve been posting them here since then to get them outside of my social media privacy settings, and we made it almost to the end of 2017 with Thursday posts for my viewers to read about my awesome friends.
My original post called for Facebook friends to leave a comment if they wanted me to write a description for them. But quite a number of them also took the time to write their own character descriptions about me. At the risk of seeming unfathomably egotistical, I saved all of these pieces and have scheduled them to be posted here each week until we run out of those (with permission and credit). I feel that each of them deserves recognition and a modicum of publication for the thought and hard work that went into them, but most of all for the courage that goes into trying your hand at such an incredibly difficult craft. Each of them is about me, but each writer approaches the task with voices and styles unique to the individual. I’m excited to showcase them here on Word Nerd Scribbles and it will be called The Guest Character Description Project.
I dig the notion of keeping Thursday as the day of the week for posting short fiction, so I’ll continue posting (if irregularly) my own vignettes and flash fiction under the Thursday Fiction category, which will house any original works, including the upcoming guest-written character descriptions. I’m toying with the idea of opening the blog up to submissions from guest writers and bloggers; more on that in the future. Until then, my readers are welcome to weigh in on whether you think that would be a good idea or not.