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FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: 200 WORDS AT A TIME, PART ONE

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/11/22/flash-fiction-challenge-200-words-at-a-time-part-one/

The link above will take you to the flash fiction challenge that Chuck Wendig is running over at his blog. Compose 200 words, link it back and then pick another author’s story, write another 200 for their story and so forth for five weeks until a story is finished.

Here is my contribution.
——-

We are always meant to be pregnant; we daughters of Queens. We mothers of Queens. We are destined to hold a screaming infant upon our breasts, bloodied and exhausted from delivery and rooting for sustenance. We are meant to swaddle, cuddle and coo down at our future rulers. We, the perpetual regents. 

The first daughter set foot upon Winter colony, shielded against new and foreign elements in a sealed white suit and gold-plated helmet. In the older, rarer reels, she mimics a kiss through the raised, visor, touching the glass with thickly padded and protected gloved fingers. Unfastening the bulky suit, slender and still protected hands settle upon the United Agencies logo which adorns her chest and the sewn-on identification patch. Commander Eridana has landed in her new home. In the glare of sunset, the one photographer who accompanied the journey is unable to mitigate the fading light but captures the silhouette of a now noticeable pregnancy.

We will never be called “Princess”, nor inherit any throne. Should our perfect Queens fall, we simply produce another. Some have written us into our history holos as drones, reminiscent of ancient Apis mellifera.  We are the enduring members of a hive, feeding our potential matriarchs with the royal, nanotech jelly, occasionally coveting a taste but wary of the price. 

weight loss words in letterpress

From Me to Me at 281.7

About nine months ago on March 7th, I started a weight loss journey. I weighed 326lbs. My health was failing, I was far more depressed than I was happy. I could not sleep. I’d wake up with pain. I used food to cure everything, and instead it gave me more problems. Every day, I’d wake up and the war would start again. I’d tell myself that I could have a good day. That everything would be fine. That I could get through the day without going insane with food.

I finally started to do something about it. I started a meal replacement plan. I figured that the only way to fix myself was to wipe the slate clean. To retrain myself and rewrite habits. It was and continues to be the hardest thing  to face every day. I fail. A lot.

Today, I weighed myself. I am 281.7 lbs.

Some of you who don’t know the background are probably thinking that 45 lbs is damn good in 9 months. And it is. But, the sad truth is that 281.7 is up from where I was in September.

I returned home from Worldcon in Chicago at 274. I proceeded to get sick(unrelated to weight loss) and was in the hospital for 14 days. I had pieces of me taken out. I lost more weight and was down to 258. I had to start everything from scratch. My eating habits were broken. They did not let me have anything to eat for 12 days and pumped me full of fluids. Naturally, the first thing I did when I got home and started recovery was eat like a pig.

I couldn’t exercise either, which put a damper on my mood and spirit. I ate more to compensate for those feelings. See the cycle?

So I made a deal. Yes, another deal with myself. You see, people like us make constant deals to circumvent progress.

“I’ll start tomorrow.”

“One cookie (which turns in to 10) won’t hurt.”

“I’ll work doubly hard tomorrow.”

I made a deal that I’d start the diet again and the exercise regime after the holidays. Until then, gluttony was totally okay because everything would be fixed come January 2nd, 2013 . That would be the first day.

I regret that decision a lot. (People like us do that a lot too.) I have a lot of ground to make up. However, the first day has been okay. Hard, but okay. Despite the appetite suppressant and following the diet and the moderate exercise I did, my stomach wants more. It’s angry and hates me. It tells me so.  A side effect of training it to want and demand more.

At 326, I made a video as to why I was doing this. What I wanted to accomplish. Perhaps I will share that with you some day.

At 281.7, I made another video that I am electing to post. As a reminder of how far I’ve come, how far I’d like to go, why I am starting again and where I’d like to be.

Say what you will, but recording the video has not only sparked the desire once again, but my fingers  have been too busy typing  and not shoving shit in my mouth.

So here I am. From me to me at 281.7.

It’s not for you to enjoy, but to listen, understand and for those of you who are struggling with the same thing, to emphasize that you are most certainly, not alone.

From Me to Me at 281.7 from Kate Baker on Vimeo.

The Last Candle

Tonight, my family and I attended a vigil remembering the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  I had spoken to my twelve year old daughter and sixteen year old son about the event as I was sure they’d hear about from friends in their own schools. I needed them to know that they were safe. Perhaps telling them so made me feel just a little bit better as I prepare to send them back to school tomorrow. Yet I couldn’t bear to tell my youngest. As we are all aware, we grieve not only for the adults lost but for the smallest of voices silenced on Friday morning.

Allyson is the same age.  I can’t take that innocence away from her. Not yet. I can’t tell her news that would possibly make her feel unsafe or heighten her anxiety. It’s hard not to pull her into a hug at every moment, and I couldn’t share with her why we had gathered on the steps of the Church in town on a cold, rainy evening. Yet she stood there, quiet and respectful, whispering softly whenever she needed to speak with me. She sang in her boldest voice, though she did not know the words of the songs, and bowed her head though she has not been formally taught to pray.

A crowd of around one hundred  hugged and held candles that swiftly blew out due to wind. We prayed for the victims and spoke of forgiveness. We listened and cried  as each name was read complete with age, inciting anger and sorrow within our hearts.  We stared in awe as the last name was called and a small table stood beautifully bold and full of the fire of lives snuffed out just two days ago.

The candle that Allyson held in her hands quickly flickered out due to the wind. Unable to bear her disappointment, I gave her mine and held her darkened tea light. Lexie’s flame faded and was quickly followed by the light Will held in his hand. Allie found all of this quietly amusing until her candle once again succumbed to the weather. My father quickly remedied the situation, offering our family’s last light to her which held for the remainder of the ceremony.

My heart  is with the victims and the families of Newtown, CT. I reflect in silence and respect of the first and last responders who waded through hell and will forever remember the horror of that day.  As people, we grieve for those who were lost, whose lights were so quickly dimmed and smothered. As parents, unbelievable grief touches us in our souls and stomachs, wishing that no one should experience the void of a lost child, or mother, or son or daughter.

I stood there on those steps, watched my breath dissolve with each syllable of song and thought about all of this. This moment, these last few days, the passing, so thoughtfully of a flame from grandfather to granddaughter, so that she could cup that light in her hand. There was no thought to these actions. It was immediate, just as sure as the intentions of  teachers who selflessly stepped in front of bullets to protect their students.

To me, Allyson represented all those little lights tonight. She held them and protected them all in the last candle that didn’t go out.

It’s Only a Play

I have always been a believer in fate. That sometimes, we need to hear or see or experience moments that put everything we’re dealing with into perspective. It might be the words from a dear friend at 3 AM in a strange city, who tells you that everything is going to be okay. Or ideas from a movie or song or story that help you work past a difficulty.  I believe we often find ourselves in the right place at the right time. Some of us see it. Some of us don’t. I know that on more than one occasion, I have muttered to myself that things couldn’t have happened any other way.

Ever since coming home from the hospital, I’ve been struggling with a lot of different issues. Slowly finding ways to cope with the major surgery and recovery. The bouts of emotional craziness that follows when you’ve been opened up and pieces of you are taken out. Fretting on the  night before surgery that should something happen, your kids who just came to visit and wish you luck, may never see you again. Writing emotional letters for them to find on your hard drive should your fears be substantiated. Realizing shortly after your surgery is over that you are powerless on your path. Neil Finn sums it up brilliantly in the song, “Anytime.” (I hope you can infer the subject of the song without having to look it up.)

These thoughts and feelings mess with you on a daily basis until you learn to accept them. Initially, I found myself angry at my inability to be normal. Intermixed with periods of depression and bouts of crying, I just desperately wanted to feel like me again. I didn’t want to give in to idea that something in me changed during those fourteen days.

Having a particularly rough couple of days, tonight, I went and saw my son perform in “Our Town”. While I wanted to celebrate his success, I arrived and took my seat with the attitude that I was about to waste three hours of my life watching a bunch of high-school kids traipse around the stage and overact.

I was horribly wrong.

I don’t think they truly get it, these sixteen and seventeen year old children. How fleeting life is, how full of passion and anger and triumph and failure. As the third act started and the lump in my throat finally subsided as my son exited stage left, successful in his part, I finally understood the meaning of the show.

Death has taken Emily, one of our lead actresses in the play. We grow to know her in act one as a child. As quickly as the curtain rises in act two, so has she grown into a young woman in love. The whirlwind of life continues until shortly after we find out that a spot in the town cemetery has been saved for a woman who has recently passed away. The empty seat facing the audience has been held for our Emily.

In denial of her current predicament, she begs to go back and relive one, painless day in her life only to realize that she missed it all as it was happening. Full of regret and resignation, she returns to her plot and offers this revelation to those who’ve passed before her. Unsurprisingly, they all nod in agreement only after some of her new companions give up their own long-held self-resentments for their behavior while alive.

I am crying buckets by this point in the show and no matter how much I try to compose myself, I can’t.  Emily told me what I needed to hear — death is inevitable. Worrying about it only steals time from the people who matter most in our lives. We do not get to relive the happy and sad days after the curtain has closed. We are  doomed to only see the things we did not do, the people we didn’t appreciate, the places we never got to visit and lament the love we will never feel again.

I brought my two daughters to this show. As we walked back towards the exit, I asked Lexie to distill the meaning of what she saw. At the innocent age of twelve, she turned to me and said, “Don’t be afraid to live life to the fullest.”

The tears I thought I had under control surfaced again.

“It was only a play, mom.”

“And what about you, Allie?”, I asked my youngest, biting my tongue in protest of my rising emotion.

“The last part made me sad.”

“Me too, hon. Me too.”

Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe each on their own, the seven, twelve, sixteen and seventeen year old kids do get it on some level. I’d like to think that as we mature, what was raw emotion experienced by a young child evolves into understanding and further grows into action. Perhaps one has to be in the right place at the right time to really understand what it is to truly live a life.

I can’t tell you how to spend the remainder of your days, short as they may be. Time passes in the blink of an eye, after all. The only thing I know is that I will be far more focused on the living part of life than the dying.

It is so much more than a play.

 

 

Well, Hello Again.

*waves* Hello there.

You might remember me. I used to write to you all the time on rice paper with rich indigo inks. On brightly colored stationary, in journals both electronic and old world. Every day, in fact.

I am so sorry for neglecting you. I feel incredibly bad that for every time I got the urge to come visit, I would instead procrastinate. I had things to do! Important things. On days you made the journey home, you would sit right in front of me and stare. There was no malice behind your multi-colored eyes, just hope and a need for understanding.  Instead, I chose news sites and comics, videogames and TV over you. I chose the mundane.

You’ve gift-wrapped yourself numerous times, begging me to tug on that sexy, satin ribbon. I remember the last time I pulled off the bow. Do you? Do you recall the magic that ensued?

You’ve even visited me in dreams, only then to wake me with fevered kisses that made me sit up in bed wishing I had the energy to wrap my arms around you.

Do you even miss me? I miss me. I miss you terribly. I miss the times we had together, dancing upon the ink and page to artfully chosen music. Letting the mood carry us to worlds both known and un. Reveling in rebirth from the ashes of burned and unworthy creation, pulling something from nothing. Loving every.single.moment.

All I find now, is pretentiousness and I am lost as I traverse this world without your caress. Will you take me back? Dance with me again, whisper sweet nothings in both my ear and in my dreams. Bring me the wines of creativity and the pears of substance. Be with me again through my mercurial moments and laugh with me when I find the sun.

My muse, my love, my world.

 

 

KateBaker_Clarkesworld_Hugo

Renovation Worldcon Recap

                                                                                                   (Excellent photo by Warren Schultz)

I had one hell of a weekend.

Got to Reno on Thursday night and proceeded to walk the distance from the Peppermill to the convention center as the bus never showed. Apparently, the driver refused to clean up vomit from an earlier passenger. Carrying a large load of SFWA t-shirts, I was a bit flustered when I got there, only because of the heat and the higher altitude. I could not breathe but as I found out on Saturday night, high altitude and a stuffy nose isn’t the only thing to draw away your breath.

After a badge mishap was rectified and a new one created, I was able to finally settle in. I wandered to the SFWA table where I dropped off the shirts and hugged Steven H. Silver. If you ever get a chance to hang around this man in a non-stalker type way, please do. He is wonderful, charming and a great conversationalist.

I headed over to the Chesley Awards and met Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace. Although none of our artists won the magazine category that Clarkesworld was in, Julie Dillon who offered up a magnificent piece for one of our covers won in another category. She is an extraordinarily talented person and I highly recommend you check her out.

I am pretty sure I crashed a bit early that night.

The rest of the weekend is kind of blurry. I know I ended up taking multiple taxis to and from the hotel only because the bus service was non-existent. I also remember having mild seizures in the Peppermill buffet due to the “lightning effects” or due to the food. Not sure which.

My one panel on creating a successful podcast was a blast. I started off the hour really nervous then finally settled in. In the very excellent company of Howard Tayler, Rachel Bloom, Mur Lafferty, Eric Zuckerman, we had some really great things to say about getting started in a field that continues to explode in popularity. Also, if you are lucky to get Howard Tayler as your moderator, you will have an awesome panel. He’s one of the best out there. He kept the conversation focused, asked all the right questions and was extremely interesting. You should definitely check out  Writing Excuses and his excellent graphic novel, Schlock Mercenary.

I know I met and hung out with a ton of wonderful people, which I will now name drop because it was totally awesome and really, how often do you get to name drop like this? Mur Lafferty, Patrick Hester, Jeff Macfee, Warren Schultz, Christie Yant, Christopher Kastensmidt, Peggy Rae Sapienza, Steven H. Silver, Steven Gould, George R.R. Martin, John Scalzi, Kim Stanley Robinson, Paul Cornell, Sheila Williams, Stu Segal, Steven Segal, Rachel Swirsky, Nora Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal, Yanni Kuznia, Jake Lake, Lynne Thomas, Tara O’Shea, Howard Tayler, Rachel Bloom, Eric Zuckerman, Aliette de Bodard, Saladin Ahmed, Rajan Khanna, Jaym Gates, Wendy Wagner, Lawrence Schoen, Taylor Anderson, Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, Nick Mamatas, Jeremy Tolbert, Bud Sparhawk, Chris Hansen, Lee Martindale, Bob Howe, Jim Fiscus and Doug Cohen. (forgive me if in my jet-lagged state I missed a name!)

Special thanks to Vylar Kaftan who went shopping for a Hugo Awards necklace with me. Although we didn’t find one on that trip, Vylar has a amazing eye for beautiful things.

Speaking of Hugo Awards, you might have heard that Clarkesworld won for best semi-prozine. Before the ceremony, Sean Wallace asked me if I wanted to say anything if we won. I had a speech all set to go in my head.

“Are you sure you don’t want to write it down?” Sean asked incredulously.

“Nah. I’ve got it right here,” I say as I point to my addled brain. “Besides, we’re not going to win anyway. ”

As David Hartwell was announcing the winner, Neil, Sean and I looked at each other and were convinced it was going to someone else. They had mentioned in the practice that they were only going to bring one on stage, but hell, I got caught up in the moment and forgot.

I will tell you one thing about winning something you’re not expecting. Reality sort of fades as adrenaline starts flowing through your excited body. I had to keep whatever wits I had left to manage coherent thought. I don’t remember practically shaking with glee and saying “Oh My God!” on stage. I don’t remember how just only a few the words snaked their way out of my memory to the microphone.

What I truly wanted to say was this:

Let me tell you a story of thanks. To my children who were my first and most critical audience in their pajamas as the sun was setting, thank you. To my best friend in the entire world, James Seals who allowed me to narrate some of his works into a $12 microphone, I wouldn’t be standing here without your encouragement. To the wonderful Mary Robinette Kowal who offered my name to Neil Clarke as a reader, I am forever in your debt. To Neil, Sean Wallace, Cheryl Morgan, and the rest of the staff at Clarkesworld, I could ask for no better friends and colleagues.  I wish you were here to celebrate with us, Cheryl. You are missed. To the nominees in the category, you have set the bar in excellence and I am extremely proud to stand with you. Finally, to the fans who voted for us — thank you so very much for allowing me to be the voice of Clarkesworld Magazine. It is truly an honor and a privilege to narrate some of the finest stories by some of the best authors in the field every single month.

Instead, as I stood upon the stage looking into the utter blackness of the room with my heart leaping out of my chest, I got only the gist. But one thing remains true as I type this recap. I am truly thankful for every single moment in this community and for the votes we received. You have made me a very humbled woman.

Now — onto next year.

 

 

The Doctor’s Wife Recap

More often than not when I read Neil Gaiman’s writing, I end up blubbering at the end. This week’s Doctor Who episode penned by the master storyteller was no exception. There is humanity and truth in Gaiman’s tales and most importantly a reminder of how precious our lives are beyond the books we’re holding and the TVs we are watching.

This episode spelled redemption for the Doctor. After hundreds of years of carrying around the guilt for stealing the TARDIS, it is the heart and soul of the living entity that claims to have stolen him. It was “her” wish to travel the universe and no other man was brave enough to accompany her.

This wasn’t about the thing that ripped the soul from the body and stole it. This wasn’t even about Amy and Rory getting lost in the depths of the blue police box. This episode was about the whispers heard and felt within the joined hearts and minds of two soul mates.

This episode was about finishing each other sentences, feeling passion for each other and working together to solve a crisis. A romance that was wholly embodied in a warm and brilliant script. Above all else, this was about love, about not wasting opportunities to tell someone how much you feel, to cherish each moment you have and to truly live your life as it is as fleeting and fragile as each passing heartbeat. (In this case, a double rhythm.)

Well done, Mr. Gaiman. Only now is the color of both sadness and hope draining from my cheeks.

Amy Pond

SFF Weekend Breakdown: Doctor Who

Doctor Who is bordering on an obsession for me. Oh hell, I can’t lie, there are only about three times where I’ve been this into a show or a movie. The first was Twin Peaks when I was in junior high. The second was the movie Titanic. Usually, this immersion consists of buying everything I can possibly get my hands on that reminds me of said obsession. I bought Laura Palmer’s diary, the Twin Peaks cookbook and the Dale Cooper tapes.

Titanic was a different monster. I wanted to know everything there was about the ill-fated ship. I researched both the history and what Cameron used in the film.

With Doctor Who this fun has spread throughout the family. The youngest in the family insists because she has red hair like Amelia, that we call her “Pond”. We were also walking through Target and came across a shirt that looked similar to what Amy wears in the season 6 opener. She insisted we buy it. We all own sonic screwdrivers, and the girls even bought me a USB Tardis for Christmas this year. I still want the Tom Bakker scarf and a remote control Dalek. My ten year old on the other hand could probably tell you how the Tardis works and sits rapt and loves every episode no matter what happens.

I wish I could be as forgiving. I both cursed and sang Moffat’s praises with the first two episodes of the season. I was terrified and wanted to crawl beneath the covers during parts. The Silence is probably the most disturbing enemy the Doctor has faced since the Weeping Angels and the episodes were cleverly written pulling in elements of season five.

My Top Five, err… Eight Matt Smith Episodes:

“Vincent and the Doctor”
“The 11th Doctor”
The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon

So I’m cheating there. But those two parters were pretty amazing.

I find when the cast includes River Song, I tend to enjoy the episodes even more.

And this brings me to the third episode of series six, “The Curse of the Black Spot”. Again, the youngest daughter loved it, hiding her eyes behind her hands and peeking when the evil mermaid/AI/futuristic sickbay doctor came on screen. The 10 year old just sat and stared and loved every minute. “It.was.awesome!”

Unfortunately, I did not. Sometimes I hate myself for growing up. I can’t help but pick apart the issues with this filler episode. Everything from why the “siren” would physically attack people who got in her way or endangered her patients. Didn’t make much sense. I could have seen her placing them in an unbreakable cage instead. I also wondered why despite having the ability to move time/space and teleport the sick and injured to her sickbay, why she did not have the ability to fix them. Lots of unnecessary irony in this episode to build tension I guess.

Granted, I’m not saying Doctor Who is sound scientifically, but usually when the story sucks me in, I can forgive the little or rather large things that don’t seem quite right. There is something about Moffat’s writing that allows me to relax into the tale he’s weaving and emotionally invest myself. I hate to say it, but despite having pirates and some fun moments, there wasn’t any real emotional connection for me. Although to give some credit, I will say the last five minutes were extremely moving and despite knowing that Rory survives, I was worried for him. That right there is the strength of Matt Smith, Karen Gillian and Arthur Dorval.

Good news though – this episode isn’t my least favorite. I still think that goes to the Spitfires in space/Dalek third episode from last season. Too many WTF’s there.

Next week, one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman writes the episode. I hear from numerous sources that this is the gateway drug to get non-Whovians to believe. I hope so and I can’t wait.