Tag Archives: beast: wild genius

Thursday Fiction: Midnight Thoughts of Troubled Minds

Writing 150I was a little late with getting to the end of Veniamin’s story, so I thought I would offer two vignettes this week instead! This one is a bit longer than I expected it would be; once I got into it I really wanted to give it the time it needed. That’s why it’s up today instead of yesterday!

Anyway, this is the first of four Beast vignettes this month. I wanted to test out how a story featuring the X-Men would sound, and whether I could get a good handle on Hank McCoy, how he thinks and speaks, what the world is like for him. Consider this a bit of practice for Beast: Wild Genius. I’m hoping that the more I write this, the more I can refine the voices and make them sound “truer”. This one is 2093 words.

It was 1 AM at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, and it was mostly quiet. The nocturnal students were catching up on their courses in the hologram room, and the bamfs could be heard apparating in the hallways and snickering in their mischief, but almost everyone was asleep. It was one of the only times Dr. Henry McCoy, Principal and Head Scientist, felt completely at ease roaming the grounds.

He stalked the empty hallways, his sensitive nose wrinkling at the faint trace of brimstone the bamfs always left behind. He tapped a console near the front door to check on Krakoa and any possible threats from outside; there were none. He glanced around to make absolutely sure there was no one stirring, and then went into the staff kitchen.

Beast tapped another console, which slid open to reveal a hidden compartment inside the wall. He grabbed the precious cargo inside, fetched himself a cup of tea and spread it out in front of his chair. A treat for oneself should be a feast for the eyes as well as for the taste buds, after all. He took a moment to drink in the sight of the chamomile tea and two Twinkies, then let the combined smell of over-processed herbal drink and hyper-preserved sugar, fat and bread fill his nostrils. It was all too rare to enjoy a moment like this.

The first Twinkie disappeared as quickly as he inhaled. The chamomile he sipped more slowly; the steaming hot liquid scalded his tongue pleasantly, mingled briefly with the delightful chemical taste of the confection before washing it away. Hank sighed deeply and leaned back in his chair, ignoring the warning creak that came from the stressed wood. After all that had happened — with all that’s going on around him — it was moments like this that he came to treasure. Moments where the world stopped and he could just be a man enjoying a cup of tea and a creme cake.

The respite was short-lived, however. His nose picked up the scent of someone in the hallway, and his ears heard the slinking footsteps of the Jean Grey School’s headmaster.

It was always easy for him to tell when Wolverine was nearby. His smell came first — wild, hot-blooded, with undertones of the adamantium that served as his skeleton. He had a distinctive gait as well; it reminded Hank of a predator stalking through its territory, hackles raised for a threat that could appear at any moment. Beast felt a certain kinship with him. Logan was one of the few people who saw the world the same way that he did, who struggled with the tension between the animal in his blood and the better angels in his head.

“Logan,” Beast rumbled as soon as he heard Wolverine outside the entrance to the staff’s kitchen.

“Hank.” Wolverine walked through the door and headed straight for the refrigerator. He wasn’t surprised by Hank’s presence, but why would he be? He had similar heightened senses. “I’m surprised to see you outside of your lab.”

Beast grinned easily, leaning further back in his chair. “Everyone has to come up for air some time. All work and no play makes one…a bit stir-crazy.”

Wolverine simply grunted as he grabbed a beer. “Want one?”

“No, but thank you. I thought I’d enjoy a cup of tea before I retired. Twinkie?”

Wolverine wrinkled his nose as he took a seat at the table. “I honestly don’t know how you can eat that stuff, Hank. Can’t you smell it?”

“Of course, my dear Logan. That’s part of the appeal!” He looks down at the tiny yellow cake, about the size of a finger. “It takes me back to my childhood. Before all this. I’d get home from football practice, down a box of these, jump right into homework.” He sighed a great breath, staring beyond the kitchen door, back to his boyhood room in Dunfee, Illinois. “I still had problems, but I was content. Life was so…uncomplicated.”

He blinked himself back to the present. “I’m sure you have something that takes you back to happier times, Logan. Some food that reminds you of home?”

A shadow passed over Wolverine’s features, and Beast almost instantly regretted the remark. “I have a lot of things that remind me of where I’ve come from. Mostly I try to focus on what’s in front of me.”

“Of course,” he said. “My apologies.”

Wolverine shrugged and took a long sip from his beer. Beast drank his tea. They let the discomfort of the moment sink in, then fade. The clock ticked on the wall.

“So how’s the school coming? Is there anything I should know about?” Logan kept staring at the table, in that way he did.

Beast shook his head. “Full speed ahead, o captain my captain. The facility practically runs itself, for better or for worse — once that business with Krakoa was sorted out, there haven’t been any significant issues. Of course, it would be nice to make sure the bamfs don’t get into the power source downstairs–”

“I’m sure you’re on top of it, Hank.” Wolverine cut him off with a hand on the shoulder. “Just…remember to be here for the kids.”

Hank stared at him. What was going through his head? “Of course, Logan. I wouldn’t forget why we’re running this school.”

Wolverine simply nodded, then finished the last of his beer. “Didn’t think you would, bub. I just…I need people who are going to do right by these kids. It’s a messed up world out there. They should be protected from that until they’re ready to deal with it.”

Beast nodded. Of course Logan was right. It was why he came back to the site of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in the first place. His dream hadn’t changed, but the world did — and just when it looked like there wasn’t a place to continue Xavier’s work, Wolverine jumped in to fill the void. The least likely candidate to do it, but he did.

“I know. It’s just…” His broad shoulders slumped. There was a reason he stalked the halls at night, stuck to his lab wherever he could, threw himself at his projects. He’d been trying to avoid it all this time, but he couldn’t. It was staring him in the face now, and he couldn’t look away. “Why am I here?”

Wolverine looked at him as if he had grown a second head. “What?”

“I mean, why me Logan? You have Ororo, you have Kitty…you have Bobby. A lot of other people could step up if you asked them to. Why am I here, as vice-principal? What am I doing here?”

“Your best, Hank. What are any of us doing here?”

Beast shook his head. “It’s not that. I…this used to be so different. Back in the old days. When it was just me and Jean and Scott, Warren and Bobby. Everything seemed so simple back then, and it feels like it all happened to another person. I’ve changed, Logan. Everyone has changed.”

“Cyclops is some revolutionary. He killed Xavier right in front of me. Jean is dead. Warren is…who knows what’s happened to Angel. The only person who seems blessedly unaffected by any of this is Bobby. And even then, I’m not so sure. Do I really know him? Have I ever known him?

“I thought Scott was my brother in arms. He was the consummate leader. Never left a man behind. But he left me. In a black cell with no one but my arch-nemesis to experiment on me. I never would have imagined he was capable of what he’s become, but…” Hank spread his oversized hands and sighed again. “…here we are.”

He looked at Wolverine, who was studying him with the expression of a man who had no idea what to make of what was in front of him. “We’ve never had the closest relationship, you and I. Ororo, I understand. You came up with her, and she has your backbone. Kitty, I get. You’ve helped guide her to where she is today. But why bring me along? You don’t owe me anything.”

Wolverine shifted in his seat, looking away from Hank. “Listen…bub…I’m not sure I’m drunk enough for this conversation. But here goes.”

“I know what it feels like to be betrayed, especially by somebody close to you. It shakes you up. Makes you suspicious of everybody you know for a good long while. But after a bit you move past it. You learn to trust someone again. Then a few people. And that scar just becomes a part of you. If you’re lucky, it makes you smarter. If you’re not, it poisons you. You’re smart enough to know which way this stuff with Cyke is headed.

“But I pulled you here because I want you here. Storm’s got the backbone to lead this school, and I know she’ll protect them from anything that tries to hurt them. Kitty’s great with kids, and I know she’ll teach ’em well. But you…Hank, out of the first class that’s left, you’re the one guy I know who’s still carrying the dream inside you.

“Look at this place. It wouldn’t exist without you. We could’ve maybe gotten someone else to build it, sure, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as good. This is your life’s work, Henry. I know no matter how many times Xavier’s dream nearly goes extinct, you’re gonna be the one to kick-start it again. Everybody’s got a fire under them trying to make this work. And you lit it. You were the only one who could.

“Now. I need you to be the new Xavier. Me and him didn’t always see eye to eye, but we understood each other. He gave me a shot when nobody else would. And there’s a whole new set of kids out there who need somebody to show them what they can be. That’s you. Got it?”

Henry sat, stunned. He swallowed once, hard, and nodded. “Got it.”

“Good.” Wolverine stood abruptly. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna see if I can get a decent couple of hours before Krakoa wakes us all up. Night, Beast.”

“Good night, Logan.” Beast watched Wolverine walk out of the kitchen, his shoulders slumped as if what he said had taken something out of him. He sighed and settled into his chair, staring at his empty tea cup.

It had been so very long since someone had believed in him. Wasn’t that at the core of this? He had done so much, but he had made so many mistakes…and all of his closest friends were dead, or had left him. So many nights, he only had the thrill of discovery to keep him going.

He looked around at the kitchen. This room, like almost every other within the Jean Grey School, was his design. Bright, airy, homey — a refuge from the chaos of a school filled with mutant children, from the humanity outside that hated and feared them, from their own kind who wanted them to fail. He only just noticed how much it looked like a high-tech version of his mother’s kitchen. There was the same cool beige tile on the wall, the same polished wood under his feet. It took him all this time to see just what he had been trying to do — build a home.

Beast gathered his plates and put them in the automated bin that would take them to a dishwasher that ran inside the walls, then place them back into the cabinets through hidden panels all on its own. Shi’ar technology, he mused, was a wonderful thing.

But things in this place wouldn’t make it a home; the people who lived in it would. He thought about the people here — Storm, Kitty, Logan, Bobby — and how much he had in common with them. They had all been through so much. They had all suffered. All of them, wounded but still standing.

Hank turned out the light and walked out of the kitchen, down the hall, towards the elevator that would take him down to his lab and quarters. Tomorrow, he would see how Warren was doing. He’d have a snowball fight with Bobby. Heck, he might even flirt with Ororo. He could never have his old family back at this point. But he could make a new one.

And with that, maybe the Jean Grey School would start to feel more like home.

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Posted by on October 8, 2015 in Writing


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Lessons of the 2015 Clarion Write-A-Thon

Writing 150The Clarion Write-A-Thon is over for another year. This year, I wrote 40,570 words and raised just a hair over $400 for the Clarion Workshop! I didn’t quite manage to hit my word count or fundraising goal, but I did finish two short stories, gotten well underway on a third, post a series of extensive essays about something I care very much about, and refine a few of my fundraising techniques. All in all, it was a successful year in so many ways.

Thanks to the eleven people who donated to the cause for me, and the many, many others who signal-boosted my tweets and Facebook posts, offered encouragement and feedback, and kept me motivated through the last six weeks. I really appreciate all of you; this summer has been so amazing in terms of connecting with people, cultivating different facets of myself, and pushing myself to do more and be more, and you folks have been really inspiring through all of it!

I’ve learned a few things about my writing process through the Write-A-Thon, of course. It’s hard to do something like this and not learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t as far as your writing process goes. I’m planning to take these lessons to heart through the fall and winter; it would be a shame to lose the momentum I’ve built here through failing to put what I’ve learned to use. What were those lessons, you say?

MY BEST WORK IS DONE IN THE MORNINGS. I’ve long known this, but it really bore out over the past few weeks. It’s really easy for me to roll out of bed, and provided I have enough time, work up a really good head of steam before heading out for work. This isn’t true every day; sometimes if I’m anticipating a busy day or I’ve had a late night it’s better for me to get in some reading before work.

This encourages me to keep up with the schedule I’ve adopted this summer, waking up at 6 AM, meditating and preparing for the day, then writing or reading for 30 minutes before I head out the door. It feels great to already have something done before you even leave home, and sets a great productive tone for the rest of the day.

I MAY NOT BE A SHORT STORY WRITER. One of the things I’ve learned about the way I tell stories is that my natural inclination tends towards longer-form fiction. What really excites me about an idea or setting is something that I feel requires a deeper dive, and to be honest I just love having the space to really examine each piece that’s on the board, crawling into the skin so that I know the bones of the thing intimately. That kind of close exploration doesn’t lend itself to short stories, so it might be time to start thinking in terms of novels or serialized fiction.

One of the reasons I wanted to cut my teeth on short stories is to make sure I’m as efficient as possible with my writing. There’s not a whole lot of real estate when you’re telling a single story in, say five or ten thousand words. Each sentence, each paragraph works best when it’s doing two or three things. I know that I’m not careful enough in my writing to achieve that level of consistent strength, but if there’s any form out there that lends itself to developing those muscles, it’s short stories and poetry. For now, though, I think the idea that I need to learn how to write short fiction *before* getting to what I really want to do is holding me back. I’ll rush headlong into longer form stuff, and double back towards short stories if I have an idea that can be told within that space.

IT’S DIFFICULT TO SYNC A BIRDS-EYE VIEW WITH THE ONE FROM THE TRENCHES. I usually go into a story with a solid idea of what I’m going to write about and how the plot will move along. I have a basic understanding of my characters and what they’re like, and why they do the things they do to drive the plot. With stories that feel a bit more complicated, I like to do a little prep work by exploring the characters in detail or writing an outline of how the scenes will flow into one another.

When I’m writing the actual story, however, things almost never turn out the way I think they will. This has been a barrier for me for a long time, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to reconcile why the plan falls apart when I’m down in the trenches building the story brick-by-brick. Are the characters simply far different from what I’ve imagined them to be? What happens between plan and execution that makes the story go so far astray? I’m genuinely curious, because when I’m writing a lot of the time I don’t actually feel in control — I feel like a medium, briefly possessed by…something else that is telling the story through me. I know how strange that sounds, but that’s the closest description I can come up with.

I’m sure this will continue to be a thing when I’m writing longer-form stories, so I have to make room in my process for surprise and discovery. Characters will take on a life of their own and start to do things I had not planned for. A story that I think is about one thing will be about something else entirely.

Part of the reason this concerns me isn’t necessarily a need for control in what I write (though that’s a part of it, too). It disturbs me that there’s some…unknown recess of my mind that bubbles up these things, a void that I have no idea how to reach other than writing. What else is in there? What else does it influence? How much should I give myself over to it?

These are questions that will only be answered once I settle in to a consistent writing practice. In addition to the short stories I’ll be working on this month, I’ll be doing prep work on “Beast: Wild Genius” and “The Big Game”, two long-gestating ideas that are perfect for the serialized fiction I would like to tell.

Now that I’m all finished up with the Write-A-Thon, I can turn my attention to all of the other projects that have been laying fallow as well: The Furry Mental Health Podcast (Mindfurly?), continuing work on New Fables (!!), working on articles for [adjective][species] and Claw and Quill, making sure my Pathfinder game doesn’t go off the rails, and learning about project management, the technical ins and outs of my job, and the French language.

Never a dull moment for this rabbit. Onward!

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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Self-Reflection, Writing


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The Clarion Write-A-Thon: Week 6

After five weeks of the Clarion Write-A-Thon, I’ve written 30,523 words and raised $321.57. Both are fairly far from the goal of 50,000 words and $500, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to write 19,500 words by August 1st. I mean, I COULD, but it’d pretty much mean doing nothing but writing for the rest of the week in an attempt to bring it home. And while that does sound appealing in its own right, I don’t think it would be feasible this week.

However, I CAN make the $500 donation goal — but only with your help! Please go to my author’s page and donate what you can, if you can. As an added incentive, the person who donates the highest amount this week will get a commission for a short story of 4,000 – 5,000 words! What a deal! Sort of. Maybe. No, it definitely is. You will LOVE it!

This week I’ll be working on another commission, “A Stable Love”. It’s been in the works for far too long, but I do think that I finally have enough momentum to crack it — one of the things I’ve learned through the Write-A-Thon are where my blind spots are as a writer and what I need to really focus on in order to create better short stories. “A Stable Love” will be my first big attempt to take what I’ve learned and apply it.

Once I’m done with the short story and the Write-A-Thon, the plan is to start doing the prep-work for a couple of serial short story projects I’ve wanted to work on: “The Big Game” and “Beast: Wild Genius”. I’ve already talked about the Beast fan-fiction in vague terms, but I’ll save the details for later as the first few arcs begin to take shape. It’s strange — normally I would be pretty shy about this whole fan-fiction thing, but the more I talk about it and the more feedback I get, the more excited I am for it. I really can’t wait to dig in on it.

“The Big Game” is a different version of a short story project I started (and abandoned, of course) a little while ago. The basic story is six friends getting together at an annual retreat in a remote cabin, where they catch up with one another, think about their lives and sort through all kinds of interpersonal issues. Of course, this is while they’re playing a poker game that allows them to gamble with their size instead of money. Because of course they do. 🙂

The original story featured an audience-participation element that allowed people to vote on the big winner and loser for each part of the story. What I found is that it put a lot of the focus on the mechanics of the card game and less on the characters and how they played around with each other. While I love the idea of the audience voting on how the story progresses, I’m not entirely sure it’s right for this. Maybe doing a “season 1” that establishes the characters and dynamic, allows me to refine a behind-the-scenes system to simulate how the card game works, and lets me simply work on the story without the added complication of audience votes might be the thing to do. A sequel could reincorporate the audience elements once I feel more confident in completing the project to begin with.

But we’ll see! For this week, the plan is to write as much as possible, as often as possible. It’s very unlikely that I’ll make my word-count goal, but it’ll sure be fun to try.

Again, any amount you can give towards the Write-A-Thon and the Clarion Workshop will help immensely. You’ll be helping to keep the Workshop running next year AND help really great writers receive intense instruction, critique and connection with some of the best writers and editors within our industry! Thanks SO MUCH to the people who have donated already, provided feedback on story snippets and supported me with writing advice and encouragement. You guys rock!

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Posted by on July 27, 2015 in Writing


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The Clarion Write-A-Thon, Week 4

Writing 150We’re halfway through the Clarion Write-A-Thon, and I’ve been fairly remiss with hitting my goals consistently up until now. I’m up to 14,535 words now, 7K short of the 21,500 that I wanted to have by now. I’m still working on my second short story, but Civil Engineering should be done today or tomorrow. Still, what gives? Why am I having such consistently slow weeks?

There were a few personal things that made it difficult to be consistent with my writing practice. There are the social engagements, of course, but I can see those coming for the most part and plan around them. I think it mostly has to do with my preferred writing schedule and the incompatibility of that with my life right now.

I do my best work in the mornings, no question. I’ve always been a morning person; I love getting up early and getting a lot of stuff done before noon. If I were able to set my own schedule, it would probably look something like this — wake up at 5 AM, meditate, coffee, writing, exercise, shower, breakfast, writing, lunch, then light organizational stuff through the afternoon. Work would become more social through the afternoon, until the evening where I’d hang with friends and/or read. That’s the way I would live my life if I won the lottery.

Unfortunately, that just can’t happen. I work for a living; I wake up at 6 AM needing to be out the door by 7. I have to meditate, groom, prepare breakfast and lunch before that happens. If I play my cards just right, I have maybe 20 minutes to get some writing in. Work is…work; I take 30 minute lunches so I can go home earlier and try to beat the traffic, so getting some words in there isn’t really an option. And once I’m in there’s a laundry list of things to be done — cleaning the burrow, cooking dinner, getting some exercise in, and spending time with my beloved husband. I tend to start turning into a pumpkin at 9 PM; it gets more difficult to concentrate and my willpower is mostly spent.

That was before my ADHD diagnosis, though; with the medication and organizational skills I’ll learn in a six-week course, things might be a bit easier. That’ll take six weeks though, and the Write-A-Thon will be over by then. For now, it looks like I’ll be doing my best to wake up early, prepare for the day as efficiently as possible and get in as much writing as I can in the mornings.

My preferred writing time tends to work much better during the weekends, so I’m finding that I do the bulk of my writing then. It might be that once this is over I’ll focus on getting as much work done on the weekends as I can; writing every day just might not be possible for me, and the stress of trying to maintain that schedule would do more harm (as in, causes me stress) than good.

Anyway — for the next three weeks I’ll really need to step it up. The daily goal for the rest of the Write-A-Thon is around 1,700 words, and by gum I’ll get them by hook or by crook! With that kind of output, I should be able to finish “Civil Engineering” fairly quickly and move right into “A Stable Love”. I’ve been really itching to get started on my Beast (of the X-Men) fan-fiction as well, sketching out character profiles for Hank, his allies and rogue’s gallery, determining the themes and stories I’d really like to play with, seeing where the arc is going to go for the first “year” of “issues”.

So that’s my plan, folks — write my ass off through week 4, find a way to prioritize getting my words in over just about everything else in the time I have available. I’ve raised $380 for the Clarion Workshop so far; thanks so much to the ten people who have donated so far. You are amazing, and I really do appreciate your generosity!

My goal for this week is to write 12,000 words; that’ll put me up to 26,500 by this time next week. I would love to have $450 raised for the Clarion Workshop by next Monday as well. “Civil Engineering” will be done with a quick editing pass being done, “A Stable Love” will be much closer to finished, and I’ll be doing the preliminary work on Beast: Wild Genius.

To all of my friends coming back from Anthro-Con 2015, welcome back to the real world! I hope the convention was as amazing as it sounded on Twitter and there’s no con crud this year. Fellow writers, what projects are you working on this week? I’m always curious about how others manage to juggle their writing practice with the rest of their lives. Any pointers for me?

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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Self-Reflection, Writing


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