The Path and the Process

The thud sounded distant and hollow.

Shi, already sprinting, paid no attention to the concussions reverberating in time to her pounding feet. Running through a checklist in her mind as her feet carried her by rote along familiar pathways, she rolled her lucky bullet between her fingers.

Like a machine the thumping continued. Like pistons pumping life into the battle below the drop tubes thumped and reloaded and thumped and reloaded. They would continue their tattoo of death until the drums had ceased to beat to quarters.

Shi ran, a tiny cog in the vast machine of of war.

Hefting her rifle, slung tight across her chest, she adjusted the strap on her helmet. The HUD before her left eye glitched. Shi growled and struck it with her palm, jarring the contrary software enough to bring the glow up and connect her to the company network.

“Tube five,” a metallic voice intoned as she reached the split in the corridor.

Without missing a step, she avoided the marine in front of her and darted left. Following a path emblazoned with a crimson five she came to a halt at the end of a short line.

The thumps continued.

The line moved in cadence.

Shi stepped to the beat of a troopship. She moved in sync with the ship. She slipped forward in step with the thousands of marines of her legion. Shi thought of herself as a single bullet being loaded into the gun of war, a single shell, stepping forward to lie in the barrel of that gun.

Shi followed orders.

Shi stepped into the gun.

Without hesitation she slipped into the drop canister that would protect her as she launched at the planet’s surface. Training guided her hand as she latched her mask over her face just in time to protect her airways from the concussion gel that flooded her canister.

“You’re off,” the metallic AI announced.

Shi felt none of the inertia that should have jellied her body. She breathed deep and closed her eyes.

“For the Empire,” she murmured.

***

My earliest documented writing can be traced to the age of seven. In my last move I came across a small box tucked in the back of my desk and in that box I discovered a small notebook with a Japanese frog cartoon on the front.

Without opening the notebook, I knew what I had found. I held The Adventures of the Caribbean Clipper in my hand. My mind flew.

Thirty years prior my family had lived in Japan for a year as my parents taught English at a Japanese college. My sister and I tagged along, like we had a choice, but it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Maybe I’ll reminisce some other time, but for now the tale is about this book.

For Christmas that year my parents had my grandparents bring us kids some presents, things we couldn’t get in Japan.

I remember opening my big present on Christmas day and finding a LEGO set inside. The Caribbean Clipper stared at me, it beckoned me, its siren song called my name. I don’t remember if I opened any other presents after that. I just know that I had that sucker together and sailing the high seas of the living room before breakfast.

Then I had the brilliant idea to write down the adventures. Every pirate attack, every hurricane weathered, every buried treasure found went into the golden annals of the ship.

And I found them thirty years later.

The best part, that book was just the beginning. I never stopped writing. Short stories, space operas, flash-fiction, space-westerns, and even a little middle school poetry have flown from my fingers like the emperor’s lightning.

***

Shi hit the surface of the planet and plowed a furrow through the rocky soil. Before her canister had stopped it erupted, sending segments of the pod in all directions.

Shi emerged like Venus from the ocean, if Venus had been armed and armored in the finest gear the empire could furnish. Stepping up to the lip of the crater, Shi surveyed the battlefield surrounding her.

“You are of sound mind and body,” her AI stated.

“I know,” Shi replied as she pulled up her HUD and scanned the area for a rally point.

“Unfortunately, your trajectory was thrown off through evasive maneuvers. You are approximately seven kilometers from your assigned drop point.”

Shi swore under her breath. “I don’t reckon you dropped me in the middle of somethin’ peaceable,” a stitching of bullets along the outer lip of the small crater answered her. “On that note, have I got any friendlies nearby?”

“Firm, there are two friendlies in the vicinity. They are half a kilo west of your current position. Unfortunately, they are pinned down and cannot at present time join you.”

“Then I’ll roll to them.”

Another barrage barked out from a nearby hill, causing Shi to duck back into her crater. Edging up to the lip she studied her surroundings. “Eddy, I’m only seein’ the one gun hole on that hill. That a fact or am I just readin’ things wrong?”

“You are on the far flank of the city’s defenses. Your unit was dropped into the city center and are fighting their way out to join up with the armored units that made landfall in the open fields beyond the city limits. As to your question, I believe that is simply an observation post. Without hard data, I surmise there to only be four soldiers. However, it appears you have their undivided attention.”

Shi slipped her gun to semi and fired several careful shots towards the emplacement.

“They’ve a good field of fire,” Shi slipped back into the safety of her hole. “Think the orbits would drop a little suppression?”

“Unlikely. I will submit the request, but seeing as you are outside the actual combat zone, I do not foresee the orbital cruisers diverting their attention from critical targets,” the AI paused. “No, they have responded that you are to make your way to the rally point. I read in those orders that you are alone and must use your own discretion as to the proper course of action.”

“So, the base orders, kill everything or die trying?”

“That is correct.”

***

My process.

I find it amusing when people ask what my process is or how I managed to write a book or where I came up with the ideas. Honestly, I feel like everyone has stories, the hard part is transferring the thoughts to the page.

The other aspect is that everyone has a different process.

Different genres call for different approaches.

My process calls for coming up with a loose outline. It’s almost like I have a start and an end, but I need to figure out the journey. I’ve joked with people saying that writing is like combat in that no plan, or outline, survives first contact.

I listen to my characters. I have to think as I’m writing what each character would actually do in a given situation. Sometimes I have the outline and start writing only to find that there is no way Atom would react in the outlined way to the given circumstances. So I have to adapt and let the story flow.

The beauty of science-fiction is that I don’t need to follow a formula. It is the most free of the different literary genres. I don’t have to worry about whether something is actually possible, because I can create a way for the story to proceed.

The other end of the process is to read, watch stories, and talk to people. I think the last one is vital. It amazes me how many authors seem to be so introverted that they refuse to engage in real face to face conversations with people. I think we are seeing the effects of this in literature where characters just don’t act naturally. I’ve picked it out a few times in newer lit and wonder if it is because the people writing sit behind a screen and never interact with the world. It’s hard to describe facial reactions if you don’t experience them.

My favorite one was a character that just exploded at their boss and then they just went back to work. I can’t imagine a single example of the real world where that would be tolerated, but hey it’s literature and anything can happen.

So my process boiled down is to absorb and flow.

Thanks for reading all the way through this, check back next time to see what happens to Shi. Knowing her, I can’t imagine she is going to sit around. On the other hand, she seems to have some options at the moment. I think I’ll sleep on it.

In case you haven’t yet, follow me on Facebook and like my author page. That is probably the most personal social media platform I use. The others tend to me more promotional.

Also, I know it’s getting buried so if you would like to check out the sample chapters of Atom & Go: Genesis here is the first one. The others should be just a click from that page.

Check back next week and in the meantime, keep reading and keep flying the Black.

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