Friday, December 23, 2011


Just taking a week or so off.  Don't worry.

I've been rambling here since - what? the middle of October? - on a regular basis recently. If you're a regular reader, you know this. If I don't know you personally and you came along because I've been posting more often, thanks. I'm glad you're here. If you're here because you know me somehow, thank you, too. I'm glad we're friends and I hope you all get some insights into me and how I work from all this stuff.

Once NaNoWriMo was over, I felt like I had to keep on about my writing. I'd like to be able to explore other things here on the blog besides my own feeble attempts at penning a novel or various short stories so I'm going to take a week away, spend some time with family and friends and generally recharge. Downtime is good in this regard. I feel like this might be okay since the title of the blog is my name and not some other vanity thing. Of course, blogging is vanity anyway since it automatically assumes someone's interested in my spewing endless thoughts on this and that.

Besides, everyone knows not much happens on the Internet between Christmas and New Year's, right?

So, downtime. When I come back in the New Year, I'll talk a little about my writer's group and the launch of its blog, the Confabulator Cafe. It's way more than just me and way more interesting. I'll also have some thoughts on social SF, some movies, science, music and some of the things I've been reading lately.

Sounds like I've already got a plan, doesn't it? I don't. I'm rambling again.

Anyway, go on: spend time with your loved ones. I'll see you after the holidays.

Thank you again for hanging out with me here. You're all one of a kind and I'm glad you came by.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays and Best Wishes,


The Significance of Being Determined

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere creations are the stuff of
nightmares,  personifications of fox and wolf.
I've mentioned fear here recently and editing. They make strange bedfellows and can paralyze one when combined. They are the Croup and Vandemaar in a writer's head. The worst kind of nightmare because they're in the room with you when you wake.

Look, everyone is insecure. We all have things we're scared others will find out about us. And once those things are revealed, we fear being ridiculed or disrespected or disregarded. No one wants to be the victim of any of those things.

The thing is, all we have to do to avoid these conditions to work.

As I'm getting notes back on my NaNoWriMo novel from this year, I'm also thinking about the things I already knew I would need to do to make the book better, maybe even saleable. I want to do some simple things, create some new ideas that can capture a reader's imagination, tell a human story in a setting that illuminates a common condition pervasive throughout the world today and that's harder than it sounds. A lot harder.

I can hear Mr. Croup saying, "What a brain, Mr Vandemaar! Quick and incisive! Some of us are so sharp we could cut ourselves!"

What am I afraid of? All I have to do is research, that's not so bad. It's just work. Where the fear really comes in is when I wonder if it will be worth it? What will I learn from the experience? Will other people dig it or am I just doing this to satisfy myself? What do I have to say to the world that someone else hasn't said better or far more eloquently than I have? Why is this important to me?

And there you have it. I know that it will be worth it to go in and make this book as good as I possibly can. I'll learn how to write THIS novel in the way that the story demands. I already know that other people will like what I'm doing on some level so while I'm working to satisfy myself first I know there's an audience out there for it. Can't think about what other writers do. I know they're out there, some of my favorites have tackled the same themes and topics I have but maybe not quite in this way. 

So why is it important that I do this, see it all the way to a logical end? 

Mr. Vandemaar: "I'm not squeamish, Mr. Croup. I like it when the eyeballs fall out."

I have to see it through. I've started something that's captured my imagination and the fact that there's Fear over there in the corner means that it has to be done. Croup and Vandemaar don't do meaningless work for no pay.  

Of course all this is invention. A kind of lie. A fiction. Fearing the finish is normal, I suppose, and the appearance of the Old Firm in my head really only spurs me to keep pushing on. My book won't find a larger audience if I don't do this. 

I owe it to the work to get it done. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who Did What When?

Inception was Storytelling 101 for me.
As a reader, what matters most to me in a story, any given story, are the characters. Without interesting characters, a plot is merely entertaining. An interesting plot with interesting characters is revealing of a truth and that's what I look for. (Don't get me wrong - I love tentpolepopcornsplode as much as anyone, but interesting characters make them soooo much better.)

As a storyteller, I tend to focus more on the Who doing What and When. At least in my Zero to First Drafts. I want characters to fill the plot and help drive it to the end (though it's just as often the case that the What and When (essentially the plot) are in control). I don't worry so much about How things get done or Why and Where is even less of a concern. It's only in the last six months I've been beginning to figure out how I structure my stories and it's confusing the hell out of me. I suppose that's the bane of being a largely self-taught writer and why I think of myself more as a storyteller than an author.

So taking each of the essential questions of Story one by one and putting them in order, this is what interests me most in any story, even one of my own:

  1. WHO are these people and will I be able to identify on some level with them? Without that, my interest will fade pretty quickly.
  2. WHAT, exactly, are these potentially interesting characters doing that makes me want to know more?
  3. WHEN are they doing it? Yesterday? Tomorrow? I'm not especially picky, but the time period the characters are functioning in has to make some kind of sense to the story. Anachronism is jarring sometimes. Other times, though...
  4. WHERE are they? My backyard? Metropolis? New York? Paris? Some place off-planet or out of this dimension?
  5. WHY concerns me more as When and Where are more established in the story. Sometimes it'll leapfrog ahead of them depending on what genre I'm reading. For instance crime stories will cause me to wonder Why sooner after Who.
  6. HOW almost always interests me the least. I'm not a big procedural person and that's where my own writing bogs down the most. I need to work on this a little more as I flesh out ideas.

Accepting a story, any story, requires suspension of disbelief in some form or fashion. I want to ensure that I'm putting down only what's essential to telling the story, and for me it's less than what others might need. As I explore How I build my stories, I will eventually find the balance of What to leave in What to leave out. Details are the bits that hang me up the most. For instance, I don't think it's important to most of my stories that I identify what race my characters are. I like to leave that to the reader's imagination.

Unless, of course, it's important to the story.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Real Work of Writing

I will be living with this
book for the next
few months
I've already started getting invaluable feedback on the novel I wrote over the previous six weeks. The things that I usually get pointed towards are the things that are coming up first and that makes me feel good. I'm aware of what my inherent problems are and that makes the initial pass through a little easier.

But I'm not ready to actually get into editing the thing. I've got a copy printed, I've got my red pen, I've also got ideas for re-titling the book. There's a master list of things I need to work on (supported by the feedback coming in) and I've got my resources near to hand.

Going through Browne and King's excellent book, I've started building a list of questions I have to ask myself as I read:

  • Am I using narrative summary instead of building those stories/descriptions into scenes?
  • How much time do I spend on introducing characters? How much detail do I give the reader? Where I am spending time on a character, is that character essential to the end? Can the reader tell  from what I say about someone if they're going to be involved in the ending?
  • Am I jumping from one character's head to another to achieve different points of view? Is it necessary? Is it obvious when it is necessary?
  • How am I showing the feelings of my characters? Is it all in dialogue or am I describing it for the reader alone? 
  • Finally, in the descriptions of the scenes, am I mentioning details the characters themselves would notice? Are my subplots necessary/advancing the main plot?

The POV issues were something I've been working on this year and I was acutely aware of them as I was writing. I'm curious to see how well I did. I know that I'm weak on descriptions of both character and scene setting when I'm blasting through a Zero Draft. I think I've been pretty good this time around, but there'll always be room to improve. 

I'm not limiting myself to the list above; this is just the first draft list. My experience with editing and revising so far has been mostly over the last year and a half with work I've been doing for others. (Here's a shameless plug for the one book that's out if you're looking for a quick and easy gift for the holiday. There, that's done!)  It can be a frustrating process but the end result is always better, even if it doesn't always resemble the author's original vision. So this is where the real work begins. 

I spent forty-five days telling the story in the format of a novel. Now I have to actually write the thing so that it's readable and recognizable as such. My ego is in the hands of several trusted friends who will be brutal in their assessment of the work so far. I'm anticipating it, ready for it, waiting. I'm anxious to get to work and start the real work of writing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Draft It Is Compleat

I finished on Wednesday evening. It's an initial draft. A Zero Draft. More like a treatment than a novel.

That is, it's complete in that I'm done telling it. I'm not done WRITING it. That's what revisions and edits are for. So I'm taking a couple weeks away from it to enjoy the holidays and rest. This has been an intense time and I need to be focused on some other things so I can come back to it with fresh eyes, critical thoughts and a red pen.

In the meantime, enjoy this little blast from the past:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Building of Worlds and Realities

I'm nearly finished with my first complete SF novel and I've learned a thing or three about what makes good SF.

Believable Characters. Convincing World. Good Science.

My work in progress (henceforth wip for those of you who aren't writers) has believable characters (I hope) in this Zero Draft. The world is less convincing and the science in several cases is bad because it's made up. As I go back to begin revising said wip (we're talking about Juggy & the Duchess, mind you; henceforth abbreviated JtD) I'm going to have to think about what will make the world of my story convincing. I've got a kind of police force, a nominally mentioned intergalactic government and the story itself sprawls across half a dozen new worlds that are only vaguely defined but essential to the settings in which the action occurs.

This means that I will have to go back and research the environments of each world so that they are convincingly different and comfortingly real enough to not shake the reader out of the story. Same for the people of each world. That doesn't sound too hard and that certainly takes the book into the realm of Real First Draft. The hardest research will be making the science good.

There are all sorts of fringey scientific notions out there and some of them even have some traction. Remember how Quantum Mechanics blew everyone's minds, even Einstein's? (He famously said, "God does not play with dice.") Then in the 80s when they started calling it String Theory and some very knowledgeable folk started calling for the notion that there were more than the universally acknowledged four dimensions? (I'm including Time as a dimension for those keeping score at home.) And maybe there were MANY more dimensions with some models positing as many as eleven or fifteen or more and we couldn't see them but they HAD to be there?

You don't?

Well, you must not be reading the same books I am. Or watching the same shows on PBS. No one's saying there aren't fifteen dimensions, but they are saying that there are more than the conventional four. Everyone used to think that faster than light travel was impossible. It may not be. Neither might teleportation. It's Way Beyond what we can conceive at this point, maybe, but it may not be impossible.

So whatever science I've made up for this story might turn out to be true some day. Am I comparing myself to Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke or William Gibson? Good lord, no. I'm hoping that the science I've chosen through my admittedly lackadaisical reading habits can be justified with only a little research and some heavy duty re-writing. It's all in service to the story, after all, and the story is what matters most. A good tale well told is more believable than a story super-accurate and told badly.

Am I right?

Now there are brilliant theoretical physicists saying that there may actually be Parallel Universes and that String Theory supports this idea. Of course I knew all about this because I grew up reading about such things in comic books, the ultimate simple science fiction for boys variety. But now it's on the verge of being something that might be accepted by the masses of people who believe in Science. Some folks will never believe and I'm fine with that. I hope they're entertained by my stories as much as the folks who are deep into the science parts of fiction.

The really hard part of writing good SF (and this is the point of this post) and even Fantasy, is that one has to create mostly from the ground up whereas someone who writes in any sort of urban setting can set things in very familiar places very easily. There's no Chicago in my story, there's not even Earth. It's only mentioned as Old Earth because my story takes place ten thousand years into the future. Talk about having to jump some hurdles, right?

But I wouldn't have it any other way. This story is near and dear to me now and I'm looking forward to fleshing out the skeleton that I've built.

I guess that puts me in the same league as Victor Frankenstein. Sooner or later, you'll hear me shouting "It's ALIVE!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Use of Fear

Frank Miller's That Yellow Bastard from Sin City. 
I mentioned on Twitter the other night that I was 'feeling small' about my writing. I know why.

I'm nearing the end of writing the Zero Draft of a complete novel. By complete I mean 'worthwhile'. This is my fourth NaNoWriMo win and the most significant. (I almost wrote 'perhaps' there after 'and'.) I slept on what I was feeling and realized when I got up on Sunday that it was Fear of Finishing, Sadness at Ending. I've lived with these characters for nearly two months, watching their progress and hoping that I wasn't being too big a bastard for all the obstacles I kept putting in their way.

But that was my job for this project: to be the Big Bastard who makes life difficult for them. I'm comfortable now in that role here at the end. More comfortable than I was at the beginning when I wasn't sure the story was going to work out. I can't say that I'm reveling in destroying their lives, but I'm having some amount of fun. The latest ten thousand words (70,000 to 80,000) have been really difficult. I had to go back and remind myself of what R.L. Naquin said about Fear:

I think everybody’s got a vicious, negative voice whispering in their ears, whether they’re a writer, an accountant, or a mountain climber.
Slam the door in its face. Don’t let the voice win. YOU are the boss.
Yeah, that's it. That's what I needed to remember. I don't often have conversations with myself like that, I tend to be very introspective about things that don't really matter. If I've learned anything writing Juggy & the Duchess, it's that it's not enough to just be tenacious. I have to be vicious with myself to keep pushing forward. With the end of NaNo, I don't have that twice-weekly write in that I became addicted to. I've had to go the last eleven days essentially alone and that's why the Fear crept in. Not that my support team isn't there, they are and they've been great.

It's that I'm back to writing alone again. It's just me and my thoughts, me pushing myself to get this finished. Not just to complete the work as I have in past years but to actually finish. Have a complete novel that might be good (I think it is, we'll see what my trusted readers will come back with) and get it into shape to shop around. Being alone like that is okay, it really is. I'll see my group later this week when we have a get-together and I'll come back with the energy I need to be brave enough to get the work done.

What am I afraid of? Finishing? No, I've done that though this is the longest I've spent writing a single work. It's also the largest single work I've attempted. I'm afraid that my friends who I love dearly and trust implicitly will figure out that I'm a fraud and that my writing is no good. Or as Phil Hester tweeted not so long ago:

The forecast calls for uncertainty in the morning with a 70% chance of frustration in the afternoon.

I'm going to find out here soon whether or not I'm a good writer. My peers will be brutal if need be and complimentary if the work deserves it. I trust them and I fear them at the same time. I want my writing to be liked. That's normal isn't it?

Regardless, I've got a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to finish this draft and I'm going to make it. Somehow, some way, it's going to happen. The Fear will just have to sit in the corner and sulk. I'll worry about how good my book is after I'm done banging out these last 10,000 words or so.

Friday, December 09, 2011

It's Not the Whiskey Talking, I Promise

It's almost the end of the year when folks start looking back at the previous twelve months and collecting items to put into 'best of' lists. I don't do that.

Instead, I'm going to tell you why I'm so happy.

Yep, this is exactly how I feel.
I'M WRITING FAST AND REASONABLY WELL. This isn't necessarily a first for me, but I'm feeling like I actually know what a novel is now. For the last four years, I've been writing short stories and getting better at being a storyteller. This year's novel, I think I've mentioned I'm working on something I began on November 1 for NaNoWriMo, is affirming that I might really know what I'm doing now. I'm beginning to feel like a writer. Not an author, not an honest-to-god storyteller yet, but at least a writer. I'm comfortable calling myself that now.

I'VE MADE SEVERAL VERY GOOD NEW FRIENDS AND HAVE CEMENTED OLDER FRIENDSHIPS, TOO. I feel wealthy in the friend department. At work I'm the top dog of my unit, responsible for making the decisions that can affect sixty or seventy people and outside of work I'm a writer. Both of those positions can allow one to feel lonely and isolated, but I don't in either post. I have excellent support groups on both sides and they might even cross over a little as some of my writer friends are in the same community that I work in and we all have different takes on the same issues. I feel like I belong to something bigger than just me but my opinions in both cases matter as much as they can, at work and with my writer's group. I have more friends now than I ever have. That's a nice feeling.

MUSIC IS INTERESTING AGAIN. When I was growing up, music was 90% of my life. I played in band at school, had a rock band just out of high school and for most of my 20s and I worked in a record store in my early 30s. When my son was born I kind of let music go, rediscovered some stuff about five years ago and then only in the last year have I taken the time to listen to things both familiar and new. I'd forgotten how much music meant to me and to have it back is really, really important. Music is life. Music makes the merry go round.

(Yes, I've been drinking. So what? This isn't a drunk dial of a blog post. Noooooo, that would have been much more entertaining. )

FINALLY, BOOKS MATTER MORE THAN EVER, TOO.  I have rekindled my love of reading again and I'm extraordinarily wealthy when it comes to books. I'm so wealthy that I've given away some of my books and I don't miss them. I've got a considerable list to read through that I suspect will never really dwindle, and I love to spend time researching things that I may never need except maybe in a conversational situation. I'm immersed in reading several NaNo manuscripts (plus one that was written this summer by a good friend that I cannot wait to get in front of me) as well as stuff by Jonathan Lethem, China Mieville, Lester Dent and even Stephen King. I'll never have enough time to read, but that means I'll never lack for a good book to pick up, either.


In the comments, share the reasons why you're happy. We can all benefit from knowing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Mysteries of Living

Every day I have to make a left turn at a light to get on to the main road to get to work. I have been amazed at people who don't like to share the road on the other side of the intersection by making their right turn into the left lane right in front of me. I don't curse them as selfish, egotistical, clueless bastards any more. I've been broken of that habit. But yesterday I saw someone who was even more selfish than the ones who just take the lane they're not entitled to.

I was third in line and to make my left turn as I always do. Across from the intersection was a person driving a black SUV who wanted to turn right. There were probably a half dozen cars behind him. This happens around 7:30 in the morning, mind you, so we're all on our way somewhere and likely in a rush to get there. The two cars ahead of me went on and made the turn when the light went green and I entered the intersection anticipating him turning into the lane next to me. He didn't move.

He was waiting to make his right turn until the left lane was clear, holding up everyone behind him.

I tried to imagine what it was that kept him from making that turn, accelerating and then putting on his signal to get into the left lane. Was he just selfish? Lazy? Careless? Was he not paying attention to the fact that the light had changed?

This put me in mind of my characters in Juggy and the Duchess (you can read excerpts here and here). Everyone in the book is selfish at some point, thinking only of their own benefit in a given situation. Each of them is unlikable at different stages of the story and that's a lot like life. No one is the same through an entire week, or even an entire day. We are different with different people.

One of the things that's got me excited about this book is that I'm finally nailing down how people interact and behave with their close friends and the people they've only just met. Not perfectly, mind you, but much better than I have previously. This book is about loyalty and relationships among intergalactic thieves stealing things that will be assembled into a super weapon that will end the universe as we know it. It's a human story set in a fantastic situation. I hope.

All my writing is about searching for the inherent meaning of one's existence. Whether it's seeking truth in religion or the thrill of adventure or  making art that affects people my stories are about living a life true to oneself. There are things we do to feel alive and there are things we set aside to accommodate others because those people are important to us. Ego dictates what we do and how we act. Ego is something that gets in the way of having relationships that last. It's also what makes for interesting stories when one Ego goes against another. These experiences inform the writing and it's up to the writer to make it relatable to readers. That's the theory, anyway.

(Disclaimer: I'm not saying I've been a professional thief nor am I encouraging you to be one. I'm also not encouraging anyone to end the universe. I'm quite fond of it the way it is, thank you.)

I'm sure the guy in the SUV is a nice person to those he cares about. Well, maybe mostly anyway. I don't know. I do know the Ego in the SUV didn't care he was holding up others. He only cared about making his right turn his way. There's gotta be a story in that.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Welcome to the NaNoWriMo Post Game Report

Last Wednesday was the end of National Novel Writing Month. I 'won' before Thanksgiving and I mentioned that here. I'm continuing to win because this is the first year in the four years I've participated in NaNoWriMo that I understand more of the craft of writing. My craft.

Joseph Campbell
This year's novel has structure (even though my first effort and last year's did, too) and a solid theme (which none of the other three really did)  that's reenforced throughout the manuscript to this point. (That's a new bit, the reenforcement of theme.) My main character has depth and a past that keeps echoing what's going on in her present. The danger still needs some work, but she has a strong supporting cast that is carrying her through. (Don't get me wrong: there's danger there, I just have to amp up the volume a lot.)

What made the difference this year is the increase in the amount of research I did in October and my attending the local write ins. I can't say enough about how my NaNo group helped me to push myself harder to write more. I stayed up later, wrote more often and just generally really poured myself into the work this year. Even though I thought I'd done that last year and the year before (first year was really a lark) this time was different. I was involved in my writing and the writing of others in the group. We helped each other with a word, a phrase, an idea or just by laughing together. I realized (finally) that all the psychological stuff that goes along with being a writer is something everyone experiences and having friends like these who understand is crucial.

Carl Jung
And of course, it's tiring. It's work writing that many words on a tight deadline. The work requires things of you that those who don't do it don't understand. If you're an accountant trying to understand what it takes to physically build a house and you don't know how to swing a hammer, you'll never understand that there's a reason why the plumbing has to go there. I'm tired because I've had my brain in overdrive for about six weeks and I've been immersed in the writing culture of my group of friends. We've been reenforcing positive writing energy with each other for a month. We're all exhausted.

So this is where we all take a little time off and kick back. Except I don't want to. I have another 25,000 words to write to get the zero draft of my novel done. I want to get this novel done and then go back and edit it and see if I can do anything with it. Right now, deep in the throes of it, I think it's really good. (I thought that with my first novel, too, but that wasn't the case. That one was only kinda-sorta okay.) I'm pushing to have this draft done before Christmas and I mean to do it.

I've done an enormous amount of work so far and it's only a little farther to the end now. NaNoWriMo is done, though I am not. And once the draft is finished, the real work of polishing and making it good begins.

Don't let anyone think that writing is easy. The ACT of writing is easy. Writing something good is hard. It's supposed to be. If it was easy, anyone could do it. Just like quantum physics. Or baseball.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Excerpt from Juggy & the Duchess II

Here's another excerpt from the NaNoWriMo novel. This is one of my favorite passages so far and what you need to know is that Jimmy is a character I've had in my repertoire for ten or twelve years and he's helping Juggy and Dee to steal a very heavy box that's guarded by an AI named Eldkin. There's been no editing and it's as raw as can be. I share it freely and retain all rights. I hope you enjoy it.


Jimmy yelped and fell backwards out of the cabinet. The shelf gave way with a booming crack and what remained of it dropped half an inch onto the forks of the lifter. The lifter itself bounced down another two feet or so before resuming its programmed height. Jimmy whistled.“How heavy do you think this thing is?”
“Rated to move half a planet is what Eon said.” Dee was turning the forklift toward the stairs. “How much time’ve we got, Juggy?”
“Maybe four and a half minutes,” he said. “Maybe less. Don’t dawdle.”
“You gonna pull it or push it up?” Jimmy was on his feet again and next to Dee as she slowly moved the lift into position to go up.
“Push,” she said, “I think.”
Jimmy didn’t say anything. 
“Maybe pulling is better? I mean if the thing slides off it won’t crush me if I’m pulling.”
“You pull,” Jimmy said. “I’ll push and we’ll go a little faster.”
The lift compensated its magnetic field as it approached the staircase so that it remained parallel to the angle of the risers. Dee felt its mechanisms straining to keep up with the shifting angles and the weight of the box. It didn’t matter to the lift what was inside but the weight was tremendous.
“I’m getting a reading from the lifter,” Juggy said. “I’m having a hard time believing the number it’s sending me.”
Jimmy got behind the lifter and put his shoulder into pushing the front parts of the forks. “What? How much?”
“You won’t believe me, either,” Juggy said. “You’ll think I’m making it up. I promise you I’m not.”
Dee was halfway up the staircase and Jimmy was two steps up when they both demanded, “How heavy is it?”
“Three hundred seventy thousand tons,” Juggy said.
Dee kept pulling and Jimmy kept pushing but both of them laughed. “You’re joking,” Dee said once she’d caught her breath. She was almost to the top.
“I’m not. And the Sovereignty Board craft is about two minutes away. I’ve got the pod outside the front door so once you get to the top you need to push as fast as you can.”
They focused on moving the lifter and as Dee gained the top of the stairwell the lifter shifted again and the shelf under the box slid a little to her left. “Shit,” she said and did her best to steady the lifter. “How can it slide like that if it really does weigh that much?”
“It can’t weigh that much,” Jimmy said. “It’s physically impossible to have four hundred thousand tons in a two foot cube. Physically IMpossible.”
“The Board is still coming,” Juggy said. “That doesn’t change the weight of the box. Be careful and don’t drop it.”
“Thanks for the advice, Dad,” Jimmy said. He kept pushing and they go the forklift stabilized and parallel to the horizontal floor. “Let’s boogie.”
“Mosey. Percolate. Stroll. Ramble. Hoof it,” Jimmy said with a sly smile. “Let’s go.”
They pushed the forklift across the altar floor and into the nave. The lift slammed into one of the benches and slid it aside with a horrible wrenching slide across the marble floor. “You could have asked,” Eldkin’s voice said. “You could have asked and I would have helped you.”
“Juggy!” Dee was agitated. “What the hell?”
“He’s fighting me,” Juggy said. “I can’t keep him down and fight off the Board while they’re trying to take over the Pixie Rover and the piece of crap we found Jimmy in. They’re really pushing me, Duchess. And they’re almost here.”
The forklift dipped a little and Dee let out a yell. “Don’t dawdle, he said.” 
Jimmy and Dee redoubled their efforts and shoved as hard as they could until the forklift crossed the floor of the nave into the atrium (the entryway earlier but we’re using atrium now) and right out the front door of the temple. “I would have helped you,” Eldkin said. “Give me a chance to help now.”
“Why?” Dee called over her shoulder as her eyes adjusted to the sunlight and she saw the piece of crap transport waiting for them at the edge of the plateau. 
“Because I’m tired,” Eldkin said. “I’ve been here for a thousand years and you’re the first people who actually came to visit the temple in nearly five hundred years. And you performed the rituals correctly.”
“How long has this box been down there?” Dee stopped and looked over her shoulder at the temple. “What was it here for?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jimmy said. “This thing’s fucking heavy if you’re not helping!”
“Time, Duchess,” Juggy said in her ear. “The Board, remember?”
“Quiet, you two. Eldkin, what was your purpose here?”
The wind stopped and Dee felt as though she was being pulled out of her body as she waited for the answer from the temple’s AI. Finally, she felt like she’d asked the right question and everything was falling into place. There was a kind of clarity to everything: the door frame, the roof, the columns. Everything was sharp, in high-definition and crisp as a fall morning on Ffeine.
“I was to guard this box,” Eldkin said at last. “It is important to a group of people who want things to change but were waiting for a series of eventsssskkkkrllllkkzzzz.”
“Eldkin? Eldkin!”