We adults survived the birthday! Per the kid and parent feedback, the party was a blast of a time for the kids, so it was a win on all fronts. (Except the cake... the cake was a total hit, but it really didn't survive at all :D)
Needless to say, my writing fell way off my established schedule this week and spilled all over my sleeping hours so today I'm pooped. Good thing it's the weekend. And that I have the rest of today during daylight hours for playing with words. Hope you have a good weekend!
*Huge sigh of relief* : It's Friday and the week is nearly over!
*Gut-clenching anxiety* : It's almost Saturday!
*Cue up the eerie music and start the oddly angled camera panning*
Also on Saturday, the condo that we had renovated is going to be going up for sale. I apologize in advance for the bubbly updates and reminders for however long it will be on the market. I'm more excited than I have any right to be about selling the property. It's just an event that's wrapped up in a bunch of good stuff! My tenants are getting a house, my finances won't be an abysmal hole of echoing blackness, and the constant nag on my anxiety of a second property will be gone. All happy stuff!
Don't forget that this event is happening! I even picked up a couple table decorations AND now I can let you know that I will have a couple of books out at sale prices. You only have to come to the show to get the books at the sale prices! :D
In other news, which really isn't news to you because the above picture-link clearly shows it, MY PAPERBACKS ARRIVED! Wowzers! I can hold each and every one of my wonderful works in my hands. I can even hold all of them at one time if I want to! (That takes both hands, though, and then I'd have to put down the coffee, so maybe I'll try that next week...) Seriously, though, click the link and then go buy one. When it's Not Right is in the same universe as When it's Not Perfect, and you can get both ON SALE as a Christmas Book Bundle on my Etsy RIGHT NOW.
Speaking of Christmas, are you planning to come to the vendor show? Okay good. I'll see you there!
And, one more quick reminder, this post is the last one this year with a story part attached. New short stories will return in January, with all previously posted stories available free from the Short Stories menu option at the top of the page. Hope you have a good weekend!
3. Carrying Belief
The first transition was to hit up the standbys that had been popular just prior to the initial outbreak. Those monotheistic faiths had done okay for boosting moral, but it was tough to get a population of women who had only ever seen men in pictures to rally behind the thought of a masculine deity. The pitch was nice for having a place in an eternal heaven after a lifetime of suffering, but the main platform was mumbo-jumbo based on some strange and foreign family unit that centered on a patriarchal thought basis. All of us New Birthers couldn’t find anything in that transition to relate to.
So the second transition happened. Hellfire and brimstone. It was all a bunch of soul-condemning mumbo-jumbo that terrified everyone and, sadly, destroyed a lot of educational resources because higher learning got blamed for the current situation. Those two years weren’t packed with great memories, but hey, they ushered in the third transition of peace, love, and understanding that heralded a new era of Druidic based mumbo-jumbo which supported scientific work in the areas of saving the species. Other areas of research were still shunned to an excessive amount, but if there was a breakthrough on stopping extinction while the population was able to hold sustainable levels, those other areas were at least now being preserved so someone might one day be able to pursue them.
I winced accordingly as I felt the pressure of the needle against the back of my hand. Well, the hand I was holding up.
I can pass any lie detection method because I do own the hand. My heartbeat, blood pressure, and nervous system operate the biomotor which keeps it alive, and its attachment is nearly flawless. The scar is easy to excuse away as a personal attempt for my life – also not a lie. My mother is a personal part of my life and she’s attempting to ensure I get the opportunity to remain alive. Blood is literally lying around in every research facility and lab since the third transition, so me, and the few others like me that my mom was able to find and protect with these nifty little cloned hands, are able to undergo the weekly Giving without having to worry about becoming one of the Missing.
We all have that extra Y-chromosome clinging to our double-X DNA. We all work with my mom, undergoing the testing she develops if we choose to volunteer (rather than being locked in cages like the Missing who are tested on like animals used to be). My mom used to work in one of the labs where the Missing were taken. Three of the women I work beside were part of the Missing before my mom faked their deaths and then manufactured other identities for them. I’ve taken over operating the underground system my mom built for getting out one or two Missing every year. It means I have to go inside the deepest facility of the main research dome, but it also means I get to leave.
Today, when I get home from this mocked up religious service, we’re starting on the next injections of the staged inoculations that we’ve been able to develop in secret over the past eleven years. My arthritis makes me a poor candidate for being selected as a child-bearer, and not being a child-bearer means I won’t get new knee joints and that I don’t get a lot of attention from government officials. It also means that – being well known as lame due to my mother being so famous – me walking hunched over and slowly due to being half-crippled and moderately overweight isn’t something that causes a second glance. These things also make it perfectly unnoticeable for me to be in the second trimester of my first pregnancy to reach this duration. The injections today will be the first time we’ve tested the theories this far because I volunteered first. Two more of my mom’s staff are also pregnant, but are still in their first trimesters. We know we’re carrying sons because they were genetically engineered. We also know that these sons will not survive gestation because their existence is to provide the data needed to create treatments that will allow later sons to grow.
I pause for a moment in the long walk to outside after being dismissed and allowed to leave the church, the feeling of fluttering low in my stomach strange and exhilarating and wonderful. That started just a few days ago. The fact that I see him, absolutely alive, on the monitors I’m attached to day and night when at home in the lab is a miracle… but the kicking takes my breath every time. I’ve never seen a living human male before, but I have one inside me right now.
Because I’m so easy to ignore, people simply file past me and my canes with only a few scoffs of inconvenience for having to pause in a conversation to go around me. I mumble the appropriate apologies when those who are scoffing are those who are still wearing their gloves and masks and are clutching their hard little cases too tightly. I smile apologetically and blame menstruation cramping when one person stops to ask if I’m all right. She smiles at me with understanding, her eyes a tawny hazel, and offers to help me down the few stairs leading outside to the sidewalk. She’s flirting and sweet during the short walk together and actually looks disappointed when I beg out of an impromptu lunch date, but her smile comes back with the loveliest dimples when I hint at hoping to sit closer to her next week.
The fluttering in my stomach, which has nothing to do with her dimpled smile, returns in the car ride half-way home. I close my eyes and smile up through the high windshield, enjoying the heat of the sun on my face as my car hums along on its preprogrammed route. If this round of injections is successful, my son will continue living and growing and we’ll monitor his development and plan for the next round of inoculations. If it isn’t, this moment of him being alive will be one of his last and I’ll start again with a new implanted zygote as soon as my mother and I agree that I’m medically able. This science of my mom’s may not be a religion but, as I realize the fluttering right now is stronger than the first time I noticed it a few days ago, this is likely as close as I’ll ever get to having faith.
I wanted to have an exciting post about my writing, because my shoulder is getting better and I've been able to make some progress that I'm really happy with this week, but... guys? I just... I've been knitting. And it's been great!
I learned how to knit when I was a kid, did a bit here and there over the years since, and then got back into it after my second baby (who is now turning four) because I needed something to do that wasn't "work". The added bonus to this hobby is that it's anxiety-calming for me. I can only go "this fast" with it, and it's repetitive (without aggravating my existing injuries as long as I use circular needles so the weight stays on my lap), which means I can pace out my panic. It's like going for a walk, without suffering the loss of spoons. I've been making stuff!
I had started losing interest in knitting early this year because I can't read the typical patterns, meaning I only made squares because couldn't do anything complicated or pretty, but I wanted to keep the hobby so I did an online search for 'Knitting Patterns for Beginners'.
I don't even have to be a better knitter to finish projects that look like I know what I'm doing! (Trying to innovate new things is also gives me an extra excuse to call my grandmother and chat with her, she's forgotten more about knitting than I'll likely ever try to learn.)
Jessica has a lot of her patterns for free (or low priced if you don't like working around ads), and she knits and crochets. She has training videos to learn how to do both. Her patterns and simple and the style is casual and fun. Clink the link above to check out her stuff!
Okay, I know, this is supposed to be an 'Author Blog'... knitting is creative so it counts as author stuff :p
In other, more authory, happenings, this is the show that I'm going to be at selling and signing my books! You can clink the image below to redirect to the Facebook Event and get more details. There will be about 150 vendors there with lots of crafts and gift ideas. Come visit the show if you're in Edmonton that weekend!
2. How Worlds Fall
When the first virus evolved and escaped from that hospital, we didn’t understand the heavy implications. A few of the first victims were only identified once the pandemic had started and officials exhumed remains for sample testing to see if they could get a handle on where the virus had physically come from, what earlier form it had mutated out of, and how long it had been existing as it was now. Science did do the best it could at the time, but willful ignorance and fear-mongering were weaponized early in the political popularity contests of how the world used to be, which let the virus spread easily simply because of all the believed lies. Humans spread the virus quickly, because most only suffered flu symptoms, and pretty well ninety percent of the world’s primate population was wiped out in less than two years.
First the news was that the virus was only targeting monkeys and apes. Crazy thing was that we humans gave it to them, but people wouldn’t believe the actual science. Then the virus mutated to a lethal strain for humans. Once the body count of people was too high to hide, ignore, or profit from, little localized states of emergency were called. Finally someone popular connected the dots forming the picture that health officials had been screaming about since the primates had started their decline and – as usually happens with people – wide spread panic ensued. Because, of course, when there’s a pandemic at your door, the best thing to do is congregate in large groups and protest, loot, and riot. The bits of news feeds surviving from that point in history are way, way messed up; lots of headlines of health officials begging people to just stay home and stay safe sharing the front page with the latest riots and sit-in protests.
Then the headlines started begging at rumors of a vaccine that was working on test subjects. Head scientists that were still alive flew in from all over the world to work on it at this one hidden lab that was protected by an international military force. Then they did it. The vaccine got released and cases of it were shipped all over the world… to everyone left who could pay for it.
That’s when the headlines start reporting about the bombings and raids. There are still a few places open to tourism that I’ve traveled to where I saw the glazed craters that used to be science facilities. You see, people who had control of the bombs didn’t have all the knowledge of where the vaccine was being developed, so any science facility was deemed a potential target. A lot of them got targeted. Along with universities, some high schools and – when the “nobody can have it if I can’t” mentality peaked – hospitals, care homes, and any government building.
The bad side effect of those attacks, aside from slaughtering millions and devastating large swaths of land, were that a whole cocktail of terrible viruses were released within weeks of each other and planetary weather patterns have a habit of spreading all that air we need for breathing around the globe. It got bad when the viruses do what they do best: get worse. The few labs left did the best they could under threat and, after a few years, things started to improve as the new vaccines started getting produced. The survivors finally had enough time to look around, relish in their survival, and enjoy a few moments of peace.
The stories that were broadcast after those few, precious moments were when the existing levels of panic were abandoned and fear of an instinctive level kicked in. That part of history had only news that was just banner after banner of the same headline: Where Are the Men?
It was known that survival rates of pregnancies were dropping, but a mass flood of women to invade sperm banks proved that all pregnancies failed. My mom was the researcher who isolated the virus that was killing fetuses and tested it on herself because she couldn’t live with the horror of giving someone else hope without knowing if it was false or not. She was twenty-six weeks pregnant with me when she disclosed her progress to her aide and offered her the vaccine. With primate trials having a one hundred percent success rate over twelve months of testing, and two healthy human pregnancies, my mom announced the vaccine and everyone was inoculated.
My mom became a top researcher in her field. That meant that, before the first transition, I had access to a bunch of information and history when I was a kid. Then I turned twelve and faith in science faded because only female babies were surviving gestation. The virus that had started everything didn’t just kill people, it did something to our genetics that messed with a dominant Y-chromosome, destroying it and the male DNA it carried. The X-chromosome is resilient (some New Birthers like to say impervious) but the outcome of only one side of our dual DNA was – and remains – quite obvious. Our primate cousins had all but died out at the time of the first transition, the last few all old and failing as a blatant visual to our mothers of what was to become of all of us in our autumn years.
Which is when fear and faith took over. After all, some of our greatest peaks of human population growth throughout history were during expansions of religious zealotries, so why not manufacture zealots?
I also did do that Big And Scary Submission thing for my continued attempt at a writing career (and only two days later than I wanted - told you I'd only miss my deadline by a little): I actually submitted my first query to an agent group. The aim and intent of submitting is to query agents until someone is interested enough in representing me and my work to help me edit and polish until I have a shiny story that publishing houses want to represent. The agent then ensures things are correct for submitting to those publishing houses, with the plan that when my shiny story sells both the agent and I will get paid (me for creating the story, them for finding / editing / representing it). They're like real estate agents, but they deal in worlds and universes instead of properties. "Why get an agent?" I hear you asking. The answer: because most publishing companies who pay writers for stories won't deal directly with authors anymore, and self-publishing (professional editing and bookstore-quality finish) is really expensive with a next to zero return.
One more thing before I go, I wanted to let you know that the story starting this week is the last one I have planned for this year. I'm taking the end of November and all of December off of stories because of kid stuff going on during the lead-up to Christmas. Friday updates will continue, but will just be quick blurbs, random void-screaming about holiday prep, and reminders that you should come see me at the Rudolph's Shopping Extravaganza. I'll have books on sale! (Details of when and where will be shared in later posts so I know you'll keep coming back ;D) Hope you have a great weekend!
1. Idle Idols
I look up at the latest idol, my face a mask of adoration, and wonder if I was actually fooling any of these gods that I’d knelt before during any point in my life. Her stare is confidently high over the heads of all of us worshiping below. She looks out from her silk and porcelain cloak, adorned with plants and animals painted to look adorable and kind (in spite of many being predatory), and a sweet smile softens Her gilded face. She’s holding a long knife in one hand as if offering it to all of us, except Her fingers are curled to hold the hilt tightly, and She’s a cuddling a babe that’s nestled in the crook of Her opposite arm. Her face looks approachable, with one hand being maternal and the other dangerous.
My scornful sigh breathes out without even the hint of a scoff. At least this latest faith didn’t require all the standing and sitting and standing and sitting… my knees were too old for that. As the sermon winds down and we’re told to thank the top deity of this religion, that’s what I thank Her for: being allowed to sit for the whole service.
My name is Callia Wents. I myself am not old, just my knees are. They’d started to give me pain during the first transition, and I began using walking aides during the second transition. Now, after the third transition, I was on a waiting list for joint replacements that I would likely never qualify to receive. It’s only been fifteen years since the first transition. If I took the average, it was five years per faith. In reality, each previous ruling religion had managed to exist as a state-run method of keeping people afraid long enough for each leader to retire and die comfortably in the knowledge they’d done the best they could with what they had. That had been six years for the first, two years for the second (people had been terrified during that one), and seven years so far for this latest one. People just weren’t frightened anymore. Mostly, they were numb.
The sermon portion ended and everyone offered up one of their hands for the last part of the service: the Giving. Government officials stood from their places at the ends of each pew and put on their masks and gloves before they picked up the cases of needles and syringes they’d had neatly tucked between their feet. The officials all looked so relieved that they could finally put their masks back on. I hid my insolent smirk behind another adoring smile up at the idol, and tucked the roll of my eyes behind closed eyelids that feigned bliss. A simple pin-prick every week to ensure a faithful following, and the samples supposedly blessed and buried to ensure the Giving was returned to our Mother Earth.
Such a crock.
I already knew that the samples were taken back to the sterilized facility of the main research dome and tested to look for any of those long lost Y-chromosomes in anyone who might’ve evaded testing or been overlooked before. Sometimes women can the extra chromosome tied in as a clinging, regressive third wheel in our DNA, and it was the best place to look to start rebuilding because even thawed out Y bearing sperm samples wilted if they touched contamination (ie: anything and everything). For some reason we didn’t understand yet, the extra Y-chromosome attached to some woman’s DNA wasn’t attacked by the virus. The hope carried by our mothers was that – one day – we could use the third chromosome successfully and men would return from the history pages to live on the planet again. An inoculated woman could carry a child to term since the first vaccines had started being administered, which had been astonishing after nearly ten years without a new birth after the pandemic. That first baby had been front-page news for months, until a second pregnancy was successful and that child survived too.
All of us younger women are little miracles. We’re also forced to extreme regimes by our mothers as they cling to the memories of ‘parent’ generally being a plural thing. Our day-to-day lives as New Birthers are dictated by the needs of appeasing whatever deity of choice is being crammed down our throats to allow fertility to return to a natural balance. Aside from the last sperm banks running low on stock and no current known way to counteract the viral attack on the Y-chromosomes – meaning the eminent eradication of our species is nigh within, at most, two generations – religion is the last-ditch resort because of the claim that science failed.
To set the record straight, science didn’t fail. It was slandered, murdered, and its body burned down to ash and dust before it was run through a cement mixer and poured into ingots that were cured into unrecognizable shapes before being sunk into the deepest crevice of the oceans. The extent of the losses will likely never be fully understood, but at least a little knowledge was retained. Enough to get us to where we are now, anyway.
A weekly blog updating on Saturdays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!