With apologies to J.K. Rowling

Last year I wrote a very silly short story which I had tentatively titled, “Care and Feeding of Magical Creatures”, but as you can see from the below this is not set anywhere in the Harry Potter universe. It does borrow slightly from those books, though, and so it is with some trepidation I offer this little story to Ms. Rowling as yet another fan fiction tribute.

-Liz

Care and Feeding of Magical Creatures (with apologies to J.K. Rowling)
“What do you mean, the ciders are all gone?”

“They’re not in the fridge. They’re gone.”

“Who drank them?”

Everyone shrugged.

“Well,” David said impatiently, “they can’t just have up and disappeared.”

Everyone looked at Sunni.

“Why are you all looking at me?” she asked. “Just because I drank them last time doesn’t mean I drank them this time.”

“Well, we will just have to get some more and hope they don’t up and disappear again,” David said, sighing.

There was a belch from the potted plant hanging above Mark’s desk. Its long, luxuriant vines rustled.

“What the hell?”

Mark picked up a pen and poked at the rustling leaves at the base of the pot.

A crushed cider can flew up in an arc from the pot and landed on Sunni’s desk, and there was another belch.

Everyone stared at the plant.

A small, fluffy pink face emerged from the leaves. It hiccupped. Tiny rainbow wings fluttered on the creature’s back.

“Mark?” David asked. “Why is there a drunken pink unicorn with wings hiding in your plant?”

“I have no idea,” Mark said, fumbling with his phone.

“No one will believe this,” he said, aiming his phone at the creature.

The unicorn hiccupped again and raised one hoof, pointing at Mark’s phone.

Expelliarmus,” it muttered, and Mark’s phone flew out of his hands and landed next to the crushed can on Sunni’s desk. There was a crackling noise.

“Awww, damn it,” Mark said, picking up his phone. Its face was crackled, broken.

“Now your phone looks like my phone!” Sunni said brightly.

“It’s using Harry Potter magic on us,” David said grimly. “Who here reads Harry Potter?”

“I’ve read some,” Sunni said. All of them were staring at the unicorn, which belched again.

“Not bad considering it must have drunk its body weight in cider,” Mark observed.

“Try Riddiculus,” Sunni suggested. “Visualize it as a stuffed animal that can’t move as you point your wand.”

They all looked at each other.

“Does anyone have a ruler? Or a laser pointer?” David said, finally.

Mark rummaged around in his desk.

“Here’s one,” he said, handing a laser pointer to David.

“Why are you handing it to me? It’s your unicorn.”

“It’s your idea to use a laser pointer,” Mark said.

Accio wand,” said the unicorn, and David yelped as the laser pointer in his hand tugged toward the pot.

“What was that thing you said, Sunni?” David cried, hanging on to the wand.

The unicorn grinned, and David scowled at it.

Riddiculus,” Sunni repeated.

Riddiculus,” David yelled, waving the laser pointer.

Nothing happened for a few moments, then the unicorn grew slightly bigger. It leered at Sunni.

“Bring more cider,” it said in its high-pitched voice.

There was a rumbling sound in the distance- the janitor was making his daily rounds on the floor-polishing mini-Zamboni.

Sunni scowled.

“There are three of us,” she said, “and only one of you.”

The unicorn hiccupped again.

“I’m a lovable magical creature,” it slurred, and hiccupped again.

“More,” it demanded, and fell out of the plant pot. It fluttered drunkenly in the air.

“Get him!” Sunni yelled, and Mark, who was closest to the unicorn, grabbed it. The unicorn made a gurgling noise and escaped his grip. Sunni opened the door to the office and kicked the fluttering unicorn out into the hallway, just as the janitor’s mini-Zamboni was passing by. There was a horrifying crunching sound as the unicorn was run over and pulverized, followed by the scent of bubblegum and strawberries.

The janitor just kept driving along, apparently not noticing anything amiss.

“Don’t steal our alcohol,” Sunni said darkly, looking at the scented pink smear on the floor that once was the unicorn.

“Fucking magical creatures, infesting our office,” David muttered. “You OK?”

He directed this last question at Mark, who was wiping his hands on a paper towel.

“I think it barfed on me,” said Mark, looking disgusted.

“I don’t know about you all,” said Sunni, hugging herself, “but I could use a drink.”

The three students looked at each other.

Eventually, David spoke.

“Do you think there are fluffy pink unicorns in the Grad Lounge?”

“Only if you’ve been there too long,” said Sunni, taking the laser pointer, and crossing her arms.

Black Arrow

I wrote this in 2006. It is about life trajectories- some are more convoluted than others.

Black Arrow

a master archer shot you, black arrow

straight and true into your target

and I, thistledown

wafting here and there on errant breezes

connecting softly with random things

our journeys are very different

and as I spin, and watch you fly past me

I can’t help but notice

you are fletched with thistledown

At work on Diamond, and other things

Hello readers!

I’m pleased to announce that a long period of constantly being barraged with odd ideas is ending for me, and I’ve managed to sit down and puzzle through the different bits of stories I have, and I’ve made a few editorial decisions. Bear with me- I did all this while proofreading my mother’s 120,000-word fairy tale book and she does not speak English as a first language, so that was actually a lot of work.

So I’ve decided to take the concept I wrote about in my last post, that of someone going undercover, and using it with a story concept I am calling Cloak. The plot of Cloak is going to draw heavily on current events with the Trump administration, so I am going to keep watching the news and taking notes. In fact, I need to be taking more notes on recent events.

I’ve plotted Diamond, and I like it. It draws heavily on my alternate lives- episodes I’ve frequently dreamed about, which seem real to me, but which I have no objective evidence for. I’ve been told they are likely to be delusions. If they are, they are non-bizarre (in the clinical sense, meaning they could plausibly happen on Earth- they’re still fairly strange), sometimes frightening, and sometimes completely awe-inspiring. I’ve also drawn from a few real events in my life. I think a lot of people will like the goddesses that I’m choosing to include, and I hope to make them not simply a plot device but fairly important characters in their own rights. I’m waiting a few more days before I try starting to write Diamond since I’ve been changing my mind constantly about what goes in and what characters to include, but I think I’ve got a fairly winning formula now and I think you’ll enjoy reading the book when it’s done.

I did think about messing with Infinity, but I don’t think the scenes I wanted to add will add much to the book- in fact, they may strain the credulity of the readers. I was going to do all sorts of weird crap with black holes, thinking it might be more exciting, but in reality it would be just silly. Not every idea I have while quasi-ill is a good idea. I’m pleased with the book as it stands, though I admit it’s a bit of an odd romantic yarn. I like it but I honestly do not know what others may think, and the people I have reading it now have not gotten back to me about it yet.

Before I dealt with my most recent bout of illness, I had been replotting Anagama and I am also much happier with that new plot. This will be the third time I’ve done this with this particular story. I actually think the new book will be much, much better now, but I still need to write 95% of it (I am only keeping the first five chapters, and may cannibalize other later chapters, but I’m not keeping them as is). I’m kind of torn about which book to work on first, Anagama or Diamond, as I like them both. In the past I’ve successfully been able to write more than one project at a time, and I might try doing that for these two books, switching from one to the other when I need breaks.

And, of course, on top of all of this I’m busy reading about business plans- this is actually easy-sounding, but I’m not really cut out for writing one since my mind keeps wandering- because I’m trying to put together documents that would describe the research I want to do and its potential impacts, social, scientific, and economic, on North America and elsewhere. I’m doing this so I have something to show philanthropists or funding organizations when I start seeking funding to continue with Project: Cancer-Fighting Gut bacteria at UCLA. Because I don’t know how to only do one thing at a time, there’s also a really great project I want to help with dealing with soil bacteria and agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation that I’d basically hand off to my employer’s lab in Canada once I find money for it. I do think the soil work is important, and could revolutionize how we treat soils and manure piles to greatly reduce emissions- there may be economic benefits to technologies produced this way also, if we do things right. I have a cost estimate for what the project would take and it seems reasonable to me.

I’m hoping I can raise enough via Project: Cancer-Fighting Gut Bacteria to get adjunct status at a university somewhere so I can start submitting grants for things like the greenhouse gas mitigation project, also. It bothers me that the current White House administration is so anti-science, since now is the time to be pouring money into efforts to slow and reverse climate change, not ignore the problem until it becomes unmanageable.

So if you were wondering why I am so unproductive as a writer, it’s because I am (a) bipolar and frequently sick, and (b) I’m simultaneously trying to do something which is both important and difficult for me, which is fundraise a significant amount of money for scientific research.

I hope you have a great day!

Liz

Incubating stories

I’ve had dreams and insights hit me hard and fast in the past few weeks, especially yesterday and today. I need to sort through all the story notes I have made for my different books, notably Diamond, and determine what characters will be in it and what they will do.

One idea that I like in Diamond is that the main character goes into an underworld under cover, taking on a different identity in order to flush out rapists who attacked her. I’m turning this one over in my mind quite a lot, and I like it. In order to make the book fit into one novel (or screenplay), I have to be judicious about what details I include, and I think I will focus mainly on the main character’s journey from being vulnerable and victimized to being stronger, wiser, and ultimately triumphant over her enemies. In Diamond the main character is divinely inspired by kick-ass and smart goddesses, and they guide her through her process of transformation.

I’m also working on several other book ideas, but I feel once I have finished with Infinity (I may add extra scenes) I’ll get going on Diamond.

Eight books

Hello, readers!

I’ve been ill for a while and have had many interesting dreams- so many so that I’ve come up with a fountain of concepts for both science research (I am currently seeking funds to do something which could be amazing- shhhhh) and fiction writing. I’ve tallied up the ideas I have and there are eight books in total. I can’t describe all of them (and I don’t want to) but I have registered most of the ideas with the WGA West registry already, and while most are still in concept phase, I’m excited about every one of them.  I have a full draft of two books finished- I had worked on them previously; both need updating now, and I have a partial draft of a third.

The most problematic book will be one set in the Star Wars universe- I think I have only a cursory knowledge of that universe and so I really can’t write it by myself. It has to be in that universe because of who the main character is. So I’ve started taking steps to figure out how to learn more or perhaps find a writing partner for that one.

I’m still reeling from four solid months of unusual thoughts and ideas wafting through my bipolar mind, and so while I’ve started to focus on one of the story ideas, I literally have not been able to do very much at all on any of these eight books in the past little while. I also have been working hard at trying to find information I can use in my science project fundraising efforts, so I am not completely incapacitated, just busy.

My next goal is to plot out several of the story ideas I have in my mind while they are still fairly fresh (I have done this already with Diamond, though I need to change some of the details), and then evaluate which of the story ideas I have in mind will be most likely to land me an agent and editor. The two books I’ve written so far might be candidates, though both need updating as I have had ideas since they were written to make them more interesting. Infinity did not take me very long to write- I followed an outline I had made for the most part and it worked out pretty well. I suspect none of the books I have in mind will take very long to revise or write as long as I can stay healthy and focused.

New story idea

Hello, readers! I have been just besieged with a ton of great ideas for stories and elements of stories, and I’ve compiled a sketch outline of what I think is a really great one that I’m calling Diamond. I will describe it later, but I’m really excited about it.

I don’t have time to write much more as I am trying to finish work for my laboratory in Guelph, but I’m very proud of Diamond and can’t wait to get started on it. I had originally thought to call the story Hypnagogia, but I think while that name is appropriate, there’s one scene where the main character screams that she is “unbreakable”, which makes me think, hey, why not call it Diamond. To be clear, I actually didn’t steal this from Luke Cage, it’s something I actually remember.

I’ve also got a character named Liz Diamond (Agent Diamond) who shows up in comical short stories I’ve written, but those are not my best work. Different characters entirely.

I need to do some additional research for this one, so it may take a while, but I suspect it will go pretty quickly- it uses a lot of elements from my own dreams and life.

An unusual love story liberally sprinkled with assassination attempts and bizarre floral arrangements

Hello, readers! My 60,000 word novel Infinity is finished and I’ve been revising madly- it is in very good shape. I’m currently drafting a pitch and 1-2 page synopsis for it so I can submit it to a particular agent. I find that my revisions are best when I put down my manuscript for a week or so between revisions, so the process of revision is taking some time, but I am not in any particular hurry.  I want to do the best job possible! I’ve been tossing pitches for Infinity around in my head. I think my current favorite pitch is that Infinity tells the story of how mental illness intersects with time travel and quantum entanglement, resulting in an unusual love story liberally sprinkled with assassination attempts and bizarre floral arrangements.

In other news, I’ve got five other novel ideas circulating in my head. I’ve jotted notes for all of them and I’m going to spend some time in between revisions of Infinity working on plotting them, and on writing a third draft of Anagama, which as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve replotted and now have greater confidence in as a result. I also have submitted a hypothesis paper for my crowdsourced science project from 2014, so I am hoping it is looked on favorably and revisions/resubmission won’t take me too much time.

Here is hoping that July and August are productive months for me. I’ve had some difficulty with my bipolar disorder presenting itself in rapid cycling form, which I am hoping to overcome by watching my sleep, food intake, and exercise. Wish me luck!

Reviving a 2015 manuscript

Hello, readers! While I work on revisions and polishing of my now-completed manuscript Infinity (close to 60,000 words), I unearthed a manuscript called Anagama that I finished in 2015. It was difficult to write, and there were many problems with it, not the least of which that I had started it in 1998 and had been working on it and putting it away periodically in all the time since. I forced myself to finish it, but the results were disappointing. So I put it aside to think about what to do with it.

I finally know- it hurts to do this, as I’ll be discarding many passages that I rather like, but I completely revised the plot, changed most of the characters, and am changing the main focus of the story. In past incarnations, Anagama had as a big focus the nature of a vampire-like main character and his special abilities. I think this was a mistake. I had invented, in 2014, a female scientist character who is a secret hero, and her story is much more interesting. I started to want to tell it in 2014 when I invented her, but bent most of the book into the frame I had devised for it when I was much younger and not as good of a writer- so the story really, really didn’t work. By tearing up much of the manuscript (everything but the first three chapters, actually) and starting again, I now can make the story into what it should have been.

Another big focus of the new manuscript idea is that it focuses not just peripherally, but centrally on the idea of trying to quantify what is human. People do this all the time. We come up with all sorts of criteria for categorizing animals and human beings. During the time between when I finished Anagama in 2015 and yesterday, when I picked up the manuscript again, I realized that there is interesting literature discussing concepts of what it means to be human, and whether there is a biological foundation for the concept of race (spoiler: there isn’t, it’s a social construct, though I am sure some may disagree). In Anagama, I hope to discuss this along with the larger question of what it means to be human, and whether there is a biological foundation for the concept of human being that can safely exclude sentient beings that don’t meet the criteria. The story focuses on mutant humans, infected with retroviruses that literally alter their genomes to the point where they are no longer classified as human: chimpanzees and humans, for example, share 98.8% of their genomes, but no one classifies a chimpanzee as a human being. So in discussing the question of whether it is ethical to deny mutant humans the basic rights given to human beings, this question of chimpanzees vs. humans also comes up.

The question of animal rights is a tricky one, not least because humans enjoy eating animals, wearing their skins, and using their labor. I was a vegetarian for 14 years because I struggled with the idea that it was all right to eat animal flesh; I stopped mostly for financial reasons (I was living in a place where vegetables were more expensive than meat), but now would struggle to be able to eat a lot of vegetarian/vegan food since so much of it contains gluten, which I cannot digest, or is very expensive. So there is a grey area for me: I couldn’t bring myself to eat a primate or wear its skin, and I am deeply disturbed by research that involves primates. But I am less bothered if the animal is a cow- is that hypocrisy, or do I simply judge how an animal is treated based on its apparent sentience or intelligence? Is this ethically sound? We don’t eat or skin humans born without much intelligence, or born without brain stems.

So there is much to be pondered in the question of what it means to be an animal that is human, specifically, and how you can distinguish human animals from nonhuman animals, as well as the question of whether this distinction justifies differential treatment.

I promise, despite these forays into philosophy, that Anagama will still be an entertaining yarn, with daring escapes, car chases, psychic phenomena, and lots of intrigue.

Have a nice day!

 

 

Nearly done first draft!

Hello, readers! I am nearly finished the first draft of my novel-in-progress, Infinity, and I’m very happy. It’s roughly 60,000 words, though I suspect it will become slightly longer as I revise and add in a few scenes I’ve thought of recently that should probably go in.

I hope to write the concluding chapter today, and then start revising later this week.

Have a great day!

On time

I’m about halfway through my novel-in-progress, Infinity, and I find myself at a point now where I have to have the main character explain some concepts about time to other characters.

The plot of this novel relies heavily on the idea of time travel- both of information and of people and objects- and while this is currently thought to be impossible with existing technology and known laws of physics, I’ve not yet given up hope that I can come up with a halfway plausible-sounding explanation for it.

The easiest solution, as has been pointed out to me many times, is just to fake something using existing science fiction tropes, but I actually want to entertain physicists and other scientists as well as people with no real specialized knowledge of science. I know it’s easy to just say “oh, future technology” or “well, it just works like this, okay?” and be done with it and get on with writing. But that wasn’t a very satisfying solution for me.

Now, of course, I’m no physicist and I can’t come up with elaborate proofs or even really comprehend a lot of what real physicists talk about. I am currently a bit over halfway through Lee Smolin’s Time Reborn, which discusses theories of time, and it is tough going for me since I keep getting sidetracked. However, I am pleased that some dreams I’ve had about how time travel might work mesh with a few of the more recent things I’ve read about in Lee’s book. It will, of course, likely be gibberish (I probably am misunderstanding a lot of the concepts put forth in the book, particularly as they may only be presented in simplified form). But it is my pseudoscientific gibberish, thank you, and I hope it inspires others to really study how time works.

I’m happy to report that I’m largely over the month-long period of odd dreams and an inability to generally function, and I’m back to writing. I am working on both a scientific article dealing with a hypothesis I formed while researching my cancer project, and on Infinity. I’ve also had a few fairly sinister dreams where James Comey was following me around on campus with a bunch of FBI agents, and I had no idea it was him because he looked like one of my coworkers. This has given me the germ of an idea for a story involving spies and spycraft, a more serious one than the silly shorts I write about Agent Diamond and Charming Guy. This spy story is put on the burgeoning pile of ideas I have for things I want to write after I’m finished with Infinity.

Have a great day!