Stories for the Masses

The mutterings of a half-mad Canuck who writes stuff

Month: June 2016

Human 76 – Prologue and “Leaving the Nest”

Human 76 is a real thing in the world now, and as I mentioned in my last post, I have read early versions of a few of the stories, but haven’t read the final versions of any of them, and haven’t seen many of the stories at all. In light of that, what I propose to do is write a review of each story as I read it, one every 2 or 3 days.

We begin our adventure with a very short prologue, and the first story, called “Leaving the Nest” – both written by Lisa Shambrook. The prologue was new to me, but I had read an early version of “Leaving the Nest” at the beginning of the project.

Lisa had the unenviable task of setting the stage for the rest of us, and so her hands were somewhat tied in terms of the story she could tell. She didn’t let that slow her down or cramp her style, though. The prologue sets the tone, and it’s a dark, brusque, urgent opening that promises a wild, thrilling ride (Stephen King, Schmeevin King – I like my adjectives). “Leaving the Nest” delivers on that promise and adds a healthy portion of emotional heft.

“Quiet, you fool! You’re safe now!” Rough hands gripped Ghabrie.
A kestrel swooped but Ghabrie could not hear its call. She could hear only Nahria’s shriek. Ghabrie strained to glimpse her little sister through the mass of rebellion warriors and Prometheans. The two sides were withdrawing, both claiming their spoils and retreating. Ghabrie thrashed: kicking, biting, struggling against strong arms that restrained her.
“Nahria, I’ll come for you!”
The butt of a rifle thumped the side of her head as her words still echoed across the barren landscape. Ghabrie slipped into an oblivion brought by the hands of her liberators.
* * *
When she woke she swallowed her nausea, winced at her injuries, and wept at the loss of her reason to live. She vowed never to rest until Nahria was back at her side.

That’s the prologue, in its entirety. Sets the tone nicely, doesn’t it? One of the comments that several of the other authors have made at various times was how closely all the stories matched in their tone and treatment of Ghabrie. I suspect Lisa Shabrook’s deft handling of these elements here deserves much of the credit for that.

“Leaving the Nest” concerns itself with Ghabrie’s early life, as well as introducing the reader to the main characters and the world they inhabit. It takes the form of a series of recollections by Xanthe; mother of two, and adoptive mother of many more. Via her flashbacks we meet Ghabrie, find out how she met her bird, what happened to separate her from her sister, and how she began her quest. We also get a surprising amount of information about the Ghabrie’s world, her community, and the apocalypse that makes this collection of stories post-apocalyptic. I say surprising because you don’t notice you’re being given the information at the time. It’s woven so naturally into a very well-told and compelling tale that all of the world-building and backstory-ing seems to happen accidentally. That’s first-rate writing.

Here is an excerpt:

“So, you heard him last night, did you?” she asked the child behind the door. “Come on in, and let’s see if he wants a snack.”
The child, grubby and thin, slid round the door and wandered into Xanthe’s container. The shipping containers had quickly become homes. People had barely escaped with their lives, so the facilities at the shipping yard were luxurious and the Blast survivors had made the best of what they had found. For the first few months they had huddled in the caves dug out at the foot of the mountain, the huge, gaping storage depot. Then as they realised they had escaped to a pocket of land free from radiation at the foot of the huge Tinder Mountain range, they emerged to reclaim the shipping yard, its surrounding land and a compound they could protect and live in. The survivors had cleared debris, turned the hot, metal shipping containers into homes and built new homes with the timber, tin and breeze blocks salvaged from the warehouse. The stagnant lake protected the north edge. Nothing could traverse the lake and the ships still harboured there were lost as the sulphuric water corroded and ruined the iron. Xanthe had been able to see the rolling waves from the door as the young girl stepped closer to her bed.
“Do you want to see?” she asked the child.
The girl nodded and Xanthe beckoned. Soon the child was sat upon the bed and the baby bird, almost as skinny as the little girl, fed from her hand.

The final version of the story is much as I remember from the early one I read months ago – tweaked here and there, the prose tightened and polished but, for the most part, the same in form and feature. It excites me as much now as it did then, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book. Even my story, which is next.


The ebook is available in epub format for free here.

The paperback is currently available here with all proceeds going to Water is Life

Here’s What I’m Going to Do

Cover for Human 76There’s a funny thing about contributing to an anthology that I’ve never really considered much before now, perhaps mostly because this is the first time I’ve been a contributor without also being an editor. With Human 76, I was involved in discussions and conversations about the stories and the process, and I did read early drafts of a few of the stories. But I haven’t read most of the stories in the book at all and I haven’t read the final versions of any of them, save my own.

I have ordered my paperback copies, of course. One for me, one for my Dad, and a couple for the library of the school where I teach. I had them all shipped to my parent’s place in Canada, because we’ll be visiting there in a few weeks and it was drastically more expensive to have them shipped to China. I was planning to wait until  we got there to read the book, but… well, I don’t want to wait that long.

And that’s when I had the idea to do what I’m going to do.

I have grabbed a copy of the ebook, which is available for free right now through and soon through Amazon, and I am not going to wait. I’ll read and review each individual story here on the blog, one every other day.

It will be glorious!

Human 76 is Now a Thing

Cover for Human 76A large part of the reason I’ve been pushing myself to get the site re-design done over the last few days is because I knew this beautiful thing was going to be ready this week and I wanted to be able to tell people about it.

Human 76 started as a family photo shoot with a twist – you can read about the projects origins here – and quickly became another in a growing list of rewarding and fulfilling projects undertaken by one of the wonderfullest groups of people on the planet. Michael Wombat did a wonderful write-up on the development from “wouldn’t it be neat” to finished book, which is only fitting as he was (as usual) the driving force that got the whole thing done.

The book contains 15 stories from 14 authors (myself included) each of which connects to the others in ways none of us could have foreseen when we started. It’s a shared-world, linked-storied, post-apocalyptic anthology, about a young woman on a journey to find and rescue her sister. It’ s suitable for a PG-13 audience, and it is very, very good.

It will be a free e-book for a few weeks (I’ll post a link as soon as it goes up) and is available now as a luxurious, creamy-smooth, reasonably-priced luxury paperback through All monies from both versions will go to Water is Life, a charity whose mission speaks loudly to all of the people involved in making this book, and whose mission couldn’t be a better fit, thematically, for the stories we wrote.

I encourage everyone to get a copy, and to read it, and to tell me what you think.

And then read it again.

Welcome to the Umpteenth Version of This

I have to admit, this blog has been through so many versions in the past three years that I feel like I should refer to it as Version mumble-mumble. Like some not-as-old-as-the-character-she’s-portraying leading lady pretending to be coy about her age to Tom Hanks in a 1980s rom-com. Truth is I really don’t know how to count what iteration this is of this blog. I haven’t really been keeping track.

What I do know is that there comes a time in every blog’s life when everything that has gone before must be burned to the ground to make way for new growth. To outsiders this might seem like willful and senseless destruction. It may seem wasteful of all the work that went into it up to that point.

But it’s really not.

You see, the value of all that work was not in the result, but in the process. In creating and maintaining, and failing to maintain my previous blog, I learned a lot about how to do all that. I also got to figure out some things that worked well for me, and a lot of things that didn’t. I refined my ideas about what I want to do, what I don’t, and what (and who) this blog is for.

And once you’ve burned down the past, you can use the ashes to fertilize the future.

So… yeah. I deleted the old blog and started over again – this time with more fertilizer.

I don’t yet know how often I’ll be posting, or exactly what I’ll be posting about. One of the things I figured out in the last go-around was that I should probably be more organic.

I do want to focus more on my writing work, so I’ll be talking about projects I’m working on, and I’ll post snippets and flash fiction and so forth as it seems appropriate. I’ll also write about writing from time to time as I figure out what I’m doing and learn new things as a writer, but only if I think it would be interesting to people who read my fiction. Because that’s who this blog is for – the people who read, and enjoy, my writing.

Both of you.