At some point in high school (or possibly middle school) I stumbled across the book Sphereland by Dionys Burger. It’s a mathematical adventure in geometry – and yes, I know that sounds terrible, but it’s really a lot of fun. I re-read the book countless times.
Sphereland is a sequel to an earlier book, Flatland, by Edwin Abbott Abbott, which was both a satire of Victorian society and an exploration of geometry. Since the plot of Flatland was summarized at the beginning of Sphereland, I didn’t need to read the original.
Both books tell the story of a Square living in a 2-dimensional universe, a plane, in fact. This is a diagram of the Square’s home.
The Square is visited by a Sphere from Spaceland, a 3-dimensional realm. At first the Square can only see flat cross-sections of the Sphere as it passes through the plane of his world.
Eventually, the Sphere lifts the Square out of Flatland, and across the span of the two books, they visit Lineland, Pointland, and are in turn visited by an Over-Sphere from the fourth dimension.
These books started my lifetime fascination with multi-dimensional fiction. I eventually did read the original Flatland, as well as The Boy Who Reversed Himself by William Sleator and Spaceland by Rudy Rucker. I’m currently reading Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So by Ian Stewart.
I even wrote a manuscript, BRANEWORLD, which received positive praise on submission, but also some excellent critical feedback which led me to re-think my approach to the topic. Now, I’m 15k into a new WIP and re-visiting the multi-dimensional universe with new characters and a completely new story.
Do any of you have a lifetime fascination with a topic which you’ve written about – perhaps more than once in an attempt to do it justice?
So, I’m on Twitter, and I see this post come up with my name and website:
I put the sentence through Google translator — which identified the language as Icelandic — and got this translation.
The new favorite author of mine is definitely Dianne K. toilet.
I double-checked, putting in just my last name, and yup. It’s true. Salerni is the Icelandic word for toilet.
Having shared the useful function of the dog last week, I feel obligated to give the cat credit for her role in the household:
Yeah, I know that moth was on the outside of the glass. However, she makes some pretty amazing leaps to catch insects inside the house, too — moths, mosquitoes, flies.
And she is determined. Nothing, nothing gets in her way … lamps, glasses full of water, people …
Once Luna has managed to smash the winged creature against a wall or window and it falls to the floor, she pads at it gently, sniffs it, and then down the hatch it goes. No need to treat the cat. The act is its own reward.
BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK!
Sorcia rushes the door like a guided missile, throwing herself up on her hind legs and planting her front paws on the glass window. She bares her huge, sharp teeth and snarls. Saliva drips from her canines.
By the time I get to the door, the bell ringer is standing halfway down the walk. He is obviously poised to run for his life, but he still manages to give me a cheerful wave.
I crack open the door. Sorcia pushes past me and gets her head outside before I manage to pin her body against the door with my leg. She is barking and snarling and snapping. “Yeah, hello?” I say to the man.
“Hello, ma’am. That is a beautiful dog!”
Note: Sorcia is a beautiful dog, but every single one of ’em says this, so I assume it must be part of their door-to-door salesman training.
“What do you want?” Sorcia and I are having a battle in the doorway. She slips out a little more.
The man takes a step back, swallows hard, and says, “I’d like to talk to you about windows/siding/driveway sealant/the kingdom of heaven.”
“Uh, no,” I say bluntly, grabbing Sorcia by the collar and heaving backward with all my strength.
“Okay!” He doesn’t argue. He bolts.
I close the door and turn around.
Sorcia has stopped barking. She sits and watches me with big brown eyes. Her wagging tail makes a swishing sound against the floor.
I give her a biscuit.
Another Memorial Day approaches. It seems this annual event comes every few months, a sure sign I’m getting older. A few years ago, I had the honor, and I mean a real honor, to attend a good friend’s father’s funeral. Rick was my best man at my wedding. His dad was a retired Army Colonel. Col. Mock retired in the early 70’s and, oddly enough, started a music store in Northern Virginia.
Col. Mock and I were both Old Crows. We shared memories of similar duty stations and the odd nature of SIGINT. We couldn’t talk much about our work or we would have had to kill each other. Suffice it to say, Col. Mock was a highly decorated hero. Like other real heroes, he was afforded a place to rest at Arlington Memorial Cemetery.
Not every vet can be buried there. I’m sorry that the facility is overcrowded and the Armed Forces have been forced to adopt some pretty steep entry requirements. (Which, at my last look, I couldn’t meet) These requirements can be part of your homework to look up.
The ceremony is very moving at Arlington. The Army ensured that Col. Mock was carried to his resting place by respectful and caring soldiers. An honor guard consisting of some 30 Soldiers, a real military band, and a horse drawn caisson took him to the gravesite. 3 volleys of shots, Taps, and a folded flag to the widow wrapped it up.
I fell in with the detail commander after the ceremony and told him how, as a retired Marine, I was impressed and proud of the detail and their execution of the ceremony. The soldiers were somber and respectful. Their appearance and field drill was impeccable. These troops were the Army Old Guard and they weren’t just showboats. The Major I spoke with was a Ranger, who wore the Silver Star, the Purple Heart (with repeat award star), the Bronze Star (with Valor clasp- a combat award), plus the other ribbons of a successful career officer.
I discovered that he had as many as eight interments a day, six days a week, and there were other details for the other Armed Services. There was about a 3 month backlog. WW II heroes in their 90’s and 18 year old men from Afghanistan all coming to rest at the same place. WWII hero John F. Kennedy lies there with his sons and brother, Robert. Many of the most revered names in US military history are there. The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded around the clock by some very serious guards.
For your final homework and exam, make the pilgrimage. You can use DC and all its monuments, the Smithsonian, Holocaust Museum, Capitol, and White house as an excuse to go, but do cross the Potomac and spend some time there. It’s a 15 minute walk from the Lincoln Memorial across the Memorial Bridge. The visitors’ entry fee has been paid for by the residents.
There is no Russellville. There is no Forestville.
There are no towns 1 mile in either direction.
But there used to be. I finally got curious enough to look them up.
There was a tavern at the intersection of Newport Road (PA 896) and Limestone Road (PA 10) as early as 1737. A town grew up around the crossroads, which eventually came to be named Russellville. In 1823 Russellville had a population of one hundred with a sawmill, a hotel, two general stores, a grocery and a post office. There was also a private school known as the Russellville Academy.
None of those places exist anymore.
Forestville (and the forest it was named for) are also gone. Apparently there used to be a blacksmith shop, a store, and a post office.
Poof. Gone. But PennDoT still puts up signs telling you how to get there.
(I’m kind of jealous Forestville had a post office. The town I live in doesn’t have its own post office. We were assigned the post office at Lincoln University, so my mailing address uses Lincoln University as the town name, even though it’s not a town, and I don’t live on the university grounds. Weird, huh?)
Do you have any historical leftovers where you live?
Here’s all the stuff that happened while I was on blogging hiatus.
- My husband went to Japan on business, and at the end of his trip, my daughters flew out to join him in Tokyo. There are several reasons why I didn’t go too, but there’s no point getting into them. Suffice it to say that they had the time of their life anime-ing themselves up, while I manned the fort and was the sole object of affection for one large dog and one small cat.
- Don’t feel too sorry for me missing out on Tokyo because two weeks later my husband and I took a long overdue anniversary trip to Key West. There we enjoyed great food, jet skis, a sunset Rum & Reggae snorkel trip, Snuba (diving with your air supply attached to a raft), and tooling around the island on a scooter. I was a little nervous about riding on the back of this thing in traffic, but I pretended he was Riley and I was Evangeline and we were off to save Jax in The Inquisitor’s Mark. (At 30 mph, lol.)
- Speaking of Riley, I stumbled across some fan art for Riley Pendare on Deviant Art. You can check it out HERE.
- I made several school visits – real and virtual – and signed books at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival where I (briefly) met Jane Yolen and Kwame Alexander! I wish I had a picture of with them, but I don’t. You’ll just have to imagine it.
- The Eighth Day was the 3rd place winner of the 2015-2016 Sunshine State Young Readers Award. Thank you, students and teachers in Florida!
- As for writing, I revised a manuscript based on notes from my editor, almost finished the first draft of my WIP, plotted out some ideas for my next project, and jotted brief notes on a premise that came to me (but which does not have any characters or plot yet).
So what have you been up to these past few weeks?
Everything looks perfect. Strings of red lights drape across the ceiling and dangle from the center of the gymnasium, cloaking all the dancers in crimson.
Everything sounds perfect. The music is upbeat, the bass a perfect volume, not that crass loud overbearing beat that makes everyone’s ears bleed and heart hurt. Not like last week’s prom at East High–which naturally I crashed to be sure I didn’t overlook any details. Nope, my prom is nothing like that. Everyone is laughing and having a good time. I circulate, smiling at my classmates, nodding at their dress and accessory choices. The food table is topped off. The chaperons are keeping their distance.
I approach a girl standing at the foot of the bleachers. I tap her bare, brown shoulder. “Where have you been?”
She’s wearing a strapless, short black dress, one electric blue heel and one emerald green heel. Her nails are each painted a different color of the rainbow, and today her eyes are a natural brown. A thick strand of her black hair matches the electric blue shoe.
“Bathroom.” She turns toward me. “I sat on the seat and everything.”
“Ew.” I fumble through my purse.
“What are you looking for?”
“Sanitizer.” I hand her a bottle.
She doesn’t take it, but asks, “And what, pray tell, shall I do with it?”
I steer her toward the hall. “Spread it on the back of your thighs.”
She ducks out from under my hands and moves back toward the dance floor, laughing. “You really are crazy. Remind me again why I love you.”
“Why wouldn’t you?” I put the sanitizer under her nose for one last try.
She shakes her head and I return it to my purse with a huff.
“I promise to wear sweats to sleep in later. My germ-covered legs won’t touch anything in your house.”
“What about our toilet seats?” I watch as a girl in a mermaid dress takes the last water bottle from the refreshment table.
“Man. I’ll shower when I get there. Okay?”
“Fine.” I gesture to the transformed gymnasium. “It’s all fantastic, right?”
Ms. Fulton, the only teacher not charmed by my straight A+ average and over-abundance of extra-curriculars is glaring at me from ten feet away like something’s gone amok. All the other teachers patted my back and congratulated me on successfully orchestrating the prom-week festivities, parade, and dance. Not her.
Since I kept scrolling uselessly down to the blank end of the page when I first read this submission, I guess it’s obvious that I would turn the page if there was more to read! I want to know what Ms. Fulton’s problem with the narrator is, although I can guess it might be her sexual orientation.
Our narrator gives us a strong sense of character. She’s competent, organized, energetic, and finicky about details and germs. I like her! It doesn’t bother me that we don’t know her name yet because her character is so strong.
It did bother me that she didn’t identify her date by name. The teacher got a name, and so did the neighboring school. Why not the girlfriend — if for no other reason than to avoid having two unnamed girls in this scene.
The line “I sat on the seat and everything” dragged me out of the story. It seemed like such a strange thing to say at that moment, even if the girl is transgender (which is the only reason I can think of for her to make that statement). And then there was the thought of putting sanitizer on her legs. (Oh, the burn!) By the time we got to sweatpants and germ-covered thighs, I was completely pulled away from the prom thinking about other people’s bathroom habits. It’s just my opinion, and maybe it didn’t bother anyone else, but I wonder if there’s a way to steer the conversation so that we see evidence of their humor and fondness for one another while keeping our attention on the event of the evening, the prom.
Christy, thanks for sharing your page with us! Readers, do you have any other comments for her? Don’t forget to check out feedback from Krystalyn and Marcy, and you can find Christy at her writing blog, Erica and Christy.
It was a seemingly innocent thing, that first flicker. We were sitting in the Anchorage airport waiting for our flight home to Cordova when it happened. The lights trembled once, twice, then went out completely. If it hadn’t been daytime, the blackness would have been absolute. There were none of those emergency back-up lights shining in the corners, no glow from someone’s iphone. Anything electrical or computerized was just finished. We heard what sounded like a few distant explosions, then an eerie silence. We looked at each other and around at the other passengers. Everyone was stabbing fingers uselessly at their phones, laptops, the kiosk computer terminals. A murmur of voices rose, as everyone began to speculate.
Some of the airport personnel arrived with good old-fashioned battery powered or crank operated flashlights. The intercoms weren’t working either, or the little cars they sometimes drive around, so they were busy hoofing it from gate to gate, letting everyone know as much as they did, which was not much. There appeared to be a blackout that was at the very least spread across the Anchorage Bowl and Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and was most likely statewide. Perhaps it went even further. Nobody knew because communications were gone along with everything else; even old school land lines.
We hung out in the airport for a few more hours, until the time of our flight had come and gone. Eventually, someone announced that all flights were cancelled for the day, or until the power came back on. We left the airport to go back to the hotel we had just checked out of that morning. We had to walk, because anything with a motor was simply not running. Something major had happened, we knew. Power outages don’t affect cars. Solar flare? Nuclear bomb? We noticed smoke rising in several spots over the inlet, and remembered the explosions we had heard immediately after the outage. The planes. They had all crashed. I started feeling sick to my stomach.
We were in Anchorage for the state cross country running meet. For the first time ever, both the boys and girls teams had qualified, so we’d taken the ferry to Whittier and made the short drive to Anchorage. There were seven guys, six girls, and two coaches for the three day trip. By the time we were supposed to return, a storm had moved in to Prince William Sound, cancelling the ferries, so we had to book flights back to Cordova. This was always a hazard in Alaska when traveling in remote areas. Then we couldn’t all get on one flight at such short notice – it’s a small plane – so eight kids and Coach Ron were on the first flight, while the rest of us waited for the next one with Coach Casey.
I’ve read my share of post-apocalyptic YA books, but never one set in Alaska. This is a setting that will provide unique challenges in a world suddenly bereft of electricity and transportation. I looked up Cordova and Anchorage on a map (see above), and it looks like a long way to get between them over land (which I’m betting is the meaning behind the title) rather than by boat or plane.
The opening scene with the flicker of lights and then the failure of everything at the airport will work for this story – but we want to experience it in real time with the narrator, rather than as the summarization we have now. That first paragraph alone could take a page or so to convey if we get all the sensory details as they happen – what did it feel like, what did they hear, see, smell? Most of all, we want to experience the uneasiness that gradually turns to alarm and fear and panic after they realized the planes crashed.
A literary agent once told me that he looks for two things in the opening pages of a manuscript: character and a sense of conflict. The conflict is evident here, but kept at a distance from us because we don’t really know the character experiencing it. By the end of the first page, I know the narrator is a member of a cross-country team from Cordova, but not if it’s a boy or a girl or their name.
I think this story needs to start with us getting to know the main character in the Anchorage airport. He/she and teammates are coming from a state meet. Did the team do well? Are they feeling victorious? Their travel home has been delayed, and they’ve been split up. Has the delay brought them down from their post-meet high, or are they still in boisterous spirits? Are other travelers annoyed by their antics? Has Coach Casey asked them to settle down, or is she too busy on her phone to pay attention?
Then comes that flicker, and everything changes.
Kristen, thank you for sharing your first page! Readers, do you have anything to add? You can find Krystalyn and Marcy’s thoughts on their websites. And you can find Kristen as AKLibraryChick on Twitter.
Not an uncommon sight in our house … Sorcia and Luna at their favorite watering hole.
I just wanted to leave you with a funny image.
I’ll be taking a blog hiatus for the rest of this month and April.
See you all in May!