Tag Archives: Research Sirens

A bit of research

Lisa walked into the paranormal office while buckling on her gun belt. She had a look of grim determination. She’d put on her jodhpurs, boots and top from the time we went on the outlining safari. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”Lisa Burton
“It’ll be fine. If I’m going to write these stories, a bit of research is necessary. I don’t know some of the details and I want to make the stories plausible.”

“You’re stories are all speculative fiction.”

“That’s not what I mean. Sure they have fantastic elements, but the real-world stuff has to be that much more accurate.”

“Those girls are hell-bent on destroying your writing career by sending you down a wormhole of research. They aren’t called the Research Sirens for nothing.”

“That’s why you’re coming, to protect me. I enjoy research, and a certain amount of it is necessary.”

“Yeah, and a certain amount of it isn’t. Remember when they talked you into flying to China? If Lorelei hadn’t showed up you’d still be there today.”

“They’re the best researchers ever, and I want their help.”

“I’ll pull the Land Rover around. It goes with my outfit.” She headed up the stone steps, then turned back. “Lorelei will be pissed if she finds out.”

“Then we can’t let her find out.”

***

Lisa parked behind the Olympus Lounge in the tiny mountain town. She set the meeting up, and this is where the Sirens chose.

She made me wait in the car while she looked around the parking lot, one hand on her big assed gun at all times. She held up her hand and made a come here motion with two fingers. She shouldered her canvas map-bag and we went inside.

The lounge was decorated with marble columns running up into a darkened ceiling. We crossed a marble floor while glancing at busts of famous authors.

The ladies waited on various pieces of plush furniture. Wiki sat cross-legged on a huge beanbag with her nose buried in the iPad mini she never seemed to be without. Her red A-line haircut looked like it was multiple shades from various dyes, and had been cut to look like it was chewed into shape. She wore a tee-shirt with the Apple logo, a denim skirt, black leggings, and sneakers.

Wiki had always been the most helpful, and she wrinkled her nose in the most adorable way when she spotted us. She jumped up and skipped to a table booth had been reserved for our meeting.

Conversia rose from the sofa and straightened her black sequined dress. Her caramel skin and huge spiral perm drew instant attention. The scoop neck on her dress wasn’t something that could be ignored. She walked gracefully to the table, heels clacking on the stone floor as she walked.

Libraria came out of the back somewhere. Her blonde hair was in a tight ponytail, and she hadn’t given up on the sexy librarian look. She carried a tray with a carafe of red wine and five glasses. She glanced at me over the top of her glasses before placing the tray on the table.

Conversia gestured at my chair and I took a seat.

Libraria poured the wine and offered me a glass first.

Lisa scooped it up and took a tiny sip. Her eyes fluttered as she did a complete chemical analysis. “He won’t be having any today. He brought his own.” She reached in her canvas bag and produced a small thermos and tin cup. “He prefers coffee anyway.”

Wiki leaned forward and gushed. “What are we doing today?”

“I, um, I’m working on two novellas and I’m nearly ready to start. They’re quite different, and I need to get some details right.”

Libraria said, “Thank the Gods you came to us first. Starting now could be a disaster. You need to do your research until everything is perfect. Why don’t you tell us what you have in mind.”

“Well, one of them is about these people locked in an underground bunker. They’re stuck there for three months, because of a regular thing that happens in their solar system. As a part of the story, I need to know about the human circulatory system.”

“What you need is a good book on anatomy. Entry into medical school would be even better, but you may not have time. I have a complete library here and can help you find anything you need.”

Wiki turned her iPad toward me and opened her mouth in a silent “ta-daaa” gesture. The whites of her eyes were framed by the heavy mascara she always wore. Her black fingernails and collection of friendship bracelets framed a YouTube video of the human circulatory system.

“Is that a new nose-stud?”

“It is! Thanks for noticing. It’s a real diamond too–”

Conversia placed a perfectly manicured, red fingernail under my chin. She turned my head her direction. She batted her eyes and leaned forward, the scoop-neck of her dress guaranteeing I wouldn’t turn away. “Pay attention. Sometimes all you need is a consultant. Someone else has already done this research. All you need to do is find them and ask them some logical questions.”

“Uh-huh, um, what kind of questions?”

“What do you intend to have happen in your story? Ask if that’s plausible.”

“Okay, so I have another story where the character is going to learn to play the upright bass. I don’t know anything about bass clef.”

Squee! Look at these cute bass clef earrings I found.” Wiki wrinkled her nose and turned her iPad back towards me.

Lisa moved towards her. “Those are really cute.”

Wiki slid over in the booth so Lisa could sit down.

Libraria said, “I also have books about music theory, simple chords, and can even find you one about how to build your own bass.”

“Girls!” Conversia said. “The man needs another consultant. There are any number of music teachers, instrumentalists, and whatnot that could answer his questions. I suggest a month or two in Vienna or someplace where he can really learn.”

“It isn’t going to be symphonic in nature. It’s more like rock-a-billy, bluesy stuff.”

“I see,” Conversia said. “Perhaps I can set up a mentorship with Brian Setzer or someone similar.”

“That would be awe–”

Lisa slapped me across the forehead. She opened her mouth and played back an audio recording of my own voice. “I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to be plausible.”

I leaned back in my chair and sipped my coffee. The girls leaned back in the booth, and Libraria crossed her arms.

“I think we’re done here,” Lisa said.

Wiki turned her iPad around once more. In a half-hearted voice she said, “Look, a cute cat… playing an upright bass.”

Lisa grabbed me by the collar and stood me up. She pointed me toward the door and gave me a shove.

“Bye, ladies. Always a pleasure,” I said over my shoulder.

***

Lisa pulled onto the highway out of town. “You’re such a dope. A few horn-rimmed glasses, a scoop-neck collar, and a wrinkled nose and you’re ready to move to Vienna. I told you they were dangerous. Lorelei told you they were dangerous.”

“I think Conversia was onto something though. I need a consultant for each story.”

“I have all your friends in my database, and there are a couple who will do a wonderful job. I’ll send out some email and see if they’re interested.”

“At least you didn’t fall under their spell.”

“Don’t be so sure. Wiki and I ordered those earrings, and a bass clef pendant to go along with them. We’ll be like sisters, she said.”

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Wednesday efforts, robots, sirens, the works

I wanted to make it out to the writing cabin once more before going on vacation. The puppy saw to it that I got a good early start.

I found Lisa doing her nails in the front office. “What are you doing? I told you I was coming today.”

“I expected you later. I have a show to do tomorrow, and need to look my best.”

“It's a radio show.”

“I don't care. I do my best work when I feel confident. What's our plan today?”

“No plan, really. It's summertime, and I only want to keep the projects moving forward. I'll grab coffee and be in my office.”

I struggled with ideas for Halloween themed stories. For some reason, my Muse (Lorelei) hasn't been sending me much stuff along those lines. I finally gave up and started making a pass through The Yak Guy Project. I haven't done much with it, and wanted to get back in the swing. I need to completely rewrite one character to avoid him resembling the other characters. Anyway, my idea was to study the previous characters.

This story is based loosely around The Fool's Journey, from the major arcana of the tarot deck. The character I want to repair is the heirophont character. Yak Guy Ted (the fool) meets a lot of mentors along his journey. I have too many of them sounding like Miyagi.

It's probably poor planning, because at 50,000 words, there was no way I was going to get completely through it today. Then there was the idea of going on vacation for ten days.

I surrendered and went back to short stories. I wrote two of them. Word count came in at about 2700. They are too big to call micro-fiction, but too short for my determination of a short story at 5000. Whatever, I wrote 2700 new words, and one of them might deserve to be a little bit longer.

These are stories for my baseball project, called The Enhanced League. This is proving to be a challenge, because there is a lot of world building going on. Each story is supposed to stand alone, but support a longer book of short stories. This means my normal twist endings don't apply in every story. Like I said, a challenge. Actually writing them helps me with the clarity.

Does anyone out there still enjoy a tale with gobs of world building? They used to be pretty popular.

I looked up and stroked my beard. “Lisa, do you know where Wiki is hanging out these days?”

Lisa came into my office all in a flurry. “Don't even think about it. You remember how mad Lorelei got when you hung out with the Sirens.”

“It isn't like Lorelei's been around a lot lately. Probably hanging out at some Olympic beach party, or getting ready to go to the actual Olympics. Now answer my question.”

Lisa's eyelids fluttered ever so slightly as she checked the tracking data. “Wiki is hanging out at a coffee shop about thirty miles away.”

“Is she alone? She's more dangerous with her sisters.”

“She's alone, for now.”

“Pull the old Land Rover around. You can provide security.”

***

We found little hipster Wiki in the coffee shop hiding behind a huge mug and her iPad mini. She wore a long tee-shirt with a skull pattern over black leggings, with army boots. She had a cluster of colored string friendship bracelets on one arm, and two watches on the other. I have to admit, she looked adorable, but all of the Sirens do.

Wiki jumped up and squealed. “Hi you guys. What brings you here?”

“We're looking for you,” I said.

Lisa simply crossed her arms, lifted her chin, and said, “Wiki.”

I turned to Lisa, “Are the others nearby?”

“No.”

“Wiki, I want to do some baseball research. Stuff like bullpen carts, city populations, pitch velocity, left handed catchers, all kinds of stuff.”

“Easy- peasy.” She typed on her iPad and showed me an image of the Mr. Met bullpen cart. “This kind of stuff?”

“Exactly that kind of stuff. When did they quit using them?”

Wiki made a few more keyboard strokes. “Looks like the last one was a Harley Davidson with sidecar, in 1995.” She made a few more keystrokes. “Check out this kitty on one of those Roomba vacuum cleaners.” She wrinkled her nose in that adorable way she has.

Lisa slipped her hand inside her purse and stepped forward. “I don't think so.”

“Can't blame a girl for trying,” Wiki said.

I grabbed a large Americano while Lisa stood guard. Wiki found me stuff on PEDs, ways to throw the curveball, how domed stadiums can move the grass outside for natural sunlight, and much more. I thanked her, and she hugged me with Lisa looking on like a prison guard.

We left, and I waited until we pulled away from the curb, before asking Lisa, “Is your gun in that purse?”

“Yup, sure is. The Research Sirens are supposed to trap you in an endless research loop. They wreck careers on the cliffs of cute kitty videos.”

“But she's only one.”

“Right, but she's a Siren and knows how to flirt with you. Thank God I captured Libraria's and Consultia's cellphone data when they came to the cabin. Now I can track them. All three of them could be deadly.”

“You aren't going to tell Lorelei, are you?”

“Heck no. We're friends and all, but you're my employer. This is like confidential business data.”

***

There are several new followers at Entertaining Stories. This tale involves quite a few recurring characters, and it's easier to explain this way than with a simple asterisk and footnote.

Lorelei is an actual Greek Muse who sends me an endless stream of ideas. They aren't always what I'm looking for, and a Halloween idea or two would be appreciated.

Wiki is one of the Research Sirens. She is the youngest, and more internet based than her sisters. The sirens are dangerous, but one at a time they aren't quite so bad.

Libraria and Consultia are the other Research Sirens, and you can guess what their individual focus is. They are mentioned, but do not appear in this story.

Lisa is my robotic personal assistant, and the official spokesmodel for my writing career. For more of Lisa, come back tomorrow for another episode of Lisa Burton Radio. Apparently, she'll have cute nails, but I have no idea how you'll see them over the radio.

Special aside: Lisa is always looking for more characters to appear on Lisa Burton Radio. If you'd like one of your characters to appear, drop me a note.

***

The Enhanced League is going to be science fiction of the near future variety. It has no deadline and will be a collection of short stories and micro-fiction. I wrote one about the umpires, and another one called Banned in Salt Lake City today. SLC is known for doing this on occasion, most famously with Olivia Newton John's song, Physical. The stories need some work, but they exist now.

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A writing lesson, Craig style

Lisa* the robot girl and I sat in the front office at the cabin. I pecked away at The Yak Guy Project for about thirty minutes. Part of my story involves a gradual movement from the guy’s familiar environment to one that is a bit more Asian. This requires a little more world building. I suppose it’s because the yak screams Asia to me.

“What kind of world building should I do to make it real for the readers?”

Lisa said, “I suppose clothing and style might help. Maybe some mannerisms.”

“I don’t know, clothing is always your thing. It kind of feels like low hanging fruit at this point. What about silk?”

A knock came at the door. Lisa spread her hands to indicate she wasn’t expecting anyone as she walked to the door. When she opened it, three beautiful women barged into the writing cabin and headed for me.

A blonde in a tailored skirt-suit spoke first. Her hair was in a tight bun. She lowered her glasses and looked over the top, revealing her perfectly arched brow. “I’m Libraria, these are my sisters Consultia and Wiki.”

Consultia had light black skin, a spiral perm so huge it sagged at the ends. She wore a shiny black top with a collar so wide it hung off one shoulder, and was dangerously close to falling completely off. She paired it with a black and white skirt and a pair of those low-topped, high-heeled boots. Her smile could serve as a beacon to lift anyone’s spirits.

Wiki had a denim skirt with black tights underneath. She paired that with tennis shoes, and an Abercrombie tee-shirt that showed off her athletic physique. She wore red hair, straight from the bottle. It had an A-line cut and layers that gave her a Sonic the Hedgehog look. She wore a cluster of string friendship bracelets on one wrist, and a necklace that amounted to a gold plated thumb drive.

Libraria opened a book bag and pulled out an old leather covered book. She slid it slowly across the desk with her perfect French-tips. As she slid it she leaned over farther and farther. I saw all the way to her navel between two perfectly tanned breasts. “This is the complete history of the Silk Road. It’s fascinating stuff, and will give your story a deep sense of reality.”

Wiki tapped away at her iPad-mini with her home-painted nails in alternating black and white. She turned the iPad toward me. “Look at this video. These cute little silkworms are munching away at fresh mulberry leaves.” She wrinkled her nose and smiled. Mesmerizing.

Consultia walked around the desk and sat beside me. She had some of the longest legs I’ve ever seen. From her position on the desk, and my position in the chair, we were close to having a Sharon Stone moment. “Did you know the Chinese kept the secret of silk away from the rest of the world for centuries? A person could be executed for smuggling out silkworm eggs.” She grabbed my hand and placed it on her top. “Feel this, it’s 100% pure silk. Nice huh?”

I managed something like, “Uh-huh,” right before Consultia sat in my lap.

Libraria said, “The cultivation of silk worms is called, sericulture. It’s been going on for thousands of years.”

Wiki said, “Here is a documentary about sericulture you should watch. And look at these beautiful Chinese dresses.”

Consultia reached for the iPad. “I love the cherry blossoms against the sky blue background. I think I could pull this off. Do they have one that’s a little shorter, or with a split for my leg?”

Wiki wrinkled her nose again and smiled. “You could totally pull that off. Let me check for other styles.”

Consultia ran her fingers through my hair. “Do you think I could pull that look off?”

“Oh yeah.”

She pulled my head to her chest and hugged me. “You’re so sweet.”

Libraria touched a nail to her collar bone and slowly slid it down over her breast. “The Silk Road began at the Pacific Coast and went over the Himalayas.” She kept moving downward. “It wound up in the fertile Mediterranean area.”

I think my jaw must have popped open somewhere around Nepal, because Consultia eased it shut.

Wiki said, “Look at these silk paintings about sericulture. Isn’t it cool that it’s a painting about silk, and it’s actually made on silk?”

Consultia pulled me tighter and looked up. “You know what? We should actually go to China.”

“Looking up tickets and accommodations,” Wiki said.

Libraria said, “Or we could take your little gyrocopter. I mean it goes into outer space and everything.”

“Great idea, but it’s only built for two.”

Libraria said, “We can double up. Wiki is tiny, and she could sit in your lap.”

Wiki clasped a hand to her heart, smiled and nodded. “Sounds like a blast.”

The sky grew dark and dimmed the light in the writing cabin. Thunder rolled across the meadow, and the door kicked in. Lorelei* stood in the doorway, and she was pissed.

“What are you doing here?” Libraria asked.

“Call it an intervention. Now you bitches get out.”

“That isn’t very nice,” I said. “These girls are helping me with my book.”

Helping! Is that what you think? These are Sirens, Research Sirens, and their job is to enrapture you and distract you until you abandon your story. Then you’ll think of a better story, and a better one after that. You’ll never finish another story. Now I said move, and I meant it.”

The girls slowly backed away, stuffing things into book bags, purses, and in Consultia’s case her blouse. They walked in-step to the door. The view from this direction was just as fabulous as the other way. I put my elbows on the desk, and my face in my hands.

Lorelei slapped me across the cheek.

“Ouch!”

“Oh you liked it. They are distant cousins of mine, and have been wrecking authors for centuries. Fiction isn’t the same as other writing. Speculative fiction is even less connected to facts.”

“Yeah, but there still needs to be a basis in reality to ground the reader.”

“Absolutely, but after you’ve developed the world, you can plow through some of it. Imagine your story about Yak Guy growing up. He’s coming along nicely, and then your readers are shifted into ten thousand words about the history of silk. They’ll be disappointed. They’ll lose the story.”

“That sounds bad alright. So where’s the line?”

“It’s different for every story. In something like Panama, you needed to research the area, and get the names right. In Wild Concept and Arson, you can make some of it up. Some science fiction is less adventure and more theory based, in that case you have to do your research.”

“How do you suggest I proceed? They seem like great researchers.”

“They are the absolute best researchers. That’s part of their spell, but their goal is different than yours.” She put an arm around Lisa. “This is all the research you need. She can Wiki, Library, and Converse with the best of them. She can even feed a video to your monitor if she has to. She isn’t trying to derail your career, and keep you from success. Remember, a paragraph or two is usually enough in the stories you write.”

“But I learn so much cool stuff when I research.”

“Yes, it looked like you were having a good time. You can’t share everything you learn. Take some tidbits and bullshit your way through it. The Raven of Doubt will be there for you at the end.”

“How did you know to show up here?”

“Lisa called me. She told me what was going on and emailed me pictures of the Sirens. I came as soon as I could.”

“Thanks, I think.”

“I’ve been helping you write since the day you started. Your talent has improved over the years, and your success has grown too. You have to trust me on this one. Part of that success is your ability to finish what you start. Perfection is impossible, but damned good is a possibility. Those girls would ruin all of that, and have you thanking them for it.”

“Lisa, make a note to always be here when I’m researching. If something goes off the rails, you can intervene.”

“I’ve got your back, boss.”

* Lorelei is my Muse. Lisa is my robotic personal assistant.

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