November Writing Month . . . Again

Hey Everyone,

I am planning to get involved in NaNoWriMo again this year. I hit just over 23000 words last year (although the goal is 50000). The ultimate goal may be hard to hit this year. I have conferences and other science stuff to get through, so we will see. However, I have learned that I can still add the word count of my stories that I post here, so I should be working on bit on my posting schedule as well. Exciting things are on the way. Stay awesome!



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Terror By Sunset


Very little can get my feet moving quickly across the deck of a ship as when someone says the word, “Shark”. I’m was the kid who grew up with the movie Jaws stuck in my head at a very young age. Most of the people I talk to you (maybe all of them) inform me how that film still makes them frightened of the water. Not me. That movie hit me at the age when I was fascinated by the idea of sea monsters. Jaws was a monster movie to me, until I realized that in terms of the white shark, monsters were real. That started my spiral into the sciences as I devoured every book I could find about sharks and then the ocean.

Which brings me here, on the NOAA vessel the Delaware II. It was June and we were on the last leg of a grueling 25 days out at sea. I worked long house and slept little. The weather had been phenomenal, with fog being the worst weather we experienced on the trip. I was lounging on the back deck, enjoying that last night with absolutely nothing to do, when one of the crew called me over to the starboard railing to look at what he said was a shark. I had seen dolphins and whales a plenty on several trips, but never a shark. The sneaky bastards were always just below the surface, out of my eyesight.

However, this one was not. It was on the surface lazily moving through the calm sunset seas. Its dorsal fin was tall and triangular. A distance behind the caudal swung back and forth in the sea. It was a sizable shark. Something was off though; the dorsal fin was flimsy. Rather than being the resolute dagger breaking the water to bring fear to all who saw Jaws, the fin flopped around in the wind more like a sail than a terror of the sea would have.

This shark wasn’t alone, I soon picked out one behind our vessel and others near the original. An entire school of sharks were soon visible. They were basking sharks. Large sharks to be sure, but only terrors to plankton. They sail through the water, mouths jaws agape, to filter the water and swallow the microscopic bounty the sea offers. And our ship just sailed into a school of them. There were even four that swam next to the hall of the ship. Sadly, this happened before I had a chance to grab my camera.

Soon we also heard and saw flocks of pelagic bird diving into or just above the seas waves to collect their prey as well. A pod of whales soon appeared as well, near the ship and just along the horizon. There was a buffet of plankton awaiting these hunters. For me, it was the perfect last day from a long cruise of 18-hour days, and I got a nice picture of lazy basking shark’s dorsal fin in the glow of the setting sun.

That was a good day.

© 2016 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.


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Story Updates


So I’ve taken some time when my current my work schedule allows to revise the first two chapters of The Artifact. Since they were originally written as a improvised story–and I didn’t expect to write a Chapter Two–I went back and revised the story and characters a bit more. I plan to work on the other chapters and continue the story by using word prompts. Eventually a final product may find its way to Amazon or another outlet, but you, dear readers, get to see the process from the beginning. Hopefully, that is just as exciting as where the story goes.

Until the next update, enjoy the revisions:

Chapter One: Metamorphosis

Chapter Two: A Threat Born from Isolation



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Update: Hurricane Harvey

I was writing for a bit and work was a beast this summer. However, now a real beast slammed through Texas in the form of a Category 4 hurricane. I had power issues for awhile, but I was pretty much spared the full force of the beast. I will no doubt be helping people recover when and where I can, so I will my hiatus on the site will last a little longer.

Take care, everyone, and if you are on the Texas coast, be safe and help where you can. If your in northeast Texas, Houston, or southern Louisiana, hunker down for a bit. The rain is on its way.

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A Bridge Into Prehistory

Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls, Oregon, is a gorgeous overlook at one of many spectacular falls in the Columbia River Gorge. It is also a glimpse into the ancient world. In geologic terms, the glimpse is fairly recent, mammals were the dominant vertebrates when the Earth laid the groundwork for the tourist attraction. However, it is amazing to be reminded that the world was still a frightening display fire and ice even when mammals dominated the Earth.

Multnomah Falls has carved the rock around it into a curved amphitheater-like structure, displaying the relentless power of water over millions of years. The lichen and moss-covered rock—all 662 feet—is basalt, an igneous rock formed as lava cools. Basalt is more commonly found in ocean basins when lava mingled with the deep ocean waters along the ocean floor.  Island chains, like Hawai’i, are also formed from volcanic basalt. So, what is a basalt canyon doing in Oregon?

The basalt that Multnomah Falls cascades down is part of the Columbia Plateau. This rock formation was formed between 10 to 15 million years ago. Lava poured out across present day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho through cracks in the Earth’s crust. Over millions of years uplift in the region rose the basalt flats, and the Columbia River cut through the area creating the Columbian River Gorge. More recently in geologic history were the Ice Ages. The freeze and thaw cycles during the Ice Age supplied the water that would erode through the basalt to create the spectacular Multnomah Falls. Melting snow and a natural spring, still feed the falls to this day.

This is what you are truly looking when looking at these looking at these pictures. This one post was 15 million years in the making. This is the slow, but relentless, dance of our Earth.

In 2014, a year after I took these pictures, a large piece of rock broke free from the falls and damaged the railing and bridge walkway. It was repaired, but it is a reminder that these processes will continue and everything will be unrecognizable in another 15 million years.



Benson Bridge just above the base of the Falls.


Looking over Benson Bridge to the Falls below


Looking out at the main Falls and the basalt canyon behind it

© 2016 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.



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Chapter Six: Hairless Rats

Older Chapters can be found here: OneTwoThreeFour, and Five

“I can smell them through the hull.” Mendin growled just loud enough for the soldiers and the Terran prisoner near him.

He especially wanted the soft human prisoner to hear it. He was still a prisoner for a few more minutes. Mendin stared down at the soft male, not a pinnacle of the species, if there was such a thing. His eyes did not sparkle with the pride of battle or the defiance of a man who wasn’t afraid to die. No, this Terran rat was a coward, a peasant. He did not have the courage or the fortitude to chart the stars like those who fell before him at the artifact. For some reason, though he was important.

It was unlikely that this whelp fought up the ranks to earn this prestige, unless the humans also promoted through subterfuge and treachery. Maybe poison or assassination while his target was defecating rose this puny example up through the ranks. Whatever it was, this man would hardly last moments in the Curtani labor camps. The most wretched of the Curtani probably had more fortitude than this human, maybe any human, did. Perhaps it was good to be rid of him so quickly, he would have been a waste of resources for so short a stint. Probably not even worth a petulant sacrifice to an Eater.

The soldiers grunted humorously as the Terran shuttle slid into the hangar bay. Mendin watched from the hanger control bay as the back of the shuttle opened and several squads of Terrans scampered out from the vessel like vermin. They surrounded the vessel with weapons lowered. Mendin knew they were reflexively ready for any trouble. Mendin glanced at an Curtani ensign who operated the hangar magnetic fields and its security system. A touch-holo panel two meters away from Mendin controlled defense turrets within the hangar.

Mendin grunted. The Terrans would be unprepared for that. All he had to do was push the ensign aside and press the glowing ephemeral control switch. Lots of dead Terrans.

“Mendin?” Captain Firehoon asked, stepping before him.

Mendin raised his head slightly to stare at his superior. This was a Curtani deserving of respect, taller, stronger, and smarter than him. Only his betters deserved a command rank. He glanced back down at the fragile Terran chained to his wrist. No soft Curtani would order Mendin around, ever.

“We have our orders,” Firehoon said. His unflinching stare made Mendin feel that he was shrinking.

Mendin held himself at attention. “Of course,” Mendin said. His tone was submissive and he refused eye contact.

“You have a doubt.”

Mendin nodded slowly.


“This human rat could give us more information about the artifact than we know.” Mendin’s hands clenched around the metal link that held the prisoner close to him. “It would not take much to make him talk.”

“We have our orders. The crew of this vessel is at risk. The Terran vessels outnumber us and we have difficulty matching their firepower in an even firefight.”

Mendin lowered his head again. “The good of the people.”

Captain Firehoon said nothing else and took the lead. Mendin followed behind, tugging at the chain holding the victim one last time. The prisoner tripped and shouted a curse at the treatment. Mendin smiled.

The troops followed behind.

At the entrance to the hangar bay Mendin and his squad met three more squads of troops. The doors opened and Mendin began the long march to the Terran shuttle. He counted thirty armored Terran rats trained and ready for betrayal. The shuttle boasted three particle turrets that could lay waste to everything within the hangar bay in a short time. Probably even the defensive systems he had fantasized about using. This whole situation was a loss. He had lost his squad, the artifact, and, now, his prisoner.

What had Inagrin said about the Cetus 3 incident? A misunderstanding? Terrans involved themselves in an affair they had no control over. The Eater Sacrifice, a holy ritual where a lottery chose members of the lower castes to be sacrificed to the higher castes. It was a competition, a hunt, to prove that the strong held power over the weak. If there was any doubt in the sect’s leadership the weaker caste would not suffer at the hands of the stronger as the gods decree. The Terrans involved themselves and upset the order’s power structure. It will take decades for the turmoil to subside.

“They had not been invited to participate!” Mendin growled aloud.

Firehoon stopped and turned slowly, giving time for Mendin to realize his outburst and lower his head in repentance.

“Is there something you wish to add to the coming exchange?”

“No, Captain.”

“Do not speak further until this affair is finished.”

Mendin only nodded.

Mendin moved forward to keep pace with the Captain. His eyes locked on to one Terran soldier. He focused his ire and hate toward this nameless, mammalian rat. The soldier locked eyes with him. A mistake.

Captain Firehoon stopped 3 meters from the Terran shuttle. He stood erect, imposing and clasped a fist to his chest in a salute of honor.

Mending winced inside: of honor. Reluctantly, he followed suit pounded his chest with his fist while staring at the one soldier he had picked out. The Curtaini troops behind followed with the salute.

A uniformed Terran walked through the mass of armed soldiers, placing an open hand on the right side of his temple. He was shorter than half of the men he commanded. How soft was his flesh to be a leader? Mendin thought. How many soft humans commanded the strong to die? This is why the Terrans needed an alliance, they were weeding out the strong among them.

“You will release our man to us,” he said.

The captain nodded respectfully. He presented an open hand to Mendin, never taking his eyes of the Terran officer. Mendin, still holding a Terran’s attention, passed the chain to Firehoon. A smile pursed Mendin’s lips. He picked up a murmur among the Terran troops around him. It was working. He had frightened doubt into their minds.

Just fire one shot, Mending thought. Let me mistake a move for a threat. Any move.

“Silence, soldiers!” the Terran officer shouted.

The troops went silent. To Mendin, it was like a slave controlling his masters. Inconceivable.

Captain Firehoon passed the prisoner to the Terran leader. Three soldiers released the prisoner from his bounds and escorted him through the throng of soldiers and into the shuttle.

The Terran leader locked his hands behind his back and said, “The Terran Alliance is grateful for your cooperation. May we begin to have friendlier relations after this show of good faith.”

Mending was livid, though he did not show it. The Terran was patronizing the captain on his own ship.

“Unlikely,” Firehoon replied, “you have guns aimed at my ship and my people. There is no good faith here.”

In unison, the Terran leader and Firehoon turned from one another and walked through their prospective troops.

The Terran troops scampered back into their shuttle and it soon departed.

Mending returned to the control room of the hangar bay, still angered. Terrans were all vermin. He wanted another chance at them. Not a simple skirmish that ended in a tense diplomatic arrangement, but a brutal war that ended in unconditional surrender.

© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.


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The Myth of Permanence

My philosophical side attempts to welcome change, knowing that nothing is permanent, especially within of a mere human or even the lifespan of human civilization. I was wandering at Big Bend National Park when I took this photo. Right on the trail is the fossil of spiral shell that once housed an ammonite. An ammonite is a mollusk, closely related to a squid or octopus. The entire line of ammonites (though many families and species) existed from the Devonian period up until the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs in the Upper Cretaceous. This group of mollusks existed for over 300 million years. It’s incredible to think of an order of organism surviving that long. That’s many order of magnitudes longer than Homo sapiens have existed, let alone human civilization. Come to think of it, we are the last of our line. There are no more hominids like us in the world. Yet, we seem to have this notion that we understand eternity, that we can contemplate forever. I do not believe we can, nor do I think we were ever supposed to. Everything in this universe changes, everything is transient. Even the fundamental elements that make up the universe are created in massive supernovas and altered within our nuclear reactors.

Just take a moment and let it sink in that this fossil was of a creature that lived in the open ocean. I stumbled upon it while hiking a desert trail on the border between Mexico and Texas along the Rio Grande Valley. At some point in the last hundreds of millions of years this creature died, was fossilized on the seafloor, and then the seafloor uplifted for the fossil to be left near a river bed in a desert.

Play your verse and play it true, but you are only a snapshot in the grand interplay of the universe. Perhaps, if you are as lucky as this mollusk, you can leave behind a good-looking fossil.


And to cheat a little this also works for this weeks challenge. 🙂


© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

DSCN1837 (2)

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The Camera Loves You, Baby

When I’m taking photos, I focus on landscape vistas to capture the places that I have wandered through. Sometimes a single event, plant, or animal, sparks my interest. Then all my attention is centered.

This happened on a beach hike at Mustang Island State Park in Texas. It was a windy, cloudy day. The Gulf of Mexico was a rolling mess, washing over the beach and my feet. Energetic waves pounded the rocky jetties. Not long into my hike, sea spray coated my glasses.

Due to the high winds, the birds along the beach would waddle or frantically flap their wings to hop away from me as I strolled pass. The gulls, who could get airborne, would flap wildly in place. If I was taller, I may have been able to pluck them from the sky. Among these birds, there was a gorgeous great blue heron that decided I should have to walk around it. This was my first time seeing a blue heron on a beach. In VA, I saw them constantly around wetlands and lakes, but not on the beach. The high winds had grounded it, so it strolled along the surf zone.

I was able to take a few pictures of the heron as it watched me walk around it. Eventually, it grew tired of my probing photographs and left the beach. It had the strength to lift off from the beach, flying close to the berm, and catching the updraft to gain altitude. It eventually perched on the dunes, surveying the restless sea.

With my model gone, I kept walking on. I didn’t realize how good the pictures were until I returned home and uploaded the photos. By this time, I had cleaned my glasses and the great blue heron’s vibrant plumage finally came into focus for me as well.



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Another Update

Hey Everyone,

So this is a quick update about future plans. I will continue two of the stories inspired from WordPress’s daily word prompts (The Artifact and It Came From the Wizard’s Cellar). I like the serial format and I will continue the inspiration from the daily prompts. I haven’t decided whether I will alternate each week between the two serials or write a quick story for each serial each week. For the moment, my schedule may only allow for weekly updates on Wednesdays. I will still be adding other poems and short stories as they are completed. I want to do Monday weekly updates as well with stories and poems that have nothing to do with the above serials.

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of improvising a story with a single daily prompt. It’s been a great experiment. Also, I think I made some fun characters and a bit of universe building. I’m polishing up the older pieces from the serials to be released again. Who knows, perhaps a book or novella will be born from these stories. I don’t really know, but we are going to find out. I enjoy the experimentation these stories have given me. It’s been a fun ride.

I have other ideas for a couple more serials as well. There are a few thematic horror stories I always wanted to test out as well as another fantasy story. These other serials will not be using the daily prompts (I don’t think so anyway), but I’ve been inspired to pursue them.

Anyway be on the lookout for a continuation of the Daily Prompt Serials (hey, it’s catchy) as well as some polishing of the older segments.

There is so much more to come on this journey.


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A look back in time,
I was a tall, slender figure
Leaning against
a thicker planted post.
my limbs stretched over
A crossed skeleton
supported by the post:
a gardener’s vision.

In the Spring,
when I was lush and green,
I provided shade,
to those sitting
the wooden bones:
the weary,
the passionate,
the miserable,
the victorious.

Time Passes

Now I am thicker, taller.
My trunk has grown
around the post,
old bones with new growth.
My limbs are heavy.
They spread over
And through
the broken, skeletal mess.

A young gardener
meticulously removes
the thin bones
from my branches.
I am enough shelter,
a more pleasing site,
for next flock
solace seekers.

All that remains
of the time before
is a wooden post
held firmly
in my breast.

© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

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