Monday, April 28, 2008

Friday's Snippet on Monday, April 28, 2008

So. We spent some time this weekend fixing up my mother-in-law's bathroom. More time actually running back and forth between the house and her apartment because the water was shut off. One forgets how much one depends on running water until it's not there. A basic. Life takes on a whole new complexity when you have to think about that one simple little thing.

First draft. Please don't quote or repost anywhere, thanks!

Shortly after the snippet before last. Teo is the Barr-Thorn estate's foreman, Randa is its healer, and Solly is its resident alchemist.

Teo could feel his heart breaking.

Minna lay so still that he couldn’t tell if she still lived. A distressing amount of blood pooled around his knees, and his tears mingled with the rain on his face. He angled his body to deflect as much of the rain from her as he could.

Behind him, he could still hear Bevley raging as several field hands held him down. He wanted to get up and smash the man’s face until it was unrecognizable, but right now his place was at Minna’s side.

“Mr. Nalone.”

Teo didn’t look up but he recognized Randa, Barr-Thorn’s healer, by her voice. With a rustle of skirts, Randa came up beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Teo. Let Solly and me try to help her.”

Her voice was rough with sympathy, and Teo heaved a great sigh. He gently reached out and smoothed back a soaked strand of black hair from Minna’s pale face. Moving like an old man, he got out of the way and let Randa and Solly kneel at her side.

“We need to get that bleeding stopped,” Randa said to Solly.

The two had slit into Minna’s clothing and peeled the blood-soaked material back from her skin. Solly formed a ball of mud, rolling it back and forth in the palm of his hand. As he did so, the ball of mud changed color and consistency. Teo watched, fascinated, as Solly placed the mud over the wound in Minna’s side, where it blended into her skin, nearly invisible.

“That should hold so we can get her moved to the house,” Solly said. “She needs to get warm and dry as soon as possible.”

“I swear to God it wasn’t me!” Bevley howled. “I didn’t do anything!”

Murder in his eyes, Teo whirled and strode to where the man knelt in the mud, his arms held out at an uncomfortable angle from his body by his captors.

“Let go of him,” he told the fieldworkers.

“Now, Mr. Teo--”

“Let him go!”

The fieldworkers let go of Bevley’s arms.

Teo grabbed Bevley by his collar and twisted, ignoring the man’s flailing fists as they thudded against his face and shoulders. His air shut off, Bevley hung in the air, face turning purple, his blows becoming more feeble.

“Teo!”

Solly’s voice rang out sharply behind him. Teo hesitated, glaring into Bevley’s congested face.

“I know you want him dead, but we need him alive, Teo,” Solly said. “We need to know why he would do this. But later. Right now Minna is our main concern.”

Teo let go and Bevley sagged between the two fieldhands, taking great, whooping breaths and coughing as his lungs filled with air. Teo turned his back on him, contemptuous.

“Take him to the cellars and shackle him,” Teo said to the fieldhands. “I’ll be along later.”

The field hands hauled Bevley to his feet and marched him away. Teo swiped at his mouth, surprised when his hand came away bloody.

More fieldhands arrived with a makeshift travois. Teo and Solly lifted Minna with gentle hands and placed her on the travois. Randa securely tucked blankets around her. Willing hands grabbed the poles and swiftly drew the travois toward the main house.

Teo started to follow when he saw two kneeling women out of the corner of his eye. He looked and saw the women tended to someone else who lay in the mud.

“Who is that?” he asked, voice sharp.

“One of the indentured servants, sir. Her name is Guia. That pig slashed her across the face when she tried to help Miss Minna,” the woman said, and spat into a mud puddle.

Teo stared at the moaning girl. The women had wrapped bandages around her face until he could see little of it, but he noted the name. “Do what’s necessary to help her, on my authority, and let me know how she fares,” he told them. The woman who had spoken nodded her head at him.

Teo moved. His foot struck something. He looked down and saw a glint of steel in the mud. He bent over and picked up a knife with a long blade, still stained with red. He shuddered, and his fingers closed convulsively over the hilt.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Out of Town

Check back on Monday for Friday snippet.

Hmmm. Kinda sounds like the routine "Who's on First?"

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Snippet, April 18, 2008

This is another snippet from the same story as last week. This character is actually one of the villains. I like her, though. She turned out to be a pretty complex character. Obviously, she has issues.

First draft. Please don't quote or repost anywhere, thanks!

Background: Shelawn is in Tiberus looking for people to medically experiment on--she's actually a medical genius, but she has little to no empathy for any of her patients...


Shelawyn stretched and yawned. The morning sun peeked over the horizon, lighting up the harbor water. Even this early in the morning the docks were busy. Porters hefted baggage and deck hands loaded cargo on ships poised to set sail. The cargomasters oversaw the loading of cargo, their faces earnest and anxious in the morning light.

And children. The docks swarmed with children of all ages, ragged and dirty. Shelawyn hefted her bag and a secretive smile crossed her face at the sight. She looked them over. That one had a cut on his arm with a little bit of infection; this one had a growth on his neck; many had runny noses. Her hands itched. Shelawyn rubbed her hands on her skirt.

She knew her face didn’t engender trust. She put down her bag and spread out the blanket she was carrying and seated herself in a likely spot, then busied herself spreading the candy and the toys from the bag beside her.

Before long, she had an audience. The children crept closer, eyeing the candy and toys with greedy eyes.

Shelawyn picked out one of the smaller girls, one with a cut on her leg that looked red and inflamed, and smiled at her. “Hello. Do you like dolls?”

The girl looked at her with huge brown eyes, mute.

“She don’t talk much,” an older boy said.

“What’s her name?” Shelawyn said.

The boy shrugged.

“Her name’s Nora,” someone said near the back of the crowd of children.

Shelawyn picked up a colorful rag doll and held it out enticingly to Nora. “Wouldn’t you like this doll, Nora?”

“Here now, what we gotta do to get it?” the biggest boy said, suspicion in his voice and wariness in his eyes.

Shelawyn looked him over with something close to approval. Life had knocked out some of his innocence.

“You’re right, boy, nothing in this life is free. Do you know what a healer is?”

“Sure enough,” he said with scorn. “They fix you when you feel bad.”

“I’m an Alchemist that heals. To get this candy and these toys, you have to let me try and heal you.”

“But I’m not sick,” the boy said. “Besides, if you’re a—an Alch—a healer, why can’t ya heal yourself?”

“What’s your name, boy?”

He straightened and said proudly, “My name’s Chez.”

“Well, Chez, I’m not sick, either,” Shelawyn said.

“You got scars all over. You gotta be sick,” Chez said, stubborn.

Shelawyn had long ago learned patience at this game. “I was sick once, but I’m not sick anymore. These scars are left from when I was sick.”

“How’d you get ’em?” another boy said, fascinated.

From nowhere, ugly rage came and sat on Shelawyn’s face. Some of the children moved back. Shelawyn struggled to get the rage back in control. She smoothed her features.

“Some very bad people made me sick. It’s up to me to see that doesn’t happen again.”

Nora darted in and snatched the doll from Shelawyn’s hand and took off down the dock. As if that had been a signal, the children scattered, some slowly, looking back.

Shelawyn watched them go, a satisfied little smile tugging at her mouth.

They would be back.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Urban Jungle

I read a post today that reminded me of why I think the city is like a jungle. It's noisy, crowded with wildlife, and full of sudden death.

I passed a wreck the other day. Obviously, people had died in the accident. All I found myself thinking was how inconvenienced I was. Sort of like while trying to get from Point A to Point B, someone left a comma in the road.

When I realized it, I felt a good, healthy dose of shame. Those folks were only trying to live their lives and get somewhere, too. I felt like some little monkey, curled up on my nice branch in the darkness, hearing some other monkey's short, sharp scream, suddenly cut off---sitting, shivering, glad it wasn't me.

The Jungle.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Friday Snippet, April 11, 2008

This novel is halfway done. Somewhere around Chapter Eleven, I lost my way. I think if I threw out about 10,000 words, I might be able to finish this one. This snippet is somewhere around Chapter Five.

First draft. Please don't quote or repost anywhere, thanks!

Background: Minna is the illegitimate child of a deceased landowner in Tiberus. Her mother was from Kalibarra. She has come to Tiberus to claim her Birthright. Birthright is land magic that chooses its next owner and keeper from among those people presented to it. That means an illegitimate child half breed has just as much chance as a blood child to inherit an estate. The question is, does Minna have what it takes? FYI: Barr-Thorn is the name of the estate she has come to claim. Teo is Barr-Thorn's Foreman. Serenity is her half sister, the blood child.



Minna struggled to place a sandbag. The brown sacks lined the earthen levee at the lowest point of the field she and Teo had inspected earlier, like so many soldiers lined on a battlefield. She gave the river an anxious glance. Was it higher than it had been? What were these people going to think of her if the river didn’t rise? What if she and Teo were wrong and she didn't have Birthright?

A young indentured servant, about sixteen, passed her another sandbag. Minna gave her a keen look. The girl’s face was white and pinched-looking. She moved as if she felt a great deal of pain. Minna managed to brush the girl’s hand as she took the sandbag. A sudden vision of a whip rising and falling, and a wash of pain, transfixed her.

Anger colored Minna’s face a heated red. How dare that person! She despised anyone who would mistreat a servant just because they could. By God, this estate, and everyone on it, was her home, her family! Anyone who caused her family pain caused her pain.

Minna drew in her breath. Passion. Where had that come from? Passion usually came from others. Her ghost-like life in Kalibarra hadn’t engendered deep feelings. She slammed the sandbag home, marveling. When had she started to care that deeply for Barr-Thorn's inhabitants? And yet, hadn’t she come here with the express intent of caring? She’d been looking for family when she came.

When the girl returned with another sandbag, Minna gave her a smile. The girl smiled back, tremulous and uncertain.

“What’s your name?” Minna said, her voice soft and gentle.

“Guia, ma’am,” the girl said, giving a little bob of a curtsey.

“That’s a pretty name. My name is Minna."

"I know who you are, ma'am. Folks say you have Birthright now."

Minna searched the girl's face. "Guia, I’d like you to come to the main house and see me. I think we can find something for you to do in the house. I’ll make it right with your master. Do you understand?”

Guia looked up with fear and a wild hope in her eyes.

“Do you mean that, ma’am?”

“I don’t usually say something I don’t mean.”

“Thank you, ma’am. If you’ll give me a chance, I promise, I won’t let you down.”

A rumble of thunder brought Minna’s gaze up to the sky. Clouds lowered overhead. The first large drops of rain fell, cold where it struck her heated features.

Shouts up and down the line of people placing the sandbags greeted the rain. With a sense of racing against time, Minna reached for the sandbag Guia held. Soon, she slipped and slid in the mud created by the rain, her hair plastered to her face, the muddied, soaked hem of her skirt slopping wetly against her legs. Doggedly, with aching back and shoulders, Minna took sandbag after sandbag and helped build the fragile protection between the river and the lowest sugarcane field.

The rain came down in sheets of water. Minna could barely see the people next to her, and all but loud voices were drowned out by the sound of the rain. She turned to take another sandbag, but Guia had not yet returned with another. Minna paused to catch her breath, rolling her head to relieve her stiff neck and shoulders.

A dark figure loomed out of the rain. She squinted, and blinked water from her eyelashes, trying to see who stood there. A sense of extreme danger made her heart race. For an instant, the face she had seen in the crowd gathered at the bell materialized in front of her. Minna caught her breath, eyes wide, and then something glinted in his hand.

Just as Minna realized the glint was a knife, the man slashed outward, lost his footing, and slammed into her. Both of them fell in the mud, Minna struggling and kicking and trying to scream. The man’s weight drove her into the thick mud and standing rainwater. Minna tried to open her mouth to draw air into her lungs, but all she received was a mouthful of dirt and water. Bright lights burst behind her eyes as her air-starved lungs strove to inhale.

A full-throated scream rent the air, and the man’s weight left her. Coughing, choking, confused, Minna rolled to her hands and knees. Someone struggled with the man, and Minna realized Guia had returned.

“Guia--” she said, her voice a hoarse croak. “Run!”

The knife slashed, and Guia slid into the mud, limp.

Horrified, Minna tried to gain her feet. The man leaped at her, and viciously drove the knife into her side. Minna gave a gasping grunt, transfixed with the pain.

“Minna!”

Teo’s voice seemed to come from a long distance. She lay, staring up at the weeping sky. Rain blinded her; she heard the quick exchange of blows, fists thudding flesh, the grunts of pain; then she drifted outside of herself and seemed to sink into the ground.

Birthright swept her up like a bright light, cradling, holding, trying to anchor her. As her blood spilled on the ground in a crimson pool, the magic that tried to sustain her bubbled up and coursed through her blood. Minna knew she could rip this magic from the ground and live—but if she did the ground would die and become nothing more than a piece of dirt with no life left in it. She hovered on the edge of taking the magic to save herself, the will to live strong.

A memory of Barr-Thorn as she had first seen it surfaced in the murky depths of her mind. Her father’s land. Serenity’s land. Her land. Her life.

Minna felt more than saw Teo fall on his knees beside her. “Minna! Don’t go! Stay!”

With a sob, Minna let go of the magic. She would live or she would die, but she would not live at the expense of her land and her chosen family.

She spiraled down into the blackest night.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Friday Snippets, April 4, 2008

Yep, I'm really scraping the barrel this go around. This is a piece of flash fiction I did for a contest. I read over it, and it's not so bad.

I'm struggling to get words down on the page. My depression is making that difficult, but at last I've pinpointed what's causing it. My GP doubled my blood pressure medicine a few days ago. I had a long conversation with him today, and the bp medicine is cut in half as of tomorrow, thank God.

Below are the parameters for the piece. Don't quote or repost anywhere, thanks!

My main character/protagonist is a male. My main character is a reporter. An archetype present in my story is Performer. A key object or symbol in my story is a pillow. My story will be set in a library. My story is about escape.


Jay Streeter didn’t know why he’d come to the library. He stared at the ivy-covered fa├žade of the stone building. Perhaps it was a rumor or story he’d once heard about people vanishing from the old place. He didn’t know. As a reporter, he picked up a lot of unrelated tidbits of information. Sometimes it all became one big jumble in his head.

He even remembered coming to this library as a kid. Growing up, he’d read a few books until his stepfather ridiculed him for being a sissy, so a lot of time had passed since he’d stepped foot inside. He recalled reading Peter Pan several times that terrible year his father died and his mother remarried.

Jay climbed the stone steps hollowed over the years by the passage of many feet. The smell of must and old books greeted him at the door. Silence rolled over him like a smothering pillow—he jerked away from that line of thought.

A bright-colored sign near the door drew his attention. Children in a well-lit, modern-looking library smiled at him below the words, “Escape—Read A Book.” Jay’s lips twisted. Escape. What an apt choice of words. Escape was why he was here instead of at the TV station listening to the congratulations, the fake adulation, the lies backed with envy, or at home staring at four white walls and trying to understand when his life had turned to dust and ashes in his mouth. Here, in this library, he could be merely Jay Streeter, not the cool, calm, crack reporter in public, or the miserable maudlin mess at home.

The librarian looked surprisingly young. She sat behind a massive oak desk that looked as if it had been made from wood used during the same era as the Mayflower. He guessed her to be no more than mid-fifties, hair beginning to gray around the temples, eyes warm and blue and wise as all librarians were reputed to be. After he asked her where to find the mystery section, he lingered.

“I used to come here as a kid,” he said. “I don’t think the place has changed at all. More mildew, perhaps.” He smiled at her.

She returned his smile, faintly, and said, “Yes, I remember you, Mr. Streeter. You used to take a section of books out of each shelf in a direct line and try to shoot spit wads through the holes.”

Jay’s smile wavered. “Yeah, that sounds like me. That was a long time ago. You couldn’t have been so old yourself, then. Bet you thought, ‘there’s a houligan who will never make something of himself.’” Jay felt himself slipping helplessly into his well-worn role as “poor, tough kid turned ace reporter.”

“I know who you are, Mr. Streeter, and I know what you’ve become. I saw it in your eyes last night when you had to report that story.”

Jay’s composure cracked around the edges. “What did you see in my eyes?” he asked in a hoarse voice.

“Horror. Pain. Despair. The feeling of being trapped on an endless wheel where you report how much people hurt and torture each other every day, and tell the story as if you’re feeling no pain yourself. You wished that had been you that mother had smothered with a pillow instead of that innocent baby.”

The blood roared in Jay’s ears and tears stung his eyes. “How could you know all that?” he whispered.

The librarian’s blue eyes were compassionate. “It’s my business to know. Just as you know which stories make good news stories, I know about the desire to escape, to become someone else for awhile. That’s why you came to me, isn’t it? The desire for escape?”

“I want---I want--” Jay couldn’t say what he wanted. He struggled to regain control, to smile his cool reporter’s smile, to deny he had any needs at all as the instinct for self-preservation kicked in.

“It’s an interesting little prison we make for ourselves, isn’t it?” the librarian said. “The walls are as soft and yielding and smothering as that pillow you held in your hands last night. The prison of doing something you don’t want to do, being someone you don’t want to be, just because you’re successful at it.”

Jay stared at her and saw complete understanding of him in her face and let go of the need to cloak his inner self—let go of the need to present to her the persona he showed the rest of the world. “I need to be someone else—live another life for awhile,” he burst out. “I need to see if being someone else is better.”

The librarian reached into her desk and brought out a library card, handing it to him. Jay noted with a sense of unreality that it was his library card from years ago.

“Go pick out a story you’d like to live and bring the card back to me,” she said softly. “When you use the card, you’ll live the life of a character in that story until the book is due. A word of caution. Those who tell stories sometimes have characters that experience Life as bloody, as awful, and as full of suffering as anything you’ve seen. You never know which character you’ll be. Any and all of that could happen to you. Do you still want to escape?”

Jay clutched the precious library card in his hand. “‘First star to the right and straight on ‘till morning,’” he said softly.