Thursday, August 30, 2007

Friday Snippet, August 30, 2007

Nothing new to show you. Working my tail off in the office 'cause we're extremely short handed. That means you're getting something older this week and no apologies. (grin)

This is a story I'm still quite fond of and will finish one day as soon as I can figure out what's wrong with the storyline I have so far.


He saw her first when he was thirteen. As Jehar was his witness, if he’d known what it would cost, he would never have looked.

Nikki knocked on the door of the Nepara house.

He didn’t know it was the Nepara house. To him, he was just performing one of the many tasks that Gerring had set for him today. He clutched the precious bag of spice tight, mindful of Gerring’s warning that any lost bags would be taken out of his hide.

The door swung open and a skinny man of middle-age scowled at him. “What is it?”

Nikki held up the bag for the man’s inspection. “Spice deliv’ry, sir.”

“You came to the wrong door. This is the tradesman’s entrance.”

Nikki didn’t see the difference. He looked at the man and grinned.

The man sighed and beckoned him in. “Well, come on, then.”

The boy stepped inside and gawked at the smooth colorful tiles on the floor under his bare feet.

“You got yellow hair. You a Camdian?”

The man looked at him with narrow gaze, as if to be found with any other birthplace than Camdia was suspicious.

“Don’t know, sir. I was found on a doorstep,” Nikki said sunnily.

The man’s lips twisted up as if he had tasted something unpleasant.

“Oh. Don’t touch anything. Cook’s down the hall and to your left.”

Since the man didn’t seem disposed to show him in person, Nikki pattered down the hall. He admired the tiles in the floor and the smooth walls on either side.

Lowertown didn’t rise to anything like this. Gerring’s shop consisted of rough wood and even more rough plaster.

Nikki reached a place where the hall was bisected by another hallway and paused. He now had three choices for direction and found he’d forgotten which way the man had said to go. Sweat popped out on his brow. He had to deliver that spice! If he didn’t, Gerring would leave welts the size of cakes on his back.

At last, he chose a direction. The new direction took him to a large room even more splendid than the hall. The ceiling rose way above his head and ended in a colored glass dome that let in the sunlight. The tiles on the floor gleamed with a high, smooth sheen. Plants and statuary and elaborately carved tables decorated the room. At the other end, a set of stairs with granite risers and gold-encrusted wooden rails and balusters made a graceful spiral to a second floor balcony that overlooked the open area.

Nikki’s mouth fell open and he stared.


A girl leaned over the railing of the second floor balcony and looked down at him with a friendly smile. She wore something that shimmered in the sun pouring through the dome above, and her eyes were a deep chocolate.

Nikki’s lips trembled into a little smile.

“Wait, I’ll come down,” the girl said.

She moved to the stairs and descended. Her dress did not allow for quick movement, and she looked like the most graceful creature alive to Nikki as she moved down the stairs and across the floor to the doorway where he hovered.

“My name is Tasha. What’s yours?” She held out her hand.

“My lady!”

The girl paused and turned. Nikki lifted his gaze to the second floor balcony to see a woman staring down at them, a scandalized look on her face. The woman rushed down the stairs.

“What is it, Revi?” she asked. “What’s wrong?”

The woman seized her by the arm. “What do you think you’re doing? You cannot talk to this creature!” Her look moved over Nikki with a fine contempt. “He’s filthy and he’s Lowertown!”

That look penetrated Nikki’s consciousness like the thrust of a knife. He peered down at himself in puzzlement. He hadn’t considered himself to be dirty before this, and what did his coming from Lowertown have to do with anything?

“Go away, creature, you don’t belong here!” the woman said, and hustled the protesting girl away, leaving Nikki to stare after them. The girl gave him one flashing glance over her shoulder before she was dragged away.

Waves of mortification passed over Nikki’s being. He’d never been made to feel inferior before---or to be more accurate, he’d never noticed his lack before this.

Nikki turned and, with slow steps, made his way back the way he had come, his smile gone. He eventually found the cook and delivered the package of spice.

The cook showed him out the servants’ door; he’d come in the tradesman’s entrance. Another flick of the lash on his lacerated feelings.

He ran all the way back to Lowertown like all the demons of the Seven Hells were after him.

He flung himself into the spice shop and pounded up the stairs to his room over the back of the shop, glad that Gerring was occupied and did no more than frown at him.

Nikki threw himself across his pallet and buried his burning eyes in his arm, the vision of the house and the young girl shining in his brain.

Presently, he crept out of his room and entered Gerring’s room. The expensive, full-length mirror stood against the far wall. Nikki tread lightly as a cat. If Gerring caught him in here, he would probably break something on Nikki’s body.

The mirror captured the image of a slim boy with long blond hair and scruffy clothes. Nikki took a long look at his reflection. He thought he was not that bad to look upon; his wits had kept him nourished and healthy; not like some in Lowertown. Tanned, well-formed limbs gleamed through rents in the short trousers and stuck out of the sleeves of his shirt a good six inches or more. The shirt had once been blue but had faded to a dingy gray. And he was dirty. How was he supposed to keep clean when everything he touched broadcast dirt? Filth and Lowertown seemed to go together.

He’s filthy and he’s Lowertown.

The expression on the woman, Revi’s, face jabbed him again.

Well, he couldn’t do anything about being from Lowertown, but he could do something about being clean.

Determined, Nikki found the washbasin, a cloth, and a piece of lye soap. He didn’t have the patience to wait for water to heat so he pumped it cold.

Gerring found him washing and shivering in the cold water and stared.

“What are you doing?”

Nikki looked up, water running and dripping from his face and arms. “I’m cleaning up.”

“At this hour of the day?” Gerring said with an incredulous note in his voice. “What for?”

Nikki dropped his head and attacked a smear of dirt on his leg. “I was dirty,” he muttered.

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

Nikki didn’t know how to answer him. An hour ago, it wouldn’t have had anything to do with anything. But that had been an hour ago and an eternity past.

“Oh, for the love of Jehar, get yourself back in the shop and clean out those shelves like I told you to this morning.”

Nikki almost welcomed the pain of Gerring’s cuff on the ear.


Revi pulled her hand under the trickling water pipe and scrubbed so hard with the scented soap that Tasha squealed with pain.

“And so it should hurt!” Revi said. “What were you thinking? Touching a boy like that?”

“I didn’t touch him!” Tasha protested. “What do you mean, ‘a boy like that?’ He was just a boy.”

Revi stopped scrubbing and stared at her. “He was Lowertown, my lady, and don’t you forget that. Uppertown and Lowertown don’t mix. What your mother would have said if she were still alive, I shudder to contemplate!”

“She wouldn’t have gone on about it,” Tasha muttered mulishly.

Revi pinched her arm.

“OW!” Tasha yelled.

“There’s more where that came from if I see you talking below your station again,” Revi promised.

Tasha stood, tears of pain in her eyes, as Revi scrubbed her hand to the woman’s satisfaction. When Revi let go, Tasha snatched back the offending member and nursed it against her dress as she nursed her indignation. The skin shone red and stank of the scented soap.

“Now get yourself down to your lessons and keep yourself out of trouble.”

Tasha trudged down the stairs, surprise and an overwhelming sense of injustice struggling inside her. She hadn’t done anything wrong. How could Revi have been so unfair? The boy had been in her house. Her father and mother would not have been rude to him. Why should Revi be that way?

A flash of blond hair and dark blue eyes rose in her memory. His coloring had been unusual and pleasing to the eye. Surely Revi could see that? None of her family or friends had that coloring. His hair had looked like captured sunshine.

Tasha hugged the memory of the boy's smile as she listened to her tutor drone on about politics and the history of the Fifty Families in Camdia.

Monday, August 27, 2007

They Shoot Pianos, Don't They?

My husband and I found a piano. By the side of the road. The thing is ancient--the varnish is all crackled. But the thing plays, and plays well.

The fun thing was getting it home. I found it three blocks from home and we wheeled the thing all the way to our garage, up hill and down. (Ever try to control a 1,000 pound piano on a downslope? Whee!)

I wanted a full size, old-fashioned, made-out-of-wood piano. And one just appeared on the side of the road.

Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Snippet, August 23, 2007

Well, I have new stuff! This is the WIP I will attempt to write between now and the end of the year.

I started this story in a much different form a couple of years ago during Holly Lisle's writing class. I've never been happy with it, or the magic system I devised, so I put it aside.

My intent had been to do the story that I posted a snippet of a few Friday's ago, but all of a sudden, everything fell into place for this one. I figured out how the magic should go, and where I went wrong on the previous book, which really doesn't look like the new one at all---different main characters altogether. Here's the first bit. Let me know if it's too info-dumpy.


The pounding at her door woke Marina from a heavy sleep. She rolled out of bed to the floor, landing on her feet and hands, silent as a cat. The long sleep had dulled her senses, and it took a moment for her to realize that the light coming through her bedroom window had the slant of late afternoon to it. She tested the feel, but Birthright did not warn her of danger.

Someone knocked again, sounding like metal against wood. Marina stood up and moved from her bedroom, down the hallway to the front door. She peered out one of the sidelights, and made a disgusted sound. Seón di Cambra stood on her front step using his walking cane on her door.

Marina opened the door. “What do you want, di Cambra?”

The prissy Empire man stepped inside. “You look like you just crawled out of bed, mi ama.”

“Astute observation,” she said. He, of course, looked as if he’d just come from the hands of his readyman.

“Late nights are for the young and foolish. Which you are not, usually.”

“Young? Or foolish?” she said dryly, showing him into her parlor. The dust was only a few millimeters thick. She made a mental note to speak with Ana, her maid, cook, and general factotum.

Di Cambra shrugged with that insouciance the citizens of the Kalibarran Empire did so well. He eyed one of the parlor chairs and whacked the upholstered seat with his jeweled cane. Dust rose in the air. He gave her a pained look.

Marina stepped into the hallway, opened the coat closet, and yanked out one of her cloaks. She threw that across the chair. Di Cambra gingerly seated himself on its billowing folds.

She dropped onto the horsehair loveseat opposite him, folded her hands, and waited.

As Marina knew he would, di Cambra fidgeted with his clothes and his cane, hoping she’d speak first. When she didn’t, he sighed.

“I am come from Chian, the Emperor’s advisor--”

“I know who Chian is, di Cambra. Get to the point.”

Di Cambra leaned back, eyes narrowing. “Tiberus.”

She stared at him. “The new continent. What does it have to do with me?”

“See, mi ama? Sometimes getting ‘to the point’, as you say, takes longer than the scenic route. You know that Kalibar has established some colonies in Tiberus?”

“And?” Marina asked.

He flicked her an irritated glance. “And, so, on to what is less well known. Kalibar has allowed some Morland citizenry to establish a colony in Tiberus.”

My country has colonists in Tiberus?” Marina felt her eyebrows climbing.

Di Cambra cleared his throat. “Yes, well, Morland, as a subject of the Empire, has been granted some rights by the Emperor.”

Marina made a rude noise. “What you mean is that the Emperor can’t keep them out.”

He shrugged again, looking uncomfortable. “I am not privy to the Emperor’s thoughts. Except to say that he would like to retain your services.”

“The Emperor,” Marina repeated. “Would like to hire me.”

“Yes. He thinks you are uniquely suited to the problem at hand.”

“Which is?”

“The Morlanders are missing, and the Emperor wants you to find out what happened to them.”

Marina felt a wave of irritation she could barely conceal. “How many?”

Di Cambra twirled his cane back and forth. “All of them.”

“All! How many is all?”

“One hundred eleven colonists in total.”

Marina sat back, stunned.

“You can see, being Morland’s finest Seeker, why the Emperor needs you.”

Marina already turned the problem over in her mind. One hundred eleven people missing. On a continent-sized wilderness. Oh, no problem at all.

Di Cambra reached inside his coat and pulled out a purse. He tossed it to her. Marina caught it by reflex.

“Get what you need. The Emperor’s pockets are deep for this one. Inside is his writ, carrying his seal. You’ll find that will open most doors for you. I’ve secured a berth for you on the Sea Sprite heading for New Cordonia at seven tomorrow morning. The ticket is in the purse.”

Marina looked up, protest in her eyes.

“When you arrive in New Cordonia, Governor Alhamba will be waiting. He’ll do a much better job of explaining things than I can.”

Di Cambra stood. Since the interview appeared to be over, Marina stood as well. She gave a slight shake of her head. Di Cambra had known she couldn’t say no. Marina preceded him down the hall and opened her front door.

He paused on the landing. “I know that I am speaking in the wind, but try to stay out of trouble, mi ama.”

She grimaced at him and he gave a slight chuckle before making his way down the steps. Marina felt the slightest bit of satisfaction that dust stained his superfine in the rear.

Apparently, the cloak had been dusty, too.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Friday Snippet, August 17, 2007

And the rest of Chapter Two. Picks up where the last snippet left off. The story doesn't go much further after this. Can you tell I'm stalling until I get some new material down? (grin) I really am working on something. I'm feverishly putting together an outline on a novel. I plan to be a complete idiot and attempt to write a novel from September 1 through December 31. My version of 70 days of sweat?: "90 days of utter exhaustion"


She rolled on the ground, holding her wrist with her good hand, screaming and sobbing. When she rolled too close to the campfire and burned her thigh, that smaller pain distracted her enough to surge to her feet and run to the stream. Shanda thrust her hand into the water and steam rushed into her face, smelling of burning flesh and metal. She left her hand submerged for a long time, the cold water numbing her wrist and leaching away some of the agony in her hand, bit by bit. Her tears fell into the water like drops of rain.

When dawnlight peered beneath the trees and the fire in her hand faded to only knife-blade sharpness, Shanda pulled her hand to just under the surface of the water. Something on her hand caught the glimmer of the faint morning light and threw it in her eyes.

She drew a breath, and lifted her hand from the water, palm up. Fused to her palm and fingers, drawing her hand into an immovable claw, the shape of a silver cross glittered back at her.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


OMG, this picture is so funny! Found it on the web. It is

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nothing New Under the Sun

U-Tube is extremely addictive. One can run the gamut from Puccini's Nessun Dorma to Bizet's Carmen. I listened to several renditions of Nessun Dorma and Habanera this evening, and I'm thinking to myself--bring on Paul Potts. Someone I can relate to.

Watching the murder of Carmen in Act IV, I'm wondering, what's the fascination with this? Besides the singing, of course. Some guy offs his girlfriend. Sounds like the evening news. I won't go all feminist and mention what that says about the perceptions of the relationship between men and women--since the opera was penned in a different era. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" kinda thing.

As writers, we've come to realize that many stories of the human condition have already been told, and continue to be told. Where we come in is to put our unique spin on those old stories. I guess maybe that's the virtue in Carmen--it's Bizet's spin on a very old tale.

There really is "nothing new under the sun."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Just Say No

I read that the warring HD-DVD and Blu-Ray have made exclusive deals with different movie studios to bring blockbusters out in only one format this Christmas, and will slash the price of their players to give consumers an incentive to buy one format or the other.


We, the consumer, should just say we aren't going to fall for that crap and make them slash the prices on players that can play BOTH formats. (It's probably not feasible to make them "settle on a format, already!").

Can anyone say BETA vs. VHS? Let's learn from that mess.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Friday Snippet, August 10, 2007

This is a piece I wrote at the beginning of the year. Then a huge event happened in my life--one of those life-changing ones that you never see coming. I just can't seem to take up the threads of this story again. I'm a different person than I was then. Maybe some day--but even then, the story will be different.

Short synopsis: Shanda has been sold by her father to some traders, who bring her to a forest and set up camp. A dark figure shows up in her dream, frightening her. She wakes up to find herself alone and the traders gone. She attempts to leave the forest but finds she keeps circling back to the same camp.

Obviously, she couldn’t get away from this place. Some magic was at work—something she couldn’t figure out how to fight. That left only one action. To face her fear—to face the one who kept her from leaving. The very thought made her insides knot. And night had nearly fallen. Something told her that he was strongest at night.

Lurching to her feet, Shanda went to the campfire and kicked at the embers, trying to find a live coal. She found an answering spark. Snatching at twigs, she knelt and carefully nursed a small flame from the embers. Once she had the fire going and a supply of windfall to keep it fed, Shanda took a half-burned branch and scratched a circle in the dirt around the campfire, containing her and the campfire inside. The branch left behind soot and ash, defining a crisp, clear circumference.

Shanda had seen the village wise woman draw a like circle many times. For protection, she’d said. She clutched her grandmother’s cross in her hand and stared out at the gathering shadows. Shanda realized she trusted her grandmother’s loyalty and devotion to that cross more than she did some circle in the dirt.

When night pressed against the confines of the circle, he came.

“Who are you?” she said. “What do you want?”

He walked toward her and the firelight fell on his face, illuminating his features. She trembled at the beauty and the cruelty she saw there. No kindness, not a spark of humanity, softened the glittering edges of his perfection.

He surveyed her from head to foot. Shanda felt exposed and raw, bared before his gaze like a sacrificial lamb. She shivered. He tried to cross the circle, and paused, watching her. He looked down at the sharply defined circumference and a half smile touched his mouth.

She stood straight and defiant and held the cross at arm’s length, between him and her heart, like the old stories she’d heard her grandmother tell of the valkans that walked the night and were only driven away by the devotion and purity in their intended victim.

He saw the cross and smiled no longer.

“Throw that away.” He spoke for the first time, and his voice hurt her head, the ringing command in it causing her arm and hand to tremble as if she held a great weight.

Shanda almost did his bidding, but caught herself in time. She took a fresh grip on the cross.

“No,” she said, grim. “It is mine, and I will hold it.”

For the barest second, inhuman rage sat on his features, then smoothed away as if it had never been.

“Do you think this circle in the dirt and a piece of metal will hold me back if I desire to have you? You, who cannot even prevent your own father from selling you to the highest bidder?”

Tears welled in her eyes. To have someone else know her shame—that gave unexpected sharpness to her pain.

“I can help you,” he said softly. “Is it your wish to see your father pay for what he did to you? Just say the word and he will suffer every day for the rest of his short life.”

Her hand sagged, and the cross with it. Did she want her father to pay for what he had done? She realized she did. The thought that she could make him hurt –yes. A part of her responded to that promise.

“You see?” he said. “You have hatred in your heart and you do not deserve to hold that cross in your hand. Throw it away, and let me give you what you want.”

Despair touched her with spectral fingers. Maybe he was right. How could she even hold that cross while her heart was so stained with rage against her father?

“Yes, you see how unworthy you are. Stop fighting a lost battle and surrender to me, girl.”

In the space of one breath to the next, motion ceased, awaiting her decision. In that small space, she heard her mother crying. The sound was as full of raw pain and despair as anything she now felt. Shanda’s vision cleared and she saw that he leaned toward her, within touching distance.

Alarmed, her hand flashed up to push him away, the cross still in her fingers. When the silver touched him as her hand pushed against his chest, he screamed, high and shrill.

Pain, terrible pain in her hand. Fire and molten heat.

Shanda screamed along with him, her hand feeling as if it had fused to a hot bar of metal. For what seemed an eternity, they stood, locked in their separate agony. Then, with a wrench that spilled her on her ground, he was gone.

Musical Madness

I play the piano and the guitar--the latter, not well. Lately, I've taken up the Irish Feadog. It's a simple whistle, in the key of D, and I like the way it sounds. Well, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star sounds good on it anyway. (grin)

Music has always been a part of my life in some way. I remember going to church with my family and listening to my mother sing and play the piano. She still does, though her lupus makes it hard for her. I guess, surrounded by that kind of environment, it was inevitable that I'd play and sing, too.

Music has been my second love--and playing an instrument is an exercise in letting the subconscious work while your public mind is busy with the notes. Music makes me relax and work out a problem and helps put me in the mood to write.

As a side benefit, that whistle is improving my breathing. You got to keep your breath slow and controlled to produce the sound you want. Now, if I could only play Beethoven on it....

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Writer's Show

If I'd recommend a current show for writers to watch, it would be "On the Lot."

I try to spend as little time watching tv as I can, but I find these budding directors' films instructive---they must pack a cohesive story into just a few minutes of film---a short story on screen. It's been interesting to see what works for the audience and what doesn't. Obviously, print is different, but not by much.

As a writer, I can learn something from watching their successes and failures. Watching has nothing to do with the show being enjoyable, of course. (wink)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Manic Monday


It's hot. No, it's cracks-in-the-dirt, egg-frying-on-the-sidewalk, blast-furnace hot. And I hope nobody who lives in the Southwest reads this, 'cause I don't like to be one-upped. (grin)

When it's this hot, nobody moves faster than a slow plod, and God help you if you get in the way of their plod. People vie to be the fastest temper on the draw. So Monday ain't manic, it's oh crap another day of triple digits, that's what it is.

In the spirit of true trivia, six months ago the temp barely hovered above zero. Ah, the joys of Midwest living!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Wildass Dreams

Holly Lisle is the most amazing person. Check out this dream of Holly's. The August 4 entry.

Her dream is similar to the one I had for creating my own magazine for the kinds of stories that I like reading--Sword & Sorcery, space opera, adventure fantasy, old-time-wonder SF. I let my nine-to-five get in the way of that vision, and I'm not sure I have the courage to change my direction now, but I sure can admire the people who do have the guts to go for what they dream about.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sea Change

Since I spend more of my time here than on my own website and my old blog, I might as well make this my main site. Now it will be more than just a blog for snippets. Blogger is much more user friendly than Yahoo 360. I feel way more comfortable blogging than I did just a few short months ago, and I wanted more versatility in what I put on my blog.