Thursday, September 27, 2007

Friday Snippet, September 28, 2007

A snippet from my WIP. This is a Nikky scene, still fairly early in the story, and Nikky is still only fourteen.

This material is first draft. Please do not quote or repost anywhere. Thanks.

Nikky gave Tasha a feather on the street, in front of her aunt and cousin, and Gerring, his master, found out. After giving Nikky a beating, he sent him off to Taolin with Captain Dorn and Jai, friends of Gerring's, hoping the incident blows over. While on the streets of Taolin, he catches the notice of a rich and powerful woman. Though nothing came of it, Jai is not happy.

Nikky slipped away to sit in his favorite spot on the ship. The forecastle deck gave him a good view of the harbor and the teeming docks. He liked to watch the activity from this vantage point.

He became aware of Jai’s and Captain Dorn’s voices somewhere below.

“…I’m telling you that she singled him out of that crowd, Lemo, almost as if she knew him. It worried me,” Jai said.

“But you said nothing came of it,” Captain Dorn said in a soothing voice. “It’s nothing.”

“I don’t like it. I don’t like that kind of notice turned on us, and I don’t like it for the boy’s sake.”

Captain Dorn’s voice lowered, inaudible to Nikky although he strained to hear more.

His brows drawn, Nikky surveyed the busy docks. Could someone have really noticed him—somehow known him---enough to stop ten guards and a litter while she looked? He shook his head. The whole thing seemed too fantastical.

Nikky spent the rest of the day fantasizing that some great Taolin noblewoman would step forward and claim him as her long-lost son and spirit him away to a House, and he would be given clothing and shoes and servants…

He crawled into his pallet and fell asleep dreaming of having his own room and his own bed.

Deep in the heart of the night, Nikky came abruptly awake as a hard hand covered his mouth. He felt himself picked up and borne away. He struggled and kicked and tried to bite the hand covering his mouth, to no avail.

The quietness of it all terrified Nikky. Someone carried him through the sleeping ship, swift and silent and sure-footed. In mere seconds, Nikky felt the chill night air on his arms and legs, and he smelled the brackish harbor water. He knew that most of the crew slept not feet away, and that crewman Toskin patrolled the deck as sentry, but he couldn’t make one sound or one move to hinder his abductor.

And before he could even begin to divine what his abductor would do, both of them were airborne over the railing and the shocking cold of the harbor water drove the breath from his lungs. He tried to fight, sheer panic setting in; he would drown, he was going to die right here---!

An iron bar of an arm pulled his head above water. Nikky spluttered.

“Quiet! Or I’ll break something!”

Nikky felt the thread of voice more than heard it. The voice had spoken right behind his left ear. He froze, his hands clutching at the arm around his neck. Something in the man’s voice told Nikky he meant what he said.

Far over his head, he heard movement as Toskin came to the railing, looking for what had caused the splash. The bulk of the ship loomed above them, a black shape blocking out the stars. He realized they were treading water next to the ship’s hull, out of sight of anyone on deck.

Toskin moved along the deck above for what seemed an eternity to Nikky. The man holding Nikky kept them both afloat and waited for the sentry to lose interest with a kind of deadly patience that frightened Nikky as much as the spoken threat. He shivered, the cold water penetrating his flesh and making him feel lethargic.

Finally, Toskin moved away. The man in the water waited more long minutes, then flexed his arm.

“You swim?” his low voice asked at Nikky’s ear.

“S—some,” Nikky said.

“Then we will swim. But know this. If you so much as make a sound, I’ll go back and kill everyone on that ship. Understand?”

He could not see the man’s face in the darkness, but he didn’t need to. Horrified, Nikky suddenly knew the man could, and would, carry out his promise. He nodded frantically, his heart thudding in his ears.

The man released him. Nikky swam as quietly as he could manage, thoughts whirling. Why did the man want him? What had he done?

The exercise warmed his cold arms and legs. The docks loomed ahead of him and he considered how he might escape. If he could reach land ahead of the man, he could run and lose himself in the darkness, even if he didn’t know Taolin.

Straining as much as he dared, Nikky made for the nearest outthrust dock. His hands fumbled and found a handhold. He heaved his upper body out of the water. Something brushed past Nikky and he found himself hauled onto the dock as the man latched onto his wrist.

The man gave him only an instant to get his bearings. Confused and feeling more like crying than he had in years, Nikky climbed to his feet.

“Move!” the man ordered, and dragged him forward with that punishing grip. They moved through the streets at a trot, Nikky hopelessly lost. If this had been Camdia---but it wasn’t, and he wasted his time wishing.

Nikky stumbled in the man’s wake for what seemed like hours, cold and shivering and more scared than he had ever been in his life.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Friday Snippet, September 21, 2007

First, I apologize to those of you who might already have read this story on my website. I'm not quite ready to post another snippet about Nikky and Tasha yet, so I mined some material I have posted on my site. I had submitted this short-short to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthology while she was still alive. She held it until the final cut, and made some favorable comments on it. Next week, I'll snippet material from my WIP (working title Nikky the Merchant.)

Copyrighted material. Please don't quote or repost anywhere. Thanks!


The sorcerer had been alone on his island for many years and had grown to think of it as solely his. Markin was inclined to be fretful when he noticed the squatter on his southern coast. He watched the woman for several days in his best scrying glass. Her figure was indistinct (the sorcerer had bad eyesight and wouldn’t admit it), but when he saw she wasn’t going to bother him or mess up his island, he decided to ignore her.

That is, he ignored her until he surprised a young girl in the heart of his fortress flipping through the pages of one of his magic books. Astonishment held him until she ripped out a page. His angry roar caused the walls to vibrate. The girl disappeared. Markin blinked, then heard a door slam in the hallway.

Grunting in bewilderment and anger, the short, stumpy little sorcerer ran through the hall and out of the fortress in time to see a flash of movement among the trees. He followed that glimpsed movement with single-minded determination, and it led him right to the door step of the thatched cottage the squatter had erected.

Seeing a female figure standing outside the cottage, Markin bawled, “Witch! Give me back the page you have stolen!”

A small dumpy woman with a pugnacious nose and flashing eyes swam into his limited field of vision. “If it’s me you’re addressing so disrespectfully, man, know this. I’ve stolen nothing of yours.”

Markin blinked in confusion as several things impinged upon his consciousness at once. The woman looked nothing like the girl he’d seen in his fortress, her eyes were the soft gray of the sea during a rain, and she was as short as he was. He’d met few women who did not tower over him. As a matter of fact, he’d met few women.

“Well, some girl was stealing a page out of my Lesser Spell Book and she came right to this place. Your daughter, perhaps?” he said in a milder voice.

“I have no children, sorcerer. Only a cat who chooses to make her home with me.”

At her words, a slender, tawny cat came around the corner of the cottage and dropped a much-chewed page at their feet.

“My page!” the sorcerer squawked, and picked up the limp piece of paper.

“I’m terribly sorry—what is your name? Markin? Leesha has never done anything like this before. What did the page have on it? Perhaps we could transfer whatever it says to a fresh piece of paper?”

The sorcerer squinted at the crumpled page and mumbled, “But I’m sure I saw a girl.”

“You don’t see well, do you?” the woman said in a sympathetic voice. “You know, I have just the thing for those eyes.”

“You do?” Markin said in a hopeful voice. “Spells have been getting smaller of print lately.”

“An old concoction good for all kinds of vision problems passed down from my grandmother. Suppose you just step into my cottage and I’ll whip it up for you. My name is Clella, by the way….”

Clella led the unresisting sorcerer toward her front door. She turned her head and one gray eye winked over her shoulder at the cat.

A girl with tawny hair stood where the cat had been. She winked back at Clella. Leesha smiled. Everyone was satisfied this way. Markin and Clella were no longer two lonely people and she—well, she had what she wanted, too.

She assumed her four-footed form again to run back to the sorcerer’s fortress. While the sorceress kept the sorcerer entertained, Leesha had many more spells to learn.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Friday Snippet, September 14, 2007

And here we are again. I've been working steadily on this story. It's kind of funny, really. Why didn't all these words come years ago? *Sigh* BTW, I've changed the name Tigana to Tigara. I don't know who was first--me or Guy Gavriel Kay--but I do know which one of us is more famous. So Tigara it is. I wonder what other land mines lurk in the old names I have for these characters?

Rough draft. Please don't quote or repost anywhere. Thanks.

This scene is still fairly early in the story. Tasha, her cousin Alli, and her Aunt Lana went to the marketplace on Lotus Street where Nikky saw them and gave Tasha a feather despite Lana's protests. This birthday party happened not long after that event took place.

People crowded the small courtyard. Tasha stood on the edge of things, trying to escape notice. Large groups of people made her uncomfortable, especially those gatherings where she had to be concerned that she didn’t spill food and drink on her clothes, or say the wrong thing.

Her cousin, Alli, stood at the very heart of the crowd, talking and laughing vivaciously. The birthday party was hers—a celebration of turning fourteen. Alli never lost an opportunity to point out the year's difference in their ages.

Tasha watched her. For Alli, a party gave her the opportunity to shine. Aunt Lana always made sure she dressed impeccably and invited the right people. The new peacock blue party dress Alli wore made Tasha feel like a dowd by comparison in her older green dress, and the party was definitely full of the right people. Members of the Fifty Families roamed the courtyard, forming little cliques and groups.

Loud laughter caught Tasha’s attention. A group of boys about Alli’s age or older stood near the fountain, flicking water on each other. She recognized Raul Destero and Conn Sanyata among them. Their Family names were influential—she had heard her father say the Sanyatas and the Desteros had the direct ear of Governor Arin Tigara. She did know that Raul and Conn thought a lot of themselves.

Alli turned and saw her. “Oh, Tasha,” she said in a dismissive voice. “I’d forgotten I invited you."

“You didn’t. Aunt Lana did,” Tasha said.

“Well, this must be like a grown-up party for you. I’m afraid there’s no one else your age here.”

Alli’s patronizing tone set Tasha’s teeth on edge. “That’s all right. If I get bored, I’ll go play hopskip on the patio while I drink my milk.”

Alli shot Tasha a dirty look. Without another word, she turned and walked away to join some girls standing in a giggling group near the boys at the fountain. She said something and the girls turned to stare at Tasha. More giggles erupted from them.

Tears stung Tasha’s eyes but she fiercely blinked them back. I’m not going to cry. Not in front of them.

She turned and walked to the table that Aunt Lana's servants had spread with food. Tasha eyed the dainty offerings and settled for little finger sandwiches even though she wasn’t really hungry. Eating alfresco never appealed to her, especially not at social events. She settled her back against one of the statues and nibbled on her food.

Lost in thought, at first she didn’t realize that Raul Destero stood in front of her holding out one of the decorative white rocks that lined the pathways. Puzzled, Tasha looked up at his smirking face. Nearby, she could see the boys and girls from around the fountain obviously listening in, including Alli.

“What? Don’t you get it? I figured if you’d take a feather from common trash, a rock from me ought to really set you on fire,” he drawled.

Raucous laughter from the others rang in Tasha’s ears.

Tasha felt the blood drain from her face. She took a deep breath, and lifted her chin. “No, thanks. Haven’t you heard? It’s the thought, not the gift.”

The others stopped laughing, and a flash of rage lit Raul’s face. He hefted the rock as if he contemplated throwing it in her face. Tasha held his gaze, showing no fear.

With a short, derisive laugh, Raul turned his hand and dropped the rock at her feet. “In case you change your mind,” he said, and sauntered away.

Only one place could Raul have heard the story. Alli had told him. Tasha gave her cousin one flashing look of disbelief and betrayal. Alli shrugged, looking faintly uncomfortable.

Tasha turned and made her way to the patio where she knew Aunt Lana sat with the older ladies, talking and laughing. When her aunt’s eyes fell on Tasha, a frown crossed her face for a moment.

Tasha found that it took every ounce of her willpower to ask her aunt in a pleasant voice to call up the chair so she could go home.

“Why are you leaving so early, Tasha?” Lana asked her suspiciously.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Lana. I don’t feel well. It might be the heat.”

Tasha guessed that she didn’t look well because Aunt Lana didn’t ask her any more questions. She summoned a servant and directed the chair be brought for her niece.

“What a shame!” one of the other ladies commiserated. “You’ll miss the rest of the party.”

Tasha gave her a sickly smile.

“But I suppose you won’t enjoy the party if you don’t feel well,” the lady continued, and a discussion ensued about different ailments the various ladies had experienced.

Tasha gratefully escaped and waited out in front of her aunt’s house for the chair. The two burly men who carried the chair placed it on the ground to allow her inside. Tasha drew the curtains and let the swaying movement of the chair soothe her. She wished she could run home and tell her father what Alli and Raul had done, but she knew she couldn’t do it. Tasha had been taught not to bear tales, and telling her father seemed too much like doing that. She sighed. This seemed one more thing that, as her nurse put it, “must be endured rather than cured.”

At that moment, Tasha missed her mother with an ache that seemed as big as the world, and just as endless.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rudeness of a Nation

I've seen several posts lately about people encountering rudeness.

Anyone in the service industry can tell you about how rude people have become. Hitting out at people who can't defend themselves against you used to be socially unacceptable. No more. The attitude that "I paid good money, I should be able to do and say what I want" seems to be the new norm.

I'm going to give my opinion based on what I've observed, and what I've observed is that people have little self-control anymore. Disappointment and frustration are met with near hysteria. Incidences of road rage, air rage, waiting in line rage, he's getting more than me rage, delaying gratification half a second get the picture. People are like two-year olds who have just had their toy taken away. Face screwed up, reddened, beating fists against the ground, "It's just not fair...I hate you!"

Entitlement. That's the buzzword. That's what people think. I'm entitled. Bull. The world don't owe us squat. Money, spent or possessed, doesn't give anyone the excuse to make someone else's life miserable. Your own misery does not give you the right to inflict damage on others.

So, if you feel that way, get a grip. Try some gratitude. Thank the good Lord you have what you have. Does wonders for the attitude. I know. I have to tell myself often that the jerk who just cut me off in traffic doesn't matter, that in a hundred years no one's going to care, that what matters is my own peace of mind and blood pressure right this moment. I have to stop and thank God that I can drive, that I have a car, that I have a job, that I have my life. And, really, that restores the self control.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Friday Snippet, September 7, 2007

I have a weakness.

Sometimes when I read over old work, I get the fever to rewrite/finish/edit that piece of work instead of continuing with my current WIP. This is what happened to me last week when I posted the snippet about Nikky and Tasha. The story seized me in its grip again. When I looked up and drew breath, I'd written over 4,000 modified and new words.

So I have semi-new stuff to show you. This story, btw, was my first attempt to write a novel. I got about a third of the way through the novel before it got impossibly convoluted and with a large cast of characters. My inexperienced self didn't know what to do with it---but I may have just figured out what to do, what to cut, and where to go with it. Hopefully. (grimace)

Btw, Nikki is now Nikky, bearing in mind seanachi's problem with the spelling. I really don't know what I was thinking when I tacked an "i" instead of a "y" on the end. Probably just trying to be different, but that kind of difference is usually more distracting than innovative.

This material is first draft. Please do not quote or repost anywhere. Thanks.

Brief synopsis to this point: A year after Nikky first meets Tasha Nepara. Nikky is fourteen now.

He raced through the streets of Lower Camdia, dodging street markets and their customers with the ease of long practice. His friends Tarn and Shell were hot on his heels. Shouts of anger from disturbed vendors and the occasional shout of excitement from youngsters roaming the streets followed them like a flag follows the wind.

The flash of colored wings caught Nikky’s attention. He halted before a display of stacked cages that contained brightly-colored and exotic birds. Nikky moved closer in fascination. What strange, faraway land had yielded these birds? He didn’t ever remember seeing any Camdian birds with red or blue feathers.

The birds, nervous at his proximity, screamed shrilly in tones that hurt the ear and shot around in the cages, making them dance, and causing the metal chains to jangle.

Shell stood beside Nikky, transfixed. “They’re beautiful,” she whispered.

Tarn came, puffing, and behind as usual. His stocky body had trouble keeping up with Nikky’s speed and Shell’s long-limbed slenderness, but he could wrestle both of them to the ground and endured their taunts with the innate calm of one who knows he is superior at something else.

“Wha—what—you—doing?” Tarn gasped out, holding his side.

The birds, nervous before, went wild at his noisy approach. They banged against the sides of the cages and colored feathers drifted through the air. One bright red one landed at Nikky’s feet. He leaned over and picked it up.

“Here, you! What are you up to!”

All three jerked around at the gruff voice. A large, swarthy man stood at the entrance to his temporary stall of light wood and canvas, black eyes boring into them. Nearby stood a man in the distinctive yellow robes of a Dafreet. The amazing sight of a magician out in the market like any common street vendor rooted Nikky’s feet to the ground.

“Get away from my birds!” the swarthy man said, yelling to be heard over the shrilling of the birds. “What are you trying to do, ruin my profit? I brought those birds all the way from Taolin to sell, not to be gawked at by the likes of you!”

The Dafreet turned his head. Nikky saw him flick his fingers, and the birds were immediately silenced. They still flapped and fluttered around the cages, but no sound emerged from them.

The birds’ owner stared in puzzlement, then turned his anger on Nikky and Shell and Tarn. “Get on out of here or I’ll have your heads!”

The three ran, clothes flying in tattered rags behind them. Nikky guided their steps toward the Waterfront and the docks. Trouble had undoubtedly found him again, Nikky reflected with some bitterness. The vendor would complain to Gerring, and Gerring would box his ears hard enough to make them ring. He could never do anything without Gerring finding out about it. His blond hair stood out like an army with banners in a town full of dark-haired people, and he could seldom hide his activities from his master. Besides, Gerring seemed to know every thought that went through his head at times.

His bare feet hit the seasoned boards of the Waterfront with a hollow thump. Two other sets of thumping noises announced Shell’s and Tarn’s arrival. Nikky slowed to a walk and his friends came up beside him.

“Did you see that?” Shell said in a hushed voice. “He made all those birds’ voices go away!”

“I heard they can do worse than that,” Tarn said in a doom-ridden voice. “Bilge told me once that Dafreets can make things as big as---as big as that ship out there disappear. Poof! It’s gone!”

Nikky and Shell followed his pointing finger to the two-master that rolled in the water several yards from the docks.

“Bilge is daft,” Nikky said, ignoring Tarn’s glare as his gaze took in the sights.

Every boat and ship imaginable lined the docks in all directions, floating in the green, murky waters of Bar Harbor. The wave-capped harbor waters slapped the pilings with a booming sound. Nikky looked out toward the sea. He could see the dark blot that was Silt Island, and if he strained his eyes, he could see the group of small islands due south of Silt Island.

“Look, you can see the Maze today,” he said. “If you want to see something that can really make ships disappear.”

Both Tarn and Shell looked, and Shell shuddered.

“I heard Gerring say that ghost ships haunt the Maze. Hundreds of ‘em have run aground there because of the currents,” Nikky said.

“I’ll bet you can find people’s bones all over those little islands,” Tarn said with relish.

“Tarn!” Shell protested. She rubbed at the goosebumps on her arms.

Even Nikky felt a thrill down his spine just thinking about that. He stared, and it seemed to him even the seabirds avoided the Maze. Farther on, he imagined that he could see the Southwest Passage that led to the safety of the open sea.

Nikky turned to face northwest where Tigana Island loomed in the section of Bar Harbor where a semi-circle of land thrust outward, creating a back eddy. Over the centuries, silt and debris had formed the island. He’d read that somewhere. Camdia’s Governor lived there. Nikky wondered what it would be like to have an entire island to yourself.