Thursday, October 25, 2007

Friday Snippet, October 26, 2007

This week seems to be just as busy as the last. I'm getting cranky. I always get cranky when I can't block off enough time to write.

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 Please do not quote or repost anywhere.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

Continuation of last week's post.

[Edited to remove too many references to "Lord Alin."]

The woman seemed to understand the problem. She pressed her fingertips against Carlie’s throat, and a rush of warmth and strength washed over Carlie from that point of contact. Her breathing steadied.

“Hold, my lady,” the woman said. “I’ll get help.”

She disappeared from Carlie’s line of sight. After time had passed, Carlie thought she’d imagined the woman. She closed her eyes and drifted away until she felt hands touch her.

Carlie opened weighted eyelids. The woman had returned with a man and a boy in his early teens. The boy’s anxious face filled her field of vision. “Tamli! Gretchi, help her!”

“I’ll do my best, Cedrin, but she’s lost a lot of blood.”

The man bent over the dead man, then Carlie.

“Lord Alin always was a ham-fisted hack,” he said to Gretchi in a harsh voice. “Looks like he missed her vitals. I’m not sure what she did to him, but it was effective.”

Gretchi grunted. “As long as he’s dead. If we don’t get her off the floor and get her warm soon….”

The boy stared at both of them, his face crumpling. “Please, Gretchi! Please, Lessing! She needs help!”

“We need to get her out of here, and then we need to get rid of the body” the man said in an urgent voice. “Anyone could come in at any moment. You know what a stir this would cause. She can’t be mixed up in this—Mallon can’t be mixed up in it. This would reach the ears of the Crown.”

Gretchi bent over Carlie, touching her side with gentle fingers. Heat spread from her hands, faintly warming Carlie’s cold, cold body.

Gretchi shook her head. “I don’t know, Lessing. We can’t move her far, or we’ll finish what Lord Alin started.”

“NO!” the boy half-screamed. “She can’t die! Tamli! Don’t leave me!”

Carlie tried to tell the boy that her name wasn’t Tamli, and that she had no intention of dying. Nothing emerged but a grunting sound. She held Gretchi with her gaze, and something in her eyes must have spoken to the woman.

“She’s come this far,” Gretchi said in a soft voice. “I don’t think she’s ready to give up yet.” She looked up at the man she had addressed as Lessing and nodded.

Carlie felt hands slide under her body and lift. Pain crashed down on her and drove her consciousness below the surface again. When her awareness surfaced again, she heard the sound of raised voices.

“….she’s your wife, my lord! It is the dead of winter! If you insist on moving her now, you might kill her!”

Carlie recognized the voice of the woman, Gretchi.

“You dare to argue with me about this? She cannot stay here! She will be removed from Haygen to House Mallon, and that is my final word on the matter!”

Something about that cold, petulant voice caused Carlie to make a restless movement. Someone seized her hand and held it. She turned her head to see the boy sitting at her side.

“He’s a pig, Tamli!” he said in a soft voice. “I don’t care what you say, he’s a big, fat pig!”

“Don’t let his lordship hear you say that,” Gretchi said as she appeared and placed a back of her hand on Carlie’s forehead. “Just because your sister is married to him wouldn’t keep the strap from your back.”


Unexpected pain of memory made Carlie catch her breath. She had been a sister. Once. Her brother had died long ago. Tears slid down the side of her face and dropped into her hair. She hadn’t thought of him for years. Even after promising she would never forget.

“Nothing to worry about, my lady,” Gretchi said. “Lessing will take us, and we will travel with everything we need to keep you comfortable. I will see to that myself,” she said, voice grim. “You sleep as much as you can now. You’ll need your strength."

Carlie turned her face to a wall. She did feel very tired. As she fell asleep, Carlie found comfort in the feel of the boy’s hand holding hers.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Snippet, October 19, 2007

Hello. Busy week. Almost no writing. *sigh* I HATE that, but not much I can do.

I'm giving Tasha and Nikky a brief rest. Here's a piece out of another WIP I'm about half-finished with. Enjoy.

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

I don't think this piece requires explanation. It's the very first scene in the book.

[Edited to clarify some confusion.]

Christmas Eve.

Carlie Zimmer looked out the window at the snow-covered ground. It was one of those days that even looked cold, like frost clung to every molecule, lending a clean, cutting edge to the air. If you didn’t look at the dirty snow at the road’s edge.

She turned to face the empty room behind her. The first full day alone since her mother’s death. Carlie hadn’t thought she’d miss that whining voice. She pulled her sweater closer around her shoulders.

The phone rang. She hesitated, then picked up the receiver. “Hello?” She winced reflexively at the hoarse rasp of her ruined voice.

“Hey, Carlie. I heard about your mother,” Brian said. “There anything I can do?”

Carlie sighed. “Thanks for calling, Brian. I really don’t need anything.”

“It sucks that you have to face this on Christmas,” Brian said. Pause. “Hey, the wife and I were talking it over, and we want to invite you to have Christmas dinner with us—uh, with all that’s going on….”

Carlie’s mouth twisted as she finished the sentence in her head, ‘since we know you’ll be totally alone and we feel sorry for you.’

She didn’t allow her feelings to color her reply. “Thanks, Brian, I appreciate the thought, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t make good company right now. I think I’ll just stay at home. I have plenty of food, so I won’t starve.”

Relief was almost palpable in Brian’s voice. “Well, if you change your mind, give us a call. I take it you won’t be back to work until after New Year’s.”


With a few more awkward words of condolence, Brian hung up.

Carlie stared at the phone, hoping no more co-workers would call and pretend they cared. Most of them barely knew her, and none of them had known her mother.

The phone rang again. With a sound of annoyance, Carlie picked up the receiver.

“Just like the old bitch to kick off on Christmas, eh, Carlie?”

Carlie’s blood chilled to subzero and her breath left in a great rush.

“Not expecting to hear from me? On Christmas Eve, and your mother dead and all? Now, I am disappointed.”

Carlie found her voice, relieved that it sounded steady. “Jason, how did you get this number?”

“I love the new sound of your voice,” Jason said in a mocking confidential voice. "I think it was my best work. Don't you agree, wife?"

Carlie gritted her teeth, her fingers going to the scar circling her throat. “I’m not your wife anymore, Jason. Don’t call me.”

She dropped the receiver into its cradle. In a few seconds, the phone rang. Carlie ignored it. The answering machine kicked in.

“You don’t hang up on me!” Jason snarled. “Ever! You’ll pay for that.”

Carlie heard him slam the receiver down, and the droning dial tone until the answering machine shut off. She pressed a shaking hand to her mouth. He’d found her. He'd found her city, her phone number. But Jason Mulholland had always been resourceful.

Her eye fell on the newspaper still folded where she had left it when she’d retrieved it from the front porch step. A thought occurred to her and she snatched it up, turning to the obituary page. And swore when she saw the notification of her mother’s death on the page. Some well-meaning soul at the funeral home had notified the papers after she had specifically told them that she would not need an obit notice.

Panic hit her and she was in motion before she could put two thoughts together. He had her phone number. How much of a jump was it to assume that he had her address as well? Jason loved mind games. He was entirely capable of calling her from just outside the house. She wasn’t waiting around to find out.

Carlie pulled her overnight bag out of the closet and threw in some jeans and shirts. She grabbed the phone on her trip to the bathroom for toiletries and dialed the police. She had them on speed dial. Just in case.

A bored voice answered her call.

“Yes, this is Carlie Zimmer,” she said, her voice sounding like rocks over metal. “My husband is trying to kill me.”


“1544 Market Street. Please hurry.” She hit the disconnect button on the querying voice and put the phone in her left sweater pocket. No use in answering questions. She’d never been able to answer the why, anyway. Jason defied analysis. The police would check out her call. Eventually. She checked to make sure her car keys were in her right sweater pocket and picked up her pace.

Shampoo next to hair brush. Toothbrush next to toothpaste.

The sound of glass shattering somewhere in the house made her heart jump into her throat. Fingers trembling, Carlie zipped up the bag and threw the strap over her shoulder. She eased open her bedroom door. Silence. Front or back? She didn’t know.

Making the decision, Carlie sped down the hall to the front door. A quick glance through the peephole didn’t reveal anyone. Moving quickly and quietly, Carlie opened the door and stepped out onto the front porch. The cold air cut through her and she realized she didn’t have her coat.

Carlie could see the back of her car sitting on the driveway. It appeared to be intact. She reached inside her sweater pocket and triggered the remote, unlocking the car doors. The sound of the locks seemed incredibly loud. She made a break for it.

Carlie was more than halfway across the open area between the house and the garage when something hit her with stunning force, sending her sprawling in the snow.

Instinct caused her to roll and draw up her feet. Jason’s midsection connected and she kicked out with all that was in her. Jason fell back and hit the side of her car, the air leaving his lungs with a grunting sound. Carlie surged to her feet, the weight of her bag letting her know it was still with her. She swung the bag and hit Jason along the right jawline. He went down.

Carlie frantically fumbled for the car’s door handle and fell inside, slamming the door and hitting the locks. Breathing like she’d just run a marathon, she reached inside her sweater pocket. And felt nothing.

“Oh, God, oh, God.” Her hands tore at the pocket. No use. The car keys were no longer there. She turned to look out the window. The keys would be somewhere in the snow. She might never find them until spring. If she lived that long.

Her gaze went to where Jason had gone down but she didn’t see him. A search around the car didn’t reveal his presence. Where had he gone? Not away, she was sure about that.

Carlie reached into her left sweater pocket and closed around her phone. She pulled it out and flipped it open, pressing the speed dial for 911.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

Carlie stared in horror as Jason appeared at the driver’s side window, carrying a baseball bat and smiling. She lay over in the seat and pulled her sweater over her head as the bat connected with the window. The sound of impact and the shower of glass disoriented her for a moment.

“911. What’s going on?”

Carlie dropped the phone to the floorboard as Jason’s hand reached through the glass to the doorhandle. She had only one chance. As she heard the door latch disengage, Carlie lunged at the door. Under the impetus of her weight, the car door flew open and hit Jason. He gave a yell of pain and fell to his knees, his left arm hanging from the car window.

She scrambled from the car, trying to run, but slipped and fell on the slick driveway.

“Bitch!” Jason howled. “You’re gonna die!”

Carlie looked over her shoulder wildly to see Jason charging her, a knife in his hand. His face was lacerated and bloody, and his left sleeve stained crimson. His eyes were full of murder.

Somehow, Carlie found her feet and ran. A sharp pain seared her lower back. She screamed at the agony but managed to keep her feet. One flying look saw that Jason had slipped and fell in the snow. She ran, blindly, and in a straight line.

Careening off a tree trunk brought her back to awareness. Trees. There were trees in back of the house. Carlie groaned in distress as she realized she had run toward the least populated area of the neighborhood. And yet. Trees, a lot of them, made for good hiding. And good ambush.

The short winter twilight had already fallen, helping her to hide. Carlie slid around the nearest trunk. She could hear the snow crunching under Jason’s boots. He tunelessly whistled. The sound sent shivers up and down her spine. Her lower back ached like it was on fire.

“Might as well come out, Carlie. I’ll find you sooner or later. The longer it takes me, the more it’s going to hurt.”

Carlie moved around the tree, keeping the trunk between her and Jason. She surveyed her surroundings, looking for something, anything to help her. A fallen branch lay about ten steps from her position. Retrieving the branch would expose her to Jason. But what choice did she have, really?

She made the decision and broke cover, running for the branch. She heard Jason, close behind her. Carlie snatched up the branch and turned, already swinging, a cry of defiance erupting from her throat.

And she swung true. The branch caught Jason along the temple. He staggered and went to his knees, the knife falling from his limp hand, a look of surprise on his face. His eyes rolled back in his head and he fell on his side, limp and still. She knew he was badly injured, or dead. It was enough that he could no longer hurt her.

Carlie felt light-headed and weak. She sat down in the snow beside Jason. His bloody face drifted in and out of her sight, distorted like funhouse mirrors. With a sigh, she lay down in the snow. Intellectually, she knew that she was in shock, but she couldn’t seem to muster enough strength to move. She knew it was possible she would die, right here beside her murdering ex-husband. If the loss of blood from the wound in her lower back didn’t kill her, the cold would.

She closed her eyes. The sound of distant sirens made her stir uneasily, but she slid into darkness.

Carlie drifted.

Weak, Jason said. You were always weak. You never had what it takes to survive.

The sneer in his voice brought an ember of anger to a small flame.

Give up now, Jason said. Just give up and die.

“Leave me alone,” Carlie muttered.

Sure, I’ll leave you alone, he said. Continue dying all by yourself. Failure was the only thing you were ever good at.

The small flame of anger became a raging inferno. She was not going to just give up and die. Especially not on Christmas Eve. That wasn’t going to happen.

She searched the darkness, looking for something to hold onto, something to anchor her consciousness.

Help me! Please, somebody help me!

The anguish, the terror, the pain in those words drew her like a moth to a flame. A flare of pain so bright it was nearly visible to Carlie. She reached out to that pain and a maelstrom of memory and emotion swept her up like flotsam in some rain-swollen stream. Confused with images and feelings not her own, Carlie tried to hold onto something solid. She sensed a presence somewhere in that stream, struggling to hold on, growing weaker.

Carlie tried to reach out and grab at the presence. More memories and emotions buffeted her. For a moment, Carlie and the presence became one being, then that sense of the other leaked away, like water between her fingers. She lunged, trying to pursue that sense of a departing presence--and opened her eyes.

“Are you still trying to hang on? Remarkable,” a male voice said.

Carlie felt fingers on her throat, squeezing, tightening….

Savagely, she lashed out and the fingers abruptly left her throat. A flashing impression of a stranger’s face, distended with pain and horror, illuminated by some blue-tinged light, then she slipped into darkness again.

Carlie’s consciousness swam to the surface and she hovered in the twilight land between sleeping and awareness. In grim determination, she held onto what awareness she had. Dimly, she knew that she lay on a stone floor and a fire burned in a nearby fireplace. She felt weak and far away, and conscious of a deep cold throughout her body. In the range of her vision, a dead man lay, eyes fixed and staring at her. Her breath strangled in an attempt to shout for help, and her hands scrabbled weakly at the floor for purchase. She saw a wreath of greenery with a red bow hanging over the mantel, and she kept her gaze fixed on it rather than the dead man, and struggled to live.

“Oh, God!”

Carlie saw a woman kneeling over her, horror in her face. The woman was of middle age, dressed in a thick, gray dress, and wearing a white fur cap on her pepper and salt hair.

“My lady, you promised!” she whispered. Her brown eyes stared at Carlie with betrayal in them, and even a kind of resignation.

Carlie tried to speak but could make no sound.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Time To Remember...

Found this on Holly Lisle's blog. I think it's beautiful.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Snippet, October 12, 2007

Once again, Friday snippets roll around. When you're on vacation, your schedule goes wonky. Oh, well. At least I'm not working. At my job, that is. *sigh* Why do we try to do everything over vacation that we've put off for months?

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

We haven't seen Tasha since the party. Thought we'd check in with her.

Tasha and her father, along with Ang their shadowman (bodyguard) are going to jewelers to buy Tasha a gift. Along the way, they see strongarms evicting a family and taking their goods. This bothers them, Tasha the most. Note: Their mode of transportation is a two wheeler with a seat, pulled by a person called a roadman.

The sound of running feet caught their attention. Just ahead of two strongarms, the boy who had been standing with his family ran for all he was worth, clutching a cloth sling full of something. The boy might have outran the strongarms, but his foot slid out from underneath him and he dropped to one knee. The sling loosened and dumped a loaf of bread and some vegetables into the street.

The strongarms caught up with him.

“I’ll teach you to mess with us!” one of them snarled as he raised his club.

“Papa!” Tasha cried out, horrified.

“Hold!” Iano said, voice ringing.

The two strongarms turned unfriendly eyes to the group.

“What business is this of yours?” the one who had raised the club said with belligerance.

From somewhere under his clothing, Ang produced a long knife and pushed Tasha behind him. She peered around him.

The second strongarm held up a hand. “No need for trouble here,” he said, cautious. “The scum owes money, that’s all. He’s trying to steal some of the property the creditors have claimed.”

“That not true!” the kneeling boy said in a heavily-accented voice. “They take all! All! Leave us nothing!”

Iano gave a significant glance at the food spilling from the boy’s sling. “Have the creditors stooped to taking the foodstuff as well?” he asked with irony. “At most, what is it worth? A copper?”

The first strongarm flushed and hefted his club. “It’s to help pay the debt! It would be best if you didn’t interfere!” And, as Ang crouched into a knife-fighting stance, added, “Sir.”

The second strongarm caught at his companion’s arm. “What do you propose, sir? Surely you’re not asking us to let the boy go free.”

“No, obviously, appealing to your better nature is not going to work.” Iano reached inside his jacket and pulled out his purse and extracted a copper. He tossed the copper to the second strongarm who deftly caught it. “What I am asking you to do is to allow the boy his food, that’s all.”

The second strongarm pulled at his companion’s arm and said something in a low voice. “All right,” he finally said in a louder voice. “We’ll take a copper in exchange for the boy keeping the goods.”

“One thing,” Iano said. “If I find that you keep the copper and still take the boy’s food later, I will bring up this issue in Council. Do we understand each other?”

Sudden fright in his face at mention of Council, the second strongarm nodded vigorously and pulled the first one away. “Yes, sir. No problem, sir,” he told Iano, then directed his attention to his companion. “Come on, you idiot, he’s Family.

The strongarms trotted away. Ang relaxed, and his knife disappeared. Tasha followed her father as he crossed to the boy’s side, Ang close behind.

The boy scrambled back and clutched for the food.

“Don’t be afraid, boy. The food is yours,” Iano said. “Do you feel like telling me who you are and what happened?”

Tasha retrieved the loaf of bread from the street and handed it to the boy. He took the loaf and thrust it inside the sling. He stood, hugging the sling to his chest. She smiled at him and he blinked at her, then tried to smile in return.

“I am called Silmer. We come to Camdia to make better life.” The boy’s tone turned bitter. “My da lose his money. Someone take it. We sell most everything we bring from Chenawa just to eat. We try to find work but we don’t make much. We not able to pay for lodgings some weeks. The owner say we pay all we owe in two days, or he take what we have to pay for it. My da can’t pay in two days. The strongarms come and take all! Everything! More than money we owe! I took food so my family have something to eat.”

A muscle worked in Iano’s jaw. He still carried his purse. He reached in and drew out a gold coin. He held the coin out to Silmer. “Here. Buy your family food.”

Silmer stared at the coin in wonder, then his face closed and he shook his head. “We can’t pay back. I can’t take.”

“Consider it a loan until you can pay back,” Iano said, a new note of respect in his voice. He pressed the coin into the boy’s reluctant hand.

Silmer looked at all of them, his eyes blinking rapidly, his throat muscles working up and down with his emotions. “I thank you,” he said at last, voice husky. “My family thanks you. We pay back with interest.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Iano said. “Pay back the gold coin when you can. If the strongarms give you more trouble, let me know. I am Lord Nepara. I won’t be hard to find.”

“Thank you! Thank you!” With a big smile on his face, Silmer turned and ran back the way he had come.

“Papa, that was wonderful!” Tasha said, her eyes shining.

Her father looked down at her, smiling, but a little wrinkle in his brow did not smooth. “I’m glad you thought so.”

Iano motioned to the roadman, who turned the two-wheeler. Tasha climbed into the seat without help. Her father climbed in and settled beside her. The roadman leaned into the harness and the two-wheeler lurched forward. Ang once again fell into step at the back.

“I can’t help them all, Tasha,” Iano said in a sober voice. “I can help those that enter my area of influence, but I can’t help everyone. That is the way the world is. I don’t like it, and I will do what I can when I can to help change that, but that’s as much as I can humanly do.”

Tasha digested this in silence for some time.

“I guess that’s all right, Papa. Your ‘area of influence’ is pretty big, isn’t it?”

Iano looked down at her, and smiled. “Maybe it is at that, my little reformer.”

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Friday Snippet, October 5, 2007

Another week has gone by?! How did that happen?

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

A continuation of last week's post. Nikky has been kidnapped, and he has no idea why.

The man pulled him to a stop before a building on some winding back street. A tiny bit of light leaked from the building around the seam of a doorway. The man gave a soft rap on the door with his knuckles.

“Hilo?” someone asked through the door.

“Yes,” the man said.

The door opened wide enough to admit them, and Hilo pushed Nikky in ahead of him.

The man who had opened the door stared at Nikky and Hilo with a wary gaze. The room contained one travel lantern, guttering softly. Shadows lingered in all the corners. Nikky saw that he had entered some sort of warehouse. Crates, stacked several high, loomed over him.

“Where is she?” Hilo asked.

The man jerked his head toward the back of the room. A woman stepped from behind a stack of crates, her gaze immediately finding Nikky.

“Any trouble?” she asked Hilo.

“None,” Hilo said.

The woman came closer, the light illuminating her face. She was older than Nikky had imagined—he could see the lines on her face and the gray in her hair. She had dressed in an inconspicuous servant’s shift, but she moved and spoke like someone accustomed to power and the wielding of it.

“Where are you from?” she asked sharply. “Who are your parents?”

“C—Camdia, ma’am. I don’t know who my parents are.”

Her brows drew together and she searched his face. “Who are you and why are in Taolin? And don’t lie to me, boy. You won’t like the consequences.”

Nikky’s frightened eyes flashed from one face to the next. “Please, ma’am, my name is Nikky. I work as a crewman aboard the merchantman Sea Strider. I didn’t do anything.”

The woman turned to Hilo. “Is it safe to take him? What about the traders? Will they give us trouble?”

No one watched him. Nikky found his courage and made a desperate dash for the door. Hilo appeared between Nikky and the door before he had taken three steps.

Nikky stared into the face of his captor. Hilo looked perfectly ordinary. He would have blended unnoticeably into any crowd. One look into his eyes, however, and Nikky’s courage broke. Hilo's eyes were dead, and no spark of emotion or humanity lighted those dark depths.

“You’ll never get past Hilo, boy,” the woman said. “It would be better for you if you didn’t try.”

She nodded at the other man, who approached Nikky. He reached out a finger, saying something that sounded like silence and touched Nikky on the lips. Nikky jerked back.

“It’s done,” the other man said.

The woman nodded. “Thank you, Ira.”

Nikky felt as if his tongue had a clamp on it. He tried to say something, and realized in panic that he couldn’t talk. He grabbed his throat.

“Do not fight it,” Ira advised him. “You won’t be able to make a sound until I remove the word.”

The woman handed Hilo a bag that clinked.

“Make sure the traders don’t learn anything,” she told him. “Leave any messages here. Someone will pick them up.”

Hilo nodded and slipped through the door, taking one last, unfathomable look back at Nikky before leaving.

Ira and the woman blindfolded Nikky and led him from the building. He could feel the night air on his face. Nikky could hear Ira muttering a phrase over and over. Look away. Look away. He strained his hearing and could occasionally hear voices nearby, but he couldn’t make a sound, and the people never seemed to notice their silent progress through the streets.

After what seemed like hours, Nikky felt himself led into a building. The echoes of their footsteps bounced off walls. They stopped, and one of them removed the blindfold and shoved him forward.

Nikky blinked at the sudden light. He heard a door close behind him and whirled to hear the sound of a key turned in the lock. He did a quick turn around the room. The windowless walls were stone, the door thick wood, and a bed and table were the only pieces of furniture in the room. A lamp burned on the table. Nikky snatched the chimney from the lamp, thinking to burn his way out the door. The lamp contained no flame. Instead, the chimney glowed with a soft white light that had no discernible source. He replaced the chimney, despair and unshed tears forming a knot in his throat.

Caught. Trapped like a butterfly pinned to a board. And he didn’t even know why. Nikky gave a silent groan. He had his own bed and his own room, just like he’d wanted, didn’t he?

A Rising Star of Short SF/F You've Never Heard Of

Here's a name you've probably not heard--or perhaps only in passing. Lavie Tidhar. He writes SF and Fantasy from a unique perspective--he's Jewish. And he writes good SF and Fantasy. Unique perspective and good writing don't always go hand and hand, but in his case they do.

Caveat: He writes the kind of stories I like to read--action and thoughtful intelligence, not angst and pointlessness.

Check him out. If you like the same kind of writing I do, you won't be disappointed.