A snippet of my book

The estimable and always funny Chuck Wending wrote a blog post today, asking for excerpts of everyone’s novels-in-progress. (“Everyone” here means those who read his blog, and if you aren’t currently doing that, I strongly suggest you do. He gives great writing advice, and he’s funny, on target, and profane in the best way possible. Go here now: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/ )

Anyway, here’s a taste of Chapter 4 of “Here not here,” my YA sci-fi work in progress, in which Sutton Kopec, an 18 year-old girl, suddenly finds herself transported to other worlds.  In this scene, she’s been Moved (her word for it) to a sinister place in the desert.

***

desert15

 

They stepped into a room, and Sutton’s eyes were drawn to the floor, which looked like it was covered in golden grass. She’d taken off her shoes  and as she walked, the strangest sensation come up through her feet. She would swear the grass was moving – not just bending to her steps, but switching as if there were plates underneath, shifting around. They didn’t move her forward but responded to her steps as if they were sensitive to her weight and movement.

She jumped a little, and the sergeant pulled on her arm. He motioned down to her feet, and Sutton interpreted that as a sign to keep walking.

It reminded her of the hall in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and her animal companions had to walk in order to get to the Wizard’s lair. And like Dorothy and her friends, she had no idea of what awaited her as she walked beside these strange, angry soldiers. This was a day of many footsteps.

Instead of the giant head of the Wizard floating above the ground, there was a man sitting at the desk in a large chair that was made out of the same sturdy materials as the door.  He wasn’t wearing a turban or face cloth; and as they got closer, Sutton could see that his skin was different than the soldiers’.  Instead of that white hardness, his was a light brown, like caramel.  His hair was also light brown, but thin and stringy, and combed over his mostly bald head.

Sutton tried not to smirk. Some things were the same in any universe.

He seemed taller than the others.  His shoulders were broad.  If there were men here who varied in shape and size, it made it easier for her father to blend in.  Sutton relaxed a fraction at the thought.

There were two other people here who also seemed to be prisoners of some sort. They stood off to the side of the desk with shackles around their wrist and ankles.  They wore shorts and short sleeves, she noticed.  Their skin was light yellow and waxy, with the look of melted candles. Perspiration stood out on their foreheads and necks.

The officer behind the desk wore a different uniform than the soldiers: dark blue and very clean.  He motioned for the other two prisoners to be brought closer to the desk.  Then, he stood and opened a small box with a flip-top lid.  He brought out an object which looked remarkably like a dildo.  Sutton watched in amazement as he held it to his throat.

He spoke directly to the prisoners in a language that was different than what she’d heard the soldiers speak.  The words had a phonetic sound that, if they had been English, would have been heavy on consonants.  The officer spoke solemnly, but he was clearly angry. He asked them a question.

Both prisoners shook their heads and held their chained hands out, pleading. They continued to talk, and, Sutton presumed, beg for their life.

The officer looked at the soldiers and jerked his head in the prisoners’ direction. Each soldier grabbed one arm of a prisoner and began squeezing it, working their fingers from the shoulder all the way down.  It was the exact kind of unwanted massage the other guard had worked on Sutton when the soldiers found her.

One of the shoulders gave a shout of satisfaction and began squeezing the tender underside of a prisoner’s arm.  Slowly, a piece of metal the size of a nickel emerged from within the prisoner’s skin.  The soldier worked the loose, waxy flesh and the metal gradually slid out with a final, sickening thwick.  The prisoner had pushed it through his skin like a coin in a slot until it disappeared under the surface.

Sutton recoiled.  There was no blood, but the coin was covered in a something slimy.

Both soldiers worked up and down the prisoners’ arms, finding more of the coins hiding within their skin.  They slid out one at a time, sometimes from within the crook of an elbow, sometimes from right on top of the forearm.  Each made the same disgusting noise as more and more of them fell on the floor, an oozing puddle forming underneath them.

But they weren’t done. The officer gestured to the prisoners and barked another order.  The soldiers began the same process on the men’s legs.  They found at least a dozen of the coins on each leg.

The officer spoke in a deadly low voice, his tone marked by satisfaction.  Holding the language device to his throat with one hand, he pointed at each of them with the other.  The soldiers took the men away.  One of them screamed, the other hung his head and remained silent.

The officer nodded toward the coins.  Two soldiers who’d been holding a bag stepped forward to clean up the coins, their faces expressionless.  They wore gloves.  Their last assignment here consisted of mopping the floor.

When this was done, the soldier pushed her toward the desk and shouted something that sounded like an order.  Not knowing what else was expected of her, Sutton bowed.  This seemed to satisfy everyone.

The officer moved the language device to his throat once again.  “You.are a visitor?”  His voice sounded tinny, but there were no mistaking the language.

“Yes. You speak English?”  Sutton asked in surprise.

“This helps.” He moved the device away and waved it like a cigar.  “It translates for me.  Many who have come here speak English.”  He waited, as if expecting her to continue.

“Um…well, I’m from New Jersey.”  Can’t be a problem if I tell him that, right? Not like he’ll ever go there…wait.  “Have you ever been there?”

He shook his head. “I don’t leave.” Somehow, that sounded ominous, even though Sutton knew at least that meant she’d never run into him at a mall at home.

“What do you want from me?” she blurted.

“I ask, why did you come here?”

“I don’t know. I was…well, I was on Earth minding my own business and then I was gone. Believe me, I didn’t want to come here.”

“You stay?”

“I don’t know,” she repeated.  “I sure hope not. I mean,” she added hastily, “not that I don’t appreciate your guys getting me out of the sun.” She held up her hands, palms out, in the universal gesture of surrender again. “I don’t want anything from you. I just want to go home.”

“Soldiers will watch you,” he said, and Sutton had no doubt, from the look on his face, that he meant it.  “No steal.”

 

A mass of leaves

Here’s a drabble I wrote a while ago, using the prompt “A mass of leaves”

autumn-leaves

A platform has been set up in the woods, with a table upon it in the center.  Great care has been taken with the decorations and flourishes; it looks well appointed yet fastidious.

In front of the platform is a cleared space with lots of room.  Surrounded by trees and sunlight, the entire spot – including the altar and platform – gives out a sense of anticipation.

The breeze picks up; it’s chilly, but not as cold as it will be.  Leaves are gently blown off the trees; they swirl purposefully through the forest and arrive in the clearing in front of the altar.

As they drift to the ground, the leaves settle so they are side by side as much as possible.  More and more of them land there – dozens, then hundreds, then thousands.  There is room for them all.

Off to the side, a small, lowly sparrow sits at the bottom of a tree.  There is an area dug out in the “V” between the tree’s roots.  The bird wears a stole across its back which looks as if it’s part of a saddle – a very tiny saddle blanket, perhaps, but made of a soft, rich red cloth that has gold threads woven through it.

As if on a signal, the breeze stops and the leaves settle one final time.  The sparrow eyes the vast number of them in front of the platform.  They await her movement, the tiny bird steps that will take her to the front of the altar.

They have no eyes, the leaves, but they know when she moves.  They seem to curl forward very slightly, in anticipation.  The sparrow takes her first step and then hops, dignified – as dignified as hopping can be, but surely, very graceful – to the platform.

She sings a glorious song, so lovely the leaves immediately rest back in their places.  This is the last time they will be together before their age and the season bring their end.  The sparrow sings of their lifespan, the gifts the leaves have given the earth – shade, air, fragrance, homes for her winged brethren – and then, on a final note, she moves behind the altar.

The rest of the brief time, the sparrow thanks God for all the gifts He has bestowed, including a brief but fruitful life for the rich hues before her.  They were buds and then they were sprouts; they were green and then they became a riot of gold, orange, red and yellow.  Now, their brown edges revealed their end.  The cycle was over for another year.

The sparrow concludes the service, and the breeze picks up again.  Slowly but willingly, the leaves take off, riding in the wind. They scatter throughout the area and fall to the ground one last time, in their final resting place, awaiting snow.  They would sink into the dirt and return their life in a few years, to be absorbed again by the trees dominating the landscape.

A cheese shop that has no cheese

The-Ministry-of-Silly-Walks-monty-python-13604690-1920-1200

My husband just reminded me that there’s a line from Monty Python where John Cleese says something like, “All the words are there; we just have to put them in the right order.”

It’s that simple, and that hard. Which is also a Neil Gaiman quote about writing, when he said you have to sit at a keyboard and put one word after the other, until you’re done.

I think he meant…until it’s done.

I’ve made some progress. I’m trying to come up with ideas for the parts of my story that need them. I’m trying not to complain; oh Lord, I’m trying not to complain.  Every time I have a negative thought, I work to make it positive. Instead of  “Hell, I can’t do this” I turn it around and tell myself, “I’ll figure it out. And then I’ll write it.”

Always look on the bright side of life, you know?

While I’m waiting for more inspiration, here’s a bit of trouble that my heroine, Sutton Kopec, runs into at school. She goes to college, where many good and many bad things start for so many people. For her, it’s the time when she discovers she Moves to alternate universes without warning, in a split second.

            Dr. Malinowsky eyed her gravely and then nodded before dropping his gaze, like he couldn’t be bothered to look at her any more.  Sutton shivered; the man gave her the creeps. Out of all the professors and teaching assistants on campus, he had to be her advisor, because she was just that lucky. He hardly seemed to know anything about careers in graphics design.  She gave a sideline glance at his sleeveless wool vest and bow tie and was certain he’d never read a graphic novel in his life.

            Some of the students around her fell away from the crowd, entering classrooms or offices or leaving the building altogether.  Soon there were only a few stragglers in this far part of the Technology Arts Center.  Sutton detected a presence announced by the quiet whoosh of soft-soled shoes.  She felt a slight tug on her hair and whirled around.

            Behind her, Dr. Malinowsky walked off, his shoulders hunched and his feet speeding up like a race walker. Like he was late for a class or an appointment, or trying to get away.

            But from what?

            Sutton pulled her fingers through her hair, frowning.  A small section of her dark-brown locks that lay behind her shoulders felt odd to the touch.  She picked it up and looked at the ends.  Part of it was shorter than the rest.  There was a gap in her hair about a half an inch wide and an inch long.  A piece of her hair was gone, like someone had snipped it off. 

            She combed through it again, trying to determine if her eyes were fooling her.  She’d definitely felt a tug. Whoever had done it – if there was an “it” – had run off.  The only person around was Malinowsky. 

            Sutton quickly backtracked to look for the teaching assistant, but he was long gone.  The hall he’d turned into was empty.

That’s just a saner example of what happens to her.

I guess if I continue to have problems with ideas, I can always put a penguin on someone’s telly for my deus ex machina.

It’s been a long time since I posted anything new. I’ve avoided it, to be honest, because I lost a dear friend a few weeks ago and I’m still mourning her.  In the worst twist of irony, this is the friend I mentioned in my first blog post here – the one who inspired me with all our talks of second acts.  She was driving home after work and died in a single-car crash.

It’s been devastating. She was someone I talked with, laughed with, commiserated with, and sought for advice.  We understood each other very well and were similar in so many ways.  When you find a friend like that, you don’t let her go until you have to. (I’m still not able to do that.)

She’d married for the first time only a few years ago. She was very interested in art and was pursuing a career in finding paintings and reselling them.  As she settled into these wonderful changes in her life, she was as happy as I’ve ever seen her. I’m glad that though she was taken from us unfairly and unexpectedly, she left when she was in a wonderful place.

I miss her professionally – she was an extraordinarily talented designer whose advice I planned to seek for my book – but more than that, I miss her personally.

I don’t know who I’m going to talk to about shoes now.  So Christine, this post is dedicated to you. I hope it makes you smile and know how much we all miss you.

Which should I wear tomorrow?

heels jimmy choo 9 heels christian louboutin new 8-14-13

heels cole haan 8-15-13  heels holiday

Hey, stop laughing at the pair with the bows! They’re cute!

Miss you, girl. God bless and Godspeed, today and always.

Another exploratory site for writers

I found this Web site today, thanks to NaNoWriMo.  Writers can post their stories there and get feedback.  Looks like they include just about any genre.

http://www.inkitt.com/home

I like the simple, clean look of it. Very straightforward and practical.

I wonder if it would be a good idea to post chapters of “Here not here” on the site. I’d love the feedback, but is it smart to give away the book, considering I’d like to try for publication?

And now, some reassuring wisdom from Joseph Heller.

every writer

Elusive, frustrating, but worth it

 

keys smaller

I’ve been running into periodic writing blocks with my book. I have a lot of ideas for the battles my herione will fight, but I’m missing some crucial parts that will explain the “science” (for lack of a better term) in the story. Specifically, I’m still working on what makes Sutton able to travel to these worlds, and how she discovers that in order to manage or control it.

It’s been very frustrating because it’s really held up my writing. I have a hard time making progress on the story until I’ve got these important pieces nailed down.

Sometimes it seems that if my imagination was in the form of topography, it would look like Kansas.

And I really, really want to write it all out. I want to see it take shape. I want to finish the draft and get into the guts of editing, which I love. I know the ending; I know where I want my characters to be as the story winds down. I’m still working on how to get them there.

I was so desperate to write – actually write – that on Saturday, I got an idea for a chapter and I began working on it. In two hours, I’d written 2000 words.

I’m not even sure I’ll use that particular piece, but it’s there if I need it. Most important, it showed me that if I come up with a good idea, I can sit down and write like crazy. It was a great feeling.

I hope I get it again soon.