Zebulon

It was a nothing town.

But it had a bar, and sometimes…that’s enough.

The wind whipped through the empty streets choked with dust. A chill was present, but not enough to

Artist – Jae Liu

penetrate the thick jacket that the bard wore, bright blue collar pulled nearly to her nose. Elora Delcroft leaned into the wind, and ran through her set list.

The Doctor Dances, that’s always a favorite, even in a tiny spot like this. Then Measuring the Marigolds, followed by the short cuts of Western Shores and My Lady, She Burns off the Coast. I’m only here for a night, so I suppose I should pull out all the stops.

Elora chuckled into her collar. Zebulon was not the worst place she’d ever performed, but only if you squinted. The town seemed mostly empty, only a half hundred old men and women, a few exhausted families trying to pull in a meager crop. She had to be the first bard to wander into town in months, if not years — the barkeep’s eyes had widened like moonrise upon seeing her silver Harper’s pin. He had turned quickly away, and dabbed at his eyes. “Hard times, miss — we’d be sure glad to have you sing a bit tonight. I can’t offer you much, just a clean bed in my attic across the way, and all the stew and ale you care to eat.”

The half-elf scratched the tip of one pointed ear, loosening an earring from where it bit. She had watched from her window as what seemed the entire population of Zebulon had crammed into inn, heads bowed underneath the odd sign that swung at the entrance. A massive stuffed claw, covered with scales, ending in three chipped talons. The barkeep claimed it came from a dragon, Elora had smiled and allowed that it surely did.

A little boy waved as she approached, and ran immediately into the bar, yelling “She’s here — she’s here, the singer-lady’s here!”

I wonder why people still live here? So close to the Black Fog, and the fallen country of Gilead? Elora pushed through the doors of the Three-Toed Claw, into a throng of tired, but smiling faces. I must add some songs for the children, after the intermission. Songs that everyone knows and can sing along. Soppin’ Gravy, and Mune the Moonchaser, perhaps.

She whipped her blue coat off with theatrical panache, and slung it ably on a hook. Her lute case seemed to fly open as she made her way through the crowd, lute gliding into her hand free and easy. The room was silent as she mounted the crude stage, two tables pushed together , rude boards and fresh nails.

Elora said her pleasantries, and her mind and fingers loosened. Her voice fell into the opening patter that she had said a thousand times, she smiled at the crowd. This was why she took the long way — to find the tiny little towns where music was needed more than water in the Sarmadi Desert. The entire population of Zebulon was crammed into the tiny common room, but there was still space to spare. The barkeep pushed himself out from behind the bar, eager and smiling.

The bard noticed a man sitting at the bar, his back to the stage. Elora felt a prickle of professional irritation. This would be the finest show that Zebulon would see in many moons, and this lout was hunched over the bar, completely oblivious. She sniffed, at the pile of empty clay cups at the man’s elbow, the black bottle gripped in his right. A man losing himself to drink, no excuse to miss her art’s charms.

“I see there is one among you who is not a music lover!” She called, playfully. “Come friend, come and join us — please choose the first song I will play for all the fine people here assembled.”

The crowd’s attention spun to the man, and several people snickered. This man was clearly a stranger.

The man raised his head, and slowly turned to face her. He had a plain face, and ordinary features.

But his eyes. Elora’s fingers tightened on the lute. Shelyn protect me, his eyes.

Unbidden, the bard’s fingers began to move. An old, old tune spilled over the crowd and Elora sang, unable to look away from the man at the bar.
Company, always on the run
Destiny, oooh, and the rising sun
I was born, six gun in my hand
Behind the gun, I make my final stand
That’s why they call me
Bad company,
Oh, I can’t deny
Bad, Bad company

Till the day I die

Rebel souls
Deserters we are called
Chose the gun
And threw away the sword
All these towns
They all know our name
Six gun sound
Ooh, is our claim to fame
Bad company,
Oh, I can’t deny
Bad, Bad company
Till the day I die

 

Elora sang, tears running down her cheeks.

[With respect to Bad Company — wherever they ride.]

Star Prophet III

Maybe I’m dreaming.

Star Prophet and I stand on a beach at sunset. The sun is too big, half the sky is red fire. Solar flares curl and destabilize the ionosphere and the sand is too large, like grains of rice between my toes. I slip my fingers into the band of my shorts, it’s cold. There is no sound, the waves do not crash.

The blue star-hood turns and I see that his right eye is bleeding.

“Who did that to you?”

“You did.” he said.

I touch his face, then I touch my face. My fingers feel strange in the empty cavity where my left eye used to be. There is no pain, just an odd sticky feeling of pressure.

“Want to go for a walk?”

“Yeah, sure.”

I get up and go to the bathroom, and brush my teeth. Ultra-Brite is red already, so my toothbrush doesn’t look strange.  The pads of my fingers are yellow-white as I press them against the mirror. Hand bone, and wrist bone, and arm bone all connected. Broken-glass joints. The rice-sand titters away from my feet.

“It pushes, it pushes, it pushes us..us! It pushes us, child, child, sweet child of mine.” Star Prophet said. “Humans are so blessed, so special in the cosmos. The line of our bones running all the way back to the Tigris, throwing ourselves out there — up there! More to see, and more to know and more to go. Heh-heh.”

“Heh.”

“To stand on a street corner, and feel the heat of the pavement through your shoes and the wind of a car and feel it all stretching out, backwards and forwards — the wolves howling at the tent flap and the burst of nebulae off the port bow.”

The  carpet, the thick carpet — the steep walls of the hall, my uncle snoring. I slammed the flat of my fist against the wall, but he didn’t wake up. I was still holding my toothbrush.

[Still not happy, but getting there. Maybe once I ‘finish’ this can be a good practice revision piece before diving into That Thing.]

Star Prophet II

Cold walk, warm house. My uncle’s third knuckle on the right, potato-sack lumpy and his red voice and the fall of the Roman Empire. The stars were out, but I was in.

Humans do these things. They do these things to each other every day.

My face was bent. I rolled next to the couch and waited, while meteors impacted on the surface of Mars.

The press of headphones, the music and the moon  – I lay with the sheet over my head and lost myself. The rhymes, the words – the quick symmetry of the drum and the strange keen of the electronic flute.

I think about Star Prophet’s planets — about the songs he hears. The whirling slide of space and time, the spaces, empty – now full. Jupiter turns his face, and Saturn hula-hoops across the dance floor. The blood on my pillow is red. The rains of Mercury and Venus, the broken canyons hidden beneath the cotton-wool cloud.

[I’m really not happy with this section. I’m used to bla-bla-blahing my way, spitting out a few hundred words like it was nothing. This sucker’s fighting me. I’m going to keep working on SP in dribs and drabs, then do a massive revision when it’s all done. This is what I get for actually thinking about a story.]

Star Prophet

Star Prophet lay in the dirt. Underneath the drain pipe by the abandoned Bojangles he lay in mud and water, the blue jacket he always wore, a black cord wrapped around each wrist. After school I would bring the lunch I had saved and sit with him on the broken concrete and talk and watch him eat — pushing each wrapper into his mouth and chewing the plastic. Not a crumb escaped and he would talk about planets.

“Jupiter now, that’s a giant musical note — a hum in the cosmos, a perfect counterpoint to the static coming off Mercury during the winter months.” a clean slide of plastic pulled from his mouth.

analoglove00b by jean fhilippe

He always wore the hood of his coat up, even in June-heat. Somewhere in his orbit of town he had found some white tape, and carefully lined out a star on the front peak of his hood.

“People gotta know. People gotta know.” Star Prophet said, right hand clutching the zipper tab of his coat.

“Yeah?” I said. “They gotta?”

“Gotta-gotta.” completing our joke.

He stank, sweat and plastic and wet earth. His hands were brown like mine.

“The chance, the promise — the song that the rings of Saturn sing. It belongs –we belong!” he yelled, a stray fleck of yellow bread falling from his lips.

They chased him away from everywhere. The stores, the streets, the fronts of churches. Star Prophet would run and point, sliding down railings and stairs. His long brown finger to the heavens, spraying spit and star charts into empty faces. Late nights he would grab rich drunk white boys by the lapels and shake them into his words about Orion and Sagittarius and the shapes of memory in the stars.

They beat him and broke him and chased him into the wilderness like a dog.

So we sat and talked, and the house waited.

“It’s in us -It’s in us the stars and the sky and the light of the sun and the dance of the moons, and I can feel it — I can feel it in my heart, lifting me up while I sleep, and I can’t sleep only dream the stars in my water, and in my earth the moon.”

Sometimes Star Prophet would cry. Sometimes Star Prophet would hold my hand, and that was okay.

“Tell ’em. You gotta tell ’em when I can’t. Won’t you?” he whispered.

“I will. I promise.” The stars were out and I was late.

“And Cheetos — maybe, tomorrow?” his star-marked hood bobbled.

“Yeah, okay.”

I walked home in the stars, to the dark house where my uncle waited.

[I finished this piece, and realized I was writing about Doctor Who.]

Botanists fight dirty.

Her overcoat was stiff with congealed agar and the shattered glass of a dozen Erlenmeyer flasks. She slid her battered arms into the sleeves, and tried to ignore the bullet wound in her leg.  A pair of pipettes were still lodged in the right sleeve of the jacket, as well as some tissue cultures from the family Malvaceae.  The battered gumshoe shook the detritus from her coat sleeve, and reached into her pockets — finding her two best friends right where they belonged.

A pair of ugly Colt revolvers, with worn pearl handles.  Watson and Crick — the only partners she’d ever needed in this dirty job.

It had been quite a dust-up in the back offices of ECO-RICH, the multi-national botany conglomerate. She’d been called in on the case, when a pair of their top researchers had turned to whistleblowers–setting up interviews with dozens of prominent science and home gardening blogs. Then they’d turned up dead. Both researchers had simultaneous heart-attacks during a purported sex romp in a jury-rigged jacuzzi powered by eighteen Bunsen burners.

But then the autopsy reports had come back: Baby carrots.

Baby carrots lodged in their aortas.

A contact on the force, Overstreet, had sent her the tip — and she’d made her way down to the offices of ECO-RICH to do a little snooping.

A brace of white-coat goons had been working late, and before she could spool up an alibi — things had gotten frisky.

An ethno-biologist with arms like a steel trap got the drop on her, grabbing her from behind and pinning her arms to the side. Without hesitation she kicked off hard from the face of an approaching zoologist, propelling  her captor into a nearby Spectrograph. A weasely ginger had pulled a snub-nose out of his pocket protector and gotten a shot off, grazing her leg — while the other researchers tossed Petri dishes and glassware like a tipsy housewife when she finds a collar with the wrong lipstick in the wash.

Crossing through the test tube hailstorm, she’d headbutted the ginger sap — the sound of his nasal cartilage snapping was sweet music, and a pair of electron microscopes ripped off a nearby table helped her finish the symphony on the rest of the jolly green thugs.

The gumshoe reached down, and riffled through the pockets of the closest researcher.  She pulled open their Twitter account, and banged out a warning.

— Just got the chloroform forcibly removed from my cell wall’s chloroplasts by a punitive ass-kicking. #ECO-RICH #MURDER #SCIENCE SLEUTH #WATCHOUT

She tossed the device aside, and walked back out into the late night rain.

She was on the case, and had a very promising beginning to the data field required for the x-axis of her perspective bar graph.

A bar graph of justice, and a chart of pain.

[For Jargon Journalist. Take some time and go fondle her comment section.]

 

 

Oh Noetry.

So, would it get weird in here if I posted some angsty-ass poetry that I wrote nearly a decade ago?

Like, this weird?

I’m cringing at even the thought of doing this, but this blog is supposed to be about me as a writer — and for better or worse – GULP – I wrote these things.

All of them are super bad, but I dug through and found the ones that are the least embarrassing – I think…

Sound off in the comments!

The Stadium

Clack. Ka-chunk. Clack. Ka-chunk.

The subway stank. Yellow plastic, scrubbed by rot and ignorant crustaceans.

Clack. Ka-chunk. Clack. Ka-chunk.

George looked out the window, the stone walls and blips of color a gray river.

His suit had been nice once, the red tie brighter and well pressed.  Now the shirt was stained at the cuffs, the elbows of the jacket patched with the wrong shade of black thread. His hair was thin, and his face lined.

The subway emerged onto a wide trestle, and he could see it.

The stadium. Four spotlights waved, yellow, white, green and blue.

He pressed his forehead against the glass, and closed his eyes for a moment. He could smell the grass.

George sighed, and leaned back. He brought a hand to his collar, and ran a finger around the silver collar at his neck.

He had been Shackled for years — but he never forgot that he was wearing it. Not once. Not even for a moment.

George dug into the white cup of boiled peanuts, and fished around for a large one.  He pulled out one that suited, and popped it into his mouth. He looked at the stadium again.

Placing the cup between his legs, George stared at his right hand – at his fingers. He covered it with his left, like a lighter in the wind.  He pushed his eyes close to the little cave of his fingers.

George snapped. The barest wisp of green sparks popped to life at the end of his fingers.

He leaned back against the seat. He closed his eyes, and smelled the grass of the stadium.

Fantasy Plots are ridiculous.

The Lodestar Crew, in their finest. ARTIST/W.Steven Carroll

Take any fantasy plot, and try to explain it to the uninitiated with a straight face.

Guess what?

You sound like a crazy person.

I tried to write out the plot of Lodestar, leaving out all side plots, character plots, backstory, and world building — and reduce it to it’s essence. THE MAIN PLOT. How I would explain it to someone who knows nothing about the story, and nothing about fantasy.  Here’s my first pass.

So, there’s this Gate.

Behind the Gate, is something Very Bad. VERY, Very Bad.

The only way to open this Gate is with Three Magical Items.

The Crimson Key.

The Blue Shield.

The Blood of the Precursors.

The first two items are fairly straightforward, but the third is the problem. It’s a bloodline, carrying the genetic structure of the Gate’s creators down through the centuries in a few human families.

Bad guys have sought the descendents for a long time. Other bad guys have been killing the descendents for a long time.

Bad Guys A want to control What’s Behind the Gate. Bad Guys B want to make sure that their Nefarious Plans aren’t disrupted by What’s Behind the Gate.

Enter the Heroes.

They’ve been protecting a Little Girl. A Little Girl who is the true scion of the bloodline.

Bad Guys A have managed to capture the Little Girl.

The Heroes have to get the Little Girl back, before Bad Guys A can open the Gate – or before Bad Guys B kill the Little Girl.

Can you hear me trailing off lamely towards the end? Cutting my eyes to the right, and regretting even starting? Let me try again.

There’s a Little Girl, and she’s awesome. And important. The Heroes have to keep her safe or the world blows up. Or something.

Now imagine me explaining this to someone on a subway, or an elevator. Can you see that person quietly reaching for their mace?

I guess it would help if I was wearing pants.

[What? Were you visualizing me with pants? Well, I guess that’s your mistake.]

50 Pages

Okay – okay. I know I hit the 45 page mark a couple of weeks ago — but 50 is such a nice round, impressive number.

It totally is.

I was hoping to hit 50 pages by the end of the year, so I’m stoked at being ever so slightly ahead of schedule. After the holidays, I’m going to make a plan for the next few months, so my natural laziness doesn’t derail The Thing That I Can’t Call A Book.

YEAH!