Friday, June 24, 2011

NOT QUITE AS DEAD AS ORIGINALLY BELIEVED

It was perhaps for the best that Lucia had not seen her friend. For the past several hours, Denae had been floating face-down and motionless just beneath the surface of a brackish pond. She was anchored under water. A rope was tied to her ankle at one end and to the protruding root of a Plemish tree at the other end. A second rope was bound tightly around her wrist and looped around an outcropping on a rocky shelf. Nothing broke the surface except for part of one ear, poking up between the lily pads. Two young gnome shepherds settled on the bank for a bit of bread and cheese, completely oblivious to the body in the water. The red-head laid lazily back in the grass. His friend, dark-haired, tall (for a gnome) sat up, staring somberly at the insects skipping on the water.
“So, Joseph, how ye be voting in the Grand Assembly?”
“I say we join the humans.”
The questioner munched on his bread for a few moments, mulling this over. “So, ye like the humans.”
“Didn’t say I liked them. What choice do we have?”
“Some say we should wait until they’re weakened from attacking one another and then take our revenge on what’s left.”
“Some are idiots, then.”
Behind Joseph, a large rock seemed to lift itself into the air. A second red-haired gnome appeared underneath, holding the rock and slammed it onto the shepherd’s head with a sickening thud.
The remaining shepherd yelped in surprise, “See what ye’ve done, Aik. Ye’ve killed him now. I thought we were to just keep those who was against us from voting in the assembly.”
Pushing with one booted foot, Aik nudged the body toward the mud. “Killing them is a certain way to keep them from voting, now in’t it? What’s one traitor more or less to us? Ye’ve just as much blame as I. Ye lured him here. Help me with this rope. We’ll tie him up and load him down with stones. So, if we do lose the vote, we come back here later, untie him, take out the rocks and find he fell in the pond, hit his head and drowned.” Aik was working as he talked, using a piece of rope pulled from his pocket to truss up the unconscious gnome.
The shepherd watched his compatriot working without a single wasted motion to prepare the body to be tossed into the water. “Ye’ve done this before, no?”
“So what if I have? What’s wrong with efficiency? Hand me some stones, I said.”
The other gnome complied reluctantly, “Joseph was my mate. We chased these sheep together all over these hills since we was only so high.”
“Joseph was a traitor and deserved to die. The humans killed half our people and took half our land. They’re just waiting until they get the right chance to get the other half. Come on, it’s a fair walk to the assembly and we don’t want to miss the vote.”
With a splash, the body rolled into the water and sunk to the bottom of the pond. Aik set off to the east at a brisk walk, whistling. With a regretful glance over his shoulder, the shepherd hurried to catch his companion.

Denae reached over slowly with her left hand and untied the rope on her wrist. She blew softly and the reed that she had been using for breathing fell over as if pushed by a breeze. If anyone had looked in the vicinity where the reed had been, there would have been nothing to see. The spy had already swum below to unhook the rope on her ankle from the rock. Stroking slowly and carefully so as not to disturb the surface, the young woman reached down to the shepherd, now conscious and struggling furiously for his life. She came close enough for him to see her in the murky water, signed to be still, and grasping under both arms, tugged the young gnome along toward a dark spot under the shadow of a Giant Plemish.
She could see no one, but, in Ghejanlan that didn’t mean much, as Joseph’s recent experience had demonstrated. More importantly, she did not hear anything. Denae’s hand was clamped tightly over the gnome’s mouth, preventing him from coughing out the water and gasping for air. As a result, water sprayed painfully but silently out of his nose. He glared at her furiously but she was paying no attention.
Now that he could breathe again, the red mist cleared from in front of his eyes, he looked around carefully in case he might need to make a quick escape. The woman who had rescued him was definitely human, or not gnomish at any rate. She was huge by gnome standards, probably half-again as large as Joseph himself, and he was not particularly small for a gnome. Blonde hair and braids were common in Ghejanlan, but this woman had hers coiled on her head, with some type of tight, leather cap covering them. Every inch of her, from her hair to her bare feet was designed to be as unnoticeable as possible. Floating as they were, motionless, in the darkest shadows between the water and the bank, no one would spot them unless they were to come right on top of them. No gnome would ever come through the tangled brush to this exact, damp spot when there was a perfectly good path to a sunny bank but a short walk away.
The woman put her lips next to his ear and whispered, so quietly that no one more than inches away could have heard, “I’m a soldier in the Nurliyan army,” she had found people to have an unreasonable prejudice against the word, ‘spy’ – “Once I get you up on the banks there, I am going to take a look to see if there might be any other people around who want to kill either of us. By the way, in case you missed it, the one who bashed you on the head with the rock was named, Aik and your mate there helped him tie you up and toss you in the water.”
“I know,” whispered Joseph, just a bit more loudly, “I was only unconscious for a minute. I figured if I let them know that, all tied up as I was, they would have slit my throat, and it would have been a bit harder to get out of that.”
Denae smiled, “You know, Joseph, I like the way you think.”
Still, he noticed that, while she slit the ropes binding him she held the knife between the two of them, point toward him. If he had any plans for arching backward to grab the soldier, they would have been met by a knife deep in the back. Awkward as the position was, he was aware of the feel of her breasts against his back. If she had any hint as to his reaction, she ignored it.
“You can call for anyone you want. I’ll be gone by the time they get here, anyway. If you’re here when I get back, we can talk.”
“Ye’re not going to tie me up and gag me? Are ye not worried that I could call a search party and we could find ye?”
“No, but you’re welcome to try if you don’t have anything better to do.” The young woman smiled again. He had the completely irrelevant thought that her eyes were a particularly pretty shade of blue. Then she was gone.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why blog? Do I need another writing task like a hole in the head?

I read a blog (what else?) that tracked how long the average person sticks to blogging. He said that the average blog has the lifespan of a fruit fly. After a month, most people give it up. I can understand that. I never have enough time for writing and you might think that I need another writing task like a hole in the head. That's exactly why I need a blog.

Huh?

There are a million reasons not to write and this month has had all of them. Family - my sister was in town, my grandmother needed my help. Work - the Rules Nazi wanted some work re-done because it wasn't in keeping with paragraph 6, article b, page 34,786 of the rules manual that I never read. I went off to training in East of Jesus Nowhere. Then there was the usual stuff like buying food, fixing the computer that broke and washing my clothes.

and I have to hiking every now and then or do something to maintain my sanity.

I read an interview with Amanda Hocking recently, the ebook phenom everyone is talking about. She said she had to learn to treat her writing like a job. I already have a job that is eating my life and I suppose I could quit it and take an easier job but I won't.

So, why blog? Because each week I have to face that I'm going to write about how my writing went this week and I never want to admit I didn't write anything other than memos to my manager, Dan the Invisible Man. 

I did manage to write another section in my outline this week (just before this blog (-:  ). 

When I can't find the time to sit and write an actual chapter, but I have an idea in my head, I add that to the outline for whatever book I'm working on at the moment. Later, if I have time but no idea, I pull up my outline and flesh out a chapter from that.

Maybe it is true that the greatest obstacle to writing and publishing is a regular salary. I actually do have two books done that I finished while sitting in airports and in the back row in boring meetings. I just wrote those to alleviate my own boredom. I sent a letter to one publisher and never heard back. A second publisher wrote me after a year - just sent a form letter. I know "real" writers send out 50 letters to 50 different publishers. 

Writing is interesting. Writing to publishers isn't.

I know, I know. This week, I'm going to get up early every morning and write for an hour. I'm also going to contact one publisher. I'll do it, too, because otherwise I'll have to admit next week that I didn't.

Now you know why I need a blog.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cubicle Slaves Unite! In praise of grandmothers

An actor I know said to me,
"I hate those guys who are waiting tables and say, 'But I'm really an actor' . No buddy,  I'm an actor. You're a waiter who wants to be an actor. An actor is a person who acts. Not a person who wants to act. I used to be a real estate agent. Then I got work as an actor. Now I'm an actor."

I like my actor friend but I think he's a bit harsh. Is it true that you're defined by what pays you? I sure hope not, because that means I am Julia, Cubicle Drone. (Sounds like a sci-fi character.)

Where he's right is that if you DON'T act (or write), if you just keep talking about your great American novel, then no, you're not a writer.

I was reading a book by Madeleine L'Engle on the plane. I love her books, especially A Wrinkle in Time. When Madeleine was writing her first book, before she was published, was she not a writer? The book, by the way, was the Summer of the Great-grandmother. It is about her mother who is swiftly becoming senile.

I'm feeling like I'm not a writer this week because I haven't written anything. I was sent away for training, which really was not terrible but it took place in the middle of nowhere, scratch that, nowhere would be a rocking metropolis compared to this place. You can't even see nowhere from here. I couldn't write on the plane or in the airports, usually a good place for me to get some writing done, because I had to read these huge manuals in advance to be prepared when I got there. Added to it all, my own grandmother needed help so I have been with her a lot.

Speaking of grandmothers, here is something  I wrote a couple of weeks ago:

----------------


Gram is Dead

It was precisely because she was not the rebellious type that Mamie had run off with a gypsy. Gram herself had been a strong woman, but somehow that blood never made it into her daughter. Mamie had always been scared of her own shadow, going along with whatever the loudest,pushiest person in the room told her, whether she agreed with it or not. So, it was no real surprise when the gypsy insisted that she come with him when the band left town that she packed her meager possessions and went right along.

Fifteen years went by, years of traveling from town to town, doing as the gypsy bid her, before Mamie came through again, bringing her children, a girl of fifteen, a boy of ten and a toddler. Her mother welcomed her without much comment, hugged the children, and sat up evenings rocking and talking, catching up on their now separate lives. She hadn't bothered to remonstrate Mamie. She was what she was, and no amount of lectures, well-meaning as they might be, would turn a rabbit into a wolverine. A few weeks later, the gypsy came back for Mamie and she left, as she had before, in the middle of the night, taking two of the children with her.

The next morning, the grandmother had been sitting in her rocking chair, stirring her tea with a cinnamon stick, while she waited for the toddler to awake. Sylvie was sure now that wherever she went, the smell of cinnamon that filled the cottage would always remind her of her childhood.

“Well,” Gram had said dryly, “your mother seems to have forgotten something.”

She had been a bit taken aback when the child did not carry on or cry, did not even seem surprised, really. “She didn't forget me. She left me here on purpose.”

It had started to rain and a chill was settling over the small cottage. The grandmother walked slowly over to where the logs were laid in the fireplace, sprinkled something from her right hand and the wood burst into cheery flames.
“Hmm. Did your mother ever tell you that I'm a witch ?”
“No. Did she ever tell you that I'm thirteen years old?”