Cover reveal, photography, travel, Uncategorized, writing

A Potpourri of Stuff

I meant to post yesterday, but I was completely fried. A friend and I went to see the free National Geographic Photography Exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. Highly recommended! It ends on 4/27/14, though, so if you’re in the area don’t wait too long to see it.

So, in no particular order, are some updates:

  • For WIPpet, the weekly work in progress challenge hosted by KL Schwengel: I finished a major edit of City of Ages, and now I’m on to a short story for which I have a rough and wretched first draft written. This needs to be 90% trashed, but luckily, I have managed to plot out the story and I will be rewriting it as soon as possible. As of now I have only written the title, however. “The Pomegranate Tree.” Lovely, isn’t it? A more substantial post for next week’s WIPpet, I promise.
  • I’ve finished the audio version of The Cat’s Guide to Human Behavior and am now waiting for it to clear the QC process at ACX. Here is the cover art for that.
  • Cat's_Guide_Final
  • I am ridiculously excited about my recently hatched cockatiels. They live in a gazebo in my back yard, nicely separated from the cat and dogs. Here is a picture of these frightfully ugly little guys. The two biggest ones are about a week older than the other little balls of fluff. There’s a total of six. This also serves as my first entry into Michelle’s Weekly Pet Challenge.

Baby cockatiels

 ~

petchallenge

 

  • Finally, what is the below? Why, my wardrobe for WonderCon in Anaheim, of course! It starts tomorrow and I will be there in all my (ahem) glory. For those who have never been, WonderCon is a mini-Comic Con. I rambled about Comic Con over thisaway.
  • dress
inspiration, Uncategorized, writing

My Writing Process Blog Hop

K.L. Schwengel, fantasy author extraordinaire and founder of the weekly WIPpet (work in progress snippet) challenge, tagged me here to participate in a writing process blog tour. So here goes!

1. What am I working on?

Currently, I am finishing up the next to the last draft of the first book in my new historical adventure series, called City of Ages. I will be finished with that draft within a matter of days, and then it goes out to my beta readers and back to me for final fixes. I met some agents and an editor at last year’s Historical Novel Society Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida and I’d really like to get the book out to them sooner rather than later. I’ve written about 50,000 words of Book 2 in the series, but it’s a rather a rough state, so as soon as I hear back from the various agents and editors and figure out how the book will be published – hopefully via a traditional publisher, since that’s what I think would be the best fit for this particular project – then I will continue on with the rest of the books in the series. In the meantime, I will be researching and researching and researching some more.

Picture of books and files.
This is some of the research I have for City of Ages – the hard copy stuff anyhow.

I also have a fantasy series that I wrote 20+ years ago that I’m determined will see the light of day this year. So that will be my next major project, rewriting and editing and sweating blood over that one. It’s exciting, though, because I spent so much of my life, passion, and energy dwelling on it over the years, so the fact that might bear fruit soon makes me happy.

2. How does my work different from others of its genre?

Well, I guess that is different for two reasons:

a. Intense focus on characterizations and an accompanying fascination with their emotional journeys, which always forms the core of whatever I’m working on. I try not to be too heavy-handed with it, because such a thing is more of a theme than a plot device, but some sort of transformation and emotional journey/quest really forms the core of my work  more than anything.

b. Historical detail and setting/details in general. Throughout my life I’ve also kind of swung between obsession with history — which utilizes the more analytical, critical thinking centers of my brain — and writing — which utilizes the creative part of my brain. At this point they have merged together to produce historical fiction. I have a master’s degree in history with a focus on the Ancient Mediterranean, so the ancient world and its influence on the Early Middle Ages really floats my boat. The world and setting of my first novel Necropolis really has been influenced by this, although it is not a straight historical book but rather a fantasy world. It’s based on the societies of the Ancient Mediterranean rather than those of many fantasies, which are based on the societies of Western Europe.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because there’s only one me, and despite the fact that I am only one small flickering light in the blazing sun of the universe, I have a unique take on certain things, or so I would like to think, anyhow. Because of that hopefully my work will appeal to other like-minded people. I had a rather difficult childhood and a lot of health problems in adulthood so reading has really been a wonderful escape for me from the pain of daily existence. I would like to bring that same escape and wonder to others.

4. How does my writing process work?

Sam and Dean Winchester from season 6 Supernatural
This bag from Comic Con hangs over my computer monitors as … inspiration.

Well, work wouldn’t exactly be the term I’d use for it LOL. Back in the day when I first started writing it was like falling in love, effortless and exciting and all-consuming. I wrote and wrote and wrote with nary a thought for passive verbs, run-on sentences, and stupid plot lines. Then I grew up and obsessed over those things for so long that I didn’t get any writing done for many years.

My latest book City of Ages started its life as fanfic, believe it or not. I’ve been heavily involved in a fandom which I will not name here, although you can figure it out if you look at the accompanying photograph, and I used the two lovely leads as inspiration for the main characters in this book. Justus’s physical appearance is based on the physical appearance of the blonde dude here, and Tristan’s is based on the physical appearance of the dark-haired guy. That’s pretty much where the similarities end, because their personalities are original, as is the storyline of the novel.

Anyhow, I participated in a fandom challenge that provided me with support and a deadline that I really needed to crank out the first draft of the book. It was quite a painful experience. I literally only wrote 100 to 200 words a day for months on end and it was like pulling teeth. I collapsed into a dramatic weeping heap upon finishing it because it had been such a difficult experience. Yeah, I wish I was kidding about that, but sadly, I’m not.

Upon reflection, I think that is because I allowed my critical mind – my editor’s mind – too much hold over me when I was trying to write the first draft. Plus I find plotting really difficult, and my process until now has been to just jump in feet first, and wander around like a lost little puppy trying to find the signposts that make for a satisfying story. Afterward, then, I figure out the book’s theme and write the one to two sentence logline describing what happens therein, and generally just figure out what it’s all about. My dear friend Cheryl Dyson introduced me to a different way of setting up and plotting a book called the Snowflake Method, which basically does this process in reverse. You figure out your book’s theme, then create a short description, in-depth profiles of characters, scenes that fill up the book, and then you write. It seems like a much more efficient and – hopefully – quicker means of writing. I’m going to give it a shot. Wish me luck!

~

So here’s the place where I tag three other writers to continue on with the Writing Process Blog Hop. Since one of these writers is currently on vacation, I’m going to put the deadline for their blog posts out at April 21, 2014.

  • Cheryl Dyson’s father’s occupation as an actual cowboy caused the family to move around a lot – in fact, she’s lived in so many Western towns that she can’t remember them all. As a youngster, she competed in professional Appaloosa horse shows, winning numerous ribbons and trophies in varied events. Her favorite thing to do was ride a horse (at a dead gallop) to a nice, secluded spot where she could read in peace. When she eventually ran out of books, this habit led her to writing. Adulthood brought experience working in various accounting positions, all the while writing novels, short stories, and screenplays. Cheryl lives in Washington state where she spends her free time cooking, crafting, and—of course—reading and writing. Her status as Commander of the Universe, coupled with her prolific writing of Harry Potter fan fiction, has garnered her many groveling peons (and several marriage proposals) in the U.S., Russia, and China. Cheryl’s available ebooks include The Gauntlet Thrown and The Challenge Accepted, Books One and Two of the Gauntlet Trilogy.
  • Janet Loftis – Born and raised in the Midwest, Janet fled to sunny California to escape the cold, dark winters, only to now explore the colder and darker sides of human nature in her horror and fantasy fiction. With a BA in Anthropology and Archaeology, and a MA combining Cultural Anthropology with Creative Writing, Janet’s stories are inspired by the mythos of cultures around the world. From science-fiction to fantasy to horror, and from short stories to screenplays, Janet has seen her fiction published in a variety of online and print magazines, and placed in the finals and semi-finals of screenplay competitions. Next on Janet’s agenda are more horror shorts, a horror screenplay, and the marketing of (believe it or not) a family-friendly screenplay! Janet’s available story collections include Skin and BonesZombies and AliensMother’s Day, and Gnomes & Aliens.
  • Deb Ochery has had an interesting and vaguely checkered history, although it probably more closely resembles paisley than checkers. She has roamed the earth searching for suitable converts to add to her growing stable of sturdy boytoys and like-minded friends. She loves to meet new people and spends most of her non-writing time studying unsuspecting humans for fiction fodder, or sometimes bedroom fodder, or occasionally both. Deb has a deep and abiding interest in all things erotic with a particular slant towards romantic erotica. Let’s face it, sex is much more enjoyable with some nice foreplay, whether it be a glass of wine and dinner out or choosing a selection of silk ties and lubricants for the bedroom. Deb is very open-minded when it comes to sex and her books and stories reflect that. She believes human sexuality is fluid and ever-evolving and her characters often face some unexpected attractions that lead to difficult, albeit ultimately rewarding, choices. Getting there is half the fun. Her erotica novel Be Careful What You Wish For, the first book of The Kendra Chronicles, is available now.
history, travel, Uncategorized, writing

Travel East, Travel West

I’m still working on my 2nd to last edit of City of Ages and it continues to proceed at glacial speeds. I had to come up with a spreadsheet to motivate my butt because I tend to lose interest and enthusiasm as I’m plugging along. For some reason, tracking how many pages I’ve completed per day, or words I’ve pumped out really makes this whole novel thing concrete.

Today is the day of the week where I share a little snippet of my work in progress, thus, a WIPpet. It is posted as part of a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. My WIPpet needs to have something to do with today’s date. And so …

Today in 1595, Cornelis de Houtman’s fleet of ships set sail to Asia by traveling through the Cape of Good Hope. Just who is this gentleman, you might ask? It turns out that Cornelis ended up discovering a new sea route from Europe to Indonesia, an achievement that began the Dutch spice trade. This was a big deal since at the time the Portuguese held a monopoly on it. The voyage itself, though, was none too fun. Insufficiently supplied, scurvy set in after a few weeks. By the time they made it to Madagascar seventy sailors were dead. Further on, quarrels ensued and pirates attacked the vessels. De Houtman and his men decided to wreak vengeance on the locals for the pirate attacks, raping and savaging to their heart’s content. The voyage continued on, establishing trade relations to subvert the Portuguese. By the time the ships returned home only 87 of the original 249 crew remained alive.

Sailing was quite the dangerous enterprise back in the day, making modern-day cruise ship disasters seem ridiculously tame in comparison.

Anyhow, this snippet is ship-related, and focuses on landing just 50 miles from Jerusalem:

Docking had been more troublesome in Jaffa than anywhere else. Richende had watched from the deck as three dusky-skinned, robed port authorities inspected their papers and letters with suspicion. They clustered together to confer using fast Arabic and abrupt gesticulations for entirely too long. At last they called Justus over and demanded an entry fee so large that Justus’s eyes bulged. His voice became both deeper and louder as he spent nearly an hour negotiating and arguing in a broken mishmash of Latin, Frankish, Greek, and Arabic. Finally, Richende, hungry, impatient, and drooping with exhaustion, called to him.

                Justus came after a moment, long legs striding up the gangplank in a manner that betrayed the frustration he had been dealing with over the past hour. When he spoke to her, however, his voice held no rancor.

“My lady?”

          “Dear Commander, your efforts to reduce the port fees are duly noted, and greatly appreciated. But in this instance I’m begging you to relent to their demands.”

          “But–“

          “Please.”

          He gave an irascible grunt, his lips twisting into a frown. “I truly believe that another hour or so will profit us much.”

          Cristina, who had been watching the whole exchange near Richende, gasped and shot her mistress an exaggeratedly alarmed look. Richende ignored her.

          “Thank you, dear Justus. But no. Please.”            

Justus made a gesture of frustrated surrender and walked back into the office to follow her wishes. Once he had his fee in hand, the head portmaster’s mood brightened, and at once he became the soul of hospitality. He greeted Richende at the end of the gangplank, eyes gleaming, his smile solicitous.

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them.Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

 

 

 

history, writing

Lighting Up the Dark Ages

Good morning! Please bear with me as I try something a little different this morning. Wednesdays are the days that I participate in a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel that has me providing a snippet of my work in progress (a WIPpet). This snippet is supposed to be related in some way to the date, whether it be some sort of convoluted math equation (26th line of the 3rd chapter or 18 words arrived at by adding 3+2+6+2+0+1+4) or something which happened on this day in history (my personal favorite).

Last week I was visiting my chiropractor getting my back cracked back into alignment while he regaled me with writing ideas and suggestions. These usually involve something I am not in the least interested in, i.e. “You should write a 23 volume encyclopedia on the history of library cats in Idaho.” However, this day he began quizzing me about the setting of my new novel series, which occurs in the Dark Ages. It soon became apparent that he knew close to nothing about the age. He prides himself on a passing familiarity with history, so he suggested that I come up with an explanatory note at the beginning of my book orienting the reader in time and place. Have you seen other historical novelists include notes on the time period? What do you think of this idea? My main concern is that it would throw people out of the story. I worked up the following summary, which I can always use in my communications with agents and editors if nothing else. Your comments and impressions are greatly appreciated!

700 ad. It falls squarely in the middle the Dark Ages, an early medieval period whose lack of source material – letters, histories, accounts, and more – have conspired to veil the time in an obscurity lacking in other eras. Little is known about the inner workings of the surviving peoples of Western Europe.

The prevailing power in the Mediterranean, the Roman Empire, had crumbled away into dust, trampled beneath the feet of crude and desperate barbarian peoples from northern wastelands. The Christian church stepped into the void left by Rome, taking on the role of arbiter and agent for society, leading the flock by providing a bastion of law, charity, and education against the rough-hewn forces of chaos.

And while times were grim in Western Europe, the other frogs about the pond of the Mediterranean thrived. Islam united diverse desert tribesmen with Muhammad’s revolutionary teachings. Together, they exploded out of the Middle East in a conquering fury. The Roman Empire, while fallen and dissolute in the West, thrived in the East, around the bulwark of civilization that we know as the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines, despite the fact that they spoke Greek, called themselves Romans, for they were the rightful heirs of the Roman Empire. For a thousand years beyond the accepted date of Rome’s fall – 476 ad — Constantinople glittered on, a jewel of wealth, culture, debauchery and intrigue. So also did other, lesser known forces carry on with daily life – pirate fleets, tribesmen from the steppe, gangs of bandits, and more. The collision of cultures is evident everywhere the young knight Justus and his companions travel, for just because the age was dark does not mean it lacked spirit and vitality. Instead, it served as rich peat for the blossoming of power, passion, and adventure that begins in City of Ages.

Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

writing

Shaken to the Core

On February 5, 1783, a 7.5 to 8.0 magnitude earthquake  struck southern Italy, leveling over 100 villages and creating a 100 foot wide mile-long ravine. A second tremor hit at midnight, prompting a tsunami which killed thousands of people who lived along the Italian coast. All told about 80,000 people died.

Although my novel (which at last has a title!) City of Ages, does not include any earthquakes, it starts with a disaster of even greater magnitude.

In September, during a harvest moon, the plague came. It struck first in the home of a cloth merchant, and spread with deadly efficiency, jumping from child to adult in what seemed like hours. A headache and general feeling of weakness came first, followed by the sweats and tormenting body aches, and then, in the latter stages, fits of trembling, difficulty breathing, and the final stillness of death. One by one the villagers of Justus’s family’s estate died in agony, and the white-swathed corpses lined the pathways in increasing numbers until at last he directed them to cease digging individual graves and dig communal graves instead. All day and into the night the church bells tolled and weeping could be heard from the white-washed chapel.

When his family fell ill – his mother, father, and three brothers – he nursed them as best as he could. By then the doctors with their potions and poultices and the wise-women with their herbs and infusions had all died off, the first of many. He watched in increasing horror as his dear ones writhed in pain, pleading for him to quench their thirst and cool their fevered brows, weeping and trembling even as he wept and trembled alongside them in grief. He waited for the symptoms to show up on his own body, the lethargy and the sweating, and the violent death. He waited, hollow with loss, moving slowly but surely as he tended the goats and cattle, ground the grain for bread, and made soup to quench the thirst that afflicted him. With some relief, he fell ill a week after his youngest brother died. But then, to his astonishment, he recovered quickly and with no lingering aftereffects.

Death had passed him by.

This snippet of my work in progress (thus, WIPpet) is posted as part of a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them. Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:


writing

Trudging Along the Road of Happy Destiny

WIPpet Wednesday BannerHappy Wednesday, my friends! Today I am providing you with a snippet of my work in progress (thus, WIPpet), a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Basically, you post a snippet of your current project which in some way relates to the date. I usually post something which relates to “today in history” but I have encountered a major brain fart today and just decided to post something from p. 22 (since today is the 22nd day of January).

This snippet is from my WIP, Dark Ages trilogy (Book 1) in which reluctant knight Justus must redeem a thief (Tristan) and guide a barren woman (Richende) on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Also, I am trying to decide upon a name for this book. Please vote on your favorite!

Now then, in this scene Richende and Justus are discussing the pilgrimage to come.

“Your face is brown,” she observed. “Your arms as well. You’ve been outside the cloudy lands of your forebears for some time.”

“Yes,” he admitted. “Years.” He calculated in his head, said with surprise, “Two, now, since I’ve been gone.”

“Irish monks have come here before, when I was a child. Three of them, with stringy long hair and priests’ habits and wild eyes. I remember their fervor, and their hope. They were on a peregrinatio, a wandering, they knew not where day by day, but only went as the spirit of God directed them.”

Justus thought of the hermits in the desert, the saints sitting atop poles or rooted in the earth, the signs and wonders he had seen in the glittering cities of the Roman East. The golden icons and sweet perfume, the filth and illness and degradation that affects the poor everywhere. He had been fed by nuns and nursed in sickness by monks who lived atop a hill overlooking the ocean, in Greece. He had watched peasants stomping grapes at harvest-time, had seen others eating juicy oranges as they rested and laughed like life was sweet and full of jest.

“There are many such along the roads, wanderers for the faith,” he volunteered.

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them. Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:


history, writing

Battle at the Bridging of Two Worlds

WIPpet Wednesday BannerIt’s Wednesday! I took a two week hiatus, but I’m back again on this hump-day to bring you a snippet of my work in progress (thus, WIPpet), a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Basically, you post a snippet of your current project which in some way relates to the date. Most participants do various mathematical formulas to come up with the amount of words or sentences or whatever to post, but I decided to draw inspiration from today’s date in history.

History.com informs me that on January 8, 1877, Crazy Horse fought his last battle. Crazy Horse is the Native American leader who famously defeated General George Custer with a force of Cheyenne and Sioux six months earlier. Alas, he was not to remain successful long, for the U.S. Calvary in Montana outnumbered them and forced them to retreat, ending their organized resistance.

My work in progress, Book 1 of the Dark Ages trilogy, in which reluctant knight Justus must redeem a thief (Tristan) and guide a barren woman (Richende) on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, has no Native Americans, but it does have cavalry and battles. Here is one particular battle which takes place at a bridge …

This close, everything sharpened and slowed as only happened when Justus found himself fighting for his life. He made out the curly gray hairs in the barbarian’s beard, and smelled the rank scent of his unwashed body. The strong, nervous horse had froth bubbling from the corners of his mouth, and his sides heaved with the effort of the run and the melee of combat. The horse pranced back and forth, making the rider struggle to control him and causing Justus to pay attention to its steps lest he find himself crushed beneath heavy feet.

The barbarian, a Lombard from the cut of his tunic and fringe on his boots, passed the axe to his left hand and swung at Justus from that angle. Justus countered by chopping at the wooden axe handle with all his might, trying to break the head off, but succeeding only in lodging his blade in the wood. With his other hand he grabbed the back of the axe head and yanked, ripping the weapon free from the barbarian’s startled grasp. He flung the axe and his sword both–joined together–to the ground and snatched his dagger from the sheathe at his waist. The barbarian, now disarmed, let loose a stream of curses in a guttural Germanic dialect that Justus could not identify, and pulled the reins of his horse to the left, simultaneously urging the beast to carry him away from Justus.

Justus heard a harsh burst of laughter–realized it was his own–and applied his boot to the axe in an effort to free his sword. A few quick yanks did the trick, and he spared the time to grab the axe handle and stomp down on the blade, causing the head to break off. The last thing he needed was someone else picking that thing up and splitting his head with it.

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them. Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:


history, writing

Breaching the Shores of an Unfamiliar Sea

WIPpet Wednesday BannerOnce again it’s Wednesday, which means I am providing you with a snippet of my work in progress (thus, WIPpet), a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Basically, you post a snippet of your current project which in some way relates to the date. Speaking of …

Today in history – December 18, 1620, to be exact, a rickety British tub by the name of the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts. There, they signed the famous Mayflower Compact, an agreement by which all would consent for the good of the party. Thanks to a friendly Native American by the name of Squanto, the beleaguered Pilgrims learned to plant crops and thus created the first successful settlement on the East Coast of the United States. Hurrah!

The snippet I chose from my WIP, Dark Ages trilogy (Book 1) in which reluctant knight Justus must redeem a thief (Tristan) and guide a barren woman (Richende) on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, involves docking somewhere unfamiliar. Although, alas, it does not turn out to be as momentous as the Mayflower landing. Here they land at Jaffa, the closest port city to Jerusalem:

The port of Jaffa was ancient and filled with well-worn, limp-sailed boats of all shapes and sizes. Most of the buildings facing the sea were in need of white washing, made dirty and dingy by the wind and weather, and broken down by the weight of years. The small stone church that faced the water, however, still looked tidy, a lush and flowering jasmine plant snaking up the front of the building by the door, perfuming the air with its tender scent. People dressed in flowing white or light-colored robes with accompanying turbans passed by or worked industriously in the glare of the noon sun. Richende stood on the worn granite stones of the portside, shading her eyes and taking in the languid harbor, the unfamiliar squat building styles, the guttural, distinct cadence of the language, and the stark rocky landscape rising up behind the town. Even the warm desert breeze, heavy with moisture and the buzzing of sand flies, seemed so unfamiliar and exotic and welcome that Richende could scarcely halt the tears prickling the corners of her eyes.

                From here, Jerusalem lay inland fifty or so miles through hostile territory. But what was a mere fifty miles after coming so far? They were close now, so close!

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them. Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

history, writing

The Night Sky Sings of Cheesy 80s Pop Stars

Once again it is Wednesday, and once again I have neglected to post much to my blog save for a reblog of pretty pictures. Ah, well. I’m busy promoting books about cats and surfing Reddit and agonizing over what to write on my work in progress. Which brings me to …

Devo 2008.05.31 005

Devo? I’m showing my age here, but I remember when Devo’s Whip It was on the air. And every time I hear the name of the writing Work in Progress challenge I’ve become a part of – WIPpet – I think of Devo’s song. Ah, how my friends and I danced to it. Back when the band didn’t look quite as old as the guy in this picture!

Anyhoo. The WIPpet challenge is hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Basically, you post a snippet of your current project which in some way relates to the date.

As such … HistoryOrb.com tells us that on December 11, 1719 the first recorded display of Aurora Borealis occurred in the New England colonies of North America.

Now don’t go getting all excited. My current WIP takes place in and around the Mediterranean in the early 700s AD. I doubt you could see such sights there. However, you can look up into the sky, which is what knight errant Justus and troubled street urchin are doing in this snippet. It takes place aboard a ship, as they journey to the Holy Land …

The Aurora Borealis over Norway.
The Aurora Borealis over Norway. Source: http://earthporn.reddlr.com/

One clear night, after an entire day spent becalmed, he stayed up on deck and taught Tristan the constellations as he had learned them from childhood: the three kings, the princess and water bearer, the charioteer, the big and little dogs, the raven and cup and the cross. Tristan laughed at the story of the dogs, who nipped and chased one another all up and down the heavens, pulling the princess’s veil off and tipping the water bearer’s vessels in their play.

“My youngest brother always liked that one the best,” Justus admitted on a sudden melancholy note. “He would beg Father to tell it again and again. He never seemed to tire of it, though Father told it the same every time.”

They fell silent, both of them watching the path of a meteor that flared before blinking out of existence. Tristan lay on his back next to Justus, the lean gangling length of him still and relaxed, save for his restless fingers, which fiddled with the end of a rope hanging off the mast.

“Your father sounds like a patient man,” Tristan mused.

Justus’s voice was a low and quiet noise against the background murmurs of the sailors on watch. “He was known for his patience, and his good judgment. When the peasants had a dispute they always accepted his rulings without argument.”

Justus conjured his father’s well-loved face in his mind – the graying hair and lines around his eyes, his stooped posture and long stride. The aching well of grief within him opened, a void that churned and rolled. He turned from it.

“And your father?” Justus inquired, when it seemed that his voice had steadied. “What was he like?”

Tristan looked at him for a long moment, but Justus could not perceive his expression in the darkness. When he spoke his voice was quiet, and tinged with wistfulness and pain. “He was a large bear of a man with a deep growling voice and huge hands and a frizzy black beard. He talked loudly and drank with gusto and he left my mother alone for months at a time. She would cry, sometimes, from loneliness. But when he was home it wasn’t all that much better. The two of them would often scream at one another and throw things. I was too slow ducking more than once. The neighbors were always complaining about the noise.” He gave a rueful little snort. “My father was rough in speech and manners and, truth be told, he didn’t like me much. He beat me more than I deserved. When he died, it was a relief in some ways.”

Tristan’s stark description of the man shocked Justus. He wanted to say he was sorry, that no father should heap violence upon his son, that he was justified in his relief at the man’s passing. He knew better than to say these things, though. Tristan was like the dog who challenged the pack leader, attuned to weakness of any kind, reacting with swift anger and violence when he found it. Justus knew his type well – had seen such men before and knew how to deal with them. So he kept the words of comfort in his throat, though he felt them struggling there for a long time.

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them. Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here:


history, Uncategorized, writing

Shipwreck … and WIPpet Wednesday

I must confess, I’ve done very little writing this past week, what with Thanksgiving and a visit from my daughter, her kids, and my mother-in-law. And then there’s the agonizing pain in my back from all the work I did at Thanksgiving. Also, I will get back to posting travel things soon … ish. I promise!

So, once again it’s Wednesday, which means I am providing you with a snippet of my work in progress (thus, WIPpet), a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Basically, you post a snippet of your current project which in some way relates to the date. Here’s what happened on this day in 1872.

Having left New York on Nov. 5, the brigantine Mary Celeste was found adrift off Portugal with everyone aboard mysteriously missing.

Read more: This Day in History: December 5 | Infoplease.com

The subject of this snippet is shipwreck. Once again, it is from my Dark Ages adventure:

The storm came on quickly. In the morning, the sun shone brightly from between scattered clouds. By noon thick dark clouds clotted the sky and wind buffeted the sails and waves with equal fretfulness. When a hard, cold rain began to fall, the captain sent the passengers below deck, his normally wide, easy expression grim and tight.
Justus stayed above deck, soaked by freezing rain and increasingly nauseous from the plunge and dip of the tiny craft amidst the roiling insanity of water everywhere. When a particularly fearsome wave nearly rolled the ship over, he heard terrified cries rising from the hold. As soon as the ship righted itself enough for him to walk instead of crawl, he rushed below to check on the welfare of the others.
A fetid blast of warm air, foul with the stench of vomit, met him when he opened the door and descended the ladder. Everyone was crowded to one side, as were the tumble of their sleeping mats and food baskets and miscellaneous belongings, driven there by the rolling of the ship. Many of the passengers wept and prayed aloud, including both of Richende’s maids and several of Justus’s hardened soldiers. At another time, in a safe place, he might have teased his men for their fearfulness. But here, now, he understood it far too well.

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