Friday, July 29, 2011

To Become Whole - coming out someday

King by Right of Blood and Might, if you'll notice, has a number 1 on the spine. This book will have a number 2 there.

Here is the beginning. Tell me what you think.


Canis curled tighter in his old blanket and listened as his mother entertained another man. He was loud and stomping around. His mother would have red marks on her face again when he left. He could never ask her about them and when he touched them, she merely smiled sadly and held his hand away from them.

His mother had been entertaining men ever since he could remember, and ever since he could remember, Canis was hidden away whenever someone came to the door. Sometimes, one of her men or the house owner found him anyway. They would travel for a while before his mother found them a new place, then she would start entertaining again. She didn’t bring a man to their tiny room every night. On those free nights, Canis’s mother would bring out some much-abused paper, and with a coal from the fireplace, they would curl up on the warm hearth and she would help him trace his letters.

Canis had no problem tracing the letters, but when it came to grouping them into words, it was as if he stumbled into a giant dark chasm. His mother was very patient with him, but she couldn’t understand how wide and dark that chasm was. It was as if a vast empty hole was inside his head right where writing and speaking was supposed to be.

Canis could read though. His mother read to him from their one tattered book over and over again. He had the words of the story memorized, but his mother didn’t suspect, not even when she caught him reading it; she merely assumed he was only looking at the pictures. There was no way he could tell her otherwise.

Canis was working on a surprise for her though. Whenever she was away, he struggled to say a single word - Canis - his name. If he could say his name, maybe he wouldn’t have to hide anymore. His mother told him once that it was the name of a star - that it had something to do with his father and his father’s family, but he didn’t understand and he couldn’t ask.

The first time he succeeded in uttering the whole word in one halting piece, it felt like a rope had been tossed across that vast emptiness in his head. It was like a single strand of spider’s web strung across a canyon so wide the other side could not be seen. It was so small and fragile compared to the vastness, but Canis could feel it and he treasured its hold.

When he finally showed his mother his achievement, she cried. “Wonderful, Canis. Wonderful,” she said with tears streaming down her face. She pulled him into a long hug. “I’m so happy you can talk now.”

It wasn’t the response he expected, but then, perhaps something had happened while she was away. It had happened before.

The man his mother was entertaining this time was stomping around, banging on the table and shouting about his plans. Canis could scarcely hear his mother’s quiet voice as she tried to calm him. The man ranted of riding and cutting, but Canis didn’t understand it all. He hoped he didn’t cut her hair; he liked her shiny copper braid, it was long and silky. He would stroke it while she read to him. Suddenly the man fell into the closet where Canis hid, breaking the door with his weight.

Startled, Canis snarled a yelp and the man reached for him. Cornered in the closet, he couldn’t dodge away so he was forced to fight back the only way he could. His sharp teeth left four slices in the man’s hand, but the man didn’t pull away from the pain.

His blunt nails scored painful welts across Canis’s chest as he grabbed for him. He cried out when Canis’s teeth drew blood, but the pain only seemed to increase his rage. He pulled Canis out into the light and gave him a shake, roaring, “You hid a beast in your closet, woman, a Changeling, I say; only animals have eyes that glow in the dark. It was an animal that bit me, I say. What is this witchcraft? It’s bad enough you have hair of the devil’s fire. This spawn with an animal’s teeth is proof of your witchery.” He shoved the woman from his path.

As he headed for the door with a snarling bundle of fury in his meaty hand, Stephanie wailed her denials. “No, that’s my baby. Look at him. See, he’s just a child. Give me my baby. You can’t take my baby.”

The man wasn’t listening. By the time he reached the common room, Canis was struggling in earnest. Every time he came close to finding more flesh with his teeth, the man would give him another violent shake.

Brandishing his prize and shouting “changeling” and “witchery,” and with blood staining his arm, the man whipped the patrons of the inn into a superstitious frenzy. He grabbed Stephanie by her hair and threw her out among the crowd, yelling, “Witch” and “demon child.” In minutes, everyone was shouting, and there was a surge for the door. From his vantage point at the end of this arm belonging to such a mountain of man-flesh, Canis could see his mother’s red hair over in the middle of the crowd. Someone grabbed her long braid, and he heard her scream.

Hearing the sound, Canis put new effort to freeing himself. He curled around the hand holding his tunic and tore a gash in the arm, winning his freedom this time as blood spurted rather than dripped. Outside, people who had been heading for early morning market joined the mob. Now there were sticks, fists and clods of ice to dodge, and his mother was being pushed away somewhere else.

One man swung a stick; perhaps he intended to throw it, perhaps not, who can say, but the blow knocked Canis into a man near the edge of the crowd. The man hadn’t heard the cry of ‘changeling’, nor did he suspect anything but a pickpocket when Canis careened into him. He snagged a hold of the boy’s shoulder and flung him out into the frozen slush of the street. No sooner had he turned him loose then the man who started it all spotted Canis. His shout was incoherent, but his bloody-handed point was unmistakable and Canis became the new target.

Instinctively, Canis tucked and rolled where the man threw him, but to his dismay, he looked up to see massive creatures with very large hooves plunging and kicking directly above him. Before he could roll completely free of the danger, someone else had his hand on him and the mob was being pushed back.

No matter how hard he tried, Canis couldn’t break the hold this new man had on him. The man’s powerful fist held his tunic in back this time; the material drawn tight in his fist, prevented Canis from turning enough to find skin and draw blood.

For perhaps a whole second, Canis thought he was going to be thrown aside once again, but his hopes were dashed when the man looked him in the eyes. With a wave of his hand and a curt “collar,” Canis suddenly found himself wearing a metal ring around his throat. Attached to it was a metal chain. Both items were alien to him; both frightened him more than he had ever been frightened before.

As soon as his chain was hooked to the big-ringed chain that ran among others who wore the metal around their necks, Canis clawed at the ring and threw himself against the chain with a panicked frenzy. The others on the line gasped in surprise and clutched at their ends of their chains, gripping them to protect themselves from his struggles. Moments later, men descended on him again and his hands were bound behind his back. Though they could prevent him from clawing at the metal ring around his neck, they couldn’t stop him struggling, despite one man’s hiss of, “I’ll cut your legs off if you don’t settle down.” But Canis didn’t settle down, not until he was exhausted from his struggles did he stop, and the man never carried out his threat.

When his panic mellowed, Canis started to think. ‘These people will not be able to hold me forever. There will be an opening sometime. I will wait and watch for an opportunity then I will escape, I will.’

Friday, July 22, 2011

Audio Books

Would you like to have your books as audio books too? I know I would. I enjoy listening to books while I work. Of late, it's about the only way I can enjoy a good read. It doesn't seem like I have the time for a book these days. First I listened to the Dune trilogy by Frank Herbert, and then it occurred to me how writing styles have changed over the years. Something I've been told to avoid abounds in the Dune stories - head hopping. And yet Dune won the Hugo Award in 1966, and is frequently cited as the best-selling science fiction novel in history. I'm a fan. I've read the books frequently, though I've watched the movies far more recently and many more times. Reading the book again made me realize how different the various movies are from the book, and I have three different versions of the movie.

Another book I listened to is The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry. This story is something akin to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I'll have to listen to that one again too. Steve Berry has eleven million books in print - I think that qualifies as successful. However, at least as far as audio books is concerned, he made several small mistakes. On the written page, it's fairly easy to follow who's talking to who, but if you're listening, the 'he said' tags can get a bit confusing if there's too many people in the room; dropping a name now and then can be rather helpful. And one thing you need to be careful of, audio book or otherwise. Make sure your character can know what he knows. There was more than one instance when someone conveniently knew something he had no way of knowing. Kinda disappointing if you ask me, especially for an author who is so successful. I got over it though. I kinda liked the story, though it was a bit short.

Just now I'm listening to The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. I only have the first one in audio, but I've borrowed the books. Too bad the whole trilogy couldn't have been made into movies. I liked the first one and it kinda left you hanging at the end. I can't wait to get into the second book to see what happens next.

~~~~~ July 26 ~~~~~

Now I know why no other movies were made from the Golden Compass trilogy. They so changed the ending of the movie they couldn't go on to book 2. They would almost need to have another small movie in between. In the book they do go on to find Lyra's father but that's pretty short and maybe not so sweet. I found out that Lyra's father is just like her mother (shudder). The ending really tweaked me too but I suppose it's understandable. When a child makes decisions based on her assumptions and very little education, it can be expected she would make poor choices. Why else would Lyra leave all her friends and all those who cherished her? I suppose I will find out in book 2.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Seetoe's Wings - an idea

The air ship, Cloud Dancer, drifted at the mercy of the winds. The battle had been successful but the cost had been steep. The sails had been swept from the deck and the wheelhouse had been smashed. Of the three-thousand-man crew, easily two thirds of them were dead or out of commission. There were so many wounded, they were being lined up on the deck awaiting the doctor’s decision to see who would see the surgeon next.

Those who had breathed their last into the winds were being sewn into their cloud wings and given to the winds. Their little parachute would carry them into the clouds so their souls could watch over them and keep the winds in their favor. The Cloud Dancer needed all their help today.

One after another the small sails floated away with their burdens, and one after another, the line of bodies waiting their turn continued to grow. Some still breathed, but they would breathe their last into the wind long before they met with the surgeon.

Badly burned and broken, Seetoe was one such body to be consigned to the winds. There was little hope that he would survive, and even if he did he would be little more than a breeder. His was a good bloodline, but he had a brother to carry on. Baycan had a smashed leg, but broken bones could be mended. He’d be as good as new in a few months.

In his turn Seetoe was stitched into the bag attached to his parachute. It looked like a bed he was being stitched into. A thin pillow cradled what was left of his blond curls. The soft blanket was pulled up under his chin and folded down before being secured to the blanket under him. The whole thing was attached to a small parachute in several places. Great care was taken to ensure the comfort of the dead on their last journey.

Baycan saw Seetoe’s fate just as they lifted him to the rail. “No. No. Seetoe, no. He’s not dead yet. No.” And as Seetoe’s body dropped over the rail and the sail billowed, his brother’s cry echoed far beyond the rail. “Seetoe, no!!!”

Somewhere, far beneath the agony, Seetoe heard his brother’s call, but it had little meaning. All he wanted was for the fire to die. By coincidence, he got his wish.

Though designed for comfort, the wings of the dead were not designed for any kind of longevity. Bodies dropping from airships too quickly and they would leave a clear trail to home-port, too slowly and they could be pinpointed and traced back to the ship itself. Therefore, the bodies dropped quickly but slow enough to scatter like seeds on the wind.

Seetoe’s wings designed to grant his wish and he was dropped into a river. The parachute snagged on a bush, holding his head above the surface. Seetoe knew none of this. All he knew was that the fire had been quenched.


“What’s that, daddy?” Kyla asked as she pointed at the rapidly descending something in the sky.

“It’s nothing, Kyla. Where’s your brother? The sun is setting and we must be getting home.”

“Can we go see? It’s going to land just over there. It’s not far out of our way. Can we, daddy, please. I wanna see.”

“You’re too curious,” said her brother, Bant as he came out of the brush with a rabbit.

“Am not. Can we, daddy?”


The chill was starting to seep into Seetoe’s bones, knocking at his awareness. He opened his eyes in a dim effort to sort out the problem. A foggy, fuzzy round face floated in front of him. Puzzled, he wondered at the dark eyes and dark hair. The nut-brown skin wasn’t so strange; everyone had brown skin. The face turned away and a hand gripped his chin. The stab of pain sent him into the dark once again.


“He opened his eyes, daddy; you saw.”

“I did. Those are some bad burns on his face. I’d be surprised if that eye isn’t destroyed. Bant, you don’t know where there’s some Kant sap, do you?”

“Not close. Catch the rope, I’m cutting this branch.”

Though they weren’t able to avoid a minor dunking, they succeeded in dragging the body out of the water. Then they set about turning the body bag into a travois and setting out for home as quickly as they could cover the distance.

Upon reaching home, they took the stranger directly to the chief, and more importantly, the shaman, who was his wife.

Seeing their destination, Kyla, impatient, ran ahead and scratched at the tent flap.

When Sidar opened the flap, she saw the excitement on Kyla’s face. “What is it, Kyla?”

“We found a stranger, he’s burned real bad.” She turned and pointed just as her father and brother came into sight around another tent.

Though Kyla ran back to her family dragging their burden.

Sidar waited. They had to come here before she could do anything anyway; knowing a few moments earlier whether their stranger stilled or not would make no difference.

Seetoe - blond curly hair
Baycan - Seetoe's brother

Kyla - Bant's sister
Bant - Kyla's brother

Sidar - shaman

- - - - - - - -

I'm curious. What do you make of this idea? Where would you take it?

Friday, July 8, 2011

But Where will be The Ending?

Last week we met young Leo, a prince, cast adrift when his family was destroyed and his nanny, his a'ma, died, passing along the only thing that tied him to his past, a ring. What now? He'd hang onto the ring because it was a'ma's last wish, but what was so important about it? He knows nothing about the ring and even less about his past. As far as he knows, he's Leo, street rat, main bread-winner for his a'ma, and now all he has to worry about is himself.

So, with only this much, how do we plan an ending? Planning an ending is one of the things I like to do very early on, after all, it's important to know where you're going so you can get there. It's the journey that gets interesting.

Let's speculate. What do we have? We have a prince. Wouldn't it be nice if he ended up as a king? It's his right, after all. But think of all the obstacles. He was spirited away as an infant. How many people know of his existence? And the biggest problem of all, he doesn't even know who he is. A street rat would have no aspirations to the throne. But then there's the ring, and this ring is a very special ring. According to my list, the ring opens sealed gates and doors. Oh my, oh my, what would a street rat do if he never found a locked door? How long do you suppose it would take him to realize that it was the ring and not just astonishing luck? What reason would he have to make such a connection? Herein lies Leo's first and greatest pit-fall. It would take a strong moral compass for him not to plunge down a path of crime. If he's going to be king, he needs to meet someone, but where would such a person come from and why?

As I've discussed, other endings are possible, and perhaps such endings would be easier and more believable. Then again, I seldom take the easy route to an end. Just think, what would a street rat do to the stability of the royal court? How would those last steps fall together? Someone else rules, and will have ruled for at least eighteen years or more, depending on how old Leo is at this point. They would have a pretty firm hold on the throne, though the crown jewels wouldn't work for them - a major handicap. So how do we get the crown jewels into Leo's hands? Or do we? Perhaps they can just be the treasure at the end of the rainbow. But according to the list, two of them are intimately connected to the royal computer - a very important thing to have if they are going to run the empire. And another enables the user to understand the languages of the realm - also very important. It would be a serious handicap if the king couldn't communicate with nine tenths of his subjects. I suppose we could have our street rat become crime boss accept a challenge to steal them. Now wouldn't that be interesting?

So tell me, how would you end this story?

Friday, July 1, 2011

And Then There was a Beginning

How do you start a story? Many of my ideas come from some sort of dream, but really they can come from anywhere. From a song, from a scene in a movie, from something someone said, or something that happened across the street. But what do you do when you get that great idea? The first thing I'll do is jot down the idea. Then comes the fun part.

Here is one of my ideas:

An infant prince is smuggled out of the palace by his aging nanny just before the royal family is destroyed. She must hide him until he is old enough to use the family heirlooms.

Not much of an idea but that's just the beginning. Such an idea needs some details. What are the family heirlooms? And how could they be of use?

I decided that several items of jewelry could be used, so what kinds of jewelry does a man wear and what use could they be put to other than, say, holding clothing up or together?

These questions prompted the creation of a world. I decided the pieces of jewelry could be some sort of matrix keyed to the royal bloodline - mostly useless to anyone else.

Ring - opened sealed gates and doors
Buckle/girdle - activated portals between worlds
Cloak pin/Broach - was personal defense or body shield
Earrings - enabled hearing at a distance or hearing the royal computer at the palace
Wrist band/Bracelet - was some sort of personal offense
Collar/Torque - enabled the wearer to understand all the languages of the realm
Scepter - A scroll of sorts containing the laws of the land
Crown - Ultimate control of the royal computer

Of course, these items and/or their use is highly subject to change.

Now that I have the jewelry of sorts and some sort of thing they can do, I also have a feel for the society and the world. It's very rough though. Details will come with the telling of the story.

Next comes names. I decided to give the boy a royal name, Leo, short for something much more regal. Something he'd likely never have been called if things had been different. And the old nanny? Leo always called her A'ma. Other names along the way just kinda have to happen.

"A'ma, come on, get up. Burtold said we can't stay here anymore," said the boy as he burst into the small room that had been his home for the last year. They had moved from hovel to inn to basement every year or two for as long as he could remember. Admittedly, he didn’t remember much of it but he knew. Always they had been asked to move on - eventually.

The old woman on the pallet opened her eyes and looked at the young ball of energy that had just burst in the door. He was only eight years old, but he had been supplying much of their sustenance for the last two years - too young to be saddled with so much responsibility. Just now, his blond curls were in disarray - then again, his hair was almost always in disarray - and his face was smudged with dirt. “There was so much I should have told you,” she said in a weak whisper.

“A’ma, I know you haven’t been feeling well, I’ll go get you some more tea. Burtold will let me have that much before we go,” said the boy as he reached for the door again.

“No, Leo. Burtold is anxious enough, leave him be. Come here and sit with me for a while.”

Young Leo crossed the small room to sit down on the pallet beside the very old woman who lay there. She was the only parent he had ever known and yet she had always insisted that she was not his mother or even a member of his family. “I found us a new place,” said Leo lightly. “It’s down by the docks; it smells like fish all the time, but I can find work almost all the time there. You’ll get well soon when you start eating three times a day.”

The old woman reached a thin hand up and cupped his cheek. She smiled weakly. “You’re so young,” she said and a single tear slid from the corner of her eye.

“I’m almost nine,” said Leo, he was starting to get a little worried. Over the last few months, a’ma’s health had taken a plunge. Recently she had been unable to get out of bed for more than a few minutes at a time. He had worked very hard, over the last two days, to find a new place and arrange for transportation to get her there.

“I have something to give you, but you must promise me that you will never part with it, no matter what. You should be so much older for this. Your father should have had this honor, but it was not to be.” A’ma’s voice was fading and her hand was beginning to shake.

“A’ma, you’re tired,” said Leo. “You should rest.”

“I’ll rest, my boy, don’t worry. I’ll rest soon enough.” She struggled for a moment to pull out a pouch from under her pillow. She had never parted with that small blue pouch, but Leo had never seen her open it. She didn’t open it now; with hands that still shook, she pressed the pouch into his hands. “That belonged to your father. You must guard it with your life, and keep it with you always - always.”

Leo took the pouch hesitantly; why was she giving it to him? Why now? He looked into her smiling eyes and then untied the small string that held it closed. He pulled out a piece of wadded up shiny cloth and wrapped in its folds was a heavy ring. Turning it over in his hand, he could tell that a good deal of gold had gone into its make and the blood colored stone in its center had to be worth a fortune. “A’ma, why did you keep this hidden? We could have eaten for an entire year. We could have hired a doctor for you when you first got sick.” He looked up when she didn’t answer. Her eyes were closed now and there was a soft smile on her withered face. “A’ma?” Leo called softly. He touched her cheek. “A’ma?” he called again, but he knew she was resting. In his heart, he knew that she was not going to wake this time. “What does this mean, A’ma? Who is my father?” Who could he have been to have such a ring? Who could he have been to cause his a’ma to keep this at such a cost to herself?

That's just a beginning, but that's all I have so far. Quite a quandary for poor young Leo to decipher. How do you suppose he'll manage it? He's only eight, what will he do now? Where will he go? Who will he meet along the way?

What do you think? Would you read this story? I have a lot of ideas.