Thursday, December 17, 2009

A troublesome scene

From the WIP. It's a pivotal scene and I've had some real issues with it. Luckily, the lovely AW Purgies rode to my rescue and here's what I've done, thanks to their comments and suggestions.

for those who haven't read the first draft, some backstory. Evan is a Lieutenant in the 101st Airborne and he and his Captain have been lodging at Megan's house for a few months. Megan is a widow, her husband was killed 4 years earlier. The men are just about to leave for another location, a few weeks prior to D-Day.

All comments would be welcome....please!

Purgies rock!


Megan looked at Evan. He lingered in the kitchen doorway, his eyes dark.

”Good luck, Lieutenant.” She tried to make sense of why saying goodbye to him hurt her so much.

“Captain, will you give us a minute?” His hand curled around her wrist, a feather-light touch. Megan trembled.

"All right, but don't be too long."

“I won’t.”

Megan watched Evan close the door. His eyes never left her face.

“Are you all right?” She fidgeted with her sleeve and swallowed at the knot in her throat. This was too much like saying goodbye to John. This time, however, Megan knew what could happen. She was under no illusions about the dangers Evan was going to face. She looked at him and tried to find the words to say goodbye.

Evan leaned against the door. “No. I’m not all right.”

Before she could speak, his hands were in her hair, his mouth devoured hers. Megan put her hands on his chest with every intention of pushing him away. It was hard enough saying goodbye without this. She didn’t need another reason to miss him, to worry about him. This just made things worse. It created a tie that she wouldn’t be able to break.

Evan’s hands were insistent, warm on the small of her back, rushing down to her hips. He pulled her close, drowning her until the last of her reservations fell away. Megan gave in to him, opened her lips, curled her fingers into his hair. She trembled when he tightened his arm around her waist.

“God, Megan.” He sighed against her mouth.

Megan kissed him back. She molded herself to him and wept because he’d left it all too late. She cradled his face in her hands, savoring the feel of his skin beneath her fingers and the scent of him.

He covered her wet cheeks with fierce little kisses, pushing her hair away with shaking fingers. “Don’t cry. It’s hard enough to say goodbye as it is.”

“Why now?” She sobbed.

“I’m so sorry. I should’ve done something sooner, I should’ve said something. I hate that I didn’t have the guts until now. I love you, Megan. Forgive me. Please.” His hands wound through her hair. His mouth moved from her lips to her throat and back to her lips again. He left her boneless. She struggled for breath and for common sense.

“Damn you, Evan. It’s hard enough saying goodbye to you without this.” She pushed at him, her hands curled into fists. “How can you do this now? Why would you put me through all this again?”

“Please, Megan.” His breaths were quick and shallow. He touched his forehead to hers. “I tried not to fall in love with you. I know it’s wrong because of my marriage and because of the hurt you’ve already suffered. I might not come back. I couldn’t leave without telling you, without … this. I love you.”

His anguish tore at her. Megan let her hands uncurl. She rested against him, wrapped her arms around him, and cried. “I don’t want anything to happen to you. I don’t think I could bear it.”

“I’ll come back, I promise. I would do anything to come back to you.”

“Come on, Lieutenant.” Barlow’s voice was a faint demand beyond the door.

“Damn.” Evan kissed her again – a sweet, regretful kiss. “I’m sorry, honey, I have to go. I’m so sorry I waited until now.”

Megan touched his face. “So am I. Please be careful.” She wiped her eyes and looked at him, wanting to remember everything.

“I’ll miss you.” His hands fell away, leaving her standing in the chill of the hall.

“I’ll miss you too.” She would never forget the scent of him, of soap and aftershave.

He picked up his kit bag. “I’d better go.” His lips brushed her forehead.

Megan nodded, struggling for words. She watched him open the door and wanted to stop him, terrified that she would never see him again.

“Goodbye. I’ll see you soon.” Evan’s voice was hoarse.

“Take care.” She watched him walk down the path, into the cold, early morning drizzle. He waved when he climbed into the jeep and Megan stood on the step, waiting until it disappeared around the bend in the lane, before she gave in to her tears once more.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - A mooshy bit.

This is probably going to be the last teaser from 'Empty Places'. It's now gone into pre-revision limbo while I get the new WIP out of my system.

In this bit, Ellie and Duncan have got 'married' at the suggestion of Elder Obidiah, who believes that Ellie would be safe if she was with Duncan. Most of the chapter is ... um ... rather naughty. This is a little 'morning after' snippet.


It took a moment or two for Ellie to work out where she was. Early morning sunlight slipped through a gap in the curtains and fell across the bed. Duncan slept, curled up around her, his hand on her breast, one leg thrown over hers. She shifted, edging closer in the chill left by the rain. He mumbled in his sleep, his fingers brushed her nipple. Ellie bit her lip, feeling desire stir inside her. After her disastrous debut, she soon found her rhythm and learned what turned Duncan on. His inventiveness left her boneless and exhausted. After years of straightforward, good, old-fashioned marital sex, Duncan was an adventure. She blushed at the memories and wanted more. Ellie turned slowly in his arms and looked at him. The quilt had fallen back, revealing skin flushed with gold by the sunlight. His long eyelashes left crescent shadows on his cheeks. She touched his lips in wonder and his chin, the morning stubble rough beneath her fingers. He was beautiful and Ellie couldn’t believe that she was there and that his arms were around her.

Duncan stirred in his sleep. Ellie watched his eyelids flicker and waited. He smiled when his eyes found hers. “Hello.” He whispered.


He curled his hand around her fingers and kissed them. “Did you sleep all right?”

“Yes and you?”

He grinned. “Never better.”

Something inside Ellie turned slowly. Duncan’s eyes were amber in the light. Thoughts she couldn’t read moved through them. Words she wanted to say were caught in her throat. “Good.”

“It’s been a long time since I woke up wanting someone.” His voice was quiet. “The way I want you.”

“You do?”

“Oh yes.” He kissed her palm and then his lips moved to her wrist, lingering there.

Ellie quivered.

“You’re beautiful, Ellie.” He took his face in her hands and kissed her – a slow burning kiss, like a sleeping fire.

She wanted to weep, instead, she kissed him back, curling her fingers into his hair.

“The Prophet said you had to look after me, Ellie.” He smiled against her lips.


“Will you?” His hands moved over her, light, like water. His muscles rippled under her fingers and he sighed against her throat.

“Yes.” Ellie rose to his touch.

“Good.” He whispered. “Because I intend to look after you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - The Prophet Speaks

I'm done fiddling with the NaNo story for now because a Shiny New Idea is demanding my attention. So, I'm delving into research on the impact that a well-known Airborne Division had on a tiny village in Wiltshire. There's plenty to look at, and still some plotting to figure out. I know what the heart of the story is, but there's a lot to be done.

In the mean time, here's some more from the NaNo story. In this snippet, Ellie and Duncan go to church.


Eventually the congregation fell into a whispering silence, punctuated by the occasional cough or sniffle. A door opened beneath the mural and the Prophet, dressed in a black suit, walked through and climbed up to the pulpit. He gazed across the congregation and cleared his throat.

“It makes my heart burst to see so many beloved faces here today on this glorious Sabbath.” His hands curled around the carved edges of the pulpit. “I have much to say to you.”

Ellie realized that it was going to be a very long sermon. Duncan’s leg rested against hers and she was glad of the distraction.

“…as you know, we are engaged in a battle against the Federal Government, who want to destroy us. I have vowed that I will take away their representatives, one by one, until they have no choice but to either take a stand and fight us or leave the state of Arizona altogether. I am delighted to see one of those employees here today, in the company of Elder Obidiah. He has shown true, Christian charity in taking her under his roof and making her welcome, making her part of his family. Welcome to our Church, Eleanor.” His gaze fell on her.

Ellie managed a weak smile in return and looked down at her hands, wishing she could disappear.

“…Eleanor has fit well into our Community. I fear she is the exception to the rule. The other one is not so obliging…”

Obidiah’s sharp intake of breath made Ellie jump. This was clearly news to him too. Duncan’s hand crept over hers and, in spite of Obidiah’s raised eyebrow, remained defiantly there.

“What the hell has he done?” Obidiah whispered.

Duncan’s fingers curled through hers. He edged closer-a shield between her and the prophet.

Enos continued, his eyes sweeping across the hushed congregation. “…My brothers and sisters, the die has been cast. We are now at war…”

Ellie didn’t want to hear any more, especially when the Prophet then went off on a long, rambling rant about the justness of holy wars. He spoke of wars between ancient, long forgotten tribes with Old Testament names, wars between Athens and Sparta, Rome and Carthage. The length of his rant was measured by the amount of fidgeting in the long-suffering congregation. She had no idea how long he spoke for because she was distracted by the seething males she was sitting between. Obidiah was a study in carefully contained rage, his eyes icy, his mouth set in a thin, hard line. Beside him, Deborah, the senior wife, regarded him with worry. Duncan’s palm was damp with perspiration, and his grip tightened on her hand. His eyes were narrowed as he watched Enos.

She had no idea how long the Prophet spoke for. It felt like forever. Her butt ached and the edge of the seat bit into her legs, no matter how often she shifted and fidgeted. The vast church was full of the whisper of restless worshippers. The sunlight had been swallowed by clouds, filling the place with shadows and a chill that Ellie couldn’t shake.

“…and so, my brothers and sisters, go home, enjoy the Sabbath with your families, embrace your loved ones. I will summon you when it is time.” With that, he stepped down from the pulpit, walked back to the door and disappeared.

“Bloody hell.” Duncan murmured.

“Bloody hell, indeed.” Obidiah’s voice was cold.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Ellie gets a surprise

Well, that's it. The annual madness that is NaNo is over. I don't know if I'd do it again, I suppose it depends on whether I have an idea burning to be written. I enjoyed taking part, it kept me focused and the first draft of 'Empty Places' weighs in at a woefully short 56k at the moment. I know what needs to be done, but I'm taking a break from it for a while.

Anyhow, here's another snippet. Duncan has managed to smooth talk his way into the Compound as Ellie is about to find out.


“Here’s where we store the produce from our Community Garden.” Elder Ezikiel’s voice echoed across the small yard, hidden behind the tractor. Ellie kept working, assuming that someone was getting the Grand Tour. There were visitors, now and then, usually people seeking admittance into the Church and, occasionally, guests from other branches of Enos’ empire. She knew that spare produce ended up in restaurants in Show Low, along with beef from the Community’s herd and fish from the pond.

Ellie kept working. It always made the community look good if everyone pretended that it was business as usual. She also knew to keep herself as inconspicuous as possible. Obidiah had told her that it was best that way. It wasn’t as if anyone was going to walk boldly into the Compound to rescue her.

“We sell our surplus to restaurants in Show Low.” The guide said, his voice ringing through the shed.

“There’s a lot here.” The other voice tugged at Ellie. She paused, her hand curled around the handle of a basket. A little nagging memory, something good and impossible. She shook her head. He’d be long gone, back in his London apartment, no doubt writing a book about his travels. She sighed, ignoring the regretful twinge in the pit of her stomach. She tried not to think about how those two promised days might have turned out. Ellie bit back a sigh and turned back to the tomatoes.

“We’re lucky. We have good soil and the garden is in a sunny place. We manage to get the best out of it.”

“So I see.”

Something inside Ellie swooped. There was no mistaking that voice. She took a deep breath and bent to her task. It wouldn’t do if he recognized her and made a fuss. She hated to think of the consequences. It’s not like he’d be able to do anything to help her. Her hands shook as she pushed the punnets along the table. She counted them under her breath. Footsteps whispered across the floor of the shed. A raven wheeled above in the open sky, calling out before it fled towards the trees. The two men left the shed and stood on the edge of the garden. Ellie watched them out of the corner of her eye, trembling. He wore jeans and a white shirt, sleeves rolled up in the heat of the day. The sunlight glanced off his hair and she couldn’t stop herself from admiring the shape of him, the long thighs and narrow waist.

“Very impressive.”

“We are lucky to have very skilled gardeners.”

“Indeed.” The voices were getting closer. Too close and Ellie knew if she kept her head down it would look all wrong. She kept working, sorting through the tomatoes.

“Mrs. Freeman, how are you today.”

Fuck. She lifted her head and smiled. “I’m very well, thank you Elder Ezikiel.” Of all the damn days for Elder Ezikiel to actually talk to her on one of his tours, he had to pick this tour. She forced herself to look at Duncan. For a moment, she thought she saw the briefest flicker of recognition in his dark, unreadable eyes, before he nodded, wished her a good day and moved on. Moments later, she heard the golf cart whirr into life. She covered her face with her hands and sat, trembling for a long time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Duncan - more NaNo stuff

Here's another piece from the NaNo, currently at 54k.

In this bit, Duncan, a reporter for a British newspaper, is off to rescue Ellie. He's driving across the White Mountain Apache Reservation. Again, the usual caveat, it's rough as industrial strength sandpaper.


Back in the car, he put the necklace in the glove compartment and bit into the chocolate. He’d forgotten how little Hershey’s tasted like real chocolate and washed away the sour taste with a mouthful of water. Spots of rain flecked the windshield as he pulled back onto the quiet road. A soft rumble of thunder heralded the approach of a storm. Lightning flickered across the inky underbelly of the storm. The land was washed in silence, the dark trees still. Duncan turned on the windscreen wipers when the rain began to fall in earnest and slowed down. Thunder rolled across the high meadows and the landscape was obscured by the grey, shifting veil of low cloud. Two men with long black hair walked along the cinder verge, huddled and bent against the wind. Duncan put the gun in the door pocket and slowed right down.

“You two need a ride somewhere?” He wanted company. Show Low wasn’t far, but he’d had weeks of driving in silence. He didn’t think two soaking wet walkers would cause much trouble, he had the gun.

“For reals?” They were both young, long black hair pulled back into drenched ponytails.

“Yup.” He unlocked the doors and they piled in, one in the front, the other in the back seat.

“Thanks, man.”

“Where do you need to go?”

“Show Low.”

“Then it’s your lucky day. I’m headed there.” He pulled back onto the road again

“Someone has to, I guess.” The one in the front seat said. “There isn’t much there these days.”

“You’re going there.”

“There’s even less on the Rez.”

Duncan looked out of the window and saw nothing but rain-washed meadows and forest. “Yea, I imagine so.”

They introduced themselves. Front seat passenger was Joe, back seat passenger, George. They were heading to Show Low for a party.

“Are you Australian?” Joe asked. “You don’t sound like you’re from around here.”

“Everyone always thinks that.” Duncan had been mistaken for an Australian more often than not on his journey. “I’m English.”

“What the fuck is an English guy wanting to go to Show Low for?” George leaned forward.

“Some people stole a friend of mine and I’m going to get her back.”


“Heard of the Brothers of Enos?”

“Those crazies? Shit, yes. You don’t plan on walking in there and taking her out, do you? Those nuts are armed.”

“Kind of.”

“Cool.” Joe grinned. “I always heard the English were crazy.”

“Why did they take your friend anyway?”

“It’s a long story and I don’t suppose I should even be telling you. All I know is that I need to get her out of there.”

“She must be pretty special.”

Duncan shrugged. “I hardly know her. I just don’t like people taking my friends without my permission.”

“Shit, man. You sound like James Bond.” There was laughter in George’s voice. “What do you plan to do?”

“I’m not sure yet.” Duncan wasn’t about to give anything away.”I’ll figure something out.” The trees began to yield to houses and traffic lights. The rain slowed as they drove into Show Low. “Where do you need to go?”

“Just drop us off up here, at the MacDonalds. We’ll be fine from there.”

He turned into the MacDonalds parking lot and pulled into a space. The lights from the restaurant spilled into the gloom left by the storm. “Here you go.”

“Thanks, man. Good luck getting your friend.” Joe fumbled in his pocket and took out a scrap of paper and a pen. “If you need any help, here’s my number. I’m not sure what we can do, but let me know. I hate those crazy fuckers.”

“And they hate us.” George muttered as he opened the door. “We’ll be in town for a few days, so just give us a holler.”

“Thanks.” Duncan wasn’t sure what two young Apaches, hell bent on partying could do to help, but he was grateful nonetheless. “I might just take you up on that.”

Joe laughed. “Just don’t ask us to storm the compound with you. We don’t do that kind of thing anymore.”

Bloody shame you don’t, mate.’ Duncan thought as he drove away.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In which Ellie meets the Prophet

Some more NaNo this week. As of last night, I'm at 42.5k. I got over the mid-book slump. It's funny how it seems to hit, regardless of what I'm writing or how I feel about what I'm writing.
This scene is where Ellie gets to meet the architect of her abduction. She's with Obidiah Worthington, a church Elder who has been charged with looking after her.

The normal caveat applies, this is as rough as my hubby's nine o'clock shadow.


The drive curved around to the right and the trees fell away to reveal a white framed house, an elaborate confection of mock Victoriana, complete with a tower, balconies, gables trimmed with lacy wooden trim. Ellie felt like a tourist when she paused to try and take it all in. Worthington kept walking. She hurried to catch up with him, still not used to the long skirt flapping around her legs.

Wicker chairs and tables were scattered across the broad verandah. Ceiling fans swung languidly between forests of hanging ferns. The double doors glittered with beveled glass. Worthington sighed and rang the doorbell. Ellie stood beside him, curling her fingers in the folds of her skirt. She didn’t want to meet the Prophet, she wanted to go home.

She was surprised when a child opened the door. She was small and pale with silvery-blonde hair. She stood beside the open door and regarded the guests with luminous blue eyes. Other people might have thought her pretty, but her stare made Ellie shiver and take a step back.

“Hello, Ruth. Your Papa is expecting us.”

“Yes.” A tiny whisper. She opened the door for them and disappeared into the cavernous depths of the house. Her footsteps echoed away, leaving the house in silence. Ellie followed Worthington along the hall to a pair of double doors towards the back. He knocked, softly, on the door.

“Come in.” The voice struck Ellie as ordinary. She had expected a booming, biblical roar.

“Ah, brother Obidiah, thank you for coming.” A tall, thin man rose from the depths of a leather wingback chair beside the empty fireplace. He regarded Ellie with the same luminous blue eyes as the child. He held out his hand. “You must be Mrs. Freeman.”

Ellie took it, surprised that his grip was warm and firm. “Yes.” She tried to stare him down, but his eyes disturbed her as much as his daughter did. She wanted to wipe her hand on her skirt.

He nodded towards a chair. Ellie sat down and folded her hands on her lap. She forced herself to look at him without wanting to run. She hoped it would be a short visit.

“I trust Brother Obidiah and his family are taking good care of you?”

“Yes, they are. They are very kind.” She replied, meaning it.

“Ah, that’s good.” He shifted in his chair, crossing his long legs. “You’re working too, I understand.”

“In the community garden, Sir. It’s very pleasant.”

“Good….good. So, you are happy here.”

Ellie lifted her chin and forced herself to look him in the eye. “It’s not my home, Sir but, I will get by.”

“Very diplomatic answer, Mrs. Freeman.”

Ellie noticed Worthington exhale with relief. Out of courtesy to him, she held her tongue. “Thank you.” She wanted to put her hands around his scrawny neck and throttle the Prophet. She wondered how such an unremarkable man commanded so much power.

“Hopefully, you won’t have to stay with us for long, Mrs. Freeman.”

Ellie nodded. There seemed little point in answering.

“God told me that you would be happy here.”

“Really.” Her God and his obviously had different opinions.

“He told me that you will have an important part to play.”

She was tempted to make a flippant remark about her gardening abilities. She held her tongue and wanted to be away. Even hoeing weeds in the warm August sunshine was preferable.

He rose and Ellie took that as a signal to leave. He shook her hand once more, clapped Worthington on the back and walked them to the door.

“It was nice to meet you, Mrs. Freeman. In spite of your doubts, I believe my Lord when he says you will find happiness here.”

“Thank you, Sir. I’d like to think so.” Ellie hoped her lie was convincing enough.

He smiled, revealing teeth that had not seen a dentist for a long time. “I’m sure you will.”

Ellie was relieved to escape back onto the broad drive and the restless, dappled shadows cast by the trees. Worthington walked away swiftly, apparently in a tearing hurry to be away. She couldn’t blame him. On the way back to the house he remained silent and Ellie didn’t care to break the silence. It seemed to her, that his loyalty to the Prophet was not complete. The thought gave her hope.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Goodbye, old friend.

In March 1998, my Husband and I paid a visit to a local cat shelter in Cambridge. I had it in my head that I had to have a ginger cat. I'd had one before and I fell in love with his waywardness. We spent a long time at the shelter and there weren't any that fit the bill. I had said that I didn't want a long-haired cat. Having exhausted just about every possibility, the exasperated worker said.."Look, I know you said you didn't want a long-haired cat but have a look at this one." She led us into a kennel and this orange and white ball of fluff skittered down the little ramp and wound itself around my legs. Her tail was absurd, like a squirrel's, like a fox's brush.

All my reservations about long-haired cats melted away. She had adopted us.

On the way home we talked about names. We'd just lost a cat called Homer and it seemed right to stick with The Simpsons theme. We opted for Maggie and Maggie she stayed. Under all that fluff was a tiny little cat. We discovered how tiny she was when we got her back to the house and she promptly disappeared, squeezing into a three-inch gap between the washing machine and kitchen cabinet.

Once she'd spent the recommended two weeks indoors we let her out and that's when we discovered her true vocation. Little Maggie was a Big Hunter. When we moved to a remote village in Cumbria, we were surrounded by farm fields and Maggie was in her element. Almost every morning, we would open the back door and find a rodent offering, placed carefully in the same corner of the same patio stone ... every damn time. The local field vole population took a serious hit. Once, we saw her struggle into the garden with a young rabbit in her mouth. It wasn't a baby, in fact, it was about half her size. She struggled gamely with it for a while, trying to dispatch it but, in the end, even Maggie had to admit defeat.

Once or twice, we discovered that Maggie brought us live rodents too. Peter moved the fridge one day and found a family of mice living behind it. While he and Chloe, our dog, dispatched the mice, Maggie sat calmly in the doorway watching the show.

But, no matter how far she roamed during her hunts, I had only to stand at the back door and call her name and she would streak across the fields, a flash of brilliant orange and white fur and wrap herself around my legs.

She was also a cat for carrying a grudge.

Peter sat on her eleven years ago and she, finally, forgave him about six months ago. Likewise, our son, he made the mistake of pulling her tail ten years ago, and she forgave him about the same time.

She took the transatlantic move very well. She loved to sleep in the back yard, in some shady corner but, always, she would come when I called. Her tail held high.

In the end, she only showed her symptoms for a few days. Up until a week or so ago, she was first in line for the evening cat treats, standing in front of Peter with that tail up in the air, a hopeful look on her face. She hoovered the treats up much quicker than the two, much younger, males.

Now, she's gone. It wasn't a hard decision to make. I could tell she was tired of life, tired of fighting to breathe. She just wanted to sleep. We watched her leave us, swiftly, quietly. It's hard to witness, yet it's comforting too because I know that, somewhere in a dusk-shadowed field, a small orange and white cat is out hunting underneath the summer stars.

I love you Maggie. Happy hunting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Of Farts and False Prophets - Nano Teaser it is, 10 days into NaNoWriMo and I've reached 25k words! I'm enjoying this book immensely. It's fun to write something completely different. I'm working my way slowly to a pivotal scene. I'd like to get there quicker, but little plot twists keep getting in the way, which is all good.

As for this scene...well, poor Ellie. She's been abducted and her abductors'll see.

Again, apologies for the lack of polish. When I'm done, this book is going to need an industrial strength spit and polish.


“Who the hell did that? It stinks in here.”

“Did what?”

“Let one off. I gotta open the window.”

Ellie felt a cool rush of air. It touched her face. She smelled rain and pines.

“Oh, grow up. We’re nearly there. You can breathe all the fresh air you like.”

“What happens to her?”

“The Prophet says he’s putting her to work the soil…after she’s sent the message.”

“The garden?”

“Come on, Jeremiah, they’re hardly going to marry her off, are they? She’s twenty years too old for a start and not a virgin.”

“So they’re going to keep her alive?”

“She’s no good to anyone dead.”

Ellie allowed herself a small sigh of relief. If she were allowed to live, she would find a way out. No matter what they did to her, she would make it. She closed her eyes while her captors squabbled about the sins of eating bean burritos and the inevitable after-effects. She would’ve laughed if she didn’t hurt so much. She christened them the Three Stooges, it made her feel better to think of them of stupid buffoons whose intellectual depth extended only as far as discussing farts and Mexican food. She hoped they had bought the offending food from the little taco stand on the main road. They’d be doing more than passing gas before the night was through. The thought gave her some comfort while the van bounced over a bumpy road. Ellie heard the crunch of gravel, when the van took a sharp turn. It slowed and the Three Stooges fell silent.

“What are we supposed to do with her?”

“Take her to Obidiah’s house. He’s got a place in the basement for her.”

“She’s lucky.”

“The Prophet doesn’t want her hurt.”

“You’d better come up with a good reason why you cracked her on the cheek, then.”

The van slowed to a halt, the clang of gates echoed in the cool, night air. The van edged forward and the gates rattled behind them. Ellie remained still, hating that she couldn’t see anything. Gravel crackled under the tires and a damp breeze crept into the back of van. Ellie smelled rain. Eventually, even the crackling ceased. Her three captors slid out of the front and, moments later, the rear doors swung open, admitting a welcome chill. Ellie made herself limp, determined to make the stooges work to sort her out. One of them climbed in beside her and pulled her into a sitting position. The rope tickled her wrists when he untied her. He eased the tape from her mouth while one of the others unbound her ankles.

“Which one of you bastards hit me?” She spat, flexing her wrists.

None of them answered.

Ellie scooted forward, until her legs swung over the edge of the van. “No, I didn’t think any of you would have the balls to fess up to hitting a woman. I hope I have a really big, purple bruise.” She stood up and glared at them, their bland faces pale in the fickle moonlight. They all looked the same to her, long beards, short hair. Like rednecks gone a little crazy. “Assholes.” She smiled as they stepped away from her. Knowing that they wouldn’t kill her helped.

“What’s going on out there?” A man’s voice echoed into the night.

Ellie realized that they were no longer in darkness, that a brilliant light illuminated the scene. Three witless stooges scarcely out of their teens, trying to look like hard men in black clothes. She glanced over her shoulder at the house the van was parked in front of. It was massive, one of half a dozen equally large houses spread out along a broad gravel road. A large man stood on the porch, the light turned his long, white hair to a madwoman’s wedding veil. A long beard gave lie to the illusion.

“Is this our guest?”

One of the stooges nodded. “Uh huh.”

“Well, don’t leave her standing out here. It’s cold.”

Ellie shivered. She was so used to the humid warm nights of the desert monsoon, that this place felt like the frozen north. She ignored her captors and walked towards the wide, brightly lit porch and the man with the long, white hair. “Who are you?” She didn’t feel inclined to wait for formal introductions, especially as the stooges seemed mute in the man’s presence.

To her surprise, he bowed and smiled. “Obidiah Worthington. You’re to be a guest in my home.”

“Um…thanks. I’d rather be in my own home, I’m sure you understand.”

He took her arm, his grip firm. “I do, Mrs. Freeman. Don’t worry, I think you’ll find things here quite comfortable, considering the circumstances.”

Ellie thought she was seeing things. He seemed genuinely apologetic but his eyes were sharp. “What happened here?” His hand moved towards her cheek.

She stepped back. “Don’t touch.” She looked over her shoulder at the stooges who stood beside the van.

Beneath the froth of beard, Worthington’s mouth was set in a hard, thin line. “Did one of them hit you?” His voice was low, the bonhomie of welcome gone.


“She wouldn’t cooperate.” The voice that answered had lost its bravado. Ellie wondered if the bean burritos were beginning to take effect.

“They wrecked my back door, my garden and they dragged me out of my house. I was hardly going to go without a fight.”

The Prophet won’t be happy, you know that don’t you. I won’t trouble him with it tonight but I suggest you use the night wisely and come up with a good reason why he shouldn’t lock you all up.” Worthington took Ellie’s arm once more.

The stooges clambered into the van, started the engine and turned away from the long, broad road, disappearing into the darkness beyond the pool of light.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A bit of NaNo stuff - rough as old boots and rude in places

Well, I took the plunge this year and decided to have a go at NaNoWriMo. I've been kicking an idea around for a dystopic type thingie, set in a town not unlike the one I live in, about 12 years in the future. In this future, the US never climbed out of the recession. Ellie is a Federal Employee who's been receiving some unpleasant threats on the 'phone. There are some rude bits.


The old station had burned down in an arson attack five years before. The ‘new’ station was an old modular standing in the middle of the parking lot of the old one. The Chief’s car was parked in its usual place, beneath a stand of mesquite. His secretary’s car was parked right next to it and the two squad cars were gone.

“Horny bastard.” Ellie knew exactly where to find him. She didn’t care what she interrupted when she walked into the small lobby. The warped floorboards creaked beneath the worn, water-stained carpet. She rang the bell but no one answered. The unmistakable howls of a woman in the throes of orgasm drifted along the shadowy corridor.

Ellie followed the hall to the Chief’s office. She tried the door handle and smiled to herself. “Gotcha.” As Maria’s howls of pleasure faded to whimpers, Ellie pushed the door open.

It was not a pleasant sight. Maria, the Chief’s secretary, sprawled across the conference table while her partner sprang to his feet and fumbled for the trousers that had puddled around his ankles..

“Screwing on the tax-payers’ time, very nice.” Ellie wondered how any woman could get off on the shriveled appendage that dangled between the Chief’s legs. She’d seen bigger Vienna sausages.

“You could’ve knocked.”

“You could’ve answered your damn phone.”

“Ellie, what’s the emergency? What the hell made you bust in like that? Haven’t you got any damn manners?”

“Not when I get threats, nah, I kinda forget about manners.”

“What kind of threats?” He wrestled with his belt buckle. Maria shot Ellie a venomous glance and hurried back into her clothes before scuttling away. Her angry footsteps receded down the corridor, and were cut short by a slamming door.

“Time’s up, bitch.”

“That’s all? You busted into my office, invaded my privacy and ruined a good fuck, to tell me that? It’s hardly explicit, is it?”

“Seems pretty clear-cut to me.” Ellie folded her arms across her chest to stop her hands from trembling.

The Chief sank into his chair and rubbed his hand down his face. “Ellie, honey, I’m sorry. I know you’re scared but I told you there’s nothing I can do. My guys are run ragged as it is. I can’t spare anyone.”

“I figured you’d say that.” She sighed and bit back sudden tears. “What the hell am I supposed to do, Chief?”

“Did you get a gun like I told you to?”

Ellie shook her head. “I don’t like guns.”

“Well, you’d better start liking them.” He pulled a drawer open and placed a small handgun on the table. “This belonged to Marcy. I don’t know why I still keep it. She left years ago. Take it. Get over your dislike real quick and take the damn gun.” He pushed it towards her. “Do you know how to use one?”

She opened the chamber and checked it. “Yes, Mike taught me. He had a gun in the house. When he died, I gave it away.”

“Well, that’s something.” He handed her a box of bullets. “Keep it with you all the time. Take it into the shower if you have to.” His eyes were sad. “I’m sorry, Ellie. I wish I could do more, I really could.”

Ellie put the gun and bullets in her purse. “I know.” She felt like she was carrying a bomb in her handbag. He’d broken the law by giving the gun to her and that meant more than any empty promise or apology. She managed a smile. “Thanks. I promise I’ll keep it with me.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

He's not a bad lad, really. - Teaser Tuesday

Another bit from the Western/Mongrel. I'll be setting this aside for a few weeks while I dive into the annual madness of first time. The story I have in mind for NaNo is completely different from anything I've written before. I think it will be nice to have a 'break' from my usual stuff.

In the meantime, here's Kristian showing that he isn't such a bad lad after all. Tessie has been bitten by a rattlesnake. This is towards the end of the chapter.


The Priest’s visit marked the last moment of peace that Tessie was to know for some time. In spite of his assurances that she would be fine, the effects of the bite refused to leave her. Sleep was next to impossible because, no sooner would she lapse into unconsciousness than the pain would snatch her back to a place where every, slight, movement caused an unspeakable torment that had her screaming. Her hand swelled to an unrecognizable mass of bruised and torn tissue that throbbed with every beat of her heart. She was aware of Kristian’s presence, his touch gentle as he dabbed at the wounds with a whiskey-soaked cloth. She watched him through half-closed eyes as he bent to his ministrations, dark circles under his eyes, his face all planes and shadows in the restless firelight. She wished that she could speak, but she was reduced to a helpless bundle of hurt and drifting consciousness, while he fought for her. The day brought no relief, in the light, Tessie could see that the swelling had crept towards her wrist. The sun hurt her eyes and she was sick again. She wept, weary of her uselessness and weakly tried to wave Kristian away as he wiped her face and whispered words of comfort that she could scarcely hear. She let him hold her and his words were lost in the haze of restless agony that she could not escape until exhaustion claimed her and she was allowed to rest for a while. Then, time slipped and lost all meaning or sense as fever claimed her and infection raged through her body like a wild, summer storm.

Kristian didn’t know how much time had passed or how tired he really was. Now and again, Salim offered to take over but he waved him away, “No, this is my fault. I need to do this,”

“It is nobody’s fault,” Salim replied, “It was an unfortunate accident, now let me help. You are exhausted.”

“I’ll be fine, once I know she’s getting better, then I’ll rest.”

“You cannot help her if you’re half dead yourself.”

Kristian looked him. “Just let me do this, Salim.”

Salim shrugged, “As you wish, “

After what seemed like an eternity, Tess appeared to fall quiet, and her skin, over the course of a few hours finally began to cool. Exhaustion crept into Kristian, leaving him limp and drained, but satisfied. He gingerly touched her wounded hand and saw that the swelling was beginning to recede along with the fever. The battle was won. He rose, stiff and aching and looked at Salim, “Now you can take over, it’s finished. She’ll live now.” He went to his saddle bag, rummaged through until he found his axe, “There’s just one thing left to do.”

He found the snake, coiled in sleep, beneath the jutting lip of a boulder on the river bank. It slept on in the heat of the day and hardly had time to raise its rattle, before he raised the axe and relieved it of its head. He picked up the bleeding remains and carried the snake to the fire, reckoning, as it uncoiled in death, that it was at least five feet long, “Killed the bastard,” he told Salim as he dropped the carcass into the whispering, pale daylight flames of the fire, “So, I guess we’re even.” With that, he dropped the axe, took a long draw of water, lay down on his blanket and slept.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If this is Springer, it must be Tuesday

This is from the western, which I've dug out of the trunk. I've spent the last couple of days, pasting all the chapters into one document and have started sweeping out the excess adverbs, stray commas and purple prose. It's been an interesting exercise because I wrote this three years ago and I'd like to think my 'style' has progressed since then. I've been applying what I've learned and re-learned from being on AW to this book.

In this bit, Tessie, Kristian and Salim have arrived in Springer, New Mexico.


The heavy rain held off long enough for the travelers to grab a hasty supper in the saloon. It was a crowded, smoky place where one or two card games were already in progress. Tessie tried not to stare at the loose women who watched the games with avid interest, as they plied the players with whiskey and displayed large, pale expanses of bosom. One or two of the whores took more than a passing interest in her companions. A red-haired piece leaned provocatively across Kristian to pour his whiskey. Tessie heard her murmur something in his ear but he smiled, patted Tessie’s hand and said, “No thanks, M’am, my wife here will do just fine.”

The women regarded Tessie. “Are you sure?” she purred. “There don’t seem much there to grab onto.”

Tessie surveyed her calmly, taking in the raddled cheeks and the hard, hollow eyes, “Quite sure.” She replied, sweetly.

Kristian chuckled. “M’am, you really don’t want to make my wife mad. She has a terrible, short temper.”

The woman appraised Tessie coldly. “And not much else, I warrant.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised.” He said. “Mrs. Laidlaw is much more than just a pretty face and a quick shot.” His hand strayed to Tessie’s shoulder as he played the role of protective husband to the hilt. “Now I’ll thank you to leave us in peace.”

With a shrug of rounded, over-powdered shoulders, the red-head flounced away. Tessie watched her go, surprised at her own fierce reaction to the flirtation.

“Nice work, Tess.” Her ‘Husband’ remarked as Tessie returned to her stew. “You really are an endless source of amazement. Did you really lead such a sheltered life?”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Time is passing way too quickly-Tuesday already??

Back to the recently completed 'Through the Mist'. It's about to go sleepy-byes for a little while before I start mucking it out at revision time.

This takes place the Christmas after Katya has returned from her adventures on the Silk Road. It's a transitional chapter and I'm hoping that the leap between Katya at 17 on her adventures in China and Pakistan, and Katya the WAAF typist during WW2 is not too big a leap.


Katya set down the tree bauble and sank onto the settee. The wireless was playing Christmas carols and it seemed right to be decorating the Christmas tree. She was supposed to finish dressing the tree before Aunt Olga, Uncle Nils and Irina arrived for Christmas Eve dinner. Good, promising smells were drifting through the open door from the kitchen. Katya had spent the morning in the kitchen peeling and chopping vegetables at her mother’s direction. Christmas Eve dinner was always a polyglot of English and Russian dishes, zakuski, mushroom soup, fish pate, roast beef with vegetables, kasha, noodles, poppy seed cake for afters, or mince pies. There was scarcely room on the table for plates and cutlery.

Katya looked at the writing on the package, written by a confident hand in black ink. The postmark was a blur, obscuring even the stamp and the country of origin. She opened it carefully, the brown paper falling away to reveal a clump of newspaper, covered in closely printed Chinese characters. Katya peeled away the newspaper, layer after layer, like an onion, until her fingers were smeared with newsprint. Beneath the newspaper a bolt of dark blue silk, embroidered with dancing golden dragons was wrapped with great care around a small, bulky object. The silk, itself was beautiful and, unfolded, turned out to be several yards long, enough for a dress. It made Katya think of the evening sky in Baltit, after the sun had slid beyond the jagged rim of the mountains and just before the stars came out. Katya folded it and laid it on her lap. She looked at the little white jade pony with tears in her eyes. It was small enough to fit perfectly into the curve of her palm, curled up and sleeping Its stubby head rested on one folded foreleg - its bristly mane was defined by finely scored lines and its long tail curled around plump hindquarters. She set the pony down and searched through the crumpled Chinese newspaper for a letter or a note, but there was nothing. Then, again, no note was needed. It was enough that he remembered her and that, somewhere, in China, he had bought a little jade pony and wrapped it in silk to send to her. She picked up the pony again, comforted by the weight of it and by the knowledge that Andrew had chosen it for her.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Another one from the Trunk

Since it went down so well last week, here's another bit from the soon-to-be-untrunked western/historical/whatever-it-is.

Tessie, Kristian and Salim have arrived in Las Vegas, New Mexico. There ain't a lot of room at the Inn


The innkeeper’s directions led them down a maze of streets of one-story adobe houses, crammed together. The narrow, dusty streets were populated with grubby children and chickens which Mule took exception to. He pinned his ears back and lowered his head towards any chicken stupid enough to stray too close.

“What is it with that horse?” Kristian asked, “I can’t say I’ve ever known a horse who has such a dislike of chickens, I swear he’d kill them if he could catch ‘em.”

Tessie snatched up the geldings reins as he bared his teeth at one, particularly courageous rooster, “I have no idea, but it’s a nuisance.”

“It’s damn funny, that’s for sure, though I’d hate to see what would happen if he actually got hold of one.”

The street gradually widened and the hotel appeared before them. Tessie was not heartened by her first glimpse of the two story building, she took in the broken plaster that was crumbling away from the bricks and the dirty, cracked window panes. She hoped that it was better inside. She reluctantly dismounted and held both horses while Kristian ran up the front steps and into the hotel. He returned moments later, grinning, “There’s one room left, “ he told them, “so I guess we’re going have to share. The good news, Tess, is that there’s a bath and they’re sending up the hot water right now.”

While Salim and Kristian saw to the horses, Tessie let herself be led up a dark and creaking staircase. She prayed that the one remaining room held more promise of comfort than the shadowy corridor and the rickety stairs but the door opened onto a large, clean room where a tin tub sat before the redundant fireplace. The window was open and a vague breeze whispered through the drapes. She cautiously pulled back the bed linen and was comforted by the fact that it was, indeed clean and the mattress yielded easily under her hand. A maid brought water and a screen was placed around the tub. With no sign of her companions, Tess undressed and slid gratefully into the water. She scrubbed away at the weeks of trail dust and grime until she emerged clean and glowing. She sat beside the open window and let the warm breeze dry her hair until her companions arrived, intruding on her peace.

“Is that water still warm?” Kristian asked.

“Yes, I believe so, although it’s not altogether clean.”

“I don’t care, Salim and I tossed for it, I’m first. You’d best cover your eyes.”

She turned her gaze, resolutely, to the window and tried not to remember the stable in Springer, “Don’t worry, I shan’t peek.”

Salim sank down, wearily, in the other chair and pulled off his boots, “It is good to sit in a chair for a change but I do not think I shall toss coins with Kristian again, he always wins, I think he is cheating.”

“I heard that”, there was an indignant splash from behind the screen, “You’re just sore because I got the girl and the bath.”

“You have not got the girl,” Tessie snapped, “It’s pretend, remember?”

”It ain’t pretend tonight, sweetheart, Salim has to sleep on the floor.”

“…and so do you.”

“Oh no, Princess, we share.”

She heard water dripping as he emerged from the tub and regarded her, with sharp, brown eyes, over the top of the screen, “We’re sharing.”

“I can’t sleep in the same bed as you!”

“Of course you can, you really don’t think I’d try anything do you, with Salim here to protect your honor? Hell, if I so much as touched you he’d run me through with that dagger he carries in his boot.”

Tessie looked at Salim, “You would?”

“Kristian is my friend but, he would be a very bad man to take advantage of you. We promised Mrs. Clooney that we would protect you and that is my intention.”

What alarmed Tessie was that the usual gleam of good humor was gone from Salim’s eyes, she realized that he was quite serious. “It’s all right, “ she ventured to touch his arm, “I can take care of myself, don’t worry. I believe that your friend here is having a joke at our expense. It’s best not to encourage that sort of humor.”

“Perhaps you are right.” He rose, “Now it is my turn for the bath?”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From the trunk

Well, Bryn started it. She posted a bit of random crap from her random crap folder. So, being a shameless copycat, I sorted through my stuff and decided to post this. It's from a trunked historical/western/romance. I'll probably get round to finishing it one of these days, when my brain stops giving me other ideas for other books.


Have you ever used one of these?” Kristian pulled a revolver from his belt.

Tessie eyed the gun with unease, “No.”

“It’s about time you learned,” he told her and placed it in her hand, “It’s ok, it’s not loaded.”

Instinctively, her hand curled around the butt, it felt cool and smooth to the touch.

“There isn’t much to shoot at, but you need some practice. Salim is looking for something for you to shoot at.”

She looked across the camp to where Salim was kicking through the grass. He stooped and picked up a piece of branch, about as thick as a leg, “There isn’t much around. This will have to do,” He dragged it away from the camp and fiddled about, trying to rest it upright against a rock. In the end, he succeeded and the branch rose out of the grass like a crooked finger that pointed to an evening sky flushed pink and streaked with thin, silvery horsetails of cloud. Tessie was more entranced by the sunset than the prospect of firing a gun.

Her instructor retrieved the weapon, “Watch me,”

She tore herself away from the sky and tried to follow Kristian’s instructions.

“This is where the bullets go, it holds six, as you can see, this is now loaded,” he pulled one of the bullets out and gave it to her. She held it gingerly in the cup of her palm.

“Now put it back in the chamber.” He slipped the cylinder back into place and it was a gun again. “With your thumb you pull this back, this is the hammer, and this means that you’re now ready to pull the trigger." Arm out and, with one eye closed, hetook aim at the target,.“The hammer and the notch at the end of the barrel should line up at the target." He pulled the trigger. The gun’s echoing report sent a flock of birds screeching and wheeling out of the grass and the acrid tang of cordite made Tessie’s eyes water. The target quivered as the bullet tore through it leaving a wisp of sawdust and smoke lingering in the air.

“Now, you try.” He handed her the revolver, “Don’t worry, I’m going to help you.” He stood behind her and slipped his arms around her. Tessie tried not to tremble and she wasn’t sure whether it was because of the gun or because of the unaccustomed nearness of a man. “Hold your arm out straight,”

She did and the gun felt heavy and unsteady. Instinctively, she brought her other hand forward to support it.

“Good girl.” Kristian’s breath was warm against her cheek. “Now, the hammer.”

The hammer tripped back with a satisfying click and his hand covered hers. "Line up the hammer and the notch.”

Following his example, Tessie closed one eye and took aim.

“Pull the trigger.” His forefinger nudged hers.

She drew a deep breath and pulled. The noise and the recoil took her by surprise. She stumbled back against her teacher, coughing from the smoke.

“How’d she do, Salim?”

Salim held his arms wide. “She missed by about this much.”

“Not bad.” Kristian patted her shoulder. “Let’s try again.”

Tessie steadied herself and raised the gun. The branch seemed more like a twig but she was determined to show that, if the need arose, she would be able to hold her own.

“Are you ready?”


“This time, “ he murmured. “You’re on your own, I’m just going to keep you steady.”

She bit her lip, cocked the hammer, took hard, cold aim and squeezed the trigger, braced for the recoil. This time she did not stumble and the top of the branch dissolved in a fierce shower of shattered bark.

“Well done, “ Kristian clapped her on the shoulder, “We’ll make a cowgirl of you yet.”

Tessie grinned and handed him the gun, “As it happens, my father had a gun like this, he taught me to shoot.”

The look on his face was well worth the deception but she resisted the urge to tell him to close his mouth before the flies got in. Salim, meanwhile, was almost bent double from laughing as she walked back to the campfire, sat down and returned to watch the sunset. When Kristian returned he, wordlessly, rummaged through his saddlebag and handed her a worn and cracked belt and holster. “Wear this, and, “he passed her the revolver, “You can look after this for me. I have another.”

“Thank you.”

He shook his head. “I guess that was your revenge for the whiskey.”

She put the gun in the holster. “I guess so.”

“Serves you right, “ Salim was still chuckling, “I believe that Tessie has the measure of you, my friend.”

“You are a deep one, Tess, that’s for sure.”