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 NaNoWriMo...my 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?”