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.”