Image Prompt 048 Response – Broken Down

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I chose the picture of the couch in the snow for my twenty-minute sprint this week.

Broken Down:

Caleb walked along the side of the rode with his arms wrapped around himself.  The snow was still falling slowly down around him as he trudged along.  He was glad for his thick winter boots and his heavy winter coat, but even than wasn’t much help when he’d been out in the swirling snow for more than two hours.  He hadn’t realized how far in the middle of nowhere he was when he decided to walk toward civilization instead of staying with his car.

It had probably been the right decision because he still had a dead battery in his phone and he hadn’t seen a single car on the long stretch of highway he’d walked so far.  He knew his aunt lived in the boonies, but hadn’t expected his car to die half way between town and her place.

He crested a hill and paused at the top.  There were some buildings ahead, that he didn’t actually remember passing on the way down.  Maybe he hadn’t been looking far enough from the highway?  Or maybe he’d stumbled off the highway and was now hopelessly lost.  The buildings still seemed like a good bet.  They might have a land line he could borrow to call his aunt or a tow truck.

Caleb started down the hill, still walking along the road, which was nominally cleared, so that he wasn’t wading through the foot-deep snow.

As he got closer to the little cluster of buildings, he saw a brown leather couch sitting in front of the fence near the road.  It was covered in snow like everything else, but it still looked so inviting.  Caleb shook his head.  He wasn’t that tired.  He didn’t need to sit down on a couch in the snow.  With his luck, he’d fall asleep and end up dying of exposure.

Just past the couch was a wooden gate that stood open at the end of what looked like a gravel driveway.  It wasn’t cleared of snow enough for a vehicle, but he could see furrows that meant a human being had been up to the mailbox and back some time in the last day, so Caleb followed the tracks down the drive toward the buildings.

As he approached, Caleb could see that the closer building was a barn, followed by something else that was probably another barn or a storage shed of some kind.  Past that another hundred yards or so was an old farm house.

The barn was closed up tight, but Caleb could smell animals as he walked past it.  A working farm would have people around.  No family would abandon their livestock even for a storm like this.  Hope made Caleb move a little faster as he trudged through the snow toward the house.

There were three steps up from the drive to the porch of the farm house.  There were two pickup trucks and a little sedan parked off to one side, and Caleb thought he saw light coming around the curtains of one of the front rooms. He knocked his boots together to get the bulk of the snow off them and shook his coat out on the first stair, then climbed up onto the porch.  It was a big wide, wraparound style with a couple rocking chairs on one end and a porch swing on the other.

The mat at the door said welcome, which Caleb hoped was promising.  He raised his hand and knocked.

“Was Manny planning to come by or something?” Caleb heard someone call from inside.

“Not that I know of,” someone called back.  Through the door it was hard to tell anything about the voices.

Caleb smiled when the door opened, pushing his hood back and hoping he didn’t look threatening.

The young woman who opened the door looked utterly confused.  She was a little under five feet tall with her brown hair pulled back in a braid, wearing jeans and a heavy gray sweater.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” Caleb said.  “My car broke down, and I was hoping you had a phone I could use since mine’s dead.”

“Dad,” The girl yelled over her shoulder.

“Who is it, hon?” her father asked as he walked up behind her.  He was definitely her father.  They had the same nose and the same pale blue eyes, but he was over six feet tall with thickly muscled arms shown off by the blue t-shirt he wore with his jeans.

Caleb repeated his apology and request to use a phone.  “I was on my way to see my aunt when the storm caught up with me.  I hadn’t expected the snow until this evening and then my car died.”

“Come on in out of the cold,” the man said.  “We’ll get you sorted out.”

“Thank you, sir,” Caleb said in relief.

The man opened the storm door and Caleb stepped inside, the warm air making his cheeks hurt and his eyes water.  He blinked trying to see, and managed to identify a neat line of shoes beside a bench next to the door as well as his host’s bare feet peeking out below his jeans.

Caleb sat down on the bench and pulled his boots off, not wanting to track snow through the kind man’s house.

“You can leave your coat on the bench and follow me to the kitchen,” the man said.

“Thank you very much, sir,” Caleb replied.  He stood up, careful to avoid the snow already melting off his boots, and shed his jacket.

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2018 Writing Year in Review

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It’s been an overall very productive year.  I’m much happier looking back at my 2018 writing year than I was looking back at my 2017 writing year.  There was a lot of busy and a lot of stress, so there was less writing overall than I wanted in 2018, but I did make a lot of progress on the second Swords and Shields book and I’m hopeful that I can get it in shape to hopefully start on copy editing and cover design some time in 2019.

I’ve also gotten a good amount of drafting done this year.  I reread my 2018 NaNoWriMo draft recently, and I think it actually turned out to be a good zero draft.  I originally wrote it more as an exercise in happy storytelling and something to de-stress with during the craziness that NaNoWriMo as a local leader is.  I’m quite pleased that it’s turned out to be as good a basis for a solid story as it is.

The thing I’m proudest about this past year with my writing is the work I’ve completed on Swords and Shields book two.  I did a good amount of work on it last year, and then received my feedback from beta readers leading up to the new year.  I spent several months reorganizing, replotting, and then rewriting the entire book.  I think only one or two scenes survived largely intact.  Thanks to an amazingly ruthless red pen from one beta reader (thank you so much Paige!), I was able to really trim down the unnecessary parts and rewrite only what was truly needed.  The next set of beta readers has the draft now and hopefully I’ll have what I need to do one final heavy revision pass and then I can move on to finer details and then get things rolling for copy editing, cover design, and getting the book out into the world.

That is definitely my main writing goal for 2019.  To that end I’ve joined a habit goal community for 2019, but I’ll share a bit more about that in the new year.

The work on book two has been the bulk of my writing work for 2018, so I don’t have much else to discuss here, but it’s been a lot of very productive work and the book is so much better than it was thanks to my wonderful beta readers’ help.

I hope you’ve all had wonderful productive years in writing, or whatever you do and that you’ve continue the journey with me into next year.  May you all enjoy the last week of the year and have a lovely New Year’s.

Image Prompt 047 Response – The Final Step Beyond

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I selected the image of the tower in Ireland for my sprint this week.  Twenty-minutes of writing and a quick copy edit later left me with the below scene.  Enjoy!

The Final Step Beyond:

Cillian sat on his headstone and waited.

Well, sat was a bit of a stretch.  He hovered just above his tombstone positioned like he was sitting.  It was as close as he could manage these days.  At first, he’d been able to interact a bit with the physical world, but now that he’d been dead for more than a century, he passed through pretty much everything, inanimate or animate.

It made for an exceptionally boring life most of the time.

At least he could still people watch.  It was by far the best thing about his particular graveyard.  It was a famous old church, or the ruins of it anyway.  There were always busloads of tourists wandering around.  He might not be able to interact with them, but he could still see and hear them.

Today there seemed to be about four different groups milling around.  One bus had off loaded about thirty white-haired elder types.  The next had a wide range of ages, including children, many of whom wore the same shirt.  He thought it was an advertisement for some kind of religious group.  The third might have been some kind of class trip.  They at least all had British accents of some kind or another.  The fourth was the smallest group, with only about a dozen, mostly in their teens and twenties.  They’d gotten off a smaller, dirtier, yellow bus.

None of the groups seemed to interact with the others.  They only spoke to people in their own group.  He watched them all take pictures and point at things, but most of them stayed up near the still intact parts of the building.  Only a few of those from the last group in the little yellow bus came down to walk among the graves.

Cillian noticed that people didn’t seem to have much respect for graves anymore.  They walked along not carrying where their feet were or whether they were standing over someone’s final resting place.  Granted, the paths weren’t maintained any longer, and the world seemed far less religious than it had been in his day, but it made his sad to watch people walk over so many graves without any concern at all.

That’s why it was so fascinating when he saw one of them purposefully walking along the bounds of the graves.  She kept her eyes on her feet to make sure she was stepping properly between resting places, never disturbing those who might have been resting below, or as Cillian above, their last place of peace.

She walked all the way down to the wall, stopping there so she could take pictures of the tower.

Cillian floated up a little, turning so he could continue watching her.  It had been decades since he’d seen anyone care about where they stepped.

She lowered her camera and turned back toward the graveyard.  Her eyes swept across the grassy area before coming to rest on Cillian’s headstone.  He knew she had to be looking at the stone, because it looked so much like she was looking at him, but that wasn’t possible.  No one could see him.  That wasn’t how the afterlife worked.

She raised her camera again and took another photo before she started picking her way across the graveyard once more.  Cillian watched as she approached his grave, carefully walking between the others until she was standing close enough to read his tombstone.

“Cillian O’Brien,” she said aloud.  “Is that who you are?” she asked, looking Cillian in the eye.

Cillian stared at her.  Surely she was just being fanciful.

“Can’t you talk?” she asked.

“You think you could hear me?” Cillian replied.

“Of course I can hear you,” she answered, smiling at him.

“No one’s ever heard me before,” Cillian said.

“Really?” she asked.  “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Cillian just stared at her.

“It must mean this country has been without a guardian for some time,” she added.  “I’m glad they sent me along.”

“Guardian?” Cillian asked.

“Yes, a guardian,” she replied.  “Humans seem to think we’re some kind of special angel.  But really, we’re just caretakers for those who have taken the first step beyond.”

“Never heard of them,” Cillian replied.  Was he actually having a conversation with a living person?

NaNoWriMo, Process, and December Writing Goals

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I’m very proud of my efforts during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year.  I talked about that last week.  This week, I want to talk about NaNoWriMo in the greater context of my writing process.

Writing is a process.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you different.  That process also looks different for each and every author.  Some do more planning up front.  Some are like me and Terry Pratchett who said “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”  Some struggle over drafts and relish the chance to edit.  Others (like me) love the drafting process and get bogged down during revisions and edits.

My writing process is cyclical.  I’ll draft for a while, edit for a while, draft for a while, then edit some more.  I’ll also cycle between projects.  I draft project 3, then work on editing and revising project 2, then draft project 4 and then move on to another round of edits for project 1 or 2 or perhaps jump into editing project 3.  It’s not nearly as consistent as that, and the time period for each part varies greatly.  I might draft for a few weeks then edit for a few months or vice versa. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

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Today is the very last day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  I wrote 67,831 words in 29 days, passing the 50,000 word mark (with 5,0005 words at time of validation) on November 22, 2018.  I’m spending most of today continuing to write my story in the hopes that I can reach “The End” before midnight.

It’s been a turbulent November this year.  I’m part of the Municipal Liaison team for my area (ML is a fancy term for an unpaid volunteer).  There are three of us.  The region is active enough that it needs three of us.  Due to work demanding time, energy, and overtime, for one co-ML and the other ending up sick not once but twice during November, I was a solo act for possibly half the month.  I know this was no fault of theirs, and I love them both dearly for doing as much as they did while overwhelmed with work/illness.  It just meant more time being an ML and slightly less time for writing. Continue reading

Image Prompt 046 Response – The Watcher

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I picked the image of the tunnel for my sprint this time around.  I was writing this during a write-in and we were doing ten minute sprints, so I wrote this in two sections and decided to try out two narrators.  A quick copy edit later, and you have the below scene.  I hope you enjoy.

The Watcher:

Xavier stood at the end of the tunnel waiting for the last of the daylight to fade.  None of it could reach him as long as he stayed near the door.  Melinda had warned him not to walk very far.  Even indirect light could be harmful.  It had been years since he’d seen even this much sunlight in person.

As the sun set, the lights seemed to brighten in the tunnel, making it an almost cheerful place.  It wasn’t quite sunset yet when someone slipped into the tunnel from outside.  The figure wore a heavy coat with a voluminous hood, so Xavier could tell almost nothing about them as they slowly walked forward.

“Who’s there?” the hooded figure whispered when they noticed Xavier.

“A keeper of the watch,” Xavier replied.  That’s what Melinda had told him to say to anyone who came into the tunnel.  Those who answered appropriately were to be allowed inside.  Those who did not were to be run off if harmless or detained if a threat.

“It has been a long time since the watch was kept,” the hooded figure said.  The voice was still soft, it’s timber somewhere in the tenor range, which told Xavier precious little about who stood before him.

That wasn’t the answer Melinda had told him to accept, so Xavier tensed, ready to deal with this intruder as needed. Continue reading

The Worlds I’ve Created: Alimonhal

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World building is one of my favorite parts of the writing process.  I adore coming up with all the rules for the magic, the names for the places, and the different kinds of people that you’ll discover in my world.  A good 90% of my world building doesn’t even appear in a book anywhere, it’s just fascinating information I have to draw on as I’m creating new stories in that world.

With NaNoWriMo on the horizon, I’ve been looking back through some of my older work for inspiration, and I thought I’d share a bit with you about one of my oldest worlds.  Like many of my worlds, there are many stories I’ve written there, but none of them have ever made it out of my computer for very long.  There’s one world in particular that I’m incredibly fond of, but may never publish a story in.  This was my very first complete world building experience.  I called it Alimonhal. Continue reading