Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Meeting: The Rives and the Overground

This short story became part of the backstory for the first two Keita's Wings books. Two small groups of minor characters, one from each book, meet in secret out in the desert...

Nomelands, near Misia village, year 223

Four pairs of already gritty hands thrust into the sand as their owners giggled and told stories. Ruby was the first to discover that the sand could be shaped, and so, naturally, she was in charge. Lucy, deemed old enough to help shape the castle, was doing most of the giggling and story-telling, while Ruby’s little sister Amber was relegating to moat digging. Her clever hands scooped and piled, creating bridges and lookouts, wide ponds for fishing and narrow channels that would have held the water, if they had any to spare on these things. Clarence was not invited to help, but he was more interested in dumping sand on his own head, where his blonde curls clung to it and refused to let go.

Under the shade of a nearby cottonwood tree, two mothers kept watch. Opal, too young to be their mother but trying anyway, scanned the empty desert for tale-tell dust plumes that would give away enemy patrols. This was second nature to the 16-year-old, so much so that she could keep watch for enemies and observe the children at the same time. Ruby and Amber had had few enough joyful moments, as Opal and her friends sought some way to keep them and other abandoned children safe.

Helena, once princess of Lectranis, leaned against the tree’s trunk, her eyes fastened on her children as she and Opal talked about nothing in particular. Hands that had once been fair were spattered with calluses and small burns and scrapes, yet they waved with enthusiasm as she spoke. Her homespun trousers and short hairstyle would have shocked her parents, but Helena was always good at doing things her own way.

A step further away, where distance muted the shrieks and laughter of the children, two men conducted business. Sandy, barely out of boyhood, wiped unkempt hair from eyes that shone with newborn hope. Luke Rives smiled with his whole face, a perfect match to his little daughter Lucy, now adding a creosote stick for a castle flag. The men shook hands, Sandy with a hand brown and leathery from exposure to the harsh desert sun, Luke’s broad with crescents of dirt under each nail.

A scream louder than the rest grabbed all attention. Clarence was stomping on what had been a carefully sculpted sand castle, and three girls circled around, howling, unwilling to forgive but not quite ready for retribution among so many witnesses. The theatrics demonstrated to the women that the gathering was over. They separated into two groups, bid farewell, and disappeared into the dusty landscape.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Brian's Game

Brian and Keita, the main couple from Keita's Wings, meet for the first time in this prequel to The Spectra Unearthed

Brian could have sensed the three girls’ emotions even without his abilities. They fidgeted, kicked at the ankle-deep meadow grass, looked anywhere but at him. Their brothers, who had come to the annual meeting in the previous years, called the Summit the dullest place on earth, even after Brian told them that boredom was a sign of a dull mind. The girls were not bored. They were uneasy, angry, even scared, but not bored.


Brian grabbed a coin from his pocket and flung it into the grass between them. The nearest girl, Keita Sage, leapt backward. Her bright green eyes fastened on his face, and for a moment she looked like she might attack—or just bolt into the grass and never be seen again. But the look faded, and she quickly turned away again.


“Would you like to play a game?” Brian asked.


Zuri, who he’d met last year, met his gaze. “I’m willing to try,” she said.


He pointed to the coin. “The person who best lifts that into the air and holds it steady wins.”


The new girl Carli, who had been staring wistfully at the surrounding walls, turned toward him. Her expression was still dangerously angry, but a hint of a competitive smile haunted the corners of her mouth. She raised her arms, and the tops of the grass began swirling, pointing this way and that. A sudden wind broke off blades and sent them swirling in circles, faster and faster, until the coin was swept upward. It rose to shoulder height, tumbled about by the wind. Carli gave a satisfied smile. The winds dispersed, and the coin dropped.


“Does that count as steady?” Zuri asked.


Carli scowled. “You do it then.”


“I didn’t mean to criticize,” Zuri said, but she stepped forward. Like Carli, she raised her arms before she began, but instead of rushing wind, a stream of water shot from the ground, launching the coin into the air. Brian didn’t flinch as droplets sprinkled his legs and arms—he’d seen her brothers do the same. The coin floated for a moment, held up by the water, and then it fell.


Brian looked at Keita. “Want a turn?”


Her eyes narrowed. “You go first.”


He hesitated, but saw no way out of it. He bent down, picked up the coin, and held it flat in his palm.

For a moment the girls stared. Than Zuri began to laugh. “That doesn’t count!” Carli cried.


“Why not?”


She sputtered but couldn’t seem to come up with an answer.


“So, Brian wins?” Zuri asked.

“Not yet.”


Keita’s expression was as hard to read as all Sprites, but something in her eyes was twinkling. She dug her bare toes into the earth. For a moment nothing happened. Then the grass stems began to change. Brian stepped back as they thickened, stretching toward the pale mountain sunshine. Keita stepped forward, took the coin from his hand, and set it on top of the hardened grass stalks. It stayed, unmoving.


“All right,” he said. “You win.”

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I Was Blind

 This is a poem I wrote after attending a Sunday School lesson about Jesus healing the man who was blind.

So many types.
Light and dark, bright and dull.
I have no words for these things.
Which color is blue?
So this is a sky.

So many movements.
People hurdling, hurdling, hurdling by.
Voices question, threaten, accuse.
I hear the anger, the fear, in the voices.
Now the feelings have faces.

A face stops.

A face I could not have seen,
A face I know.
I know His voice, the man called Jesus.
The man they say feeds, heals, makes whole.
The man who mended me.
He calls himself the Christ.

I was blind.
Now I see.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Rusty's Story

I wanted to write a short story about Rusty, a minor character from The Spectra Unearthed (Keita's Wings book 1) but he was not cooperating. He did at least give this interview to little Mason Smelt.

Me? What do you want to know about me for? I haven’t left this place in forty years—nothing interesting happens to me. Sure, I’ve heard plenty, seen plenty, and I can tell you about those. Want to hear about your uncle’s escape from the dungeon he grew up in? What do mean, he’s already told you? Well, you’re not hearing anything more interesting than that from me.

Yes, that’s true, I haven’t always lived at the hidden palace. I started out in the capital city. I was the youngest son of the Nome king. Ha, didn’t know we’re related, did you? Yep, we’re… let me see… your father’s father’s father’s brother… oh, forget it. I wouldn’t want you calling me uncle anyway.

What do you mean, finish the story? I told you already I don’t have much of a story. My parents wanted to make sure they had plenty of spare princes, just in case, and so I ended up the youngest of six boys. And what do you know, every single one of them lived. Good for them, not so good for me. Some of mixed with the nobility. One bought a mine down south and became the richest of all of us… oh, the fights he had with your grandpa… great-grandpa… whatever… all about taxes and regulations and all sorts of big words. Nah, that wasn’t for me. I liked playing nobility sometimes, but all the time? I don’t think so. Now that was power. I could play nobility like the best of them, looking down my nose and talking big and wearing the right fashions. And inside I’m laughing my head off at the ridiculousness of it all. I could play servant pretty good too. Acted as Seven’s butler one day and he didn’t even notice the difference. Seven? That’s Clayton the Seventh. My oldest brother. You’re lucky they lost that tradition, eh? Want to be Tanner the second? Steiner the third? Oh, right… that is awkward… well, never mind.

Some other old geezer ran the hidden palace back then. Don’t remember his name at all, he was the kind of guy who didn’t do anything, just told everyone else how to do it. But when I was in my twenties, he passed away, and I saw an opportunity. To manage the palace would be perfect. I could play nobility in front of the visitors, a servant behind closed doors, and then have long quiet stretches without any visitors at all when I could be whatever I wanted. And the stories I hear! The people I’ve met! I tell you, this is the perfect job. Convincing my parents wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that. I couldn’t just outright ask, not them. You think your Pa’s bad with the formality, you should have seen mine! Tanner’s a cushion next to the old rulers. So I had to go about it very carefully, putting hints in all the right places, very carefully…

Wait a minute, what am I doing? Teaching you to manipulate your elders? Oh no, I don’t think so. Going to get me in trouble, that’s what you’re going to do. No, no, not another word. Not a one. Not unless you want to hear some other story. Want to hear about when I entertained a pair of Stygians under this roof? What do you mean you’ve already heard it? And don't call me uncle.

April Fools?

  I woke up at about 6 am this morning because my kids wanted to celebrate April Fool's Day, starting with setting off alarms on all of ...