Saturday, June 30, 2007

Friday Snippet

Okay, I'm just a little late!

This is part of the opening to a novel, Vita's Vengeance, which I have on my short list of t0-be-edited-real-soon-now material. I have one other partial novel to get done before it, and if I can just get past feeling awful and start concentrating on things again, there's a chance I'll get to it!

When I did the picture to the left, I had this novel specifically in mind, though not the scene I'm going to post here. This is somewhat long. I hope you enjoy it.


Alsandor ineffectually protested as the medtech held him down, his face pressed against the sofa's rough cushion.

"Problems?" someone asked.

"No sir, I can handle him," the woman said, her voice a harsh growl, and her hand pushing hard against the back of Alsandor's neck. "He's too drunk to be any real trouble."

She shoved an injector against Alsandor's neck with enough force to bruise. In the next heartbeat, something burnt through his body like fire rushing through blood -- and he went from dead drunk to so clear-headed sober it made him ill.

"Damn!" Alsandor growled as the stocky woman stepped quickly away.

He sat up, taking quick short breaths to fight away the queasiness. The small, private cabin of the shuttle stank of liquor. A bottle of something -- empty -- lay on the floor by his feet. He didn't see a glass. He hadn't drunk straight from the bottle had he?

Damn, damn. He hated this. Alsandor ran his hand through his long, snarled hair wondering how it could get so bad in the few short hours since he left the ship for the shuttle.

"Orders, sir," Captain Hanson said from the cabin's doorway. The man shifted from one foot to the other. "From Madame President herself."

Elisa's instructions -- of course. They wouldn't have dared treat him like this without a command from someone higher in authority than his own mere claim as co-owner of the ship line. Wealth, and the temporal power of the rich, meant nothing in the face of a dictate from his older sister, Madame President Elisa Vita Taren.

"Councilor Vita?"

Alsandor scowled at the title. It meant less here than it did in the council chambers in Kaiton, which was damned little enough.

"The shuttle lands in less than an hour," the Captain said when he looked up. "I trust you ready?"

"I've put enough Anticol in him that he can't get drunk again," the medtech said, an angry snarl of words as she went out the doorway.

"Ah, you see, Captain," Alsandor said, his voice soft and without rancor. He'd been trained all his life never to show his emotions, especially when it might be politically inappropriate. Always remember how it will reflect on Madame President. "I'll look quite presentable when we reach the capital."

The Captain nodded, and left the private VIP cabin with the frowning medtech a step behind him. "Such a damn waste," she said out in the hall. "Why does she bother --"

The door slid shut, saving Alsandor from listening to the familiar tirade: Why does President Elisa Vita Taren bother to keep him around, let alone appoint him as her advisor to the Kai Council?

Alsandor knew the answer, and it was a shame no one bothered to ask him. She kept Councilor Alsandor Vita because he did anything she asked -- Voted for what she wanted, researched what she needed, and said what she wanted said when it was ill-advised for her to do so. No other politicians in her cadre could be quite as well trusted, even among her most ardent followers. Elisa wasn't a fool. She knew the worth of a brother who had learned to let her run his life at a very early age.

People asked why she bothered to keep him around, but no one asked why he stayed. It was probably just as well. He had no blithe, easy answer.

A cleaning bot scurried out from the wall and grabbed the bottle and the glass wedged under the sofa. See the glass was a small salve for his pride.

A glance at the desk's comp display confirmed what the Captain had said. Dasan completely filled the screen with blue mountains, green and brown farmlands, and the rugged coastline lining the wide aqua sea. The Sofi Islands slipped over the edge of the screen as he watched.

He wished Elisa had given him a little more credit for not being stupid. Before he started drinking he'd taken a timed Anticol dosage. In fact, it kicked in as he thought about it, redoubling the headache with enough force to make him gasp and close his eyes, waiting for the drug's first wave to burn through. He would have been completely sober when he reached the port without her interference. This had been intended as his last -- and private -- binge, banished with Anticol before he stepped out in public.

He wondered if he would hold to his resolve this time. It had been easier, away from the pressures he faced here, not to drink.

The war is coming. His mission to ask aid of the Inner Worlds Council had been a total -- though not unexpected -- failure. The IWC hadn't helped the other Aquila Fringe worlds of Jade, Milanda or Enil, either. Nevertheless, Elisa sent him. It had been tedious, futile work, done for the sake of propriety and nothing more. They couldn't leave such an obvious stone unturned for her political enemies to exploit when she most needed everyone's cooperation.

General Jarak wouldn't have much trouble taking Dasan. The Kai and Anon Districts, still embroiled in their perpetual border dispute, prepared for the larger war but hadn't come to terms with each other -- dividing any strength they might have had. The Sofi Islands remained quiet and neutral, and the half dozen other, smaller districts couldn't have gathered enough military forces to fend off an invasion of cleaning bots.

Restless now, as well as sober, Alsandor watched a few minutes of the Vidline feed, grimacing at the sight of Jarak everywhere in the news. He'd grown tired of looking at the man. Besides, Jarak looked too much like his daughter, Idela. At the unwelcome thought of his wife, Alsandor reached toward the liquor case, and stopped with a curse, remembering why he had such a headache.

Maybe he'd get lucky and Idela had finally gone home to Verdi during his long trip to the Inner Worlds. He didn't know why she'd held on for the last two years despite her obvious dislike for Dasan, and her hatred for him.

And why hadn't he let go? Ah, he easily answered that one: because Elisa, who had suggested he marry Idela, had not yet bothered to suggest he divorce her.

Damn bitter thoughts and he shook his head, welcoming the bite of pain from the headache because it chased away the other thoughts. He grudgingly turned to the work of looking presentable for the people who would judge Elisa by his behavior.

When the shuttle disembarked at the Kaiton Port, Alsandor Vita passed the Captain at the airlock with a friendly, parting smile. Hanson looked surprised and then pleased. Vita charm -- it was one of the few things Alsandor could honestly say he had in common with Madame President. He also shared so much of the same facial features that he'd taken to wearing a short beard and longer hair in attempt to end the constant comments about how much he looked like his sister.

The short walk down the well-lit corridor took him to the port's entry gate. A group of second-string local reporters had turned out to meet him. Obviously, it was a slow news day.

Alsandor straightened his jacket and hurried to the semi-opaque glass of the scanning arch where the computer verified his identity. Scan lights blinked, held, and blinked again, showing the machine had been set for the highest priority, although the full genescan took several seconds longer to complete. People would complain, of course. For Alsandor, though, this proved the first real indication of serious trouble on Dasan. Something had changed since he left ten months before.

He started to step out of the scan booth when a small screen came on, and he found himself unexpectedly looking at his sister. She sat at her desk, shuffling through some papers. The words recorded message flashed in small red letters at the bottom left.

She looked up at him. "San, I checked the schedule and see your shuttle will be down in time for today's council meeting. Try not to be late."

The picture faded. No words of welcome. No hint that she was glad to see him back. A please would have been nice.

"Scan and messages are completed. Please move on."

The computer was more polite than his sister. He looked over his shoulder to gauge the distance back to the shuttle. He owned the damned craft. The crew couldn't turn him away.

The computer chimed on again. "Please state the nature of your problem so we may summon proper aid."

A half dozen answers sprang to mind, of which I hate my life seemed the most appropriate. However, he moved forward into the lobby's main room, with the redstone floor and the pristine white walls. The chairs where people waited for flights were mostly empty but the place still seemed busy. Guards stood in a few locations -- more than had been on duty when he left Kaiton.

Alsandor stepped into view of the reporters with a smile set on his face. He buried the anger at Elisa's message along with any feeling of despair, before the reporters could see it in his eyes.

They asked a flurry of the usual questions, to which he gave the equally usual, meaningless answers. Excellent trip, no problems. No sign of trouble. I am not at liberty to discuss the mission before I report to Madame President.

He started to turn away, preparing to go to Council. He had wisely written his report before the ship slipped into the system, and had spent an hour on the shuttle going over it before he opened the liquor cabinet.

His head pounded still.

"I suppose you're anxious to get home to your pretty wife," Bela from Kai Times said as the others started to pack up their equipment.

"She's still here, then?" he asked absently.

A chorus of laughter erupted from both the reporters and the few people gathered nearby. Idela would have his head.

"Yes, Idela Jarak Vita is still at the estate," Bela said. Alsandor could see her delight with the sound bite. "You're not anxious to get home?"

"Oh, I can't wait to get home," he quickly answered, and it was even true. He loved the estate. "But, alas, I've already had a message from Elisa to come to the Council Meeting. I had better get there before it's called to order. Thank you."

He gave a polite nod, ignoring her frown. He'd already given her more than enough to get him in trouble. He walked away, a quick but polite parting.

"What a surprise. Sober," Bela said loudly behind him.

He didn't allow his step to falter or the smile on his face to waver while the others watched. Elisa wouldn't like a scene within the hour of his return home. Which was why he wasn't drunk, of course.

Someone patted his arm. Alsandor smiled (always be polite, never bring disgrace to Elisa's name), but the man had already turned away. At least it had been a little show of kindness.

Alsandor walked another half dozen steps before he realized his arm hurt, and in the next breath the pain spread through his body. He paused in mid-step and his legs gave out. As he went to his knees he inanely thought the reporters would believe him drunk after all.

It hurt to breathe, and his sight blurred with each gasp. Guards arrived at a run, and a view of the familiar black uniforms reassured him. Safe....

When he started to fall forward a guard quickly knelt and caught his shoulders. The touch brought a fire-like pain through his arm, and it radiated through the rest of his body. He looked down to see his right hand already covered with tiny blisters.

Trine poison.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Off to have fun

I will be away from the house today. Russ and I are celebrating our 28th anniversary with a trip to a local wildlife refuge. (You can guess who made that choice, right?)

I'm looking forward to getting away from the house for a few hours. There's no telling how long this might take. Sometimes we're only gone for a few hours, and sometimes for most of the day.

I have camera ready and Russ is almost ready to go. This should be fun!
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Sunday, June 17, 2007

As close as I come to Writer's Block

I'm having problems getting the blood pressure down and to stay down. It's better today again. I'm really not doing too badly, but the ear problems have been driving me nuts. I think that's why the blood pressure goes up and down. And my eyes won't focus well, which is just annoying. Snarl. But it's all getting better.

I am having trouble concentrating. It's not that I can't write -- I'm managing several hundred words at a shot when I finally focus, but getting there is proving nearly impossible.

And becasue I can't focus, making logical next steps in stories is very difficult, even when I know what happens next. I know how Koya and his companion are going to escape in A Plague of Rats. What I can't seem to do is move to that point. It's very odd.

Having had this kind of trouble before, yesterday I finally realized what I needed to do. And it worked. At this point, I don't trust myself with the new material. No, more truth is that I don't want to work that hard right now. But I want to write. So what's the answer?

Pulling out a 25 year old manuscript and starting a rewrite from scratch. I don't really need another project, but this one is working, at least. I did more writing in an hour yesterday than I had done in the two previous days combined. I loved the characters and the concept -- magic gone wrong and tying several desperate people together as they try to escape from various troubles. The story is Those Who Seek Sanctuary. So far, it's going well. It's a good thing I pulled it out to redo it now, too. The original is from an old Atari computer and a much faded dot matrix print out. A few more years and I might not have been able to read it.

So, see, there's a reason to do this now.

I am also playing with art stuff. The picture above was done a week or so ago, and it's a painting based on a picture I took. I really liked how it turned out.

So there is my report. I'm doing better. I'm writing, just not on things I should be working on. I did get many things done for Vision yesterday, so I feel better about that. Russ will be home Thursday. Friday is our 28th anniversary, so we'll likely head to a refuge or something. (Russ is awful nice about going places I want to go for anniversaries!)

I have things to look forward to. I have writing to do. I have a silly Zaphod cat trying to climb over my work to get to my lap. He's HUGE!

So, off to do some writing and relax. Sounds good to me.
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Monday, June 11, 2007

Not well

I haven't been around much -- including missing Friday's Snippets -- because I was too ill to really do much of anything. Russ had been sick a couple weeks ago, and it looked as though I was coming down with the same thing. Unfortunately, it hit me in a different way, and my blood pressure went way high (210 over 180).

Trust me, when your blood pressure is that high, you're not much good for anything. I've barely written 500 words a day and spent most of my time in bed.

It's down about 60 points today, which means I will not be heading to the hospital. That's always good news. And I have blood pressure medications again, which I couldn't get for about two months -- also contributing to the problem, of course.

I am mostly really tired. I don't know that I'll be back for this Friday's rounds, either, though I hope to be better by then.

Meanwhile, I'm going to rest.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Ooops. Posted here by accident. Should have been in my Picture a Day blog, but I got in a hurry. Jean likes the picture, though. so it'll stay. (grin)
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Friday Snippet

I'm late tonight. Russ and I went out for a very late dinner. It was an unintentional celebration -- it wasn't until we were talking about how strange life has gotten that I realized we had moved in together thirty years ago on May 1st. We married a year later in June.

We laughed about some things. (For some reason, he'd seemed to think my saying that I'm not hard to live with was very funny. We may have to discuss that some time.) We had a serious discussion about how difficult things have gotten over the last few years since he can't find a full time job. We're holding on, but there are times when it's difficult.

But we left holding hands and drove home. I've been working on getting the 2YN class stuff done, and now I'll post just a little bit of the story that still isn't done. No Beast So Fierce is now somewhere around 22,000 words. I can see the ending at least, though I'm still not certain how long it will take me to get there.

Here's a little tidbit. Bancroft is someone who is an unwilling ally, and who doesn't really trust Toli or Del all that much.


"We need to know where they are taking the others," I finally said, and he looked my way, glaring. "Until then, all we have is my word, Bancroft. Would you really go in and try to arrest these ten on my word alone? On my word and Del's trust in me? That's all it's ever been. I could not go to authorities without anything concrete. I had hoped to get more by following them."

"Why? Why do you follow them? What does it matter to you?"

"It's always mattered to me," I said. "It's what I do, Bancroft, for much the same reason you do your work, and why Del is so good at her own."

"I don't trust people who work outside the law."

"Except for Del," I said.

He turned that glare on me again, but I had made my point. And I really didn't think we had time to sit around debating this. I had, finally, a plan.

"We need bait," I said and lifted the knife I'd used for dinner.

"Toli, don't --"

I slashed along the inside of my palm -- not very deep, and just a quick sting. It bled. I nodded to Del, who had gone white, and Bancroft who looked startled. I wrapped the cloth napkin around it, though not so tight that the blood didn't seep through.

"Let me get to them before you follow," I said, starting to stand.

"Toli --"

"Watch the group, Bancroft," I said, looking at him. "You'll at least get an idea of which ones to keep an eye on."


I nodded, and turned away, crossing toward the men's room. I wound my way right past the table of vamps, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw all their heads turn toward me as they picked up the scent of fresh blood. I caught myself on the arm of one, leaving a taint of blood there.

"Sorry," I said, and hurried on.

I heard their breaths catch, and chairs move as I went past. I didn't look back to see who followed me, for good or bad.

Once upon a time, in the age of gilded glory that gave us Raphael and Michelangelo, I had gotten careless and... well, stupid. I had been hunting a clan of vampires for a decade -- an unusually cagey group with a bit more smarts than most. They traveled a great deal, and in those days it was easy to slip from place to place without drawing attention. We all traveled. I still missed so slow, leisurely trips where boats plied the Mediterranean, slipping into a new port each night, and sailing again with the dawn.

Ah, but the tale.

I decided the best way to finally trap the vampires was to set myself up as bait. I cut myself in the leg -- not deep, but enough that I cursed with each step, and left a thin line of blood from the edge of an alley where I knew they were sometimes seen and off into the dark of the night.

They came for me. They came in force, and the numbers doubled as other local vampires joined them, and I learned for the first time that my blood was not quite like that of other humans. They had always come to me before, but I had not considered it more than normal. I had not hunted vampires in this largue a group, either. Now I saw something different. The scent of my blood drew them like a starving man to a feast.

I survived because I changed, bit and tore at everything that came near me, and finally ran. But I bled and they followed, and it was two days before I got to the Tiber River on a stormy night and swam -- upstream, not down, where they expected me. The river water diluted the scent.

I nearly died before I dragged myself out of the water -- I had to change to do it, and almost couldn't, I had lost so much strength. Oh, I thought the locals, being Roman and found of wolves in their own ways, might care for me in that form, but I needed hands to grab and drag myself out. And then I had to find and steal clothing, or else go to the wolf again -- a naked man running through the streets wasn't going to get the same reaction as a wolf.

The first cloth I found, I bound every wound I had. Then I headed out of Rome. It was nearly twenty years before I returned and finally dealt with the group, though I took it slowly this time.

I couldn't give up the hunt, you see. It's part of me... I must hunt. And so I have made a deal with the wolf and we only hunt one prey: Vampires.

And so, here I was... still on the hunt, and still doing stupid things.

"Are you hurt?" a soft, beguiling voice said next to me. They're quick and they're quiet, the vampires.

I looked back at her and offered a little smile. "Nothing serious."

"Oh, but you're bleeding," she said. The tip of her tongue came to the edge of her teeth, very nearly licking her lips. "Here, let me help."

Her long, fingered hand reached toward my wrist. I knew the kind of power in that deceptively fragile looking hand and I drew back at the last moment.

"Is he all right?" another voice asked, coming up to the other side.

They were starting to encircle me. I took a step to the side, putting the two women closer together where I could keep an eye on them. One of the males came to join them, and then another, and we were going to have quite a little crowd here soon and draw attention if they didn't move soon.
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