Monday, August 28, 2017
On August 1, I started the rewrite of Singer & St. Jude 1: The Lost Cause. This book has already been published by Double Dragon, but I asked for the rights back because I wanted to move the story about a hundred years into the future and use the series (there are several more that have not been published) as the starting point for the Inner Worlds Council Universe. The books introduce two important factors for many of the later works. The first is the introduction of the psis and their powers, as well as the fear that moves a lot of humans against them. The second is the start of the organization that later becomes the Old World Morals Society, a group much like the Far Right of today with their insistence on people living in ways they have decided are correct.
So I started the work. The rewrite has been going very well, in fact, at least on one level.
But something kept bothering me. Really nagging at me every time I sat down and started typing. I could not figure out what the problem was, however. So I kept working. I changed things, I nudged this and that. I liked a lot of what I got, but I felt something essential was missing.
Missing is the important word. What the story missed was a sense of the future. I had a few terms and a couple gadgets. I had a reason why this particular area of the world would not be as advanced as other places, but even so, the story lacked a feel for the hundred and some years that had passed. I had, in fact, not done any real world building for the new version.
This is embarrassing. My favorite author wrote a lovely quote for me: A talented author with a gift for world building.
She said that about me. And here I sit with a story that might as well be taking place right now, except for the ruined city.
I am finishing out this rewrite to fix the rest of the plot problems. Then I will put the book aside and start thinking about how I might change things. I don't think I'll work on the novel again until next year -- which isn't that far away. I will, however, start looking at the world building aspects that I ignored.
Next up is the final run through on Tales of Grey Station 9. And outlines. Having trouble there, too.
But at least I finally figured out the problem with the current novel. I can deal with problems I see even if they take me a while to fix. The ones you simply can't find are the ones that will drive a writer crazy.
Friday, August 25, 2017
Dusty gave a cry of despair, the sound lost in the shouts from the others. She held the bag close and could feel Blue trembling. She wanted to reassure him. Even if he went back to the orcs, they would keep him alive. He'd be safe.
"There's more trouble. I don't know what it is, but a couple soldiers arrived and said they'd be talking to everyone. One was only a little ways behind me," the soldier said and looked at the door. "Shouldn't be long."
"More excitement than we ever had here," Happy said with a shake of her head.
Others had wandered back in again, the sound of voices growing louder. They wanted the person who had brought this on them. They would give back what was stolen. They would --
Someone knocked at the door. The soldier went to it, a hand on his sword. Dusty had turned to see, but at the same moment someone caught hold of her shoulder and began to viciously shake her.
"It's you!" Inis shouted. "You're the one! What did you steal, you little fool! What have you got in that bag!"
"Don't do that!" Dusty cried out in dismay as Inis grabbed the bag away and turned it upside down, shaking vigorously. Dusty gave such a cry of despair that the guards both pushed their way to her.
"Here now," the first guard said and took hold of Inis. "Let's take this calmly, shall we?"
"It's her!" Inis shouted. "She showed up right after the orcs left and she holds that ratty little bag like there's something in it. It's her that's caused us all this trouble!"
Blue must have held on tight inside the bag since he didn't fall out. Dusty tried to grab the bag back, but Inis held it out of reach. The guard looked sternly at Dusty now.
"Is this true, girl? Are you --"
The second guard had pushed in beside the man and gave a cry of surprise. "It's you! Your grandmother is sick with worry about you, Princess Destiny!"
Silence fell across the little room. Inis let go of the bag which fell to the floor with a thump. Dusty quickly knelt and grabbed it back. Time, she realized, for truth all the way around. She and Blue needed help.
"I hadn't meant for there to be this kind of trouble," she said as she stood. "We'd hoped that the orcs would go on for a few days before they noticed," she offered.
"We?" the new guard said. She recognized him from the castle and felt a huge welling of relief to see someone she knew. "Is someone helping you, Princess --"
"I --" Happy said and looked faint. One of the men took her by the arm and settled her on the stool by the table. "I -- I made a princess wash dishes and sleep on the hearth -- I --"
Inis went pale and looked as upset as her mother.
"You helped me," Dusty replied. She stood straight and tried to seem like a princess rather than a homeless child. "And if I'd told you I was Princess Destiny, you would have laughed at me. And rightly so."
Happy looked a little less frightened and more intrigued. Inis, though, apparently realized the sort of trouble she could be in for the way she'd treated Dusty. Under the circumstances, Dusty could hardly blame her for getting carried away.
"How did you come to be here?" the palace guard asked. "Did the orcs take you? We feared as much."
"I was in their wagon, but they didn't realize it." She looked around and shook her head. People stared at her, and she'd never liked to be on show. Dusty felt small, dirty, and far too unimportant for this much to be in her hands.
This was her responsibility. She'd made it so when she went to help the crying child. That seemed, in fact, a good place to start.
"I don't know why no one else heard the child crying," she admitted now. "He sounded terrified. I thought I would get to the cart, see if he really was in there, and then call the guards. The orcs, though -- they made so much noise and started moving almost immediately. I had to hide inside. There was no way to escape until we reached this village. We'd hoped that the orcs would go on for another day or two and by then I'd have found someone to take us back to the capital."
"Us?" the guard asked.
Dusty opened the bag and looked inside. "It's all right. We have help now. Are you okay, Blue?"
"Afraid," he whispered. "So many loud people!"
"You are safe." She held her hand down to him, and he took hold, his little fingers tight as she pulled him back up.
"Is -- is that --" Happy said softly.
"A baby dragon," Dusty said. "The orcs trapped him. So I had to get him free and back to his mother before she came looking for him. She'll track him you know and grow more frantic. There will be trouble if he isn't returned soon."
"Already trouble in the north," the guard admitted. "We didn't know why."
"I want to go home," Blue cried and scurried up to nestle near her neck She felt little dragon tears flowing against her skin.
"You will go home now, Blue," she promised. "We'll do our best to make you safe."
"Do you promise?" he asked, looking into her face.
"Yes, I promise," she said and even offered a smile.
"Ummm, Princess?" the palace guard said leaning a little closer. "Do you understand what he's saying?"
Dusty looked at the others in surprise. "The rest of you don't?"
She knew the answer from their startled looks. That changed things. Dusty dared not hand Blue over to someone to get him away as quickly as possible. He needed her. They must move carefully -- and quickly before the orcs found them.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Dusty had hoped that the orcs would go for at least a full day, maybe two, before they realized they were missing their most prized possession. Blue cried in fear and burrowed back into the bag even before she could say anything.
Which was good since Happy came out of her room, pulling a tunic into place and her hair in disarray. People began making sounds all through the building, but Dusty grabbed her bag and cowered back against the stone by the fireplace.
"You're safe, Dusty," the older woman said and even stooped to pat her shoulder. "I don't know what brought those monsters back, but I'm sure the others will sort it out."
Inis rushed into the kitchen, crying and hysterical. Watching her, Dusty realized she had to stop being so afraid. The fear made her want to run and hide, and she even wondered if she could get the door open and run before any of the others stopped her.
And that would be a very stupid thing to do.
Looking at the faces, though, she realized that telling everyone about Blue and what the orcs wanted wouldn't be a good idea, either. She saw desperate people, and she'd seen those types in the castle. They were apt to act on the moment and not think about the consequences of what would happen later. There would be dangerous consequences if Blue did not get back to his mother. She had no doubt the mother dragon could trace her child --
And that made sense out of what the orcs were doing! They wanted the dragon to rampage through the human lands, following the trail to her son. Humans might kill the mother dragon, but that would be even worse for them. Then the entire dragon empire would descend on the lands.
Dusty feared she'd already wasted too much time.
"Are the soldiers back do you think?" she dared to ask in a moment of silence.
"Good question, little one," a man said. "I'll go see what I can learn. Let me out the back and lock up again, ma'am. Not that the door would stop the orcs, you understand, but who knows what else might be going on? I'll knock three times when I return."
Happy had to pry Inis off of her, and Dusty feared the daughter would begin wailing again. Something told Dusty that Inis liked the attention. However, Inis must have started to realize the seriousness of the situation. The orcs still yelled, their voices alone shaking walls, though they'd stopped stomping their feet.
Did they really know this was where they'd lost the little dragon or was it a guess based on the last time they'd stopped on their journey? She had the feeling they didn't know, and better yet, she suspected they had no real way to track him. Dusty wished she could ask Blue what they might do to find him, but right now she moved back to the corner and sat while still holding tight to her bag.
"I don't care why their back. They wouldn't dare attack us, or they'd have all the good Queen's soldiers on them before they could get home," another man said. A trader, Dusty thought. He had that look about him. "Whatever brought them running back here must be important, though."
"Well, if they'd stop yelling we'd probably just give it to them," Happy replied. She'd begun to walk around the room, looking at the larder and her horde of spices. Dusty doubted so many people had ever been allowed in the room before and it clearly made her nervous. "Go on out to the main room -- go on. I'll wait for our friend to return and make up a bit of tea and some cheese and fruit --"
"Oh, how can you even think of such things?" Inis wailed. "We'll all be killed --"
"If they wanted us dead, we'd be dead already," Happy said with a sigh. "We might as well be practical. Go out and light the lamps, Inis. Or shall I have Dusty do that for you, too?"
Inis glanced around the room until she found Dusty. She glared, but Dusty didn't note quite so much anger there as contemplation. Maybe she thought she had to win her mother back over. Dusty wouldn't stay, but Inis couldn't be entirely certain of it, could she? So she lit a taper and went out to the other room, the rest of the group trailing along behind her until only Happy and Dusty remained in the kitchen.
Dusty had hoped that Happy would go out with the others for a moment, but when that didn't happen, she reluctantly put her bag carefully into the corner where it wouldn't get pushed into the fire. A mouse came out and grabbed hold of her hand, panic in his face. She carefully brushed a finger over his head and set him back in the shadows hoping that Happy didn't see. Dusty doubted the woman would take kindly to such a creature in her kitchen.
Then she went to work with Happy, which did help. Dusty calmed as she worked. The orcs only yelled now and then. Dusty thought they might not be able to do anything except to yell.
While she diced fruit and bits of cheese, Dusty tried to figure out a way to get her and Blue out of the town -- but not leave the orcs here to make trouble on their account.
Three quick knocks on the door. Happy still looked uneasy as she pulled it open. Two men hurried in, one in the gray uniform of the guard. Dusty gave a sigh of relief to see him.
"We have a serious problem," the guard said. "The orcs say we stole something from them, and they'll tear the town apart looking for it. We have to find what they want and give it to them right now or people will die, and we'll have a war."
Thursday, August 10, 2017
"Do you do it all yourself usually, ma'am?" Dusty asked during one little break where they both sat on stools and sipped cool water from the well out back. A dull sound of many voices came from the tavern area, but the man who worked out there -- Gus -- kept everything calm.
"Most days. My daughter seems to have far more important things to do." Happy gave a weary shrug. "I keep hoping she'll realize that she wants to learn this job so she can run the place, but I suppose when I'm gone she'll just sell it off."
"But you've worked so hard!"
"Yes, I have. But I suppose once I've left this life, I won't much care what happens to the tavern, will I?" A whisper of bitterness touched her words, and her eyes narrowed. Then she shook her head. "Well, never mind. That's a long ways off. You have taught me one lesson, though, Dusty."
"I have?" she asked, surprised.
"I need to stop thinking about how Anda should be helping me and hire someone to help out. I can afford it. I don't need to do everything by myself."
"Oh yes, ma'am. That would be good."
Later -- much later -- a woman came into the kitchen. She dressed well, Dusty thought, and felt embarrassed by her newly borrowed clothing. The woman frowned and looked over at Happy who had just brought back an empty tray.
"Who is she?" the woman demanded with a lift of her chin toward Dusty.
"She's the person I've taken on to do the work you won't do," Happy answered -- and she didn't sound very happy, either. "If you want some dinner, there's still some rabbit stew left and some bread. You know how to serve yourself."
"You gave her my job?"
"It would only be your job if you did the work," Happy replied. She took a deep breath and then let it go. "It's no matter, Inis. Dusty will only be here a few days. I do think I am going to hire someone, though. Just having this child do the dishes has given me time to sit down and rest sometimes. I never realized how much a little help would be."
Inis stared at her mother, her face gone red. Then she turned and rushed back out of the room. Dusty heard her heading straight up the stairs.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," she said when Happy came to dry a few of the newly washed cups. "I didn't know what to say."
"Best not to have said anything," Happy said and unexpectedly grinned. "And don't worry about that confrontation. I learned years ago that Inis is too much like her late father. You couldn't tell the man what to do, but sometimes you could embarrass him into the right actions. Inish also realized that if I hire someone else, I won't be paying her for the few times she decides she wants a few coins."
"Oh." Dusty could not imagine that kind of relationship, but Happy didn't seem to mind. She supposed that after so many years, Happy had learned how to handle her own child.
The place got busy again, but after another hour it seemed like things were starting to get quiet again. Happy took food up to her daughter, and since she didn't bring the tray right back, Dusty thought there must be some understanding between the two. Finally, with the last of the dishes washed and everything put away, Happy brought her a blanket.
"I can't give you a room, I'm afraid. Booked up tonight. I'll make sure the doors are all locked. We have a couple people in the common room, but they shouldn't bother you. If they do, you just yell out. I sleep in the room under the stairs. I'll hear you. Unless you want to sleep on the floor in there--"
"No, ma'am. This is fine."
As much as she didn't like the idea of sleeping alone in such a strange place, she also wanted some time with Blue. By the time Dusty curled on the hearth to sleep for the night, she thought she'd washed more dishes than they had in the entire castle. Her hands ached, and she'd cut two of her fingers on the sharper knives.
And she'd never been so tired in her life.
She'd only had a couple chances to look in on Blue. Once she slipped him a piece of apple that had fallen on the floor, but Happy came back soon afterward so they couldn't say much. Happy worked very hard over the hot stove and Dusty thought she had the easier of the jobs -- but it had been hard work.
Dusty pulled the little bag closer to her and laid her head down on the crook of her arm. They had light enough from the banked fire, and she thought the blanket might make a better pillow since she was so warm.
"Blue?" she whispered.
The little dragon darted to the edge of the opening and peeked out, his head turning nervously to the left and right. "Safe?" he asked.
"Safe for the moment, but be ready to rush back in if anyone comes close. Are you okay?"
"Yes, yes," he agreed. He even sounded happy. "Much better than the orc's wagon. It bounced so much all the time that I could barely sleep. I rested all day. And the food was better, too!"
"Are you still hungry?"
"No," he said. He put his little long-nailed hands on her arm. "You worked very hard. I could see through part of the cloth where it had worn thin. You should sleep."
"You stay hidden. We'll have a chance to leave soon," Dusty said. She yawned and closed her eyes....
She thought of nothing until she awoke again to the building rumbling and shouts. And earthquake! She looked around, frantic --
No, not an earthquake. The yelling was not from humans.
The orcs had returned!
Friday, August 04, 2017
Dusty had not gotten far into the little opening before her dress caught. The area ahead looked even smaller, but she dared not stop. The sunlight shining into the crevice showed her too clearly, and even if no one could see Blue, they would still wonder what she was doing.
A bit of a scramble forward and her dress tore. She didn't care. However, she could not get more than her head through the next area, even if she turned sideways. She had to hope no one would look --
A dark shadow passed over the opening behind her and stopped. She gave an almost silent gasp of despair and fear, expecting to find an orc reaching for her.
When she looked back, though, she found instead a large dog that had sat down with his back to them and blocked the opening.
"Oh, good dog!" she whispered.
The dog's tail thumped twice.
Beyond the opening, she could hear the growing chant of the orc. The buildings trembled at the sound and when they began to go stomp their feet, Dusty feared she and Blue would be buried in rubble.
The cart began to move, though, and slowly the intense sound of the orcs disappeared down the road. The dog moved on, and she could hear people starting to stir again, so she did her best to get back out of the crevice.
She was nearly out when she thought to put Blue in the bag. "We must be careful now. There are some humans I wouldn't trust much at all. I'll find a way to get us back to the capital."
"I trust you," he whispered in her ear and then leapt down into the open bag.
She continued to back up and try to get out of the crevice, but her sleeve caught and tore --
Someone took hold of her by the waist and pulled her out of the opening. She gave a gasp of surprise and fear as she found herself on her feet and turned around to face a very tall man with short white hair and narrow gray eyes.
"Well now. What were you doing in that hole, missy?" he demanded. He had an odd accent that she'd heard only a few times in the capital.
"Orcs," she said. The truth would do well at the moment. "I was afraid of the orcs."
"Yes, maybe wise to hide," the older man said with a nod. A few others walked by and gave her a curious stare. "You aren't from around here."
"No sir," she said. She'd have to come up with a non-truth now. For a moment her mind went blank, but then she remembered an adventure story she'd read and decided to borrow from that tale. "I am heading to my grandmother's house in the capital."
"No, sir. A man and woman were supposed to escort me, but they took the money and left me here."
"I just want to find a way to get to my grandmother," she said and held the bag closer. Tears came to her eyes, though she fought them back. "How can I get there? They took my coins, too."
"You're still three days out -- too far for a little thing like you to walk, even if it were safe," the man said. "You might ride with the guards, but they took off to watch the orcs and can't say when they'll be back. Well, let's find you a place for now, shall we?"
"That would be very kind, sir," she said with a bow of her head.
"Polite little thing," he said with an odd look as he stared at her. Then he turned and urged her along with him.
The village turned out to be only a few twisty streets and perhaps twenty buildings. Dusty was glad because she was already so tired she could barely jog along with the tall, long-legged man. Should she trust him? Dusty kept herself a little to the right, almost out of reach.
Then she smelled food. Her stomach rumbled as the stranger headed up the two steps to the door. She looked up at him with open trepidation since she had never been into a common tavern before. The swinging sign said Happy's Place. She hoped that meant someplace safe.
"My niece owns this place. We'll see if she can keep you for a bit. Come on now, missy. What's your name?"
She knew instinctively not to claim her true name. He wouldn't believe her and might not want to help her afterward.
"Dusty. Well, the name suits you. Come along."
She followed him up into the darker room, holding tight to the bag and Blue, who shifted a little but otherwise was probably asleep. He probably wouldn't understand how harrowing this was for his new friend. Well, that was all right. She didn't want to upset him.
Dusty had trouble seeing anything inside the room, but she liked how cool it felt as soon as they stepped inside. She followed her rescuer into a room behind a cloth-covered door.
"No one's allowed -- oh, Uncle," a heavyset woman said. She had a knife in her hand and had been dicing something on a huge table. "What brings you -- who is this?"
"Dusty, ma'am," she introduced herself.
Uncle took over telling the tale while Dusty looked around the room. She had sometimes spent a little time in the kitchen with Cook and Geren, hoping to find her calling even there.
"Leave her with me, Uncle. Just make certain you send the guards this way as soon as they get back."
Uncle nodded, gave Dusty a bow of his head, and hurried away.
"Thank you, ma'am."
"You can call me Happy." The woman looked her over. "Lucky that Uncle found you. You'll be here a day or two, I'd guess. Can you wash dishes?"
Not the kind of adventure she'd imagined....