The Oracle's Writ

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Towel Day and a New Book

Posted on May 26, 2011 at 1:53 PM Comments comments (0)

Huzzah for Towel Day, and what could make it better than a new book (except for maybe a new book by Douglas Adams.)

While the parenthetical is impossible, the new book that came to me was simply the latest anthology that my work appears in.  I was very excited for this contributor's copy as there are a lot of fine authors in here.  How disappointing then, it was, to retrieve a large envelope from my mailbox only to discover that it is indeed from Wicked East Press, but the envelope is torn.  Carefully, I opened the envelope in the conventional way to pull out the book.  It's nice and shiny.  But as you can probably not see from this shot, the bottom of the cover is bent, with a small crease.  It is not damaged enough to consider it destroyed.

Here's a shot of it from the side, and yes, I stuck in a tight place in my bookshelf for the night to see if it would flatten out.  No I haven't opened the book except to show my husband the location of my story.  (Second one to the last, :D)

I'll admit that I fold the covers of my books when I read them, and I even bend the binding.  My point here is that I buy my books (well, get my books) in good shape and mangle them myself as I voraciously devour their tasty insides.  I am disappointed in our postal system and must add that this makes me leery to send out my book anyone.  However, that said, you will get my book supported by at least one piece of cardboard, in a ziplock back, tucked into a bubble wrap lined mailer.  Paranoid?  Perhaps. But that's the way it goes.

On to the rest of the day.  To explain Towel Day, you have to at least have heard the name Douglas Adams, and perhaps be familiar with the movie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  There are books, too, and a radio show, audio books, an old movie, etc.  To be sure, Douglas Adams was one of the best science fiction/comedy writers I have ever read.  I was devastated by his death.  But his fans have rallied!  And Towel Day was begun in his honor.  I haven't really participated before, but this year, I decided, what the heck.  I loved this author and carrying a towel is a small tribute.  If you are really interested, you can read about it on the wikipedia page, here.

My observance started out with a shower, where I thoroughly enjoyed toweling off.  Then, since I had to work that night, I hung up the wet towel and took a dry one to the couch, where I covered up and took a nap in anticipation of a late night.

If you know me at all, even through this site, you know that everything I do, practically, I add a squishable element.  So of course, Cerulean is reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to the rest of the Squishable gang, while sporting her dragon towel.

Then it was off to work.  Well, I've got two things stacked against me for truly sporting my Towel.  One, I'm a cleaner, in offices, after hours.  Not much opportunity to share why I'm carrying a towel.  Two, I'm a cleaner.  It's really not that unusual to see me at work with a towel hanging out of my pocket.  If that makes me an ideal candidate for trans-galactical hitchhiking, then sign me up.  I'd even hop the next Vogon ship out of here as long as the Heart of Gold could pick me up, no matter how improbable that is.  Anyway, here I am, taking my own picture (lame I know, but what's a lone cleaner gonna do?) sporting my towel, and um, my towel.

My day came to an end about 12:00 am, so it was a full day.  Took me a half hour to get home, then another half hour to get lunches ready for the rest of the house when they wake.  Then, Lord help me, I wasn't all that tired, so I got on facebook.  :roll:  It turned out to be fortuitous though, as my son came out of his room needing a tissue.  What turned into maybe ten minutes online, became about forty-five minutes of getting him to the bathroom, medicated, kissed, and back to bed.  Of course I also kissed my sleeping daughter and put my own pj's on.  Then I finished watching the video I had started.  All in all, I got to bed about 2:00.  Typical night.

My writing isn't suffering too badly.  I'm still editing Between a Rock and Oblivion.  I'm also wondering how The Magic Key would look as a novella.  And of all things, my mind has begun picking actors for the roles in The Other Side (no it hasn't been optioned.)  I'll be listing them on my facebook page, so" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">follow me here, I think some of them might surprise you, that is if you've read the book.  If you haven't read it yet, why not?

Good News and Some Not So Good News

Posted on May 14, 2011 at 11:59 AM Comments comments (1)

The good news is that I finished Finding Elise and ordered the proof for my daughter.  She read it, found a few typos that I have since corrected, and geve me her feedback in the same way that most teenagers tell you about something they've enjoyed.  Here's a synopsis of the conversation:

Me - What did you think?

Her - Nice

(after a night to sleep on it...)

Me - Can you expand on "nice"?

Her - I was too tired to think last night.

Me - Okay.

(After a long pause...)

Me - So what did you think?

Her - It was good.

(Later that same day,)

Her - I almost cried at the end."

Me - End of what?

Her - the story, when she went home.  She cried.

Me - Ah, but you liked it.

Her - *nod*

(That evening,)

Her - What happened to Jassoo?  Did he just go back to driving his cab?

Me - Um, yeah (guess I have a loose end to clean up.)

So she did read it, retain it, and slowly told me that she liked it.  Now I just need to decide if I'm going to self publish this one, or if I want to shop it out.  Does anyone know of any kidlit agents currently looking for MG Sci/fi?

The not so good news is simply that one of the stories I had out there did not get taken.  I received a very nice rejection, though,

The Monster in Me

Im sorry to have to say that your story did not make it into Malicious Malpractices. While I really enjoyed the story, I just felt that it did not jive with the anthology. Please continue to submit it, as I found it quite enjoyable.


Thank you for submitting.


Mike Mitchell - Editor

It would have been a paid sale, but at least he liked it.  I'll keep this market, rather forum in my favorites and submit again when I have a story I think will fit.  I still have one more out there, one currently in consideration process, so I will continue to update you as I learn.  Thank you for your thoughts, go buy a book, support the artist.  Just remember, if you opt to get the Stitched Up! anthology, mention my name in your order as that is how I get my royalty.  Thanks!

Finding Elise is Almost Ready

Posted on May 5, 2011 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Hello all, sorry I didn't post in April, but I did update the home page.  How does it look?  I'm still waiting to hear on the works I have out, so this won't give you any information there.  However, i have finally gotten through Finding Elise and my daughter now has the proof in her eager young hands.  I'm not sure if I want to release it myself, or if I want to try to shop it out, that may depend on my daughter's reaction to it.  She is in the "target market" range.  I was thinking, if she liked it, of maybe shopping out to a classroom to see what the kids in the class thought.  Then maybe I'd decide how to proceed.  Not sure, so many possibilities.  One thing I can say for sure is that she is really excited to have the book in her hands.

In the meantime, I'm going through Between a Rock and Oblivion and taking out cliches when I see them.  Like *face palm* I actually wrote "I will sleep when I'm dead."  Yes it was back in 1998, and yes it was already cliche then, but I thought I had treated it right and that it would work, well, I was wrong, so out it came.  I'm also tweeking the story a bit.  I'm still not happy with the ending, so, hopefully, the characters will tell me how the story really goes by the time I get there.

I am also going through The Other Side, cleaning up the mistakes that abound in that book.  I'm sorry, but that book is a good example of why self publishing has the stigma that it does.  I just wish I could afford a professional edit.  My friends were wonderful, but in the end, I wonder if someone who is paid to have a critical eye is just plain better.  Someday I will have the right story to send out and someday I will get picked up by a publisher.  I know it.  I got a fortune that said, "You will become an accomplished writer."  No lie.  It is tacked up in my kitchen.

I am looking at The Magic Key as well, trying to bring the action closer to the beginning of the novel rather than sticking it way back in chapter 4.  I think I like the beginning now, but the story dropped from 55,000 words to 48,000 words.  Yikes, maybe it will turn into a novella.  Oh well.

Short sotries still try to insist on being heard, but I haven't written one in a while.  And Somewhere I Belong is still in pieces in Scrivener.  And I still need to update the beta if I want to get it out.  That's all for now.  Keep an eye here to find out what happens with the pokers I have extended.  I will let you know.

Time Away has a new home!

Posted on March 2, 2011 at 5:41 PM Comments comments (0)

Well, I am happy to report that my short story Time Away has been accepted for publication by Wicked East Press.  They are putting out an anthology of stories about insanity.  Some you know that I originally wrote Time Away for Necrotic Tissue's Malpractice anthology, but they passed on it.  So I can only believe that it was truly meant for Hannibal's Manor with Wicked East Press.  The main difference for me is that NT would have paid me.  I do get a contributor's copy of this one, though.  So I'm pretty excited.  As this is another "for the love" publication, I would love it if you all got one and spread the word about my site and my book.  The picture below will link to their store once it's printed and for sale.

Not to leave you empty, here's my opening.

Time Away (an excerpt)

Ron walked up tothe hospital entrance, nerves slowing his steps. Taking a calming breath at the door, he pushed his way in. The emergency room lay on his right, while admitting sat before him. The admitting nurse sat behind a menacingly large brown desk. The nurse smiled as he stared.

“Can I help you?” she flicked her eyes from his face back to her computer screen.

Swallowing hard, he nodded. “Ron Whitmyer.”

The smile faded from her eyes as the second became a minute and he said nothing else. “Are you here for an appointment?”

“Doctor Stevens, four thirty.” His heart raced as she turned back to her computer and typed in the information.

“I’m sorry, mister Wit-mire,” she shook her head, “how do you spell your name?”

He felt cold sweat run slowly down his neck. “W-h-i-t-m-y-e-r, Ron, Ronald.”

She typed it in and nodded. “Ok, Mr. Whitmyer. You’re all checked in. Dr. Stevens knows you’re here. Take the elevators at the first right up to fourth floor. The waiting room is right there.”


So begins Ron's sorry adventure.  Here's hoping it has whet your appetite, stay tuned here or on facebook for more information.

Thoughts on the Prayer Labyrinth

Posted on February 17, 2011 at 2:12 PM Comments comments (0)

*Warning: Long Blog*


Hello, everyone.? I just had to put this here, earnestly seeking your oppinion.? So please feel more than free to comment.


It was brought to my attention that my associate pastor wants to bring a labyrinth into the church for Lent.? That is how it was stated to me.? My initial reaction was "Why?"? And for those of you who know me, you know it's because I immediate thought of the movie with David Bowie (rawr) and then a few moments later, about the Minotaur myth.? Neither of these things has anything to do with the season of Lent, or the Easter holliday.? In fact, neither image is particularly Christian.


So I opened up a search tab and typed in "labyrinth" and "bible" to see what would come up.? Wow.? After reading several articles about prayer labyrinths, I can tell you for certain that I am troubled.? I wrote a letter to my associate pastor outlining the gist of my research.? I don't think she read it as she replied that she'd like to meet for discussion and that e-mail is not a good platform for communication.? Wait, what?


She also forwarded a document for me to read prior to our meeting.? I'm guessing this is the document that got her excited about renting a labyrinth.? The website is Labyrinth Enterprises and the paper is 12 Reasons to Have a Church Labyrinth? I admit that this website did not come up in my search, at least not on the first page.


This website is all about prayer labyrinths.? They support it fully.? But I admit that questions in their FAQ have me wondering how valid is?walking the labyrinth when used as a Christian practice?? The main one being "I am afraid my conservative church elders will oppose getting a labyrinth. What can I do?"


A website I did come accross had this?to say.? "For added mystery, many of the labyrinths in Christian churches from the early (zealously pious and anti-pagan) times openly show their pagan origin in the Cretan tales about King Minos, without even trying to hide these heathen roots. The inscriptions mention Theseus, Ariadne, Daedalus, and Crete, or a little Minotaur appears in the center."? This doesn't sound very Christian or Biblical.


Here's another website?I?came accross.?This author also?argues in favor of Christians using the labyrinth.

The page comes up as The Labyrinth in Paganism, though the author is a Christian.? After explaining his background as a mythology teacher and defining the labyrinth, he goes on to say, "The Biblical recognition of these pagan symbols is the truth that we cannot find our own way out of the fallen world to a non-destructive world. God has to enter the Fall for us to escape. Once fallen, we stay that way unless God intervenes with His Areadne thread. What paganism searches for -- stability and meaning, only Christ can supply.


"The sole consistent exception to the pagan scheme of things is thus the Biblical worldview in which the cosmos is called into being by a pre-existing, eternal Creator. A Somebody, not a something; I AM, not an impersonal divine substance. In the Biblical view, all things come from the creative power of the most real, most complete, most individual, and most personal of all things -- our Creator God. "


In this way, he goes on to say that Satan does not own these symbols, i.e. the labyrinth, mandalas, numbers, even yoga. God owns them, and it is in our use of these things that makes them right or wrong. So that "Christians can therefore recapture another shape for God by putting the labyrinth to Godly use. We can show how the revelation of God gives us the answer to the cry of the human heart felt by all peoples. One can walk the labyrinth with the intent of listening to God, of opening oneself to the Spirit of God for learning, repentance, forgiveness, or any of the gifts of the Spirit. And then the center stands for the goal of our human journey, Holy Communion, that peace which passes understanding, acceptance of our full dependency on God and our total obedience to Him, leading then also to holy communion with one another."


The main reason this article doesn't sit right with me is the inclusion of numbers. Numerology is a form of divination. I wonder, is he saying that if I run my numbers with God in my heart and my center that I will get a message from God? I have a hard time believing that. In the same way then, couldn't I do a tarot reading with God in my heart and center and get a Godly reading? Could I meditate on a mandala that I created with Christian symbols and reach a deeper Spiritual center? Just because I claim these things in Jesus name, does that them make them right? Even if Satan has no ownership or dominion over me, the fact that these things are so immediately associated with Paganism and Eastern Religion makes them untouchable for me. I am to be in the world but not of it.


Enter the Labyrinth looks at the history of the labyrinth starting with modern ideas and practices and goes back to its origins. "Labyrinths predate Christianity by over 1,000 years according to an article posted on the Web site of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco "Pathfinders: Walking Medieval Labyrinths in a Modern World." And the purpose of this article is to make Christians aware that Labyrinths are not in any shape or form a Christian practice."


I found this statement interesting, "What are Labyrinths used for; the explanations come from those using it. The Rev. Sarah Bentley of New Life Institute, a center for counseling, education and spiritual growth related to the Austin-area United Methodist churches, said she introduces labyrinths to people as a form of meditation. They are training the participant in a walking meditation."? What is most interesting is that this pastor comes from a United Methodist Church... um... yeah, that's the denomination I belong to.? What?


What I really liked in this article is the biblical base the author used to refute the use of the labyrinth. Colossians 2: 8 says?"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." Several other verses are mentioned as well. Matthew 6:6, Matthew 7:13, and 2 Timothy 3: 16.


In conclusion, the author says, "There is no basis for those who practice Biblical Christianity to embrace the labyrinth as an acceptable tool for meditation and prayer. It is inherently New Age, let them have it."


The easiest article I came across to read was at Got Questions?.org? Like the other sites I'd read, it summarized the history of the labyrinth.? It states that the Labyrinth is neither biblical nor Christian.? It concludes the article with a list of reasons why we shouldn't use the labyrinth.


1) God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24; Philippians 3:3; Psalm 29:2). Proponents of prayer labyrinths speak of "body worship" and the goal to employ all five senses in worship. But body worship is not a biblical concept. We live by faith, not by sight, and worship is not a sensuous, physical activity; worship is a matter of the heart, expressed in praise and service to God. For the New Testament believer, worship has nothing to do with external trappings such as lighting candles, kneeling at an altar, or walking in circles.


2) Prayer is not to become ritualistic (Matthew 6:5-8 ). Dr. Artress says that "ritual feeds the soul" and recommends repeated, regular trips through the labyrinth. If ritual were truly food for the soul, then the Pharisees of Jesus' day should have been the best-fed souls alive-after all, their religious system abounded in ritual and tradition. Yet Jesus rebuked them on more than one occasion for the deadness and hypocrisy of their religion (Matthew 15:3; Mark 7:6-13).


3) Every believer has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Many who walk prayer labyrinths are seeking special insight, new revelation, or a discovery of "the God who's within" (Dr. Artress, op cit.). Such an emphasis on mysticism and esoteric knowledge comes dangerously close to Gnosticism and New Age thinking. The Christian has no need of mystical experience or extra-biblical revelation: "You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth" (1 John 2:20).


4) God is near to all those who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18; Acts 17:27). No ritual, including walking a labyrinth, can bring anyone any closer to God. Jesus is the way (John 14:6). Repentance and faith are what is required (Acts 20:21).


5) The Bible is sufficient to make the Christian holy, wise, and completely proficient for his work in this world (2 Timothy 3:15-17). To say that, in order to find real power, we must add mysticism or tradition to the Bible is to denigrate God's Word and the Spirit's work through it.


What I have drawn in my own conclusion is that the Labyrinth is there to honor the feminine, the goddess, and I don't worship the goddess.? This is stated in all?four of the articles I read.? I feel rather strongly about this subject.? All that said, I look forward to seeing any comments that any of you have about this.? I willing to entertain the idea that I may be a conservative ninny myself.? Please, this is all I have on prayer labyrinths.? Educate me.


The ABNA is Upon Us Again

Posted on January 23, 2011 at 9:08 PM Comments comments (0)

Well, time is certainly flying by.  Already a month after Christmas, the new year has come and gone, and now, for better or worse, we are firmly ensconced in 2011.  Happy New Year, belated, and I hope it's treating you well so far.

Tomorrow marks the opening of the contest I've been entering for the last five years.  The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.  It is open to all novels, 50,000 - 150,000 words long.  It now allows self-published novels, huzzah!  It had two separate categories for general fiction, all genres, and young adult fiction, all genres.  Should I enter, I will be entering The Other Side again.  I have tweaked it, corrected the mistakes I've found.  Sorry to those of you who have it.  Just think of yourselves as the lucky first edition owners.  My only concern really is that my heart just isn't feeling it this year.  One friend told me to enter it anyway, the contest is free after all.  So tomorrow, I may just do that.

In the meantime, I have several options to submit to.  As I have had success with both Pill Hill and House of Horror, I am looking at those publications for options.  Pill Hill has several anthologies that spark my interest, especially a horror cliche parody anthology that makes me laugh just thinking about it.

On the non-publishing front, I have about seven ideas running through my head right now about to drive me insane.  I want to get back into most of my works in progress, as well as finish the story I started for NaNo, and then there are two short stories already formed, one of which I think will work for one of the Pill Hill Press anthologies... hmmm.  But as you can see, there is a lot, erm, many voices all talking at once in my head.  Oh, yes, and I finished a... *blushing* (quietly~ heh, fanfic.)  I know fan fiction can't make me any money, but when the voices are pleading to be written, you have to listen or go insane, so you can read my latest one here.  It is rather long, but if you click on my name, you'll see my profile there with a few other stories I've put up on that archive.  Anyway, now that the Doctor is out of my head, maybe I can go back to Finding Elise.  My daughter still wants to finish reading that.

Whew... so much.  All right, so there is my latest news in a nutshell.  And tomorrow is also a school release day.  Yikes.  I won't leave you with a story this time, as I just don't know what I'd give you.  But here's a video that I feel truly represents my state of mind.  :)

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Merry Christmas!

Posted on December 21, 2010 at 1:43 PM Comments comments (0)

As I sit here, trying to get into the mood to bake, I listen to mu children torment each other in the basement.  Truly, my son came upstairs and said, "Mom, now she's telling me that there's a spider in my brain!"  I asked what he meant by that, to which he replied, "She said it crawled in my ear and is now in my brain!"  I thought of all the wonderfully wrong things I could say to that and simply calmed him by telling him that his eardrum would stop any spider that tried to get into his brain.  He asked me what the spider would do then.  I was nice and told him it would crawl out again, thwarted in its attempts to get to his brain.  He seemed satisfied and ran off again to tell his sister what I had just told him.

So go the days of winter break in this house.  I hate release days.  I really do.  As much as I love my children, I don't like them together for any length of time.  Not even the promise of making gingerbread cookies could calm them.  And now when I pull out the ingredients for oatmeal scotchies instead, they'll complain and ask why we aren't making gingerbread.  To which I will resist with all that is within me saying, "Because naughty children don't get to pick what they bake, in fact they don't get to bake at all.  Now go away and let mommy release the frustrations you have built by beating out some cookies that you can't eat."  Oh well.  I will tell them because we will run out of time now between now and when I have to leave for work.

In the meantime, I wrote a Christmas story.  I did not write it today, but a couple of weeks ago.  I posted it on my facebook, but no one read it.  I sent it out in my Christmas cards and I've gotten some good feedback.  I post it here, not as a way to get out my frustrations with my children, but only as a Merry Christmas message to you all.

It is told from the Innkeeper's wife's point of view.  I know it's been done before, but not by me, and this is all my ideas.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Innkeeper's Wife

by Jen Steffen

Elizabeth wiped sweat from her brow as she stirred the pot.  “Esme, please take that tray to room four.”  A pretty girl of eleven nodded and picked up the tray of bowls. Elizabeth watched her daughter fondly as she hurried out of the kitchen.

When Paul had suggested opening an inn in Bethlehem, Elizabeth had been dubious, but now that Cesar had called for a census, it seemed like business was more than either of them could handle.  Yes, they were making good money, but the Romans who stayed with them made the others nervous.  She blew hair out of her eyes and dished up another tray of stew, setting full bowls in a circle to fit as many on the tray as possible.

“Abby!” she called out the back door.  Abby was tending the straw in the stable across the yard, but Elizabeth needed her to take this tray to room six.  Hungry people were waiting for their dinner.

Instead of her younger daughter, her husband stormed into the kitchen.  Bless him; he always looked uncomfortable around the stove and the preparation table. He pulled off his hat and looked all over the room.  She stopped stirring and put a hand on her hip.  If he had nothing to say, he needed to leave or he would be in the way.  And they were full to capacity with tired and hungry travelers.

“What is it my love?  I need Abby to take this tray to the family in room six.

Paul cleared his throat, fiddling with his hat. “I took in another family,” he said quickly.  “Abby is tending to them in the stable right now.”

Elizabeth’s mouth dropped open.  Another family?  Wasn’t it enough that she was already making stew for ten families?  Or that the Romans ate enough to feed three families themselves?  “Paul,” she steadied her voice so she would not yell and scare any of their guests. “What were you thinking?  We have people in every room and each room has far more people in it than should be there.  Curse the Cesar for calling such an immediate count!” she spit on the floor in frustration.

“Don’t say that,” Paul rushed to her and put his hands on her shoulders.  “This wasn’t the Cesar’s doing.  The couple in the barn is a young, newly married couple, and his wife is ready to give birth.  Abby is helping them get comfortable and as soon as she knows what the woman needs she will be in to get it.  And Liz,” he eyes twinkled as he looked into her face, “there’s something about this couple. I had to let them in.  When Abby comes in, you need to go see them.”

Then,looking over her shoulder, he dropped his hands and left the kitchen.  “Don’t resent them, Liz.”  He turned back before returning to his desk.  “They’re special.  I know it.” Then he disappeared in the crowd of people that insisted on sitting just outside the kitchen door.

Abby rushed in at that moment, panting as she took down a bowl.  “Mom, she’s ready to give birth.”

Elizabeth handed Abby the tray she had prepared. “Is that so?  Well, you take this to room six.  I’ll see to the woman.”

Abby looked crestfallen, as though she thought she was old enough to deliver a baby.  The poor thing was only nine.  She put a hand on her daughter’s arm.  “I’m sure I’ll need both you and Esme out there.  Now take that stew to room six and tell your sister to start getting towels and blankets ready.”

As her daughter took the tray with a disgruntled look, Elizabeth scooped stew into another couple of bowls and took them out the back door.  The scant grass of the yard scratched at her ankles as she scurried to the stable.  A low light inside was the only indication of occupants other than the animals.  The door pushed open slowly as she shoved it with her shoulder.

Immediately inside, the stalls were all full.  The Romans had their horses in the first stalls, and then there were donkeys from a few of the families in the inn.  Toward the back were her own chickens and a goat. In the middle, huddled around the light, sat a man with a worried look on his face and a woman looking very much in labor.  He had piled straw up around her to make her comfortable.  Bless Paul, he had at least sent Abby out with a blanket.  The woman was between contractions at that moment and smiled up at Elizabeth.  Paul was right.  There was something special about this couple.

“I brought you some stew,” Elizabeth said, setting the bowls on a milking stool.  “I have my girls getting towels and blankets for you.  There is freshwater in the barrel over in the corner, but I will put some on to heat for you when I go back.  Are you comfortable?  I’m sorry there is no room inside.”

Goodness,she was babbling.  Was she the one giving birth?  Lord knew she was done with that phase of her life.  The man took a bowland tried the stew.  “Thank you,” he saidto her then turned to his wife. “It’swarm, Mary.  Would you like a bite?”

“No,thank you,” she replied, her voice sounded weak, but her countenance held strong.  Another contraction hit and Marysqueezed her fists around straw.

Elizabeth blinked and dropped to her knees.  “Let me check.  I’ve delivered my share of babies.”

They looked at her and Mary nodded.  Elizabeth put her hands on the swollen belly and felt the child within.  It was positioned for birth.  That was good.  It meant no complications.  She lifted the woman’s skirts and put her hand between Mary’s legs.  No man other than her husband should ever touch a woman like that, but Elizabeth needed to know if Mary was ready to birth this child. “Not quite there yet, miss.  I’ll get that water and be right back.”

The contraction passed, and Mary nodded. “Joseph, don’t leave when she comes back. “

Elizabeth closed the door to give them privacy and hurried back to the house.  Mary hadn’t been quite ready, but she was very close.  She guessed that sometime after the next contraction or two, the woman would be ready to push.  The kitchen gave off a plume of steam when she opened the door.  First things first,she put a pot of water on the stove to warm. Then she wanted to see if anyone would give up their room.  Lord knew the Romans did not need that much space.

Hurrying to the main room, she began to search the faces of the people gathered.  The chatter of the guests filled the space and she raised her hands.  “Quiet,people!  Please, is there not one of you who would give up your room?  There is a woman in the stable ready to give birth. And she is couched in the hay!  Surely,you wouldn’t want that to be you, or your wives.  Won’t anyone give up their bed?”

The people murmured to themselves, many pretending they hadn’t heard.  Elizabeth stormed up to the Romans.  “You of all people can appreciate the fact that we have a woman about to give birth in the stable.  Couldn’t you spare your room, just for the night?”

The soldier stood and crossed his arms. “I’ll forgive that insolence if you turn now and leave.”

Elizabeth narrowed her eyes, but turned on her heel and stomped away.  Paul met her by the kitchen door.  “Liz, what are you thinking?  You can’t talk to the Romans like that.”

“Well,I did.  Rude buggers.  I wish you could put them out on their rears.”  She checked the temperature of the water on the stove, knowing it wouldn’t be warm enough yet.  “If you hadn’t felt compelled to take in this family in the barn, I wouldn’t feel compelled to talk to the Romans like that.”  She patted his arm and turned him to the door.  “Don’t worry; I’ll make the barn feel like the best room in the house for these people.  You go and be the innkeeper.”

She followed him out of the kitchen, but turned to the chest by the wall.  Taking a blanket and a pillow, she left through the kitchen again.  The water was taking too long to warm.  “Abby!  Esme!” she called as she left the kitchen.

“Inhere,” Esme called back from the barn door. “She’s really ready, mom.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”  She waved Esme back into the barn and handed her the blanket at pillow.  “You get her more comfortable.  Stupid Romans wouldn’t offer their bed.  For that matter, you’d think a barn was the perfect place to have a baby.  None of them wanted to give up their beds.”  She dropped to her knees again and checked Mary for readiness.  “Oh my,” she drew her hand back.  “You are ready.  Next time you feel the urge, you need to push.”

Mary nodded, gripping Joseph’s hand tightly.

“You can hold my hand, too, if you need to.” Abby sat beside Mary and touched her tenderly on the shoulder.

Mary smiled at her and took her hand.  Just then,another contraction hit.  Abby bit her lip as Mary squeezed her hand.

Not taking her eyes from the birthing, Elizabeth motioned for Esme.  “There is a pot of water warming on the stove inside.  Get it and bring it here.”

Esme sighed, upset to be leaving in the middle of the action.  Nevertheless, she went.

Mary grunted as she leaned forward, pushing.

A crown appeared with that one.  “Oh, good show,”Elizabeth smiled up at Mary.  “You’ve got it now, when it comes again, push hard and maybe we’ll get this baby out before midnight.”

“Does it hurt?”  Abby was watching Mary’s face,worry on hers.

“Not so bad,” Mary managed to say.  “I’ll tell you a secret,” she whispered.  “This is the son of God.  I think He’s blessed me with an easy child birth.”  She squeezed her eyes shut as another contraction hit. She pushed again, grunting, and then yelling as she gave it everything she had.

“Yes,”Elizabeth breathed, holding her hands out for the child.  “You’ve got it.  The head is almost out.  One more push and we should have a baby.”

“Here’s the water, mother.”  Esme returned to the barn.  Her mood improved considerably when she saw there was no baby yet.

“Set it here,” Elizabeth said, patting the floor near her side.  “Sweetie,” she addressed Mary, “your mother didn’t come with you?”

Mary was breathing hard, but the contraction had subsided for the moment.  “She isn’t from Bethlehem.  I only came because of my husband.”  She grunted the end of that, squeezing here yes shut as the next urge to push overwhelmed her.

“That’s it,” Elizabeth put her hands on the baby’s head.  “It’s coming now.”  She worked the shoulders free of the birth canal and the baby fell into her hands. “Oh, my darling, you are beautiful.” She turned the boy on his head and cleaned out his mouth.

The child cried out once, clearing his lungs then was quiet.

Elizabeth placed the still bloody infant on his mother’s breast and turned back to catch the afterbirth.  “You have a beautiful son, Mary.  There will be one more push,then we can get him cleaned up and wrapped, and you can relax.”

“What are you naming him?” Abby asked, her gaze fixed on the child.

Mary smiled, looking at her baby.  “Jesus.”

She barely bucked with the final push, and Elizabeth took the afterbirth.  “All right, let’s get him cleaned up.  You have clothes for him?”

Joseph turned to their packs and pulled out a bundle of cloth.  Elizabeth took the baby and nodded at him.  “You get that ready while I get him clean.”

Holding him close, she took her snips and clipped the cord.  Then she gently washed him.  The water had cooled, so there was no danger of burning him.  She washed his hair and cleaned his skin.  The baby watched her in silence, taking in her face as she worked. He was radiant.  Then, as she bent to rinse her rag, the baby reached up to touch her.  Never in all of the births that she had assisted had a baby touched her.  His touch was the gentlest, softest touch she had ever felt.

“Sweetie,”she breathed.  “Lord.”  Wrapping the infant in her apron to dry him,she took him back to his parents.  His mother took him in her lap and swaddled him. Then she put him to her breast to suckle him.

Abby and Esme knelt beside her to look at the baby. “He’s special,” Elizabeth said, kneeling beside Abby.

“I know,” she whispered.  “He’s the son of God.”

Their heads turned as the door to the stable opened. Three shepherds stood in the doorway, two with sheep over their shoulders.  Behind them stood more men.  “We came to find the child,” the man in front said.  “The angel told us to come to the stable and we would see him.”

“Girls,”Elizabeth tugged at Abby’s arm.  “Let’s give these people some room.”  She pulled her daughters away and nodded at the shepherds as they passed.

“Here he is,” she heard Mary say quietly.

A reverent hush fell over the stable as the shepherds entered.  Elizabeth shooed her girls back to the house.  “Keep this quiet,” she said.  “Mary will announce it when she’s ready.”  The girls nodded and scurried inside to attend to the other guests.  Elizabeth stayed in the kitchen.  If visitors were coming, she needed to be prepared to feed them.

She put a clean pot on the stove and began adding vegetables and water. The more stew she had, the happier the people would be.  The stable would be a busy place tonight.


Merry Christmas!

NaNoWriMo 2010 is now Done!!

Posted on December 8, 2010 at 12:49 PM Comments comments (1)

Well, another November has past and I have another 50000 word novel sitting on my hard drive.

Although that is a little exaggerated.  I made over 55,000 words actually, but the story isn't finished.  Did I mention the story went epic?  Now I'm torn between trying to finish it, or letting it sit until next November and writing the other 50,000 words that it will take to finish.  I'm leaning toward finishing it over the summer just in case it doesn't take another 50k words to complete.

The most important part is that I had fun.  The write-ins I posted were sparsely attended, but those who came I believe had fun too.  My daughter finished the month reaching her word count and now has promptly forgotten about it.  She has a winner certificate waiting to be printed, as do I, but she shows little interest in actually getting it.  I was hoping to wait until I finished the story so I could put that date on the certificate as well.  I may not wait that long.

Now I just have to decide which story to prepare for the next release.  I am preparing The Other Side for submission to a small press.  If it is accepted, you will see a cover change, probably a price change, but also a wider distribution.  I will also make a percentage of those copies sold.  But that is all IF it gets picked up.

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest is gearing up for another year, and I had hoped to have Finding Elise ready for entry into that, but I'm not sure it would be ready in time.  None the less, I return to work on that so I can get the proof copy for my daughter.

If you have any opinions of what book you'd like to see next (based on snippets you've seen here) leave a comment and I will take that into consideration.  Also, don't forget to check out the anthologies I'm in and maybe pick one up for yourself or as a gift.  I will continue to submit material, and continue to update you on any works that get accepted for publication.  Thank you all for your support and stay tuned for more.  I have been inspired by another blog and will post soon if the idea sticks.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a scene from the middle of the novel, Somewhere I Belong.


Somewhere I Belong Jen Steffen

*Unfinished Business - Naria, et al, are recaptured by the pirates.*

“We have other things to worry about right now.” Krydon growled.

Both turned toward him and Naria pointed up. “It’s that balloon.”

Krydon howled and fell over, the packs on his back catching on the brambles at their feet. “Run Naria!” he hissed at her. “It’s the Seer Searchers.”

“I can’t leave you,” she whispered as she fell to her knees beside him. He bit at his ankles and she focused her attention there. A rope had wound itself around his legs, tripping him, carried by three weights. “You’ve been hit with a bola.”

“I said we’ve encountered the pirates again.” He bit through one rope as an arrow sunk into the ground where his head had been. “Just go! I won’t die in peace if I see you captured.”

“You won’t die at all,” she said grabbing the packs and pulling him out of the way of another arrow. “I won’t travel in peace without you.”

“Unhand that Gyd.” The voice was quiet but athoritative. “There is a gun pointed at him if you do not comply, and last I checked, bullets hurt worse than arrows.”

She stood slowly, her hands open at her sides. “That depends on the arrows and the assassin.”

The man, dressed all in gray, cocked his head in a gesture of mock hurt. “I’m no assassin. Really, you must have heard some terrible stories about us. Now, leave the Gyd and come slowly this way. No sudden moves.”

Naria stepped around Krydon. “I’m sorry. Don’t die and we can remedy this situation later.” She wondered what had happened to Vince since she couldn’t hear him.

As she walked forward, another of the Seers jogged past, dropping at the side of the Gyd. She heard a thud followed by a shriek and then Krydon was silent. She turned quickly to see what had happened. “You didn’t kill him…” But she was cut off by gruff hands grabbing her arms and pulling her toward the balloon.

“I said no sudden moves.”

“You didn’t kill him, did you?” She swallowed the fear in her voice, vowing in that moment to do some serious damage to these pirates if they had.

“Not at all.” The man in gray shoved her into the balloon basket. “We needed the packs on his back though and it was a pretty sure bet that he wouldn’t give them up easily.”

She allowed a wave of relief to wash over her.

“What I find exquisitely interesting here is that you are quite upset about your Gyd, but you haven’t asked at all after your man.”

“What have you done with Vince?” She wanted to add that he wasn’t her man, but she held her tongue. Vince had once advised her not to give out too much information, and this seemed like as a good a place as any to start taking that advice.

“He was easily taken care of. You may join him if you like.” The man indicated at small stair.

Naria couldn’t help but be impressed with the pirate’s balloon. The basket was huge, at least three levels, with stairs leading to rooms. It was no wonder the pirates could appear to be nowhere on the basket while being ready to attack. They went up the stairs to a small platform. Three doors stood on the three walls, one of them open. Vince lay on the floor unconscious. She could tell from the lay of his clothing that the pirates had stripped him of his leg sleeves.

“Go and join your fellow Merchant.” The pirate captain shoved her into the room and slammed the door behind her.

Her first reaction was to throw herself at the door. “I’m not a Merchant!” She yelled. She checked herself before she blurted out that she was a Seer. She remembered that the Seer Searchers always recruited, and mostly not by volunteer. There was no way that she would be a pirate.

The man in gray ignored her and continued down the stairs to the main part of the ship.

Naria turned to Vince once the captain was out of sight. Kneeling beside him, she put her hand on his shoulder, the other on his forehead. They had knocked him out with a heavy club, and she sent a small amount of healing energy to the injury. It would do her no good to drain herself when there was no indication that they would be fed soon and Vince’s injury didn’t require that much anyway. He moved, turning his head and moaned.

“What was that?” He put a hand to the back of his head and looked up at Naria.

“We’re prisoners.”

Grunting, he pushed himself to sitting. “I see my sleeves are gone. How are you?”

“They have our packs, and so no food.”

Vince nodded. “So we are guests of the pirates. You see what I’ve been telling you?” He raised an eyebrow at her. “The world is not a nice place. Let me carry you through it and you won’t have to worry about seeing the ugly parts quite so much.” He put a hand on her cheek. “I’m sorry I yelled.”

Nodding, she took her hand from his head, kept the hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry too. You’re right that I haven’t seen nearly enough to get the whole picture. I have heard stories about the Seer Searchers though, so maybe you should let me carry us through this particular situation.”

He smiled. “At least they let you keep your goggles. What can you tell me?”

She sat back and hugged her knees. “Well, they aren’t very nice. They are a radical group of Seers that believe the dark side of the planet is theirs alone. That is just for Seers. Basically, they believe that all people should stick to their regions and no cross over should ever occur. They’ve taken the ‘protection’ of the Midland Mountain border land their top priority. Of course if they happen to find able young Seers to recruit along the way, and amass a nice fortune from those they banish, that’s all good.”

“I see. So we are being banished?”

“Maybe. I’ve never heard of them losing a prey and then finding them again. We may be setting a precedent here.”

“That’s nice to know,” he said dryly. He rubbed his legs absently, looking around the cell. “They couldn’t give us a lamp or anything, I suppose.”

They stopped talking at faced the door as footsteps sounded on the platform. A small panel opened in the door itself and a man outside, not the captain peered in. “You, girl, come here.”

Vince took her hand as she stood and gave her a light squeeze. She knew he couldn’t help right now. “Just keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see,” she whispered and bent to kiss his hair.

“You be careful,” he whispered up to her. “You never know what might happen.”

Squeezing his hand back, she let go and stepped up to the door. “What is it?”

The pirate opened the door a crack and reached in to take her wrist. “Don’t try anything funny,” he said as he grabbed her. “Stand right there.” He pulled her out onto the platform and locked the cell door. “The captain wants to have a word with you.”

“That was fast,” she said as he grabbed her arm and pushed her forward. Her feet stumbled as she fought to descend the stairs rather than fall down them. “He must have heard me after all. Damn.” She found that she was hoping he had missed that last remark, even though she’d yelled it. How was she going to get out of being made a Searcher?

The pirate shoving her pushed her across the main deck, past doors she found herself dead curious about, to another stair leading down. At the bottom of three steps, at a landing, they turned and went down two more. The steps ended at a door. The pirate rapped on the door twice and stood quiet, holding Naria’s arm too tightly.

The door opened and the captain, now in dark red, stood in the room smiling at them. “Enter!” He held his arm out in a flourish to bid them enter, though as soon as Naria crossed the threshold, he held the hand up to her guide. “You, return to your duties.” And he closed the door, leaving the other pirate on the steps.

“Welcome!” He turned around to face her and spread his arms to envelop the room. “I am Captain Vivicus. And you are right.” He pointed at her. “You are not a Merchant.” Walking by her, he went to a long table set just to the left of the room. The room took up the entire base of the basket. The table only had two chairs, but the center piece basket held enough fruit to feed a family of six. He dropped into one of the chairs and indicated that she occupy the other.

“And what makes you so sure of me?” she asked as she came to sit. “I’m a prisoner. Wouldn’t I say anything to be set free?”

He nodded. “You may indeed. But in this case you are not. Your fame precedes you, Naria of Treeside.” He leaned forward and deftly took the goggles from her head.

Trying to hide her agitation at being plunged into darkness, she cleared her throat. “And you are sure you have the right person?”

Laughing, he leaned over the table and took a plum from the basket on the table. She only knew that from the sounds he made and the fact that he pressed a plum into her palm. “Of course I’m sure. You can’t see a thing right now. Prove me wrong, Seer. Get up from this table and walk to the window in the back wall of the balloon basket without tripping over anything.”

Determined to throw him off, she called on her memory of the room. Admittedly, she hadn’t really looked at the whole room. She remembered the table where she sat and stood with more confidence than she felt. The captain’s desk had been to the right and she strode to her right, hoping she wouldn’t trip on the floor. Instead, she hit a tall post that wobbled with the impact. Vivicus laughed again, harder.

Then she felt his hand on her elbow. “This way, if you please.” She didn’t please, but when he turned her, she saw the faint light of the moon coming through a far window. He steered her through the room, past his desk, past a curtain that hung across the left corner, to a bench along the back wall and sat her down below the window.


NaNo Week 2.5 Done

Posted on November 18, 2010 at 5:53 PM Comments comments (0)

Wow, nothing like hitting the wrong button and losing the blog you just wrote to take the wind out of the sails of wanting to write it again.  Anyway, here I am at 37,112 words and now 5 minutes until Turkey Bingo at my son's school (I had 20 minutes to write this the first time.)  But instead of rushing to get to 38,000 words, I'm re-writing this blog for you.  Doesn't that make you feel special? :D 'Cause I feel like a complete dork for hitting the Search button when all I wanted to do was look at another tab.  Oh well.  I am going to hit 40,000 words by Friday before work, and I hope to cross the 50,000 word mark this weekend at the 28 hour Writing Tour.

On the story front, I will not rewrite what I had here the first.  I will tell you about my new favorite animal.  It is the Calugo.  They are beautiful creatures that live in the south eastern rain forests of Asia.  They glide from tree to tree and spend almost no time on the ground.

I am in love with this animal, and as soon as I saw them I knew I needed to work them into my novel.  So I leave you with my chapter written about them.  They are the Lugo, a tree dwelling, intelligent race, gentle and ancient.  Here is the account of the Great War:


Somewhere I Belong by Jen Steffen, NaNoWriMo 2010

The Great War

Naria sat on the floor in front of Bebe. The Lugo placed her hand on on Naria’s forehead. “Remember,” the Lugo commanded. Naria closed her eyes and tried to think back to the last time she heard the story. It was ancient history and a lot of it had been left out, at least as far as she could tell from what Vince told her.“Three thousand years ago,” she began, “Men came to this world in great ships that sailed across the stars. The ships crashed and the men were injured. A race of beings came out of the forests and pulled many men from ships, tending to many wounds. These beings walked on four legs and reminded the men of animals back home so they liked them.” The ancient memories were buried deep and Naria could feel the energy drain as she spoke.

“After the great star ships were dismantled and the men had built homes for themselves, another race came out of the forest. They also reminded the men of animals from home, but they were frightening animals, so they were afraid. The new beings couldn’t talk, but they entered the minds of them, causing confusion. The men threw stones at these new creatures to drive them off, and the beasts took to the sky. When the creatures returned they were angry and they crept into the villages when the men were sleeping and fought them, bashing their heads with the stones the men had thrown. That was the beginning of the Great War.”

She slumped. “They came and attacked and killed many men, so the men retaliated and entered the forests and searched for these hated demons and fought back and killed many. The Great War only lasted three days, but it was named such for the amount of blood that was shed.” Tears had come to her eyes. “The men left the forest and the beasts were never heard from again.” Opening her eyes, she watched the Lugo for any sign of hatred. She showed none.

The Lugo blinked and nodded. “That is what the Men tell. Now, see it as it really happened.” She renewed the pressure on Naria’s forehead. Pictures began to flood her mind in chaos, until one picture stood out among the rest.

A Lugo stood in a tree watching the skies. The moon shone full at its peak, illuminating the canopy of the forest. A streak of light screamed across the sky. He could tell from its path that the ball would fall close to the Lugo village and he glided down to the branches below.

“There is a light falling from the sky,” he reported tot he village elder. “It will fall not fifty lengths from here.”

The village elder mused over the situation and nodded. Pointing to several others, he directed them to the land beyond the trees. “Go and find out what it is that will fall.”

“It isn’t a stone,” the watcher said. “It screamed across the sky in a way I have never seen.”

“Be careful,” the elder directed and sent them on their way.

The pictures shifted and Naria sped through the forest with the Lugos as they glided through the trees. The ball of fire skimmed over the trees ahead and crashed loudly to the ground, tearing a deep gash as it slid to a stop. The Lugos glided silently over the jagged earth wound, landing a far distance from the object that none of them recognized.

Naria felt the excitement among them. Her heart raced with theirs as they watched and waited. She had never seen a starship before, so she had no idea what she was looking at, though she could guess. The twisted metal smoked and steamed, and for a long time showed no sign of life. But the Men had arrived, and Naria knew something was about to happen.

Only when the Lugos were ready to leave did a bead of light begin to form on the side of the ship. The Lugo stood their ground, watching as a rectangle eventually formed from the light. The rectangle sunk into the side of the ship and a ramp extended. After a moment, a bend figure leaned against the frame. Naria could see from the man’s face that he couldn’t see the Lugo. Rather than react to the beings watching him, he fell and tumbled out of the ship, rolling down the ramp. Three Lugos broke from the line and headed toward the figure.

The man was unconscious as the Lugos cradled him in their membranes and carried him off the ramp. Laying him out, they watched for any sign of life. He turned his head and groaned but did not open his eyes. The Lugos pointed to the ship and the rest of the line went to search. Naria stayed stayed with those watching the man on the ground. He moaned and the Lugos jumped back. The Lugo seemed to be the leader of the group stepped forward and took up the man’s wrist. He seemed satisfied with what he felt and then put his hand on the man’s head.

“It’s warm, and its heart is racing.”

“But what is it?” one asked.

“I’m not sure,” the leader said, shaking his head.

“Could it be intelligent?” another asked.

“Anything is possible,” the leader said. “Look at what it came down in.”

The rest of the group came out of the ship carrying several more people. All were unconscious, and all lay motionless on the ground. “There are many more,” one of them said, “not all unconscious. They don’t understand us, though, and so they hid.”

“Are they hurt?”

The one who had reported shook his head. “I’m not positive. They could be. There were several different sizes of them, indicating there may be children, but I couldn’t see if they were hurt. No one spoke back to us.”

Then the Lugo fell over. His head had split open and blood rushed out of the gash.

“You leave us alone, you beasts!” came a cry from the ship. The human standing in the doorway held something pointed at them. It looked like a gun, but no gun Naria recognized. She knelt beside the fallen Lugo, helpless to do anything to help him. The life faded from his eyes even as she watched.

The other Lugos backed away from the men on the ground, their hands raised. They tried to indicate that they wanted to help the men, but the others on the ship couldn’t understand. Naria heard them and was appalled by their actions.

“You leave them alone, or I swear I will kill you all.”

“Are they bats?” a small voice came from inside.

“I don’t know, just get back.” The man in the doorway held the gun aimed at them. “You all just get away from them.”

The Lugos backed farther away, watching what was going to happen next. The man on the ship slowly came down the ramp and made his way to the crew of Lugos standing aside. He pointed with his gun to the side of the field. “You all move over there.” He did not sound friendly. One Lugo came forward to pick up the dead one, but the man panicked and shot that one too. Naria yelped when he fell, blood spilling out of the gash in his side.

“Stop it!” she yelled. The matriarch’s hand lifted from her head. “I get it. The men were the first to fire, the first to declare war. I’m not like my ancestors. You can’t judge me by their actions.” She buried her face in her hands and shook her head. “Please.”

The Lugo standing in front of her stroked her cheek with one long taloned finger, but she did not break the skin. “We were massacred,” she said. “I just wanted you to see that. Most of the human retellings start with the Gyds coming to their aid. It was us. They say we made the first move to fight, but it was the men who fired first on us. We went further into the forest to escape further decimation. Now even today, there are few villages left.”

“I’m so sorry,” she cried. “If I had been there, I could have help you, but I wasn’t there. That was thousands of years ago.”

Bebe nodded. “It was, but we will never forget.”

Naria looked up at her, tears streaming down her cheeks. Vola, the child had come quietly into the room. She watched Naria with an intent expression. She scurried up to Naria and put her hand on Naria’s head. Bebe scolded her, but Naria reached up and touched the little hand. “I love you,” she said to both Bebe and Vola. “I think you’re beautiful and I would never hurt you.”

“But I cannot yet risk the safety of our children for the comfort of knowing the world of men is ready for them.” Bebe frowned and picked up Vola. “Come child, leave these men to their own now. They need rest and then they will be on their way.”





NaNo Week 1 Finished

Posted on November 7, 2010 at 10:01 AM Comments comments (0)

Well, it has been a rather eventful week.  I am not where I want to be in terms of word count, but I'm not doing too bad either.  I still see a win at the end of the month.  My current word count, if you didn't see my widget on the home page, is at 9247.  My personal goal is 2000 words a day, so at Nov. 7, I should be looking at a total of 14000.  The discrepancy is not appalling.

On thing that really brought me down this past week was the fact that both children were on release from school both Thursday and Friday.  I believe I mention in the comments on my spreadsheet that School Release Days are not a WriMo's friend.  The next release days are during Thanksgiving week, where they get Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off.  Thanksgiving is sort of an expected washout, but I'm still hoping for a good Wednesday, and semi-productive Friday.

While I sit here updating, I listen to my children "get ready" for church, and my hopes for production on those release days slowly diminishes.  Does anyone else have this problem?  You tell your children how events need to unfold, giving them the time frame.  They in turn play and fight until 15 minutes before you have to leave, or want to send them outside, or whatever the time frame was for, and they fuss and whine that the said event isn't going to happen because they were too late?  And then they proceed to make the rest of the day a miserable heap of whining, screaming, playing and generally making you wonder why you even talk to them.  That's my problem.  Love them to death, but sometimes wish I had compliant children for certain things.

Anyway, back to the Novel at hand.  I'm trying Scrivener for PC this year.  It's new, so I'm technically trying the beta.  The few times I've tried to post something on their site, I get timed out.  Anyway, it's really neat.  Not sure how I'm really going to use it, but so far each chapter idea gets it's own card so I can mess around with the order later.  I've actually started to write a much later scene as that idea is prevalent right now.  So, Sunday doesn't usually produce much word wise, but I'm looking at the clock, and as usual, even with the added hour, we are running late.  Here's the first "chapter" of what I'm writing now.  Maybe next week I'll leave you with the scene I'm currently working on.


Somewhere I Belong

Naria sat in a dimly lighted corner, the book in her lap. “I was born exactly twenty years ago today,” she read aloud, her eyes squinting.

“Happy birthday,” the growl sounded from the darkness and she smiled.

“Thank you, Krydon.” She turned back to the book and ran her fingers over the page. “I was three years old when they discovered my disability. I kept bumping into things.”

“I remember the time you stepped on my tail,” Krydon said, his growl mixed with laughter.

Naria scowled. “I’m still sorry about that.” The book felt heavy in her lap. “I remember having the hardest time learning to read. Now it seems like I was born reading.” Again she ran her fingers over the page. “When I was five, the Gyds brought me the lamp. And the flat words.”

“The flat words of the Merchants,” Krydon lifted his head from his paws and pricked his ears at a sound.

“Naria?” The woman came around the corner and closed her eyes in the light. “I thought you might be here. Happy birthday, sweetie.”

“Thanks, mom.” She smiled weakly up at her mother’s scrunched up face. “I’ll come out soon. You go ahead and get dad.”

“Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes.” She looked relieved as she turned away and tried not to hurry from the room.

Naria sighed. “I can’t believe they still want me to stay. My mom can’t even enter my room with out getting a headache.”

Krydon shuffled over to her and rested his head in her lap. “They just need to let it go. They don’t need to understand or even like it.” He sniffed at the page. “What else are you finding in there?”

“Once they realized I needed light like the Merchants, I took off in school. My first grades are all failing, but after the lamp and the flat words, my grades are all high. My mom save my honor certificate.”

Lifting his head, Krydon looked at the book. “Very nice.”

“Oh.” She turned the page again. “She saved the healer’s certificate too. I remember when they had to invent that study line.”

“But you had a gift,” Krydon growled. “You needed the teaching in order to fulfill that gift.”

Sighing again, she stood and took a pair of goggles off her bedside table. “Yeah, I just wish it could cure of this wretched Seeing. I don’t even know why they call it Seeing.” The goggles over her eyes, she flipped off the lamp.

“It’s Seeing because it isn’t Sight.” Krydon walked with her, pressing close to her leg to keep her from tripping in the near total darkness.

She put a hand on his shoulders, walking slowly over the path she had come to know so well. The goggle’s special lenses revealed the dim outline of the rooms they walked through. “Happy birthday!” Her parents sat at the dining room table smiling at her. A large platter of food steamed on the table filling the room with scrumptious smells. Krydon left her side as she sat and took his place on the other side of the table.

“Naria,” her mother started, stepping around the table toward her. “Honey, happy birthday.”

“Now, now,” her father soothed. “Let her get through the meal before you try to talk to her.”

Reluctantly, her mother nodded. “I made your favorite.” She reached over Naria as, she had done since the beginning, and filled her plate with food. “Help yourself, Krydon.” She set the full plate in front of Naria.

The Gyd lifted a paw and pulled a plate close to him. “It smells deliscious.”

The woman nodded at the compliment. “Only the best for birthdays.”

They ate in silence, the somber mood settling heavy on the group. The only sound the clinking of plates and glasses. The goggles helped, but Naria still knocked over her glass. “Damn it!” she hissed and picked up the glass.

“Don’t worry about it,” her father said, jumping up to get a towel.

“It happens,” her mother said as she refilled Naria’s glass.

“Yeah, but it always happens to me.”

“Turn on the lamp,” her mother said as she stood away from the table. “It will help.”

“But it will blind you both, and the last thing I want for my birthday is parents with headaches.” She slouched disgruntled and chewed on her food slowly. Her parents said nothing.

After the meal, her mother cleared the table as her father brought out dessert. “And here’s your gift.” He handed her a small box.

A smile twitched as she took the box from him. “Thanks, dad.” The box sat heavily in her hand and she pulled on the corner. The Paper wrapped around the box tore off and fell to the floor. Placing her hand on the box, she closed her eyes and tried to see what was inside. But while she could see within the body, the contents of the box eluded her. She took the top off.

A long silver tube sat nestled into a swath of dark velvet. Taking the tube out, she could see that the velvet was actually a bag. The tube came apart into several sections, one of which had a button. The back came off and when she pushed the button, a low light diffused the room. Both parents squinted away from the lamp and she clicked it off.

“The next section is a stand for it,” her father covered his discomfort with an explanation. “It works on all surfaces so when you aren’t wearing the lamp, you can set it where ever you need it.”

Naria set the lamp on the stand and played with it a little. The stand adjusted to shine the light in any direction, even straight up. Setting it aside, she examined the rest of the tube. One part opened to hold small charms or money. Another part, when held to her ear, played the transmissions of the planet softly in her ear. The velvet bag opened to two compartments. One side cradled the tube in its entirety. The other side had four small pockets, each with a different healing instrument.

“Is it a Healer’s Kit?” Naria took each piece in her hand and felt the corners, the points, the flats, gingerly replacing them when she finished.

“Just for you.” She could hear the smile in her father’s voice.

The normal Healer’s kit didn’t include the lamp, but the added pieces to the tube were welcome to her. She could feel tears forming and lifted her goggles to brush them away. Without the goggles, the room was in total darkness. Her mother set a plate in front of her and then one in front of Krydon. “You could stay,” she said quietly as she sat back down. “That kit would let you have your own practice right here.”

Naria nearly choked on the bite she’d taken. “Mom, we’ve been over this before. Any shop I have will have to have the lamps on. The lamps will blind anyone who comes to see me, negating whatever it was they came for in the first place. No, I need to get to the other side of the mountains and make my future in the sun.”

“I’ve heard the sun is a myth,” her mother pouted. “What if you cross the mountains and see that the whole world is the same?”

Krydon lifted his head from his dessert. “I have family over there, and the sun is not a myth.”

Naria felt her mother glare at the Gyd. “Still, the journey is long and dangerous. You’ll need to get to Central to get any kind of transport and then they only go as far the mountains. Then you’ll have to find another way.”

“Mom!” She stood, frowning. “I am twenty years old today. Would you treat your best friend like this if she wanted to go?”

Her mother remained silent.

“Really, I’m a grown woman. Besides, the headaches are getting worse. I can’t stay here in the moonlight.”

She replaced to goggles in time to see her mother shuffle away. “You’re right of course.” Her father stood and stepped up to her. “Here,” he dropped his voice to a whisper. “Take this, but don’t tell your mother. I’ll never hear the end of it if she believes I’m pushing you out the door.”

“Thanks, dad,” she whispered putting her arm around his shoulder. “I know you’re not.”

He held her tightly a moment before letting her go. She squeezed her hand around the roll he’d given her and turned to Krydon. “I still think we should leave today.”

The Gyd nodded in agreement. “It would be less painful in the long run.”

She gruffed in response. “I’m going to get my bag, mom. When I come back down, we will be going.”

She only heard silence in response. Her father nodded.

Upstairs in her room, Naria pulled her bag from under the bed. This trip had been long in coming. Krydon pulled a bag out too and pushed it open with one paw.

“They know I can’t stay,” she grumbled as she sifted through her pack. The contents had been packed away for the better part of the week, but she pushed some of it aside so she could add her Healer’s Kit and the money her father had just given her. “I know how far it is to Central. And I know what lies on the journey. If anything, I’m more worried about the lamp. How long will it last?”

Krydon sniffed at it. “It is self powered. The more you hold it or wear it, the more power it has. This is Gyd made.”

“Then I don’t need to worry about it at all.” She gave a curt nod as she reclosed her pack and slung it to her back. Krydon slid into his pack and stood beside her. “Ready?” She adjusted the goggles on her face and went back down to face her mother.

Krydon walked beside her, but she could feel the tension in his flanks. “Are you sure we should do this?” she asked timidly.

“Yes,” he gruffed, shaking out his flanks, tossing his head. “It is for the best.”

“Naria!” Her mother came at her as she reached the bottom of the stairs. “I’m sorry to preassure you. Really, I am. But do you really expect any less from me? I love you, sweetie, and I want what’s best for you. But I also want you to stay with me forever. Sometimes those two things clash in the middle.”

Naria gave her a sad smile. “I know, mom.” She hugged the woman as her mother squeezed her. “I love you too.”

After a moment longer, she let her go and stood back. “Well, you need to get going.” She turned to Krydon. “You be carefull too. I don’t need to hear from your family that they didn’t approve of this.”

The Gyd laughed and shook his head. “Of course they approve. I’ll take good care of your daughter.”

Her mother nodded. “See that you do.”

Naria’s father clapped the Gyd on his shoulder and bent in a low bow. “Good journey. Both of you.” He hugged his daughter tightly before a soft knock sounded at the door. Her mother opened it as her father let her go.

A large Gyd stood on the step, looking up at them. He acknowledged Krydon, then spoke to Naria. “I am Coordi. We have come to help get you out of the village.”

“I didn’t call a coach.” She looked at her parents, but they both shrugged.

“This is a favor called on by Krydon’s family. We are here to serve you.” The animal bowed his head.

“Well, don’t make him wait,” her mother said, wiping tears from her eyes.

Naria nodded and followed Krydon to the low, oval coach. Slinging her bag on the seat, she gave her parents a last hug and then crawled inside. Krydon stood on his hind legs and hugged both of her parents before getting into the coach. “Thank you for the hospitality all this time. And I will watch after her.” Then they closed the door, and the Gyd who’d fetched them took up the lead and ran off, coach in tow.



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