Not really doldrums though. I just like that word.
Here's the update:
I've got an oft-revised draft of a novelette (15k words) prepped for eyes other than my own. I want to get this self-pubbed soon, just to get it out there. It's something I'm finally comfortable with, and now I just need to know if readers like it too. Otherwise, I'll write the rest and keep it to myself :)
The blurb: Kai is a police officer native to Caraq, but he's working for the Strahanis who occupied and absorbed his nation into their own. When he has to confront a Caraqtha criminal, he has to decide which side he's really fighting to save.
Does this blurb suck? I need advice on it!
Anyway, I'm moving on to other storylines related to this Caraqtha/Strahani struggle. Super excited to get this on the roll.
I spent November on NaNoWriMo and wrote a huge backstory novel for one of the minor characters in the aforementioned struggle. I knew the draft would be super suck, so it was a nice exercise in simply learning more about the character and her struggles. It helps inform much of my current work. And writing 1700 words every day also has me primed to continue that trend into December.
“We should have taken the train,” Dad said for the fifth
time. He looked out the passenger window, a worn map crushed in a hand
clutching his armrest. Mom, hands perched on the driver’s wheel, did not deign
to look at him. I think if she had, she would’ve socked him good. Her shoulders
slowly rose and fell.
“You’ve said that already, Larry.”
“Well it seemed like last time I was talking to an empty
“Look at the birds!” I said from my plastic car seat.
Neither of them responded.
“Great,” Mom said, not to me.
Motorcycles streamed past the idling cars. One bike had
four people on it. Daughter and son as small as me sandwiched between their dad
driving and mom smiling in the back. It looked like the mom was going to fall
off—her only purchase the underside of the seat’s lip—leaning back like that.
But her black hair was flowing and her smile was the brightest thing I’d seen
“We’ve been sitting in this traffic for two hours. How
far have we even gone?”
“Are you expecting my answer to make the cars move,
Larry?” She had a way of saying his name like she would say mine when I was in
trouble, one of Mom’s many powers.
Dad turned on me. “What’s so funny, Jordan?”
“Don’t yell at her.”
“I wasn’t yelling!”
A seemingly empty car answered him.
The cars ahead moved slightly forward. As they’d been for
hours, everyone fuming.
It was really very quiet, and the crummy felt on the
plastic seat was sticky, somehow the gum I’d saved for later not returning to
me. I plucked at it sucking and wetting my fingers, the gooey strings coming
up, spiraling and breaking. I sniffed. I couldn’t save any.
“Do you guys smell smoke?” Dad asked. “Seriously, though,
what’s that smell?” He twisted in his seat to look through our back window.
“You smell that, Suze?”
“I don’t smell anything, Larry.”
“Is that a fire?”
I pulled at my straps, the thin gray bands around my
shoulders. I kicked my legs. My head cramped by the car seat’s walls. “Let me
out, I want to see the fire.”
“Honey, there’s a fire,” Dad said in his
goofy-trying-to-be-charismatic voice, “and I think we ought to show Jordan what
the fire looks like.”
Mom turned to him, and she was smiling. “Ok.”
They burst out of their doors, yelling, “Fire drill, fire
Mom came to my door and yanked me from my seat and
hoisted me on her strong shoulders, my favorite perch, and we ran around the
car, looking for the fire, Dad running in the opposite direction, screaming,
“You guys see the fire?” Maybe to us, maybe to the other cars.
We were all hollering at the top of our lungs and it felt
so good. We ran in more circles around the car. People yelled at us, honked and
held their horns.
We got back in the car.
Mom and Dad were out of breath and laughing.
“Where was the fire?” I asked. “I want to see the fire!”
Saint entered the dusty room cautiously, as a man does
who has seen horrible things revealed through swung doors. A mattress with
rumpled sheets was crammed into the far corner, and a simple wood chair and
desk filled the opposite end of the room. Altogether an unremarkable
architecture and furnishing.
The floor boards groaned with Saint’s every step. Perhaps
they’d not been stepped on in decades. It’d been that long since he’d been
He glanced at the yellowed papers he’d pinned to the
walls, the dictates, the stately inversions, the inner workings of a burgeoning
nation. The notions held in the words were old, idealistic. And dead.
She should be here
any minute, he thought. Ten days into the riots, when the viciousness
proved insatiable, they had agreed to meet here—the beginning of all things for
them. So long ago, this was where they had written their brilliance and led the
people. Apparently, any revolutionary can lead the people. He laughed at the
circuitousness of it all.
He sat on the bed, a plume of motes geysering around him.
They exposed themselves in the thinning sunlight through the single window
above him. Between his fingers, he rubbed the moth-eaten sheets, felt the age
and memories. He leaned back against the wall. His eyelids drooped. So much
running, when would it end?
A floor board creaked. He jerked from his reverie. It was
pitch black, the sun gone. He had slept. It was silent again, but his mind was
roaring. He willed his eyes to pierce the darkness. He wanted so badly to call
out and for her to call back, the singsong of her voice flying to him, but he
had done that before and it had cost lives. The agony!
Five minutes felt an hour. Another five a year. His eyes
adjusted and he could discern no other persons or new shadows in the room. He
quickly went to the desk, his hands scrambling over the surface for the candle
and then his pockets for a match. Rare an emotion more powerful than light banishing
With the candle he revealed the room, identical as his
entrance, yet he knew it had been exposed to another presence. It was the odor.
The intruder had smelled of earth, ripped grass, the sweat of a horse. But this
virus had been a shadow, leaving no marks on the floor, the only breaks in the
dusty patterns his own. He sighed, turned and sat in the chair.
There on the desk was a new paper, outstanding in its
It was written in the old cipher she and he had used in
their childhood romance.
It was signed in blood.
It read: We have
Rose. Come to the Fifth Parallel.
Saint’s hands trembled as he pulled the paper before his
eyes. Backlit by the candle, a ghostly outline of cramped yet graceful text was
pulled into existence in the lower left corner.
Kaleo ran beside the beautiful butterflies flying in the
dusk light, tittering before him like fairies, zipping this way and that. They
came in the fall, when the rest of the valley became a barren landscape of
skeleton trees and scraggly bushes. Yellowed grass crumpled beneath his
With the sun behind the largest
mountain—though it was really more a tall hill—the sky blossomed into a deep
vermilion, and the half moon grew more powerful. Yet between that and Kaleo
were the butterflies.
their fluttering, he laughed and danced as they did. With dusk nearly complete,
light fading in each passing moment, the butterflies and their iridescent wings
followed one in particular. It seemed to coast more than the others, flapping
its brilliant emerald to violet to cerulean hues only to settle on incandescent
gold. The butterfly arched high in the air, completing a twist and coasted
toward its vibrant brethren. They swirled together in a rainbow vortex before
breaking apart like a meteor shattering across the atmosphere.
to the ground and lay there, quietly, with his hands rested on his stomach,
watching the angels pass in the air.
He dozed for a time.
When he woke, he smiled; they
remained above, as always. He held his hand up, inspecting it in the ghostly
moonlight. So plain, the skin. Affording no shimmers in the night.
A brilliant idea occurred to him.
With zest, he leapt to his feet.
Overhead, the butterflies continued
His mother called to him from the
Just a few more minutes.
Make it one minute, Kaleo, dinner
A butterfly broke off from the
glittering haze, a lost star. It spun alone in the air, keeping time to its own
rhythm. Slowly, in downward spirals, it came.
Kaleo cupped it between his hands.
He smiled to himself. It splashed around within his hermetic finger cage.
Slowly, he separated his thumbs, peering in. Only darkness. He frowned and
opened his hands. Nothing remained but black splatters across his palms.
A tear fell from his eyes, smudging
the bloody stains.
Above him, the other butterflies
flickered and went dark. But he knew they were there. He thought they would
never light up again. Their vigil lasted seconds. They left him in the quiet
night, upon their iridescent wings.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I have a monster.
We all have one—personal demons lurking in the dark, stale corners of our souls.
In the deepest of my being, I can visit my monster. I shudder to think of her.
I have neglected my monster. For so long, in the pit of my
humanity, she has lashed against her fraying tether, never biding her time. I
admire her relentless fury, and I fear it.
She howls at me as I approach a pretty girl; she snickers
when I speak before a group; she laughs at me always. I never confront her
about these things—horrible as she is. I’m not brave enough.
You don’t know my monster like I do. She’s different than
yours. You’d realize this the moment you met her. This is one crazy sonuvagun. And she’d stare at you through her
red, gleaming eyes, quivering maw waiting to spit condescension.
Under the dawn’s light, I plopped into the tractor seat and
disked the rows between my fruitless apple trees, riling up the dirt. The green
leaves dimmed under the churned dust. I had just completed the last row when
Miss Jasper showed up on her horse, Nilly. I turned off the tractor, the loud
engine cutting with a cough. I wiped my brow and nodded as they neared.
“Very funny, Travis,” Miss Jasper said. She leaned in the
saddle and stroked Nilly’s smooth hair. Miss Jasper had fine auburn hair
herself. What I wouldn’t give to—
Very funny indeed,
my monster says. Why don’t you tell her
about all those feelings?
“Sorry, Miss Jasper, how can I help you?”
“Travis, would you please call me Heather? Makes me feel
like my aunt when you call me Miss Jasper. Yes, I know you respect tradition.
I nodded, smiling at the wondrous way she always stared into
my canopies, as if discovering them for the first time.
“Anywho, I was wondering…” Miss Jasper’s voice continued on,
a pageant of beautiful tones and inflections.
From her darkness, my monster thought, How many times are you going to nod like an imbecile? She knows you’re
a dumb ape: your jaw too slack, barely sitting straight.
I gritted my teeth behind tightened lips, yet my soul ached
under Miss Jasper’s meandering smile. My heartstrings were at their limits.
I won’t fear you, I
Oh, come down to chat
for a change? My monster’s voice was cool and confident.
I won’t fear you.
Easier said than done,
little man. You’ve not been down here in some ten years. We all know how that
shook out. What makes you think this is any different?
I paused, a fleeting moment, collecting myself. Because I can admit that you’re right, yet
I’m also right, and if not for you, I couldn’t prove to myself that I can be
different. I’ve always been convinced that you are not me. But that’s not true.
I am my monster. And I can be greater than myself.
“Travis, are you listening?” Miss Jasper sounded annoyed,
despite her radiant smile.