Wicca Abides

The ping of the worn hammer echoed across the compound. Sed shook the sweat from his forehead and drops sizzled on the dull-red iron band he was shaping, a collar strong and heavy.

“She’ll not be rid of this one.” He dove the metal back into the ticking coals readying the strip to receive the first hole punched in its end.

Old man Creston leaned back against a nearby post. “Iron won’t hold her but a day, maybe two. Without a core o’ silver runnin’ through, she’ll be rid of it soon enough.”

Sed motioned the man over to hold the punch to the end of the collar, ready to receive the blacksmith’s penetrating strike. “She’ll come out of it. It’s just mind-fits. Nothing more. You and the Council been spending too much time in Borrowest’s library.”

The hardened punch drove through the band and Sed flattened out the ragged edges of the hole. The mist from the river had yet to lift; the cottonwood trees encroached upon the smithy like shrouded watchers, witnesses to the makings of imprisonment.

“Not a scratch on her, yet the last two sets of shackles rent and tossed aside,” the old man offered.

At Sed’s nod Creston set the punch to the other end. The hammer struck and the sound died hollow.

The ends of the collar were bent to tabs and Sed aligned the holes holding it up with tongs to gauge the trueness. “This time we’ll rivet the ends with the chain pinched between.”

Creston frowned, tossed the punch into the tools bin, and wiped his forehead with a rough canvas sleeve. “No silver, no chance.”

“Tell the Council we’re ready.” Sed plunged the collar into the water bucket where it hissed and spit. “And make sure Nesta’s hands and feet are well tied this time.”

~~~

Nesta’s chin lifted and she stared straight into the blacksmith’s eyes, her own, honey-gold eyes clear and guileless. “We can lose this place, Sed. You and I, we can head north, maybe west where Mother Earth still enjoys due respect.”

“Shh, Ness. Wear this collar. Suffer their fears for the time being. Some fresh calamity will steal their minds from you. Then…”

She lowered her eyes and Sed noticed her familiar, melancholy look. Nesta, her tangled chestnut hair weed ridden and stringy, then leaned her head to the anvil. Sed adjusted the collar and the first link of the twenty foot chain so that he could hammer the rivet smooth. He’d taken a bit of cottenwood fluff, free of seeds and gently tucked it into her ears, the pinging, so close, would drive anyone mad.

Borrowest’s mayor, the buttons on his vest straining to pop, his eyebrows combed vertical, his thought to lengthen his pudgy pie-tin face, held up his hand. “As sentenced by the town council of Borrowest, you, Nesta Vie will be shackled in the square for a period of thirty-days for your original crime of conjuring dark spirits and subsequent crimes of escape from prior punishment. Smithy, you may proceed.”

~~~

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Title – Hell, I don’t know

— If this yearning in my gut wont quit , I may have to write it out.

— Disgust is the foundation of every emotion. It’s there to provide humility.

— The stars beckon, but their grasp is slight.

— I’ve wanted to live those lives, but obligations are my burden, my shackles.

— Tomorrow will not come. Assume that and live a glorious today.

— Kindness costs nothing, yet gives everything.

— Seek.

Blue Across the Sea: new cover

Self publishing means I need to create my own covers. The first version of BATS was me drawing and hacking it up like a fifth-grader. Sorry job that.

This version, done by my friend and artist associate Yulian Mulyono (who did all the artwork for The Gribble’s Eye) is 1000x better. I loaded him up with the idea and reference images of a stormy sea and he made this. The guy’s a rock star.

BATS-NEW-YULIAN

Canapés filled with mud

If agony were the least of my sensations, then the taste in my mouth would barely register. Blood, its tang and slick coating, dribbled down my chin. Too bad it’s my own, I thought. If it were his… I could have called this adventure a success. The man deserved to die, no, not just die, suffer. Like a surfer upon a coral reef; like a skier entombed in a snowy coffin avalanche; like Dressley, his EpiPen cracked down the side, the nest of hornets erupting its occupants from the spherical paper-mache home they’d built to endure the winter.

I could still move my head. Wow, I breathed, the fall hadn’t broken my neck. To my left the sand stretched out to a metal pole stuck as a sign. My eyes rotated up its length. NO DUMPING glared at me from on high. Ha, the cabrones who’d kicked me out the back of the pickup had broken yet another law. Didn’t they realize that laws provided the very foundation of civilization they were trying to undermine? I coughed into the dust. The ants were congregating. Their leader, the one with a tiny gospel held in his mandibles, jerked his head my way, his antennae wiggling like props. I saw the third in line clean his forelegs in preparation.

Little did they know I could detect something brewing on the wind. I grinned internally, externally, it turns out my neck was truly busted, even my jaw had hardened to concrete. Rain was coming. Big, fat, dollops of desert rain, held aloft by circulating air currents, tumbling over each other, growing bulbous in their attempts to free themselves and arc to the ground, they were headed my way. The ants’ way.

The first drop struck me right in the eye. The rest was a blur. I suppose the ants got theirs — what they deserved, thinking they could take what they want from the world without repercussion. Without payment. Without an obligation to history.

The drops cooled my grey skin; washed it clean. Absolution from the heavens. It wouldn’t last, I knew. But it would be enough to wipe the ink from my forehead. Right?

 

What would you say to Hemingway?

What would you say to Hemingway?

The Idaho sun is just now rising above the treetops. The Sun Valley home you find yourself in smells of Hoppe’s, old leather, whiskey and sweat. He’s there, sitting in a stiff backed chair behind a desk. You’ve plopped yourself into a leather stuffed monster that nearly swallows you whole.

“Papa,” you say, “your stories are not — have never been — real.”

“Of course they were real.” The man slurs his words, from age or alcohol, it’s hard to tell which. His bearded face scowls at your assumption.

“I mean, to readers. To readers, they were always imaginings. They shut the book and their own lives came back into view.”

“Your point?”

“You could go on telling stories that even you, yourself, knew to be fully rooted in the realm of imagination.”

The old man cleaned his teeth with his tongue. His jaw worked at the concept. “Imagination is not something I bother with. If it’s not been felt, rubbed into your skin, someone’s skin, then it’s not real.”

“Yes, I know the truth has gagged you.” The old man jerked his chin your way. “But, your readers have always believed in your stories.”

“What? Gagged? How… Well of course they have. HOW COULDN’T THEY BELIEVE?” He’d become agitated, he started rummaging through the drawers of the desk.

“What I mean to say is that, for them, real or not, imagined or not, while they read your words, they transported themselves into the world you created.”

Papa Hemingway stopped his searching. He lay the double barrel onto the worn and pitted desk before him. “Put it plain, man!”

“Realism is in the eye of the reader. The truth of the story — is in the telling.”

The big man sat there, staring at you. His rough, scared hands fisted over and over. He’d wandered out here, in his bathrobe, to work at some internal conflict. You’d heard the commotion, risen and joined him. You refused his offer of a finger of amber liquid, the hour being late (or early, as it were).

“If I wrote of men on Mars, for god’s sake, the readers would read that?”

“Yes.”

“And fantastical trips to strange lands and distant shores — all full of bollocks?”

“They’d read, and enjoy that, too.”

He set his elbows on the desk and leaned forward. His forehead tilted to touch the receiver of the engraved shotgun lying like an offering there across his desk. He jerked up, startling me. “And the tales I’ve told, the rhinos and marlin and white lion, they… They think those things ‘imagined,’ creations of my mind?”

You’d gotten through to him. You knew it from the compelling look in his eyes. “If they were real, or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s your words that brought those visions to life. And can still do so.”

He stared at you. His eyes blinked. “Damn it, man! Then I’ve got stories to write.” He moved to get up yet stopped. “But this H&H has been mistreated. I’ll clean it first and bear down on a story I’ve been dreaming about for some time. It’s about the end of the world.”

“I could clean that gun for you. I’d be happy to do it.”

He paused as he lifted the elegant firearm from his desk, “My gun, my responsibility.”

 

 

 

East Coast Maps: West is up

For those who like maps, who are aware and/or interested in the early colonial years of the United States, here is a fascinating article with maps that often use compass West as the map’s North.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/why-early-virginia-maps-had-west-at-the-top

In it we see a map (Library of Congress copy) drawn by the famous Captain John Smith. It’s magnificent. Conjecture proceeds in the article as to why some map makers, specifically those who drew Virginia, used west as north. I would think the reason obvious. From the coast, all roads and rivers lead up into the Appalachian Mountains. Up equals north. I could easily imagine early maps of California or Chile using a similar tactic.

JohnSmithChesapeakeMap

The reason I bother posting this is due to the fact that my current work-in-progress story, Shadow Shoals, takes place, initially, on the Chesapeake Bay, albeit, 200+ years from today.

Learning of the various rivers and coastal cities where future events might take place has been fun. I grew up in the area and so have some experience with the Bay. Regardless, exploring it through internet research certainly opens my eyes on its heritage.

 

 

BATS – twitter promotion

And so it begins. The self-promotion, back-alley descent into peddling one’s own wares. Well, I had to give it a try, just to see how the process might go. Morgan Wright provided what looks to be a simple, pervasive and low-cost venue for announcing my novel (or your novel).

Morgan delivered on her promise. I think her way of promotion is the way to go in the future.

Regardless of the efficacy, it was great to see this in my feed.

BATS_Twitter_Promo

Medic! Whiteout, STAT

 

A2

I have a great copy editor. She’s dedicated, technically focused, a great speller and grammarian. And she’s free. We edited Blue Across the Sea at least four times before we called it quits and just published the thing.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39719790-blue-across-the-sea

She bought herself a hard copy from TheBookPatch and proceeded to find glitch after glitch. She was beside herself with chagrin. Well, I said, we can change the book anytime and for any reason we like.

So, she re-read the whole thing, correcting in pencil this time and then transferred the corrections up to the Google Doc we share. I pulled down the DOCX version, uploaded to Draft2Digital, republished and voila, errata are now toast.

Until the next few glitches show up, of course.

And that’s my point. No matter how many times you edit your manuscript, you will ALWAYS find something to fix. Fortunately, this self-publishing channel is drop-dead-simple for making changes.

If you purchased my novel (there have been two of you so far) I’m anxious to get you an updated epub or mobi version, with all the (50+) fixes in place, gratis. Give me a jingle and I slip you a link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Paleo Friendship #2

Sleep eluded me. Or so it felt as the chattering of a rock-rodent woke me from my dazed stupor. I fisted a hand full of gravel and threw it in the wretched creature’s direction. I suppose I’d dreamed of the sea for I convulsed and heaved my stomach into the ashes of my now dead fire. “Damn Tak and his seal meat.”

My goal persistent though, I packed up my belongings and slipped up hill through the rocks, headed toward the top of this valley’s watershed. My back ached from the poor bedding, but I recalled suffering worse in the trek down the coast. At least the insects had abated. The others, west, moving south along the great-water, would be reeling from the constant whir of nagging, biting crawlers.

“Diza, guide me. Lift me from this grumble that infects my mind.” I shook my head and stepped higher.

I thought of the dark youth and how he had peered into me. And I know, I into him. “Who are you? You feed and nurture the Fire, I am sure.” But those two, they are not of our kind. I pictured he and his partner and felt their difference to my core. If they are here now, are there others like them? Such thoughts drifted through me as I mindlessly worked my way from copse to outcropping. All the time headed up.

A hawk screamed his outrage as I busted through his private aviary. “Patience, brother. I’ll leave this valley to you. But for now, allow me passage.”

To the east I could see the valley’s root, a pinching of ridges that pressed into the spine of the world. It was here, still ten shout-fars from the valley’s top, where I stopped to rest. My lookout gave me a fine view across and down the gorge. The vista calmed me. Take me to the top and I could breathe and feel the sky.

As I scooped and sucked at melted snow, I spotted the dark others break out of the lower treeline. They showed as mere specks, yet I knew them. More so, I knew the tan-brown shape above that tracked their progress. Every valley, or so Tak had recounted, held a demon, a monstrous cat that claimed the territory as far as you could see. Just such a beast stalked the two dark ones below.

I watched as the pair made their mistake. The easy path up the bowl of the canyon might seem the obvious trail. But such a line left one a target from above. I huffed acceptance of one of Tak’s rare truths — go high and take command. Yet I cursed him at the implications of the dark ones’ plight, “Diza take your other eye, you old fool.”

The inescapable events unfolded below me. I was unsure that I wished them on the others, or that I mourned what was about to befall the dark youth and his partner.

A merry ground-thief crept up to me, there on my perch. I had nothing to feed it, yet it came to investigate my outstretched fingers. “Here, you striped, furtive thing. Skitter away while you can. My hunger may return and you, though slight, would be welcome, roasted.”

A thunderous roar echoed up from below. Still mid-day, I watched, wide-eyed, as the cave lion tumbled down upon the pair of dark men. I imagined the impact and crunch of teeth over top of their skulls. Such an onslaught could not be stopped. I witnessed the sight, enraptured, my palms held cupped before me, peering through them to focus the light.

The first man stood waiting, I thought, with an anchored spear. The lion hit him first and knocked him back and down. The beast then embraced and engulfed the second man who disappeared beneath the tawny expanse of the huge cat. The initial roar continued to echo. And the screams of the men followed, faint and depleted.

Ten heart beats and the valley returned to silence. “No more others to nag my travels, now.”

My bluster lasted all of a single breath. I remained perched, scanning the area of attack. Nothing moved. The wind had ceased and the murmur of the trees gasped, holding their breath, waiting for my response. Even the striped tailed thieves sat, the three of them, tiny hands knit as if nervous, waiting for my reaction.

I looked up to the distant valley spires. Just over them I could descend and make my way to what I knew would be a land of bounteous food and leisure. Yet the haunting deep-set eyes of the youth tugged at my spirit. “Diza, you wench! Judge me not. I will take your sign and when I come to my own end, I will welcome the feel of your throat within my fist. No mercy will I show. But,” I hefted my pack, the three ground thieves vanished into the rocks, “until then, I will go see what the valley’s demon has left me for salvage.”