Perpetual Prey

canopyAs he scrambled through the underbrush the jagged tear in his leg soaked his boot and, worse, left a clear trail for the monster on his trail.

The same question circled his brain over and over: loop back and get behind the creature, or drive like a madman straight away from it?

His inability to decide stemmed from his unfamiliarity with the beast. Was it sentient, reasoning, a strategic foe, or simply a mad animal looking for a meal?

Pushing through the dense jungle since waking before dawn to the stench of the taloned thing behind him, he fought the mental fog brought on by lack of sleep. The animal had dogged his trail for a week, if his count of the days was right.

Precision wasn’t his strong suit.

Death was.

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Two People Meeting in a Bookstore

photo http://www.sxc.hu/photo/732128 by Muriel Miralles de Sawicki http://www.sxc.hu/profile/murielleBeing rude to people in the bookstore line was no way for Ellen to get back at her brother but she couldn’t help herself. For weeks now he’d been on her case about working in what he called “the dead zone” as if nobody went to book stores anymore. What did he think she did all day, watch soaps and eat bonbons? The store was busy right now. Where was Jason? Why didn’t he take a day off his precious college education and come see what really happened in a bookstore all day?

She’d asked him that when he called far too early this morning. He had to get to class, as if that was an answer.

“Excuse me.”

Jason vanished in a puff of smoke as the George Clooney type passing the register got her attention. She smiled, as she always did at the customers. Sometimes it was easier than others, right?

“How can I help you?”

He took a step closer and lowered his voice. “I need to find this book on site planning and Amazon wants a hundred bucks for it. Thought maybe this antique store would have a used copy cheaper.”

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Q’noge Woman Escapes from Her Captor Scene Experiment

Q'noge womanAfter three variations I found myself stumped. The third feels right, but is it?

It’s easy to fly through storytelling, getting my readers to The End with the least fuss.

It’s better to make the critical scenes more than simply the conveyance of information. The deeper I dig into the core scenes, those that turn the story’s direction, the more memorable and emotionally fulfilling they are.

I’ve never done that, pushing myself to rewrite a scene multiple ways, looking for the best version. In the past, I’ve been satisfied to note the scene’s purpose, write a direct sequence of actions fulfilling that purpose, and let my editor tidy it up.

If he tidies brass, you get highly polished brass.

I want my books to be solid gold.


Q’noge Woman Escapes from Her Captor v03

Q'noge woman“I have money.”

He didn’t reply. She tried again.

“My owner will pay whatever ransom you want.”

Still nothing.

“How much am I worth to you?”

“Stop talking. If you were only a possession to barter with you would already have been sold.”

“Then what am I? Why are you taking me?” She suspected an answer but wondered if he would respond.

“Stop talking.”

“Don’t I have a right to —”

He slapped the back of her head. “Stop talking. I won’t say it again.”

She turned. “I will not. If you intend to drag me through the forest you will hear me every step of the way.”

He had stopped a moment after her, one step too close. As he slid his machete from his belt she kicked him, hard, below that belt.

Before the machete dropped from his hands she was holding it.

“Do not follow me.”

He backed away. She stepped closer and flicked the machete in her two hands. The middle of his tunic split; just a small split, but the tip had touched him.

“Do not.”

He continued backing away.

She turned and ran without a backward glance.


Q’noge Woman Escapes from Her Captor v02

Q'noge womanShe slowed.

“Keep moving.” He shoved her.

Stifling rage, she smiled coyly. “I thought this might be a good place.”

As she stepped closer he raised his arms to either attack or defend depending on what she did next. “A good place for what?”

She softened the smile and tilted her head slightly. “Unless you don’t want to . . .”

That was the look she was expecting. All men everywhere were the same.

He lowered his arms.

She stepped closer and raised her bound hands. “Aren’t you going to untie me first?”

His face reddened and he put one hand on his machete. He leaned and stepped at the same time, his nose nearly touching hers.

As he opened his mouth to shout at her no sound came. Her hands were locked behind his neck, the thick rope pressing against the front and sides.

When he was unconscious she let him fall, took the machete, and fled back down the path. Time enough to free her hands when she was out of his earshot.


Q’noge Woman Escapes from Her Captor v01

HQ'noge womaner captor was no match for her in the forest. Any opening was enough for her to slip away.

Every few minutes his pace changed; he slowed, to check behind or to rest or simply because it was how he marched.

She started counting.

The third time, it was almost exactly the same count.

The fourth time, she anticipated, quickened her pace, and was hidden among the trees before he could touch her.


Understaying Your Welcome

nomadicShe shoved her wadded up sweats and t-shirt into her duffle bag. Down in the yard, a blue jay dove on a squirrel. Hand still in the bag, she imagined a mother bird risking all to protect her young. She’d never know the feeling.

The rest of the house was silent. These big wooden houses, if someone was moving you’d hear it. Sounds carried through the registers in the floor and up wide staircases, down spacious hallways to the small room in the tower at the front of the house.

They’d had a nice dinner at a picnic table in the backyard, her hostess and her 5 boys. Their dad was working late; he wouldn’t be home until after they’d all gone to bed. And now she was leaving before he was up.

She was more comfortable with men, so last night she’d chatted more with the boys than with their mother. The woman kept eyeing her oldest boy, a young man, really. Continue reading “Understaying Your Welcome”


Character Study: Jake Calcutta

forestAs his quarry stumbled noisily along the path he moved silently on a parallel path through the trees. Occasionally he fell behind; unlike the supermen on film, it took time to move truly silently.

But his quarry was in no hurry, and so with spurts of speed through clear spaces, he kept up.

He carried no weapon; needed none but the one inside his head. He valued life, considered it sacred, and wouldn’t take a life unless it were the last desperate option — and even then, he knew he’d give his own before taking another without good cause.

This quarry was no threat, simply a source of information. He’d noticed the so-called tourist’s familiarity with customs in the market and realized they were the underling he’d been waiting for. Whatever function they performed for their employers, their function to him was simple.

To take him to those employers so he could destroy them.


My fiction newsletter signup — the official handwritten welcome note

Every person who signs up for my newsletter gets a personal welcome. Some, it’s just that: a welcome. Others, it’s an excerpt from something I’ve written. Most, though, get a vignette I compose on the spot.

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Reviewing them just now, I realized I could rearrange them to make sense as the introduction of a story. Almost.

Like this:

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Tabloid Thousand Rover

Cold morning. Mist. Garage doors open, close. Lemming boxen off to slave.

Feet stamped awake. Couch cushions put back. Taste of dirt in his mouth.

Unemployment. Self-employment, maybe. Guns and gals and goodness.

Cold tap water. Hands, face, stomach. No breakfast. Coffee. Black.

Out, down, gone. No lemming box. Just feet.

Foot and foot, foot by foot.

Save the world. Save someone.

Save yourself.