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A Sneak Peek from “In the Wake of Ashes”

I’ve been hard at work polishing the manuscript of the third installment of the Fylbrigge Saga: In The Wake of Ashes. The book will be officially released for Kindle and Paperback on April 19. I thought I’d share a small excerpt.

This sample comes from the first chapter. William is overseeing the construction of his new home.

**Spoiler if you have not finished My Brother’s Keeper**

 

 

 

“I told you it would work.” Ian clapped William’s shoulder. “That was a fine bit of engineering you worked out.”

“He worked it out?” Simon scoffed. “It should have fallen afoul before it started, then.” He crossed his arms over his chest, grinning.

William turned the plans over in his hand and gave Simon a confounded look. “That’s odd. The peaks are pointing the wrong way, look.” He held the upside-down plan out to Simon.

Simon burst into laughter then shook William’s hand heartily. “Congratulations, Will. ‘Twill be a fine home.”

“Thank you.” William rolled up the plans and took another gander at his masterpiece. “I’m as surprised as you are, Simon. It’s better than I expected. I’m amazed that the frame is finished so quickly.”

“It isn’t finished yet.” Ian shook his head, looking to Simon. “Is it, Simon?”

“Why, no, Ian.” Simon stroked his chin thoughtfully. “There’s something missing.”

William gave Ian and Simon a suspicious look. He unrolled his plans to see what could possibly be missing. “What are you two talking about?” he asked.

Ian winked at Simon with a grin. “Won’t be finished without that last touch, will it?”

“Not at all,” Simon answered.

“All right, what are you two up to?” William rolled his plans again.

“Why, the blessing of the bough, of course.” Ian extended a hand to the peak.

“The bough?” William looked where Ian pointed. As part of the construction preparation, a large iron arm, with a pulley on the end protruded from the peak. A rope had been threaded through, and was attached to a workman’s bench, meant for hoisting building materials. “What bough?”

Ian gave William a mischievous smile, then nodded a signal to Ephraim Ashcrofte, the new vicar, and Charles Blackwood, the blacksmith of the village, who were sitting on the grass nearby, both wearing the same look of smug conspiracy. They stood and went to the workman’s bench and set it across two barrels. Charles held up the evergreen branch that, as part of the traditional builder’s blessing, would be attached to the peak of the frame and remain there throughout the rest of the construction. Ephraim held up a hammer.

“So…who is to place the bough then?” William asked, with a slight sense of trepidation.

“The bough is always placed by the master of the house, of course.” Simon said, resting a hand on William’s shoulder.

“What?”

Before he could protest, Ian and Simon flanked William, and lifted him off his chair, each taking one arm and leg, and carried him to the workman’s bench and sat him down.

“You’re not serious…” William laughed, looking back and forth at his friends, “are you?”

“Aye.” Ian and Simon spoke together, as they handed him a long length of rope.

“Strap yourself good, lad, you’re going up,” Ian said with a comical seriousness in his eyes.

“Absolutely!” William grinned, as he wrapped the rope back and forth around the bench and across his lap as many times as the length would allow. He looked up to Ian, then to the peak. “It is safe. Right?”

Ian leaned close to William, “Yes, but if you don’t want to do it, tell me. Truly, Will, it’s up to you.”

William looked again at the peak, thinking it over. “How high is it?” he asked quietly.

“It’s a bit more than twenty feet to the ground from up there,” Ian said, still speaking quietly. “If you like, I’ll go with you, if you’re afraid,” he offered.

William grinned, and raised a brow. “Afraid?” He took the hammer from Ephraim. “I think not. Hoist me, lads!”

The men around him cheered as Charles handed William the evergreen bough. It was no more than a yard in length and an inch in diameter. William threaded it under the rope on his lap, along with the hammer.

“Ready?” Ian asked, as he checked the safety rope.

William wrapped his left arm around one of the supporting ropes. “Ready.”

Slowly, Simon pulled the rope hand over hand, lifting the bench toward the peak.

Twenty feet to the ground. Twenty feet? For a moment William had an odd feeling he’d heard someone tell him that before, then the thought passed as finally he reached the peak of the frame. He glanced down to the ground. Wrong thing to do. He closed his eyes for a moment to steady a strange trembling that began worming its way from the pit of his stomach up through his chest. Fine time to discover that I’m not fond of heights. Just hammer the bough, and be done.

“You’re doing great, Will!” Simon called up from the ground.

“Just drop it in now,” Ephraim added his encouragement.

William tightened his grip on the support line, then reached for the bough with his free hand and slid it out from under the rope. A U-shaped bracket had already been placed in the beam, and all he had to do was slide one end of the bough into it, then give it one or two taps with the hammer and he would be done. Easy enough. Just hold on tight and lean out a bit—

“William!” Mehlyndia cried out, “What are you doing?”

William jolted, violently, as the sound of her voice startled him, and for one, terrifying moment, he was certain he was going to fall off the bench. His brief panic was echoed by a chorus of startled gasps from below him that quickly settled. He clutched the support rope as tightly as possible, and took a long breath, then looked down, nodded to the people that all was well, then looked to where Mehlyndia’s voice had come from. She was running toward the construction from the cottage. Elinor and Prissy, with Seany in tow, ran close behind. Ian ran to meet Mehlyndia half way, and stopped her from getting any closer. She argued with him for a moment, a mixture of panic and anger on her face. Oh, I’ll catch it from her later, I’m sure. Elinor caught up to them and put a motherly arm on Mehlyndia’s shoulder.

“Be careful!” Mehlyndia called up to William as Elinor persuaded her to sit in the shade. “That’s a long drop!” She settled on a rock beneath a large oak tree and watched him through her fingers.

“I’m always careful.” William answered, forcing a smile he hoped appeared more confident than he was feeling after being startled. When he turned his attention back to placing the bough, he discovered, to his dismay, he would have to lean out farther than he expected to reach the bracket. He instinctually wrapped his left wrist one more time around the support rope, which tightened, almost painfully so, as he leaned out, holding the bough with is right hand. Another strange echo flashed in his head, the drop is twenty feet to the floor. He froze, bough midway to the bracket, as the tremble in his middle made its way to his hand. Ground, not floor, there’s no floor under me. It’s the ground.

“Will?” Ian called up, from directly under the bench. “Is something wrong?”

William did not answer. He sat still as a stone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stat tuned!

 

 

©2013 All rights reserved: Lorrieann Russell

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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

How to Not Frustrate a Writer

They don’t mean to do it. They don’t even know that they’re doing it. They will deny they did it when confronted.

I’m talking about readers who frustrate the hell out of writers with nit-picks, corrections and ‘helpful’ suggestions on how the plot of the next book should go. Now, make no mistake, I am not implying that reader feedback is a bad thing by any means. It is a fact that we writers crave it and will go out of our way to solicit thoughtful (hopefully positive) critique of our body of work.

What we do not covet are demands to change the plot, change the character’s name or motive, change the period, venue or title.

We know you readers are a demanding bunch, and we always steer with one eye toward the horizon of public acceptance. But the fact of the matter is that you are just passengers on this ship and we, the writers, are the captain, crew and harbor masters.

So, here is how not to frustrate a writer:

  • Be willing to suspend your belief.
    • Just because you have a degree in the history of the invention of the match and candle wick, and you know that they were not widely used until March of 1607, yet the character is shown striking a match in February of that year, is no reason to stop reading and write a long and nasty letter to the author for not getting that bit right. The character struck a match. . . move on.
  • Don’t read a work of fiction for absolute historical accuracy.
    • That’s what historians are for. Believe it or not, sometimes fiction writers invent places, and people who do things that never happened. This is why it is called fiction.
  • Don’t assume it is the author’s responsibility to change a story to be the way you want it to be because you have access to on-line petitions and FaceBook groups demanding you re-write something.
    • Generally, the author writes a body of work to please exactly one reader – the author. We writers don’t expect everyone to like everything we write. But chances are if we enjoy the story, a few others will too.
    • Take the opportunity to be inspired and write your own story! It may turn out to be a best seller, and we’ll be happy for you.
  • Don’t send us suggestions for plot points, re-writes, sequels ect. . . unless we ask for them.
    • Nothing kills the creative process quicker than trying to force a story into someone else’s shape of how it should go.
  • Don’t assume we are flattered by your fan fiction based on our work.
    • Yes, I acknowledge that fan fiction does exist, and there are many people who think of it as the highest tribute one could pay to their favorite authors. It really isn’t. Most authors do not want their ‘children’ stolen. I do encourage you to take your creativity and write something all your own. For that matter, write all the fan fiction you want, just do not make it public.
  • Please don’t write a review condemning (or praising for that matter) a book if you have not actually read it.
    • This should be a no-brainer, yet I feel compelled to mention it. Hollow praise, and ‘it’s good, you’ll like it’ sort of reviews do not help us grow. Conversely, condemnation of our body of work based solely on the fact you don’t like our politics or religious overtones does little but demonstrate your own biases.
  • Please don’t ask us to teach you everything we know about writing so you can write like we do.
    • It is flattering, but honestly, we learned from reading other people’s works. You can to.

And the most important way to avoid frustrating a writer is to read. READ READ READ their work, comment thoughtfully. If you do not enjoy the work, it is still possible to comment respectfully.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Redamntion – 9

~*~

Joe was sitting at his kitchen table when the first rays of sun lit up the street outside his apartment. It wasn’t that he’d gotten up early that brought him to the kitchen at dawn, but that he’d not gone to sleep at all the night before. He could easily blame the thunder for his sleepless night, but that wouldn’t be fair. The storm had passed off to sea by two o’clock and left only a constant, gentle rain behind it. The rain should have acted like a lullaby, gently tapping against the window as it did, but it only served to amplify the thoughts that kept him awake. Each time he closed his eyes, the word of the letters floated before him.

Three separate letters, each received on the same day, each delivering a different life-altering message; a holy trinity of change.

He spread the three on the table in front of him. The first: the letter from Auburn for Jimmy with an offer of a free ride through college. Next to that one, the crumpled letter Lindy had gotten, denying her request for a scholarship. The third, he had not mentioned to the kids. In fact he hadn’t even looked at it until they’d both gone to bed–the letter that was in the fat envelope Tony had given him with his pay check.

He picked it up and began to read it again, hoping to find a different interpretation this time, than he had the previous fifty times he’d read it.

“In light of the current economic conditions, it has become necessary for UpTown Taxi to reduce our current fleet. . .” He set the letter down and rested his head on the palm of his hand. The paycheck had included a severance settlement of six weeks pay. “Not even long enough to take me through Christmas. Cheap bastards,” he grumbled, flipping the letter face down on the table.

He lit the stove and put the kettle on. It was about the time he would be getting out of bed on any normal day, so he didn’t worry about waking the kids. They had to get up for school anyway. He flipped on the radio on the kitchen shelf, and tuned to WBZ to catch the scores and traffic report. “Keep it normal. Keep it calm. Things will work out.”

The station crackled into life. “It’s six fifteen . . . and the Sox lost another one . . .”

“Bone heads.” Jimmy yawned as he shuffled into the kitchen. “The curse reversed! It’s baaack.”

Joe chuckled. “Yea, well. That’s our Red Sox. Always ready to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Toast?”

“Sure,” Jimmy replied sinking down onto one of the chairs. “Some storm last night.”

Joe nodded.

“I wonder if they’ll cancel school.”

“Why would they cancel?” Joe asked, placing a plate with toast down for his son. “It’s just rain, not snow.”

“Yeah, but the lights went out for a while. My clock is flashing midnight. How long were they out?”

“What?”

“The lights.”

Joe glanced at the clock on the oven, and noticed for the first time that it was also blinking twelve o’clock. The electric clock on the wall had hands, the only one in the apartment. It read six o’clock, straight up. “Well that one is fifteen minutes slow, so I’d say fifteen minutes.”

“Just long enough to kill my alarm. I’m glad I heard you or I’d have over slept.” Jimmy nodded toward Lindy’s bedroom door. “For once I’m up before Lindy.” He grinned. “Hot shower here I come!”

“Eat your toast.”

Jimmy picked up the toast and stuffed his mouth as he headed toward the bathroom. Joe’s termination letter floated to the floor. He scooped it up quickly and tucked it into the pocket of his robe. He wasn’t ready to tell the kids this bit of news. He’d wait until they came home. No sense ruining their day at the very beginning. Lindy was upset enough already without adding this to it.

He pulled the white business card from his pocket, and placed it on the table. For the first time he noticed it was not exactly paper, but something a little thicker, and not completely white but more of what Sandra would have called ‘ecru’. “Linen? Wow, they must pay the professors pretty good on that island.”

“What island?” Lindy asked with a yawn as she came into the kitchen.

Joe looked up and smiled, offering a cheek for his morning greeting. “Hey kiddo, did you sleep ok?”

She shrugged, reaching for bowl from the cupboard. “I guess.” She plopped down in the chair across from Joe and poured her cereal and milk into the bowl. “So what island?”

“Oh, Gibbons.” He pushed the card across the table. “Remember? I showed you this.”

She nodded, glancing at the card. “Yeah, it’s a pretty pricy school. I’m sure the profs are all rich and snooty.”

“This fellow didn’t seem snooty.” He took the card and read it again. “Logan . . huh, I wonder if that’s his first or last name.”

“It’s where he keeps his private plane parked,” she offered, a ghost of a grin on her face.

Joe was encouraged. “You think he’s got a plane?”

“And a yacht. Big enough to land his plane on.” She laughed, and Joe joined her. It felt good and normal. He wanted normal.

After a moment, she asked, looking up from her bowl, “So, do you think he’s the real deal?”

Joe considered for a moment, recalling the man’s demeanor. “I do. I don’t know why, but somehow, I really do. It’s that lining, you know?”

“What lining?”

“The silver one. You know, when everything starts falling apart. . . ”

“Daddy, I over reacted.”

“Huh?”

She smiled and sat back. “I am really sorry I turned into wonder bitch yesterday. I really lost it, and I shouldn’t have gone off on you and Jimmy.”

“Hey, kiddo, I can’t blame you—”

“There are plenty of other schools that do look at transcripts before biceps and I have plenty of time to apply.”

Joe reached across the table and grabbed her hand. “That’s the spirit. And you’ll have them lining up to get you in — Doctor Kelly.”

She blushed, but smiled. “Well that’s a few years down the road.” She picked up the card and turned it over. “What’s this symbol?”

“I don’t see anything.”

She angled the card, looking at it from the edge. “Look this way, you can see a watermark or something. See? It’s got a symbol. . . Oh, it’s infinity. See? The sideways eight.”

Joe adjusted his reading glasses and looked closely as Lindy had done. Sure enough there was a symbol on the back of the card, only slightly visible when the light hit it just right. “Yeah, there it is. Huh, what’s the sense of putting something on a business card when you can’t see it?”

“That’s what fancy rich people do. It’s a watermark. They do it on stationary and official documents and stuff, to prove it’s real.” She raised her brow. “Proof. He’s loaded. TWO yachts.”

Joe laughed out loud. “So you want me to call him? See if he’s got room on his island for a brilliant future rocket surgeon brain scientist?”

“Daaad. It’s brain surgeon, rocket scientist.” She rolled her eyes and laughed again.

“Right. I forgot. So you want I should call him? You even interested in Standish?”

She stood, picking up her empty bowl. “Sure, why not? Hey Jimmy.”

“Hey,” Jim replied, coming through the kitchen. “Shower’s all yours. I left you a half bucket of hot.”

“Gee, thanks, bro.” She started to leave, then turned at the door. “Hey Jim. . .sorry I went crazy-ninja-bitch on you.”

Jim smiled. “No prob, sis. I’m really sorry about your scholarship.”

“There are others.” She smiled. “I really am proud of you, little brother. Give em’ hell in Auburn.”

He grinned. “Thanks. I will. And I want you to know, that I’m not gonna blow of the education part of the deal.”

“Good.” She disappeared through the kitchen door.

Joe watched the conversation quietly. They’re good kids. We did good, Sandra. . .

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Redamntion – 8

~*~

Redamntion Coverart

Cover art by Lorrieann Russell

The morning dawned glorious on the island, bringing a golden sunrise and soft, steady breeze off the sea. The gulls busily patrolled the shoals for shell fish stranded by the tide, squawking greetings to each other as they kited above the beach. The ocean had gotten over its tantrum from the night before, and lapped gently at the shore, as if it had never seen a storm. The island itself, however, had plenty of scars from the night before.

Logan stood on the little deck that faced sea, sipping a cup of coffee surveying the damage left from the storm. Sand had whipped up and buried his walk way. The lone tamarack pine that shaded the cottage and stood tall and proud against the light tower, had lost its top and now stood humbled and dwarfed by the cottage. The power lines that connected his little cottage with the town lay in a tangle on the ground, wrapped hopelessly around the busted telephone pole that once supported them. The pole laid low his gate and part of the fence with it. The electricity would be off until the power company sent a crew from the mainland to replace the pole but he had his generator and his oil lamps, so Logan was not terribly concerned.

It had taken the repair crew from the Coast Guard only an hour to get the lighthouse back online. They restarted the generator, recalibrated the timing, and checked the giant bulb for damage. It flickered back to life only an hour after it had gone dark. It had been the only light on the island until the sun rose. Then it dutifully blinked off, and went back to sleep until it would be called back into service at sunset.

It would be more of an issue for the school if the power was out for long. There were generators there of course, but they would be used only in the common areas, and only for emergencies. The dormitories would be dark. He smiled thinking about the fun the students would make of that. The great black out of October! Classes would surely be cancelled as many of the teach staff relied upon the ferry to get to and from the island.

The phone line lay in a tangle on the ground, so there would be no use trying to call up to the admin office. He glanced off toward the cliffs edge where the school’s fortress wall and turret stood. All looked dark, as he suspected. He could rightly assume it was safe for him to stay home, cozy in his cottage for the day, and who would fault him?

He felt a brush at his leg and heard the plaintive chirp of “feed me, please.”

“Ah, good morning Thistle.” He reached down and lifted the gray tabby, cuddling her on his shoulder for the morning snuggle. “I see you fared well in the night. Hungry?”

Thistle nestled down on his shoulder, burying her nose into his collar, purring.

“What’s that? Stay home? Thistle, you temptress, you know I have a duty to attend all those young minds. . . what? Closed you say? Are you sure? Well then, home for the day it is.”

He set her down on the wide deck rail, stroking her long coat. The cat, impatient for her breakfast, jumped down and trotted back into the cottage, headed for the cupboard where her food was kept.

“Coming, my lady. No rest for the weary servant, I see.”

Logan dutifully poured some kibble into a bowl and set it down under the kitchen window, where he happened to see a frazzled looking Nettie coming up his walk.

“Logan? Are you home?”

He hurried to greet her. “I’m here, what’s wrong Nettie? Did anyone get hurt in the storm?”

Nettie stood straight and loosed a sign of relief. “Lord no, I came to make sure you were ok. I’ve been worried all night.”

“Oh, why? Come in, I’ve got a kettle on the wood stove for coffee.”

“Why? Look around!”

Logan had not taken a full survey of his little yard from the front. Indeed the damage was a bit more than he had first thought. The tamarack had not only shed a few limbs, but half it’s trunk. Amid the tangle of telephone line there were other bits of debris, lawn chairs, flag poles, mailboxes–none of which belonged anywhere near Logan’s end of Gibbons Island. In the middle of the lane, lay the wreckage of lobster boat that had been berthed in the harbor not far from the ferry dock the night before. Looking further up the lane, there were more bits of buildings and boats strewn far and wide, all the way into town.

“See?” Nettie said, tugging at his arm, pointing toward the town. “The store’s a mess. The front porch blew clear into the street and took awning with it. Other than that, I’m good. The gas station is out of luck though. The canopy over the pumps fell right down.”

“I had no idea. . . well then, I guess school really is off for the day.”

Nettie laughed. “At least! I’ll have that coffee if you’re still offering.”

“Of course, come on it.”

He led her to the table, and set out the cups. The cottage seemed normal to Logan, as he never used the lights much anyway. His wood stove sufficed for his cooking needs and his oil lamps lit his way. He rather enjoyed the quiet brought about by the absence of the refrigerator hum, though he did make a mental note to only open the door briefly in order to keep the milk cold for Thistle and the half-and-half from going off. All in all, Logan’s only reminder of inside the cabin of any storm was the window that had blown open, the remains of the broken lamp still scattered on the floor.

“Watch yourself, there’s glass there.”

“Well I can see why they used to build them this way,” Nettie said, giving the thick timber door frame a pat. “This old lighthouse and cabin are probably the best built things on the island, besides the school of course.”

“I’d say you’re right. Once I latched the sash I never felt a breeze.” Logan poured some coffee, then cup in front of her. As he set down the sugar and half-and-half, he noticed the look she was giving him. “What is it, Nettie? Are you sure you’re ok?”

“That lightning bolt lit up this whole end of the island…it sounded like an atom bomb. How…did you not get hit?”

Logan sat down silently. “Bolt?”

“Land’s sake, Logan, I saw it. Everyone saw it. We thought the whole point exploded. It looked like your cabin was on fire. Like a big ball of fire. I couldn’t even make out the lighthouse in the glare. And it lasted a long time.”

She’s seen the light? He looked toward the shelf where he’d placed the box after locking it. It looked innocent enough, just a wooden box with a rusted old hinge. “The coast guard.”

“What?”

“The coast guard, they sent a repair crew. They arrived just after I made it home. Perhaps it was the lights from the ship you saw? They were quite bright and their dock is right aside the cabin here.”

“It must have been but…sure looked like a fireball.” She set her cup down, not looking up as she spoke in a near whisper. “I thought I…I thought we lost you.”

Logan was taken aback, unprepared for Nettie’s tone, and not sure how to respond.

After a moment, she looked up with a little smile. “You didn’t call me to tell me you made it home, you silly ass.”

“Call—Oh! I promised and then…” he folded his hands and bowed his head. “Guilty. I forgot. I am truly sorry, Nettie. I had no idea you’d worry.” He smiled. “Thanks.”

She nodded, taking a sip from her cup. “Phone line was down anyway. Only thing on the island that’s working is the lighthouse. Fat lot of good that does the rest of us though.”

“Oh I don’t know,” he said with a raised a brow and a side glance. “It keeps us safe from the curse.”

“Oh, you!” She laughed, waving her hand. “I don’t believe that old curse. Do you?”

“Absolutely,” he said then sipped his coffee. “And so does Thistle.”

“Oh well then, it must be true. Cats know these things.” She pushed her cup away then stood with a sigh. “Well, thank you for the coffee, but I need to get back down to the store. I’m still open, even if the porch is gone.”

“Doing any business?”

“Well, there’s a run on candles, go figure. I left my niece, Lucy in charge. She’s got a wicked bit of huskter in her, and a nose for a profit. She’ll open the birthday candles and sell ’em one at a time for a buck a piece if I don’t rein her in.”

Logan led her to the door. “I’ll walk that far with you if you don’t mind. I need to get over to the school.”

Nettie’s smile brightened. “I’d enjoy the company. You goin’ to school anyway?”

“Half the staff will be stranded on the mainland. The students are going to need a bit of managing,” he said, pulling his jacket on.

“In other words, you’re worried they’ll go wild and run the provost up the flagpole by his underpants,” Nettie suggested with a wink.

“Indeed, you’ve guessed it. And after all, when they do, they’ll need my advice on how high to raise him.”

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in NaNoWriMo

 

Redamntion – 7

~*~

The thunder started slowly, almost quietly, building from the near subsonic rumble to a rolling avalanche of

Redamntion Coverart

Cover art by Lorrieann Russell

sound. The clouds gathered forces, piling upon each other into thick mountains of atmosphere, not allowing even a sliver of moonlight to pass through. Even the lightning could not fully break through the curtain, showing only as haloed orbs that flashed then died. The wind that had played so hard against the ferry, had suddenly gone still, and it seemed the whole island had taken a deep breath, and was holding it in anticipation.

“That’s gonna be one mean storm,” Nettie said, breaking the silence. “Are you sure you don’t’ want to ride it out with us in the store? There’s plenty of room. Lights are still on here.”

Logan tore his gaze away from the darkened lighthouse, only visible as a dark silhouette against the occasional flashes in the clouds. “No, Nettie, thank you. I think I’d better get home. There’s a generator.”

She offered no further protest, though her grip on his elbow tightened slightly. “Does your generator have enough gas?”

He gave her hand a reassuring pat. “It does. I promise.”

A sudden crack of thunder, accompanied by a sizzling bolt of lightning broke through the clouds. The air was filled with the smell of decaying ozone.

“I’d better hurry.”

“Go! Logan, please be careful and let me know when you get home.”

He smiled. “Yes, mum.”

“Don’t mock. I worry.”

“Thank you for worrying, but I’ll be fine. I’ll give you a ring when I get there.”

“If your phone is up. . . Logan, please? Come inside, just until—what’s that?” She put her hand toward his breast pocket, then pulled back. “Sorry, I thought I saw… ”

“What?”

“Do you have a new cell phone? Your pocket is— was— glowing. One of those that just lights up instead of ringing?”

He put his hand instinctively over his pocket and felt the little box still tucked safely inside. “Uh. Yes.” He peaked into his pocket, he saw no glow, though he had no doubt Nettie probably did. “It’s stopped now. Probably just needs to charge. . .it does that when the batteries are low.”

“Well I hope it lasts long enough for you to let me know when you get home. Go on before it starts raining.”

He gave her a nod, and pulled the jacket closed. “Take care, Nettie. Go pull your shutters, I think you’ll need them.”

She waved, and went into the store, watching him from the screen door.

Logan did not, as a rule, enjoy running. He avoided it at all opportunity, but he could not have forced himself to walk up the lane to his cottage even if the weather was lovely and sunny, though it wasn’t the storm that urged his haste, but the warmth emanating from his pocket. He had to get it home, and get it safe, and he had to do it fast, before it decided to break out on its own.

The first drops of rain wet his face just as he passed through his gate. He’d made it to the front door, and managed to get inside, just as the bottom fell out of the clouds, and the rain poured down almost in one piece.

The storm moved in hard, shaking the windows, and rattling the crockery that lined his kitchen shelves. Logan was at home in the darkened cottage, and took his time about lighting the hurricane oil lamp he kept on the window. There was no need for it, really. The box, though still tucked inside his jacket, was glowing again, and provided him enough light to navigate the room easily between lightning flashes.

Logan removed took the box from his coat, shielding his eyes from the light. “Not yet! It’s not time!”

He set it on the table in the middle of the room, then tore open the door to the broom closet. He began rifling through the contents, tossing boxes and bags, brooms and buckets out into the room until he found what he wanted: a plain looking wooden box with small bronze hinges and a tiny lock shaped like a spade.

The light filled the room illuminating corners that even the sun had never shown in. Logan made a mental note to clean more often. “Calm down! I’m hurrying.”

A small key no bigger than his thumbnail, dangled from the light chain in the middle of the room. He smiled in spite of his urgency that such an important little trinket should be so haphazardly kept in plain view. He took the key and fumbled with the little lock until it sprang open.

The glow dimmed a bit. “Yes, I know it is disappointing for you, but please, I promise it won’t be long.”

He picked up the little box and carefully placed it inside the bigger wooden box, and carefully closed the lid.

The darkness was complete as soon as the lid was closed. With the darkness came a silence that overwhelmed him. “It won’t be long,” he whispered.

In the same instant, a boom of thunder poured through the cottage. Lightning replaced the glow, and the wind pummeled the cottage with rain and sand. The window he’d placed the lamp on, flew open, and the meager flame sputtered out. He rushed to the window to pull the storm shutters closed. He could see the lights in the village flicker, then finally succumb to the storm. With the lighthouse, the lamp and his little box all gone dark, and the streetlights out, he suddenly felt like the only soul left on the island.

But the feeling passed as soon as the fog horns began to blast and he heard the knocking at his door. The Coast Guard had arrived to fix the light.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in NaNoWriMo

 

Redamntion – 6

~*~

Joe Kelly was not a man given to fits of melancholy. He liked to try to find the bright side of things, no matter

Redamntion Coverart

Cover art by Lorrieann Russell

how dark things got. Most days, it wasn’t too hard to find at least a trace of light in his current circumstances, even if it was no more than a half-hearted flicker; finding an empty seat on the train, or a couple of extra bucks tucked into the pocket of a pair of pants he’d not worn for a while. Oh, the light was there, he believed, just waiting to be noticed. The trouble was, that sometimes the only way to see the light was for everything else to go dark.

He walked the block from the train station to his apartment building deep in thought, his hands balled into fists and jammed into the pockets of his jacket. The wind seemed particularly cold for October. More like November he thought. I sure ain’t ready for winter this year. With winter comes heating bills and Christmas. . . he smiled in spite of his gloom. Christmas was coming and no matter how downhearted he felt, Christmas always lifted his spirits. I’ll have to get the kids a nice tree this year . . . probably the last one we’ll spend together if Jimmy gets accepted to Auburn. Geez, how in the world am I gonna get him all the way to Alabama. . .

“I said, hello, Mr. Kelly.”

Joe looked up, startled. He hadn’t even realized he’d arrived at his building. “Oh, hey, Ms. Franzoni. I guess I did it again huh?”

The elderly woman standing on the stoop blew out the smoke from her cigarette and laughed. “All the way up the street. I don’t know who you talk to when you walk, but they sure must be interesting company.”

“I wasn’t talkin’ to no one but myself, and I gotta tell ya, I ain’t all that interesting.” He glanced up to his apartment window on the second floor. The living room light was on. “Looks like the kids beat me home again.”

“Jimmy did, not sure about Lindy” she said, crushing the butt of her cigarette into a sand filled ashtray. “Lord, I swear, these new no-smokin’ laws are gonna kill me. I’ll get me pneumonia standin’ out here.”

“You can smoke in your own apartment, just not in the hall or common room.”

“But then I’d never get out of the building at all, and I’d miss our conversations.”

Joe laughed. “I wouldn’t want that.” He glanced up to the window again. The shadow of a young man marched across the drawn shade, then made an abrupt about face and marched the other way, waving something in his hand.

Mrs. Franzoni followed his gaze, and grinned. “Letter came today. I saw him rip it out of the mailbox like it was the latest Penthouse and the forum had printed his letter.”

Joe looked at her feigning shock. “Oh, I get it, you read it for the articles right?”

“Of course!” she asserted, then added, “and the forum. Go on up. Tell him congratulations for me. Hey, I’ll send a over a nice Jello ring, you can celebrate.”

“Thanks, that’d be great,” Joe said heading through the door. He glanced back over his shoulder to tell Mr. Franzoni goodnight, but something caught his eye on the floor under the mailboxes. He reached down to pick up the remains of a torn and crumpled envelope addressed to Ms. Linden Kelly. The return address was missing, but Joe recognized the emblem of the institution Lindy had applied to for a scholarship.

His heart leapt. Two good letters in one day? He took the stairs two at a time, calling, “Kelly kids, here comes Pop, poppin’ to the top o’ the staaairs!” as he had since they were little enough to find that funny.

He opened the door to the apartment wide and stepped in with his arms out and a grin on his face. “Hello my little scholars!”

“It’s not fair! It’s just not fair!” Lindy stormed by, her face wet and her eyes red and puffy. “I should have just been born taller and stupider then I could have gone to school for free!” The door to her room slammed.

“It’s not my fault! I thought you’d be happy!” Jimmy raced by, oblivious to Joe standing in the doorway. “Lin . . . Come on, open up. I didn’t know ok? I just wanted you to be proud of me.”

The door flew open. “Proud? PROUD? You barely passed basic math! You’re highest grade in four years is a C plus!”

“I got an A in gym!”

“All you have to do is sweat and shower to get an A in gym!”

Joe backed out into the corridor and closed the door, then knocked on it three times. “Hello, Kelly kids, is anybody home?”

“There’s a lot more to it than that! Just because I’m not a brainiac like you, why shouldn’t I get a chance to go to college? What’s so unfair about that?”

“Just because you can throw a stupid orange ball through a net, you get to go to college for free? I make honor grades in science and math and I get nothing!” The bedroom door slammed again.

Joe entered the apartment quietly. Jimmy was standing outside Linden’s door shaking his head.

“Jim?”

“Hey, dad. I guess you heard?”

“Yeah, I heard. The whole block heard. Now suppose you tell me what happened?”

Jimmy handed the letter from Auburn University to Joe. “I got in.”

Joe read the letter, then reread it, and then a third time. “Full scholarship?”

Jimmy couldn’t help but smile. “Basketball. . . and you thought it was just a hobby.”

“Full . . . Oh Jimmy!” Joe flung his arms around his son and spun him around. “That’s great! That’s. . . oh, that’s terrific.”

“Thanks. I’m glad you think so. Lindy isn’t so impressed.”

“What happened? I found this downstairs.” He handed Jimmy the torn envelope. “I thought we’d all have some celebrating to do.”

Jimmy pointed to a similarly crumpled letter on the kitchen table.

Joe picked it up and read slowly. “. . . your fine credentials will no doubt lead to many other opportunities. . . however we regret. . .aw geez.”

“Yeah can you believe it. I thought she was a shoe in.”

“Me too. . . hey listen, let me talk to her. I still want to celebrate for you, but maybe we better keep it low key tonight. Ok?”

“Yeah. It’s cool, Pop.”

Joe knocked on Linden’s door. “Lindy? Honey it’s me, can I come in?”

The door opened.

Joe went in slowly. Lindy flopped down into the chair at her desk and began tearing pages out of her note book. “Stupid essay. I never know how to start. A thousand words on the meaning of ‘failure’ for philosophy. That one should be a cinch don’t you think?”

Joe sat down on the corner of his daughter’s bed, the crumpled letter still in his hand. “Honey, I am so sorry about this. But don’t you worry. I’m gonna find a way to send you to school. I promise.”

“Every college I want to go to tells me I need a good prep. . . what difference does it make. I may as well forget med school and just take the correspondence course on how to be a medical transcriptionist.”

Joe looked down at his hands feeling helpless. That silver lining was hiding itself pretty darn good this time.

“You think mom is disappointed in me?” Joe looked up to see Lindy holding a silver framed picture. Lindy traced her finger gently down the mocha image of her smiling mother. “She always told me I’d take the world by storm because I had your, you know — white is might, she said. I guess she never heard about basketball scholarships that go to the tall black kids, while their white sisters get left behind.”

Joe swallowed hard. It was the first time he ever heard Lindy call herself ‘white’. He never made the distinction with his children. He didn’t want them to grow up with the prejudice and hatred he’d gotten from his own Irish Catholic family when he announced his intention to marry Sandra Jones — a Jamaican woman, who stood head taller than him and was decidedly not the pale Irish girl his mother always hoped he’d marry. Joe never saw Sandra’s skin as anything but beautiful, another part of her incredible being. He only knew he loved her, and she loved him back. Sure they knew it wasn’t going to be a bed of roses with a lot of people, but they didn’t care. They had each other, and that’s all that mattered.

Sandra was the smart one too. She worked as a legal secretary on the hill, and was going to school to be a paralegal when she got pregnant. He never asked her to leave school or give up her dreams to be a mother. That was her own choice, and she never seemed to regret it. She took a lot of funny looks when she brought the kids to the park, one dark as night, the other fair as a lilly. “Baby sitting?” some would ask. “No, they’re mine. Twins.” Then she’d laugh at the reactions, though she’d not linger long.

The kids grew to love themselves for who they were, not what color they were. Joe made sure they knew they were loved. He ran interference when he heard catcalls or snickers, and he made sure Jimmy could take care of himself if he ever found himself in a scuffle. He and Sandra had done a good job together—and for the five years since the cancer took her, he had done a good job alone.

“She’s proud of you, honey. I know she is. And you know what?”

Lindy looked up, wiping her face with her hand. “What?”

“I’m proud of you too, and. . . I think . . . now I can’t promise though I would dearly love to tell you it’s a sure thing. . . but. . .” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small white card and handed it to her.

“What’s this?”

“A fare I had today. Nice guy. Even said thank you. Anyway he said that Standish sometimes does scholarships. Told me to give him a call.”

“I thought you didn’t like it out on Gibbons.”

“If my little girl likes it, I like it. You like it?”

She smiled a little. “Yeah, I like it. Do you think it’s worth it? I mean, the guy wasn’t like, the janitor or something?”

A sudden gust of wind blew open the window knocking the lamp off Linden’s desk. For a moment the room was completely black until the moon shown through the window, casting the faintest white glow on the business card in Linden’s hand.

Joe smiled. “Yeah, honey. It’s worth it. We’ll call in the morning.”

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2012 in NaNoWriMo

 

Redamntion – 5

~*~

 

The ferry docked at Gibbons Island twelve minutes ahead of schedule, thanks to a stiff wind blowing against the stern. But the same wind that had hastened along the voyage from Boston Harbor would now prevent the ferry from making the return trip that evening. It was not uncommon for the ferry to dock, stranding tourists on the island, or islanders on the mainland. On this particular October evening, however, the only inconvenienced traveler was the ferry’s captain; but only slightly, as the Transit Authority provided a bunk and a shower at the station for such occasions. The lone passenger who left the ferry was fortunate to have made the trip home at all, given the weather warnings. Normally the captain would not have left the harbor with only one paying fare, when the gale warnings were so high.

As Logan left the ramp he extended his hand to the captain. “Thanks for the lift, Lyle.”

Lyle took Logan’s hand with a grin. “My pleasure.” He gestured toward the gate where a young woman wearing a long dark rain coat stood leaning against the fence. “Tough luck for me. Looks like I’m stuck for the night. Darn.”

Logan chuckled. “Yes, tough luck indeed. And I hear there’s more bad weather tomorrow. You poor man. You could be stuck here tomorrow night as well. That was quite noble of you to risk the crossing just for me.”

“I’m a man bound by duty, Logan.” He gave the girl at the gate a quick wave.

“Give my regards to your duty. But don’t keep her out late, please. She’s got a test in the morning.” He gave Lyle a clap on the shoulder and walked off toward the gate, greeting the young woman with a polite tip of his head. “Watch out for that one, Gertie. He’s a sailor, you know.”

“Professor Logan! Oh he’s not…that is, I’m not…he my cousin!” Gertie protested, while carefully pulling the coat closed by wrapping her arms tightly around her own waist. As she did, the lower flap caught the wind and billowed up, revealing a shapely fish-netted leg. “I’m just picking him up to bring him home to have dinner with my aunt and I.”

Logan leaned close, bringing his index finger up as if to make a point. “Gertie, I’m only going to warn you about this once…”

She backed away, affecting an innocent-looking, though nervous smile. “Yes, Professor?”

He leaned in again. “Lyle Cabbot is nearly twice your age, and has only half your wit. And you have a history test in the morning.”

“I’m nearly twenty-one, and I’ve studied, Professor. I can take care of myself.”

Logan smiled, and took a step backwards straightening up. “Good then. See you in class. Good night.”

“Good night,” Gertie called as Logan walked away. “Oh, Professor Logan?”

He stopped and turned. “Yes?”

“Thanks for caring.”

He smiled and tipped his forehead as if wearing an invisible hat then turned on his heel and hurried out through the gate.

The sun was just about down below the horizon by the time he’d make the twenty minute walk into town. The wind was picking up, and dark clouds were rolling in from the west, swallowing the remainder of the sunset, making the onset of night seem darker than normal. He glanced toward the east to see only the outer shadow of the moon, barely holding its own against the clouds.

He pulled his jacket closed and zipped it up to the collar. The little box he’d gotten from Todd, pressed against his chest, still safely tucked away in his breast pocket. He gave it a pat, as if to comfort it and assure it that it was protected from the coming storm—at least he hoped it was.

“Logan? Is that you?” A woman’s voice startled him from his thoughts. He looked up, surprised to find he had walked the length of Ocean Street and was standing in front of Nettie’s Dinette and General Store. Nettie herself stood on the front porch, broom in one hand, rag in the other as she peered into the darkened street. “Logan?”

“Yes, Nettie, it’s me.”

“Land’s sake, what are you doing out walking around? Don’t you know a gale’s comin’ in?”

“I was just on my way home. I was in Boston. Oh—” he reached into his outer jacket pocket and retrieved a small paper sack. “I’ve got your peanuts. Straight from Fenway, I swear.”

Nettie grinned and stepped off the porch. The steps creaked in protest at her ample girth. “Were they hot when you got ’em?” She asked extracting one perfect goober from the sack.

“Absolutely. Fresh off the roaster.”

“Boy, these take me back. Last time I had ’em hot. . . I was a kid. Carl Yastrzemski hit a homer that day, and the ball landed right in my lap.” She shucked a peanut with one hand and dropped the nut in her mouth, spitting out a shell. “Mmm nothing like ’em.”

“That must have been exciting. Did you keep the ball?”

“Hmm? Naah, threw it back onto the field.”

“You did? Why on Earth would you do that?”

She cracked another peanut and grinned. “Because the damned thing landed right on my sack of peanuts and scattered them all over the bleachers. I was pissed.”

Logan laughed, watching her savor the peanuts. “You know, Nettie, you can have those delivered. I’m sure they would fit on the mail boat. After all, they are not hot by the time I bring them.”

“Nope, it’s not the hot part. They just gotta come straight from the park. Gotta be in the sack.” She folded the top of the paper sack and carefully tucked the remainder of her prize into the pocket of her apron. “It’s the principle of it.”

“How do you know I didn’t just get them from any old street vender?” He asked, a mischievous lift to his brow.

“Because you’re a purest, same as me.”

He bowed, his hand upon his chest. “Guilty. You’re right as always.”

A sudden gust blew down the street, sending Nettie’s apron a flutter. Logan escorted her back onto the porch. “You best get back inside, Nettie. Storm’s comin’ in fast.”

“What about you? Don’t tell me you plan to walk all the way back to the lighthouse. It’s pitch black and that wind is wicked.”

“It’s not far now. I know the way. Even in the da— ”

As if to prove her right, the wind whipped around, roaring against their ears. Logan had to steady himself against porch railing to keep his footing. When the gust passed, Nettie grabbed Logan’s sleeve, but looked beyond his shoulder and pointed. “Oh my god! Logan, look.”

He turned to look up toward the end of the street, to where Nettie was pointing and Standish Lighthouse presided over the cliffs. A flash of lightning illuminated the clouds for only an instant behind the tower, as if to confirm the structure was still there, then faded leaving it black against the sky. The lighthouse had gone dark.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Uncategorized