I see today that Amazon.com has Dog Warrior available as a pre-order. I'm celebrating by posting a part of it here.
Warning -- Spoilers
Hog Heaven, Hull, Massachusetts
Monday, September 20, 2004
The town of Hull sat on a narrow dogleg of land that jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean. On the way out to it, they past signs for "World's End" which seemed appropriate as they drove down Nantasket Avenue, water flanking either side of the road. To their left, the water was nearly pond still, fringed with trees dressed in fall colors. On their right ran a sandy beach, open ocean, and empty parking lots. Seasonal businesses were closed up, and no one was out on the rainy cold afternoon.
They scouted the area in the drizzling rain before dusk started to set in, not there was much to be learned. The bar sat on a lump of land in the middle of the narrow peninsula, between the mainland and the bulk of the town on the bulbous tip. Nantasket Avenue split around the bar and its parking lot, with traffic going out to the land's end running in front of the bar, and the lanes heading for the mainland laying behind it. Motorcycles already sat in the bar's parking lot, so they had no real chance to scout in the inside before the buy.
When it came time, they parked the Jaguar where Kyle could keep watch on both it and the bar and yet out of direct sight. They had the money in a backpack on the theory it would draw less notice than a briefcase. Atticus slung it onto his back, made sure it didn't interfere with drawing his pistol, and then lead the way into the bar.
Steffenwolf leaked out around the door, wailing about heavy metal thunder. Atticus opened the door and the music flooded out on a wave of warm air, thick with cigarette smoke, beer, and hot grease. The refuge of men who had nothing better to do than sit around an abuse themselves with diluted poisons. He stepped in far enough to give Ru room to enter, and paused, letting all the little details that wanted attention sink in. Once the bar became known, his senses would work on automatic, acting like 'spider senses,' alerting him to danger as long as he didn't get too deep into focus on something.
'Born to be Wild' beat against his skin. The banks of smoke came from Winston, Old Gold and Marlboro cigarettes. Off to the right was the clack of billiards, the table screened by bodies. The beer on tap was Samuel Adams and the whiskey of choice seemed to be Jack Daniels. Unlike other bars he'd been in, this one was heavy with cured leather and blue jeans embedded with the exhaust and engine oil of motorcycles. After the bars and raves of the Beltway, the men were shaggier, dirtier, and more heavily armed. He picked out knives -- and in lesser numbers pistols -- hidden in boots, in pockets and under clothing.
It was a WASP blue-collar bar. They'd dressed down to blue jeans and T-shirts and leather jackets, but everything from the shape of their eyes to the color of their skin set them apart.
Draconis leaned against the bar, looking up when they came through the door. Recognizing them, he ground out his cigarette, picked up his beer and sauntered across to greet them.
"Daggit is waiting for you in the back room." Draconis gave a jerk of his head to indicate a doorway behind him. Getting a nod from Atticus - interestingly Ru didn't rate attention - Draconis lead the way down a long narrow hall past restrooms reeking of urine to a back room.
The walls muted the music; the thumping bass like a heartbeat of a giant beast.
Five of the Iron Horses sat around a poker table; a single shaded light hanging down, throwing harsh shadows on their faces. Crushed cigarette packs, overflowing ashtrays, guns, and crumbled bills littered the table.
Animal was dealing out cards; making them flash across the table in easy, well-practiced throws. He had a pile of crumbled bills in front of him, while the others wore surly looks. "Seven card stud, black deuces and red fours are wild."
A groan went up from the players.
"If you're going to do wild cards, j-just make it one or the other," Rebar cried as the first card landed in front of him. His complaint came too late; his first showing card was a two of diamonds. "Crap. This isn't poker, it's a kids game."
"They're here." Draconis announced.
Daggit's showing cards were a five of clubs and a nine of hearts. He glanced at his hole cards, frowned and shoved them back toward Animal without revealing them. "Games over. Everybody clear out."
"Ahh, I had two queens." One complained, flipping over his hole cards.
"I had three of kings." Another said, showing a king of hearts, the two of hearts and the four of spades.
Animal laughed, flashing his gold tooth. "Black deuces, red fours."
"But last time…"
"Was last time, and this time is this time." Animal tucked away the bills in wallet already fat with hundred dollar bills.
The sheered lambs fled, leaving the wolves behind to deal a different type of game.
Atticus gave the opening bid. "Could you've picked a place more public? We'll do this deal, but next time, we pick the place."
"This is how I do business. My turf. My rules." Daggit took out a revolver and laid it on the table and then produced bullets with dramatic flair. They were self-loaded shells with silvery tips. "I know about Pack and I'm ready for you."
Only confused by the odd display, Atticus glanced to Ru. There was laughter dancing in his partner's eyes.
"Silver bullets?" Ru guessed.
"Damn right!" Daggit said. "The only way to deal with werewolves."
"Werewolves?" The word slipped out before Atticus could stop himself.
"Do you think we're stupid?" Daggit ticked factoids off with his fingers. "The Pack. Dog Warriors. Demon Curs. Hell Hounds. Growling like a rabid dog anytime you're pissed off. Howling at the full moon? Jesus, you might as well have it tattooed on your arm: werewolf."
Howling? Atticus had never felt the urge to howl.
"They can't do tattoos, dickhead." Animal snickered. "Their bodies reject the ink and heal it over. They don't fucking scar."
That's true, Atticus thought.
"They could use silver ink," Daggit used one of the bullets to imitate the rapid jab of the tattoo needle, complete with soft 'tat tat tat' sound effect.
"Silver only works as a bullet in the heart," Animal said. "If it just goes through the heart, you're screwed. You're going to get your face torn off by a piss off Pack dog."
"Whatever." Daggit waved it off. "Where's the Cub?"
"He's sleeping." Atticus said.
"Someone fucked him over good." Animal tapped out a cigarette and light it. "Who is this walking dead man?"
"U-the Cub doesn't remember what happened," Atticus caught himself from using Ukiah's name. Annoying as it might be, they were safest dealing under the Pack's cover.
"He lost that mouse, eh?" Daggit said. "Or hasn't he taken the mice back yet?"
"That's why he's sleeping. He took them all back." Actually, they released the mice into bed with Ukiah. Nature would take its course, keeping his brother asleep longer than any drug would. Still, it was startling that the bikers knew things Atticus thought were secret. Was what they telling him about werewolves true?
"Someone going to get their ass kicked, then." Animal said.
"You're Pack too, aren't you?" Daggit said. "You have that look."
"I didn't know we had a look," Atticus said.
"You're lean and mean." Daggit patted his paunch. "You never see a beer gut on Pack. Six-pack abs. It's all part of the magic."
"Like voodoo." Animal "The werewolf curse."
"It's one of the reasons that these dipheads are all drooling over the idea of being Pack. Ask any one of them if they were willing to run risk to be Pack, and they'd sign up for a mauling in a second."
"Not you?" Ru asked.
"Hell no. Any retard can do the numbers. A couple dozen can take the walk in the woods with the Pack, maybe one will come back out changed, one of them."
"A Get," Animal said with reverence.
"These dipheads see one of their brothers go all tone without lifting a weigh, able to throw a bike around with one hand, and take any amount of shit and get back up, and think 'that's so cool, I want that too.' They can smell the power, without thinking it all through."
"Hell, I'd do it. Like that!" Animal snapped his fingers.
"Yeah, and if you do come back, there's a stranger looking out through your eyes." Daggit said.
"Look." Animal pulled out his wallet and thumbed through it to pull out a photo. "Look at this."
Daggit took the photo and studied it a moment. "So?"
Atticus intercepted it before Daggit could hand it back. It showed Rennie Shaw and a young Animal with a Mohawk haircut. The enforcer faced the camera while the Dog Warrior was focused on something else. On the back was written "Mike 'Animal' Ross, Rennie Shaw, 1984 Gather."
"I was seventeen in that picture. Look at Shaw. The fuck hasn't aged a day. He still looks like he's in his mid-twenties. They live forever, Daggit. Shaw was in the fucking Civil War, man."
"Come on, that's all bullshit. Urban legend."
"And the chicks." Animal went on, undeterred. "Prime babes. Not an ounce of fat on them, and that sexy wild thing look. They only spread for Pack dogs."
If the conversation had sunk down to sex, then they weren't going to get more useful information - if you wanted to call the werewolf theory useful - out of the bikers.
"Let's do this." Atticus unslung the backpack and thumped it down on the table. "Show us the goods."
Animal reached under the table to pull out a black leather dufflebag. He unzipped it and lifted out reseal-able plastic bags, the contents shifting like invisible sand. Empty, the inside of the dufflebag glittered faintly from a dusting of the drug, meaning that the plastic bags were probably coated too. Atticus warned Ru off with a look and reluctantly examined the bags. The chiming in his ears had started the moment Animal opened the bag, releasing tainted air. As Atticus handled the bags, the chiming grew louder.
Ru unloaded the backpack, stacking up the bills. He gave Atticus one worried look and then kept his focus on the bikers. The bikers, in turn, thumbed through the stacks of twenties, examining the bills to see if they were real, and even checking for sequential numbers.
Animal produced a scale and they weighed out the bags. Normally Atticus would open the bags and check the contents - his system shrugged off most drugs -- but there was no way he was going to do that now, not if he wanted to stay in control. As the drug burned through him, all his senses took on a sharpness to make irritating little cuts into his patience. It was like wading through sawgrass. He packed the plastic bags hurriedly into the backpack, trying to handle them as little as possible.
"We're going to want more," Ru said. "Double this. How soon can you get it?"
"More?" Daggit looked to Animal, who shrugged. "You'll have to give us a couple days."
"This is Tuesday. By Thursday?" Ru asked.
"If the Pack are werewolves," Ru, seemingly causal, asked, "Does it mean that pixies literally make this shit? Do you hold them upside down and shake hard?"
The bikers laughed, showing teeth yellow from cigarettes, filled with silver.
"Just about," Animal said. "The Temple are all fucking fairies."
Temple of New Reason? Was that their source? Suddenly Ukiah's hate of the drug became clear. Atticus felt sudden dread; the bikers knew where Ukiah slept alone at the isolated beach house. "Did you talk to them after you left us?"
"That's none of your business." Daggit sneered. "The middle man stands in the middle, you don't go around him. Pack or not, you're not cutting us out."
Attticus lashed out, grabbed Daggit by the hair and slammed his head face first into the table. Everything littering the table leapt up, if startled by the violence. The smell of blood blossomed into the room. "What did you tell them about us?"
Daggit tried to rise but Atticus kept him pinned, grinding his bleeding nose into the cigarette ashes. Daggit flailed for his pistol, and Atticus caught the hand by the wrist and jerked it up behind Daggit's back.
Ru snatched up the pistol, and aimed it at Animal who was starting to rise. "Easy, easy. Atty?"
It was more the awareness of Ru's exhale, the air warmed by his body and carrying his scent, than Ru's words that made Atticus realize that it was the drug pushing him to act.
"What did you tell them?" Atticus managed a calmer tone.
"Fuck off!" Daggit cried. "I'm not telling you nothing about them."
"I didn't ask about them," Atticus said. "I want to know what you said about us! Now tell me, or I'll rip your arm off."
"Nothing! Not a god damn thing."
Atticus could tell by the slight jump in the pulse under his fingertips that Daggit was lying. Clearly, though, he would have to pretend to believe him or beat the information out of him. He was already putting the whole set up to risk for what - a stranger he just met yesterday? A man that might be the coldest bastard on the planet?
Letting go of Daggit, he stepped back out of the Daggit's reach as the big man surged to his feet. The room suddenly seemed claustrophobic, taken up by the angry biker, the seated Animal, and the table blocking the exit. There was some part of him, that punk kid that he used to be, that wanted Daggit to come at him so he had an excuse to beat the snot of him. The other -- older wiser -- self, nearly swamped under the drug's influence, knew that would be a bad thing. Guns were already into the mix, and Ru could easily be hurt.
"Daggit, he's Pack," Animal drawled, seemingly undisturbed by the violence or the gun that Ru held. "That's a losing hand. Just fold."
Daggit checked, hands clenched into massive fists, panting out breath tainted with beer, blood and years of cigarette smoking. He glared at Atticus like he meant murder. Atticus stared back, ready and waiting to see how things played out. They stood statue-still for a minute, like samurai testing each other's will. Finally, Daggit wiped his bloody upper lip with the back of his hand and looked away.
Ru took it as a sign that danger was past. He thumbed the revolver's cylinder out and rejected the silver-tipped bullets; they rained onto the tabletop. "You don't want us to know about them. We don't want them to know about us. It seems fairly simple - mums the word, all the way around."
"We lost three men at Buffalo." Ru reminded Daggit as an explanation of Atticus' reaction. "You lost two."
"Three." Daggit spat out blood and wiped ran his thumb over his lip. "No one heard from Toback since; whoever hit the place, took him."
"You sure he wasn't in on the hit?" Ru asked.
Daggit glanced to Animal, and shook his head. "I don't know him that well. He's part of the Buffalo chapter."
"Big, stupid, and loyal as a dog." Animal said. "That was David Toback."
So the nomad Animal was the link between Buffalo and Boston.
"Did you tell the Temple about the Buffalo deal before it went down?" Atticus asked.
Animal thought a moment this time before shaking his head. "No. Core got really creepy in the spring, moving out to Buffalo and talking about the end of the world. Let's just say I don't drink around them - just in case they're in the middle of doing a Jonestown thing."
"So they're based in Buffalo now?" Atticus asked.
Animal eyed him warily and then shrugged. "They moved again. To Pennsylvania or Ohio. No forwarding address."
I woke up this morning with Tinker tapping on the inside of my skull for attention.
“Hey, Wen, this ending you have planned – where I duel Windwolf’s ex-girlfriend? Not going to happen. It’s sooo not me. I’m the one that doesn’t resort to brute force unless completely shoved into it – remember? I’m too smart for that mano on mano bullshit.”
“What? But it would be an great exciting ending.”
“See, it would show your maturing into the elfin society.”
“There’s no way you would do this?”
“Not unless I can cheat.”
“Well, they might call it cheating, but I like to call it using my greatest weapon, my brain.”
“Okay, okay, its just you and this chick with magic and swords.”
“And I’m suppose to win this?”
“I state here that Wind magic is better at combat than Earth magic.”
“Doh, but I don’t know Wind magic yet.”
“Well, I could have it that calling certain spells is based on our old friend resonance and you created a computer program that learned the various spells and made shortcuts you could use instead of actually learning the spells.”
“Ick, no, besides, that would set up dangerous presidencies. Besides, there’s still the sword. She’s going to be waaay better than me with that. I don’t want to be on the business side of a sword point.”
“I could have her challenge you and then you get to pick the weapon.”
“And what would I pick? Hover bike at a 100 paces?”
“Hey, that might be--”
“I WAS JOKING!”
“Look, it’s 5:45 am, let me get back to you on this.”
I marvel that anyone can tell plot out a novel in push. To me, plotting a novel is a lot like making stew in someone else’s kitchen without a recipe. You’re not sure what is going to go into the pot, so you do a lot of improvising and tasting.
My original plot of Tinker 2 ran like this:
Tinker discovers that the colonists are lost on a fourth world where they have endured great hardship. Turtle Creek represents a possible way to rescue them. The elf queen sends representative that check into the oni problem, one of which is Windwolf ex-girlfriend. As Tinker’s private life is rocked but she makes alliances with the Earth Clan to rescue the colonists through Turtle Creek.
I started to write. The problem with Turtle Creek came easily, but most of the rest of the book refused to take shape. I made little stabs at the story only to have the scenes fall flat. One of the few developments that worked was the change that Lain’s sister, Esme, was one of the colonists and that via dreams, Tinker discovers that Esme is her mother. So a new plot was crafted:
Tinker dreams of her mother, Esme, and discovers that the colonists are lost on a fourth world where they have endured great hardship. Turtle Creek represents a possible way to rescue them. Through the rift has some an oni dragon – a dangerous animal that will kill everything in sight. The tengu offer to help deal with it for a price. The Pittsburgh Mayor makes a grab for power – and tries to gather up the tengu into camps. Tinker rescues the colonists through Turtle Creek after a fight with the Mayor’s people.
That didn’t go much better. As I poked at it, several ideas hit me:
Tinker dreams of her mother, Esme, and discovers that the colonists are lost on the world of dragons. One of the dragons are lost on Elfhome. The tengu recognize this from their mythology and offers to help.
Okay… so it was missing the whole backend of the plot. I couldn’t find the end game to this book. Part of the problem I realized, came with the concept that many of the colonists left Earth nearly 25 years ago. What hardship had they been enduring that they could survive and yet make them drop everything to move to Elfhome? Thoughts of dragon politics murmured in the background but wouldn’t come to the forefront. Also how exactly was I going to get them through Turtle Creek. It had to be difficult, or they wouldn’t need Tinker’s help, but what in heck was Tinker going to do that was cool and exciting?
In an attempt to figure out the colonist problem, I started at the other end and said “Okay, the colonist went through the gate, and boom, they realize they have a problem immediately. What did they do? Who are these people? How did they get into a mess when they have so much with them to survive a hostile planet to start with?
Then it occurred to me that I had set up that Esme dreamed of future events. At the same time, it occurred to me that if the gate didn’t work as plan, one way around the whole “25 years” problems is that the gate could deliver all the ships to the same time coordinates. A collision would occur as the ships try to occupy the same point at the same time. Esme, however, avoids massive damage to her ship because she was forewarned by dreams. The colonists now only have to survive a short period time, guided by Esme dreams, before making contact with Tinker. Her story is so cool I almost drop everything to write it.
I go back to Tinker 2, though, and play with this idea. Still not helping.
A phone call to a friend, June Drexler Robertson, triggers a sudden idea. What if instead of knowing the dragons via myths, the tengu have a more personal connection. A dragon has been their guardian for countless years.
This is cool and I work with this for a little while when it occurs to me that I could use that cool idea about Esme – the colonists are STILL in space and Tinker gets help from the dragons to go to them.
I start to write like a mad person but quickly realize that this only takes the story so far. I have all this set up in Pittsburgh -- which we abandon to go into space. I need to bring the story back to Pittsburgh for a wrap up. But what wrap up? The mayor thing feels so wimpy because he’s got not only Windwolf and all the elves but Maynard and the EIA and the oni to deal with. He’s just not that dynamic.
Suddenly, everything is looped back. What if the elf queen sends her representatives, who out rank Windwolf? They would want to “fix” Turtle Creek, which is the only point of contact with the colonists. They would also want to kill all the oni – but the tengu are in alliance with Tinker. Also one of the colony ships was mostly tengu, and Esme is falling in love with one of them. The end fight could be Tinker versus one of the queen representatives over the fate of the tengu.
I glance back over the scenes I have written with the tengu. It would not take much to tweak the scene so the tengu ask Tinker for protection and she wavers… until she meets the tengu on the ship and must work along side them to rescue all the colonists. With a change of heart, she returns to Pittsburgh to save the endangered tengu.
Okay, so this might not stay the final plot of T2 – but currently its looking strong. Only time will tell.
I've included a snippet here of rough draft. The final version won't be like this. Already much has changed. I'm changing the dragon name to Providence and much of the history of the tengu might be moved to chapters with the colonists. Also the scene will end with Tinker still in the "are you nuts" phase.
It does, however, contain the seeds for what looks like the true plot of Tinker 2.
"The elders have given me permission to show you what I wanted you to see." Riki put out his hand. "Come with me."
She hesitated, not really trusting him.
She supposed that he had put a great deal at risk for her to see his mystery thing. She took his hand. He pulled her close, wrapping his arm about her waist.
"This time, don't wriggle so much."
A squeak of fear leapt up her throat - followed her heart - as he launched them out of the tree house. They dipped alarmingly and she clutched him tightly. His wings unfurled with a loud rustle, and they rose again, up through the forest canopy.
They landed on a narrow ledge of a sandstone cliff face. Riki released her to slip his hand into a niche chiseled into one rock. There was a metallic clank, and one rock swung inward, exposing a tunnel.
Riki spoke a command and spell lights gleamed to life.
Riki's monster lay on a dais, the bulk of its body lost in the shadows.
Tinker jerked back, smacking into Riki's chest. "What the hell?"
"This is--" Riki made a low rumbling noise. "It means Dusk." Riki stepped around her to kneel in respect before the creature. "He is the guardian spirit of the Tengu."
Tinker retreated as far as the small room allowed her.
It wasn't the same creature that attacked her at Turtle Creek. This one seemed smaller, but it could be a difference in perspective -- something about having fangs in your face that kind of made a bigger impact visually. This one was more of a golden hued, but otherwise they were the same species, the over large head with the bushy mane, the long sleek body, and short stubby legs.
The stillness of the animal finally sunk in.
"Riki, isn't it - he -- kind of - dead?"
"Yes, he's dead, but his spirit still protects us." Riki took out a wooden match and lit it. "Before we became tengu, we lived in a vast marshland, eking out a living fishing and hunting. We had little that others would want, so we were left in peace for centuries.
"In the end, that was the very thing that doomed us." Riki lit a slim taper of incense. "When the greater bloods pushed into the marshes, we had no way to protect ourselves, nothing of value to buy our freedom. We were herded together and put to work draining the marsh to make rich farmland. It was brutal work meant to kill us; thousands of our people died.
He waved out the match, leaving a trail of smoke. "As the work neared its end, the greater bloods discovered a way to trap a dragon, strip it of its power and torture knowledge from it. Hunting parties roamed the world, searching out places where dragons occasionally appeared. There was a place scared to us a place where a dragon had been seen there. A hunting party camped there for months until they captured Dusk."
"Dusk? You mean this is - was - an oni dragon?"
"Yes. We have always had clever with languages. While the hunting party labored to transport Dusk out of the marsh, their tengu slaves learned a few words of dragon tongue. He pleaded with them to release him. They explained that their families would be punished for their crimes. He promised that he would protect their families - so they sacrificed themselves to free him."
"How surprisingly noble of them."
"It was common knowledge that when the marsh was completely drained, all adults were going to be put to death and the children crafted into random lesser bloods. As a race, we were facing genocide."
"And they hoped Dusk could save the tengu from that?"
"Yes, and he did. Dragons have god-like powers, but still we had to make hard choices for ourselves. We decided to become tengu and he shaped our minds and bodies. He created the spell that forms our wings. We abandoned our homeland and pushed deep into the marsh, but at the same time, we did not ignore the outside world. We learned how to spy, how to use magic, and other skills that made us valuable allies. All these changes were to stay what we are - one people happiest when we are gathered together."
"Birds a feather, flocking together?"
Riki nodded, unruffled by it. "We survived, but only marginally. The oni's first attempt to invade Elfhome via Earth, three hundred years ago, stranded half of us on Earth, without magic. Our crow blood became a death sentence without magic; a bird's instincts -- millions of years of evolution focused on flight - imprisoned in a body that couldn't fly. It drove us insane. Tengu never die of old age on Earth - sooner or later, we climb the tallest mountain and throw ourselves off, just to feel that oneness with the sky."
"So you murdered my father for his plans."
"We never planned to hurt him; it was accident. All we wanted was to save our race. We tried everything else. Airplanes. Hang gliding. Parachuting. Deep space. We even tried to breed out the crow blood, but its recessive: the instinct, the feet, all of it."
"Well, you made a mess of everything." At least it gave her someone other than herself to blame. She glanced back out the door, as the tiny village hidden in the treetops. "How many of your people did you get here before we were stranded? Did you make your lives any better? Or did you just scatter your people wider?"
"Elfhome was to be our new home. In the last few years, we've moved everyone here without even the oni knowing." (indicate there are still some on Onihida and earth)
(She realizes that he has plans behind telling her.) "Why did you bring me here? Why show me Dusk?"
"There is a dragon roaming loose in Pittsburgh. You know nothing about them. If you help us, we will help you with it."
"I'm suppose to trust you after what you've done?"
He went down on one knee. (Repeat Pony's pledge here)
"You've got to be kidding."
"I beg you - for the life of my little brothers and sisters, my cousins, my nieces and nephews, for all the people I have known all my life and their children, for my entire race."
"You could have done this before, saved us all a lot of grief."
"No, I couldn't, not without dooming everyone still on Earth and Onihida. Being stranded as freed me."
"Please, we need your protection."
"I can't be guardian of an entire race."
"The oni have one mind set - you're either their slave or their enemy. We've cut our ties with them. The elves have every reason to hate us and the human are going to be looking for a scapegoat. We need someone on our side."
"oooh, shit." Think of kids, think of mayor. "I don't know how much protection I can give you. I need to talk to Windwolf. I've thrown my weight around, but I don't know really know if my authority goes this far."
"But you'll help us as much as you can?"
"I need to think about it."
"Give me your word."
Riki looked away. "Nothing. I'm not going to threaten you. I can only beg."
TINKER 2 SPOILER ALERTS
So I'm pushing forward on T2, although forward isn't the best descriptor. Back and forth and up and down and around and around is more like it.
After lots of consideration, I've decided that I have to soften the reader's opinion of Riki and the tengu. Two days of trying to write Oilcan being the "understanding" one of the conversation, I realize I'm completely blocked. This is one of those "character's decided that they weren't going to do…" moments; actually it's your little writer instinct trying to get your notice. I thought about it longer. Would Oilcan actually be all that sympathetic to someone that kidnapped Tinker away? Hell no!
A quick rewrite nailed that problem.
A second problem immediately cropped up. I had planned for Riki to kidnap Tinker again. Bleah. That just wouldn't do, so it now becomes a rescue mission. This means I have to fiddle with other parts of the story to have the parts of the "kidnap" that I liked - basically the descriptions of the flying over Pittsburgh - work with the part where Tinker needed rescued…
Ummm still working on that. In the meantime, here's the first fix:
Tinker delegated moving the black willow to her cousin, Oilcan; his years of experience of working at the scrapyard would make him able to juggle the willow onto something that a forklift could then handle without having her supervise. She focused on getting the magic siphoned out of the cooler; if anything would revive the tree, surely it would be a mega dose of magic.
The more she considered safety procedures, the less sure she was this was a good idea. The project, however, was already rampaging out of her control. The Reinholds' employees were searching out drawings and adding bars to the door, the EIA had already loaned her a tractor-trailer truck, a dozen hastily drafted elves were helping Oilcan move the willow, and she'd given out her promises like Halloween candy.
Doubt circled her back to what to tell Lain about the colonist. Should she believe what Riki told her? What benefit would he gain by lying to her? She struggled to remember the full conversation; it had been a turning point for her -- afterwards she knew that she could act without endangering the colonists. They were already lost. But what had she and Riki been talking about that brought up the subject? If Riki lied, it might have been to cover something else up. She worked backwards through the conversation: oni were diverting the supplies because all the colony reports were lies because the ships were gone without a trace because they didn't go to Onihida or Elfhome as planned. They were talking about the oni building and controlling the gate…
Ah, yes, she had been poking holes in the oni tactics in an attempt to find out what they planned. She had pointed out that if the gate shut down during the invasion, all the oni in Pittsburgh would end up on Earth, having to deal with humans and their superior technology. Riki claimed that the oni would merely keep the gate on until their invasion was complete.
At the time, she couldn't risk Elfhome on the slim hope that he was lying, and certainly, with the gate gone, there was no way of knowing now. If left plenty of wiggle room in what he could have been covering up. Unfortunately, it didn't help her decide if she should tell Lain or not.
She was sitting on the loading dock, making decision trees when Oilcan arrived with the black willow. He blasted a greeting on the truck's air horn, swung it in a wide arc, and then backed the trailer expertly up, square with the door.
"Hey!" He called as he swung down out of the cab.
"Hey yourself. How did it go?"
"Easy peasy." He leaned against the chest high dock. Wood sprites was what Tooloo had called them as kids - small, nut brown from head to bare toes, and fey in the way people used to think elves would look. Beneath his easy smile and summer stain of walnut, though, he seemed drawn.
"You okay?" She nudged him in the ribs with her toe.
"Me?" He scoffed. "I'm not the one being attacked by monsters every other day."
"Bleah." She poked him again to cover the guilty feeling of making him so worried about her. "Where's Lain?"
"She had samples she wanted to put on ice back at her lab." He glanced at the papers in her lap and made a face. "Ugh! What's driving you to decision trees?"
"Nothing." She folded the paper, hiding the labels to the branches.
Hurt flashed across his face. "Tink, let me help you if something is wrong. We're still family."
He said it as a statement but there was question lingering in the air.
"Yes we are! It's just - argh!" She flopped back. Thick white clouds steamed overhead, through the same kind of sky that Riki had once called perfect. At the time she didn't understand his fascination, hadn't known about his bird ancestry. The clouds passed; no longer obscured, the sun blazed, making her eyes tear, so she covered them with her arm.
Oilcan nudged against her foot, as if seeking the closeness they had just moments before.
"You spent time with Riki. The whole time I was at
The nudging stopped. "Yes."
"And you got to know him, right?"
She lifted her arm to look at him in surprise; he sounded suddenly so cold and distant. He stood taking deep, cleansing breaths that shook with his anger. He stared at the ground, refusing his anger a focus outside of himself. Afraid that he might have inherited his father's murderous rage, Oilcan worked hard to keep his laid back outlook; it been years since she last saw him truly angry.
"Forget it." She crumbled the paper.
He caught her hands, stilling them. "Tell me! What did that lying little bastard do to you now?" His eyes suddenly went wide. "Did he - did he - hurt you?"
He said 'hurt' but he meant 'rape.'
"Nooo!" She smacked him. "Hell, I'm the one that beat the snot of out of him!"
"Yes! With a crowbar."
"No, it wasn't good. I broke his nose and his foot. I was so angry, I wanted to kill him."
"I know how you feel." Oilcan whispered. "I've never hated someone so much. He came into our home, and lied to our faces. You trusted him, and he used that trust against you."
"Yeah, he did."
"I liked him. I thought we were friends. While you were at
"Speaking from experience, it really doesn't help." She could see that it was hurting him to hate so much. "He really didn't have much of a choice, if he didn't help the oni they would have killed him."
"How can you defend him?"
"Because I saw what Lord Tomtom did to those that failed him - and it scared the living shit out of me." She shuddered with the memory of the torture; the flash of bright blades and white of bone stripped clean of flesh. "I was willing to do almost anything to keep the knives away from me."
"I can't believe you can just forgive Riki."
"No, I don't forgive him. I'm still angry at him. But I was with the oni for nearly a month -- I can understand why he did it and don't think I can hate him for it."
"He acted like he liked us." Oilcan shook his head. "I trusted him."
"I think that he did honestly like us. He took my shit and never complained, and when he could, he'd protected me."
Oilcan took a deep breath and sighed it out. "Do you think - was anything he told us the truth?"
That is the question of the day, isn't it?
"I don't know."
Life is seriously attempting to get in the way of art.
Our move to Boston from Pittsburgh was a nightmare of epic proportions. We had just purchased a new home and completely gutted it when my husband’s Internet startup company was purchased by Lycos. He had been working insane hours, but now they included trips to Boston. As I struggled to finish the house alone, Lycos closed the Pittsburgh office. With two houses in Pittsburgh – one filled with 13 years of clutter and the other uninhabitable – we drove up to the Berkshire Mountains and toured the little town of Williamstown to see if we wanted to move there or Boston. Williamstown won out and my husband immediately moved up, leaving me to hold down the fort, take care of our autistic child, finished the remodeling on house #2 and start to pack #1.
Well… things just got worse from there. Because of lack of rental places but needing to prep school district on incoming special needs child, we bought a tiny house for my husband to live in. At the time there was a serious shortage of houses for in Williamstown, so the permanent house we bought was under construction. So we had four houses in two states approximately – two of which were in the middle of major construction -- and ten hours of driving between them.
During this time – I wrote ALIEN TASTE, landed an agent, wrote A BROTHER’S PRICE, sold ALIEN TASTE and landed a three-book contract with ROC.
It’s amazing I didn’t loose my mind.
(And anyone who says that they don’t have time to write – I laugh in their face.)
We got moved because basically I drafted absolutely everyone I knew into helping me finish house #2, pack and clean house #1, get us moved to house #3, while I oversaw construction on house #4. We didn’t do the weed out old stuff, throw away, donate to charity, and yard sale thing – we moved everything. We got into house #4 in October – and told to move again in February.
This time we hired movers who wrapped everything with miles of brown paper and shoved it random boxes. When we moved in, I had a book due. We unpacked as little as possible, squirreled away the unopened boxes, and focused on the here and now.
And so the boxes sat – in the basement, in the garage, in the attic and every closet in the house. For four years. (My god, it’s been that long?)
Rumors of another move (Lycos is being sold by Telefonica) looming on the horizon has us eyeing said boxes and deciding, “Nope, we’re not moving all this again.” For two weeks now, I’ve been pulling boxes out of closets, sorting through it and finding all sorts of weird collections. One tennis shoe, dirty clothes now looking like they fit a baby doll, silverware, toys and a beloved book all shoved together in one box. (Yes, we didn’t realize that professionals movers would pack everything!) The laundry machine has been going non-stop and I’ve made countless trips to Goodwill to drop off boxes and bags. But that’s been just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve just done three closets. There’s still the attic, basement and garage.
Tomorrow the dumpster arrives. Operation Deep Clean starts in 24 hours. Writing? Oh yes, that’s what you cram in between insanity.