Been a long time coming, but finally some posts.

Well, as promised I’ll be posting up some short stories I wrote today.  One of which I’ll likely also be posting for views on Wattpad, for any users there.  I believe I’ll be using Wattpad primarily to share short stories.  Nonetheless, here are the aforementioned stories.

It’s been one hundred fifty six hours since I last slept. I’ve put some thought into this; I’ve had the time…too much time. So tired. I’m always so tired. Lately, it’s all I feel.

So I lie here in my bed. My crypt. My private mausoleum. I lie wide awake in my half asleep state, which isn’t the contradiction it seems. I find myself so exhausted that all I can do to pass the twilight hours is count the moons as they go by. It sometimes seems like the only thing that does make sense anymore; to be so drained from the effort I can’t even sleep.

I lie in bed, alone in the gloom, staring at the thin rays of dull morning light passing between the curtains, and I wait.

What am I waiting for?

It hardly seems to matter anymore. Life has become a never ending drudgery of waiting for this or that. Waiting for the alarm to rouse me from bed, for the bread to toast, for the coffee to brew, for the traffic to move, for the mail to arrive…I am always waiting for one thing or another.

I’m not sure why I’m waiting when I have nothing I look forward to. I suppose I cling to it because I have no other purpose. At the moment I lie waiting for the alarm, but all it signals is the continuation of my futile existence. Another day just like the last; is this my purpose or my condemnation?

My ears perk at the sudden blare of the buzzer. My eyes snap out of their glaze to nothing in particular as I lazily reach over to grope the clock and turn off my alarm with a groan. My hand brushes the row of familiar pill bottles on the bedside table.

Get up. Madison has school.

The sun rises for another day and so must I, for her. I managed it yesterday and all the days before it, so I suppose that is as good a reassurance as any that I can do it again. I rise in what has quickly become my morning ritual; a groan, a brief contemplation of life, and a search for toast and coffee.

I rub the sleep from my eyes in the hall though I can’t recall leaving the bedroom. That’s normal for this amount of sleep I think, but it’s been so long since I last considered myself normal I couldn’t say for certain. My mind is slow to act but the body and tongue know what they are doing, even if both are more than a little clumsy. I call up from the foot of the stairs.

“Time to get up! Get dressed, eat breakfast, get ready for school.”

I linger for a moment to see if the routine will vary. There is no reply and I nod curtly to myself. I had long ago resigned myself to the familiarity of days on days that do not change. Today would be no different than yesterday it seemed. With luck tomorrow would follow suit. If it weren’t for school and work I wouldn’t even know what day it is. One bleeds into the next so seamlessly I sometimes have trouble remembering if things happened five minutes ago or five days ago.

Next thing I know I am sipping on a cup of coffee. Again, I can’t recall coming here from the hallway, or even making the coffee, but it matters not. I read that the brain can shut off for menial tasks when you function on such low levels of sleep, like being on autopilot. Then, when something requires more attention you just snap back to reality.

Alright brain, if you’re so smart what is it I need to do?

I yawn and look around the empty room. I’m sitting on my usual couch cushion right next to the side table where I like to put my coffee down. The television sits on the opposite side of the room on the other side of the coffee table, where the black screen reflects my image back at me. My legs extend out onto the coffee table comfortably, and I shift my feet to block my reflection. I hate seeing myself, but that’s not what stirred me. Something is amiss. I glance to the empty recliner on my right, then to my watch.

Seven Thirty already.

Madison still hasn’t come downstairs. I know I should care on some level beyond basic function but I don’t have it in me. Despite all the operating parts something inside me has gone awry. Something is missing. The love of life is long gone. Madison is my sole bright spot. So I resign myself to a life of routine and service, for her.

I perform all the perfunctory requirements. I make sure there is food, shelter, and school. I go to work, pay my taxes, and contribute to society. When it’s all over I come home and sleep so I am ready for more of the same tomorrow. Honestly, if not for the apathy I don’t think I could feel anything at all. I lack the capacity for anything else.

Even Madison hadn’t been able to help me out of this latest crash. She does a commendable job taking care of me. It’s not her fault.

I’m just broken.

She has so many other responsibilities and people relying on her that it wouldn’t be fair to expect more of her on any account. She tries her best but we both know it’s a losing battle. I think I love her even more for trying in spite of her inevitable failure, but it’s hard to tell when you can’t feel anymore. The medication only makes things worse, it muddies the already murky waters. I’m unable to separate what I feel from the medication’s effect.

“Madison let’s go please! You won’t have time for breakfast!”

I lounge in my seat and still myself while I listen for a reply. I hold the cold, empty coffee mug to my heart. It mirrors the chill of the frigid winter morning, causing my skin to prickle.

Why, Mady?

I would normally say that I despised it when things went against the routine I had painstakingly created. Every movement had a purpose and brought us closer to the next required action in our lives. No energy was wasted. Today, however, I am not normal.

Today I am too emotionally exhausted from trying to feel anything to even work up a twinge of frustration. I mindlessly excise myself from the couch to go upstairs and see what was taking Mady so long. I make the effort up the stairs – even small efforts take a great amount of will – and turn right to head down the hall. I pass the noiseless bathroom and come to Mady’s door, still shut, hearing no sound from within. I sigh.

She’s not even getting dressed yet? She must be exhausted…she works so hard.

I knock on the door with careful effort to not spill my coffee, or as I prefer to think of it the nectar of the gods. If there was one thing I could almost feel for, other than Mady, it was coffee.

“Madison, wake up, we’re going to be late.”

Still nothing. There’s no shuffling of blankets or sleepy moans of protest. There’s nothing. It’s silent as the night.

“Madison!” I grab the handle of the door and push it more violently than I had intended, opening it into the drywall behind with a crunch. For months I had been meaning to put a stopper behind that door. Finally, two weeks ago, I bought the damn thing and left it in Madison’s care.

“It’s your room, you can take care of it.” I had told her. Apparently I was too generous in my appraisal of her ability.

“God dammit Madison.” I feel nothing as I inspect the damage. I have grown accustomed to acting out what feels like the appropriate emotion. In this case, anger seems the appropriate mask to wear. I can usually gauge by Mady’s reaction if I hit the mark or not.

There was a sprinkling of drywall dust on the handle, easy enough to brush off and vacuum later, but the near perfect circle hole left by the knob would need a patch. This was beyond my ability. “Now we need to get a handyman to come in here and fix this…are you even listening?” I whirred around to the bed.

Madison lay in the bed unmoving. I feel my eyes widen and my mouth hang open slack jawed as I take in the scene. My heart skips a beat. The mug of coffee falls from my limp hand, surely staining the white carpets, but I hardly take notice. Laying on its side a few feet from Madison’s drooping hand was a pill bottle, obviously empty. I rush over. At least, I think I did. I couldn’t be sure if I stood dumbly for half a second or half an hour. Time no longer existed, it was an irrelevant construct.

Is surprise an emotion? A feeling?

I lean down to inspect the bottle, my stomach feeling hollow as I pick it up and read it. I feel my brows raise. I blink to clear my eyes before reading the small print again, but the text reads the same the second time over. It’s not a mistake. The pills, anti-depressants, are prescribed to Mady.

Were prescribed.

There were not from my private stash, as I had expected.

Fluoxetine…why didn’t she tell me?

The bottle had been filled yesterday. I look up at Madison as the horror of what I was seeing hit me. My heart wrenches, tears well up in my eyes and I collapse on the bed, covering Madison with myself as if to save her dignity.

I lay there wracking with sobs, tears flowing like the sky opening up with rainfall. My entire reason for living, for being, lay beneath me. She is exactly as I remembered her from last night, but she is also entirely different. Her sharp features are dulled. The colour of her auburn hair is muted. Her warmth is cooled. Her pink skin faded a shade more pale. Her scent faded to something no longer her, but some musk of corpse. She smelled of death.

Through all of it, despite the shock and horror, I feel my lip involuntarily curl into the hint of a smile before vanishing beneath the overwhelming grief again. I hate myself for being able to smile at a time like this, even if only for a moment. I’m not happy, of course, I’m just in shock.

Does it ever wear off?

Madison had done what I thought was impossible, she had got me to feel something for the first time in as long as I could remember To feel again, and to feel so strongly, was a relief even if it was horrible. Madison’s terrible gift. She showed me I could feel again. It wasn’t just surprise, but a real emotion. Raw emotion. I know in this moment the full extent of my love for my beautiful, broken girl. The full extent of what I have lost. I know how hard it would be to move past this moment, to live on without her.

I feel this Mady. I feel…empty. I failed you.

A stream of tears wet my cold cheek as I hold the frail, broken girl in my arms. The grief opens a gaping hole in my heart. I am immobilized; unable to move, unable to think, unable to process. I sigh heavily. I’m tired. I’m always so tired.

Maybe…this means I am free. Maybe I’ll see you soon Mady.

Even now, only a handful of months later I can see many flaws which I would fix in it now, most glaring to me is how the POV is extremely passive.  The story would have had much greater impact as told from Mady’s POV.  I’ll likely try a few revisions to this and throw it up on Wattpad at some point in the future, but this is the copy as submitted.  In order to keep this post short(ish) I’ll post the other story separately.  Thanks for reading!

—CR Alexander

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Some excitement…

Well, not a *lot* of excitement for me personally…yet at least, hopefully soon though!   First things first, my non self related excitement…I now own The Skull Throne (Peter V Brett)!  This is the fourth book in the Demon Cycle and I am eagerly looking forward to tearing into it.  First things first though, I’m currently in the beginning pages of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini) and then I have another book to read before I get back into fantasy.  I’m trying to expand my literary horizons so I’m getting some much needed variety.  Still, I’ve heard nothing but great reviews and I am eager to sink myself into Brett’s world once again.

As for my own writing, well…there are lower levels of excitement there.  I don’t have anything published this week after all, but I do have the draft of a submission complete!  I’m giving it some time away before I tackle the editing process.

Just today…well, I suppose yesterday now (I’m up late with my toddler who has decided that 12.10am is the *perfect* time to play with cars), I submit a short story to Fantasy Faction as part of their monthly writing contest.  The theme was rogues, and I wrote a short entitled The Botched Con.  You can view it on their website if you visit the monthly writing contest forum.  After they make a decision on the winner I’ll decide whether or not to post it here.  If I win, since it will be featured on their site I likely won’t.  If they decide not to use it then I’ll throw it up here for anyone who’s interested.

As for the novel…it’s been sorely neglected in favour of short stories lately.  I’m still plugging away, but the creative juices have been flowing with other projects of late.  And deadlines for other things have been fast approaching.  There is nothing imminent at the moment, so I should be able to dedicate a good deal of time to it for the next while before I start on the next short story.  Ink Ribbon Press is accepting submissions and I had an idea I might send their way if I can get something good on paper.  For the time being though, I’m happy with the way things are going.  I’m making submissions, pretty happy with the end result of what I’m sending in, and plodding along at the longest project I’ve taken on (novel started waaaaay back in 2010, but most seriously over about three different periods spanning maybe 7-8 months).  Hopefully by the time May rolls around I’ll be finishing up the novel’s first draft, have a submission for Ink Ribbon Press, and have started editing for my Writers of the Future submission.  I’ll also try to check in more often here this month…but no promises!

A few things I’ve learned

The writing process is different for everybody.  It’s as individual as the person holding the pen (or fingers poised over the keys, whatever your method).  I’ve read a bit about the processes some of my favourite authors use and tried to incorporate bits and pieces into my own life to see what fits for me.

Outlines!  When I was less experienced, and writing was more of a hobby than something I wanted to do with my life, I flew by the seat of my pants.  Outlines?  What are outlines?  I would have an idea float into my head and begin furiously scratching something down on paper.  Inevitably it would float on out again and that would usually be it.  End of story.  An abrupt conclusion in the middle of the story, sometimes mid chapter or even mid sentence.

When I decided to take things a bit more seriously, gained a bit of experience, and learned from the impressive list of previous failures I saw that outlines were not the tool of the devil I had thought them to be.  I began doing rough outlines.  What a world of difference it makes!  I still only take them a few chapters at a time.  It gives me something to look forward to, a goal to keep in mind.  More importantly it allows me the creative flexibility to let the story flow naturally and organically come to all these outlined points.  Sometimes things get moved forward or back, or outright cut, but it allows me to know what I’m working towards and keeps words flowing.  It’s been a great help.

Another thing I’ve realized it the hardest part for me is getting words on a page.  I aim for 2000 words a day on a writing day, but that number can change if I have another project that requires other attention (outline, edit, etc).  This goal is a bit higher than many, I realize, but it’s high enough to keep me focused on task without seeming overwhelming.  I’ve also discovered I burn out if I focus entirely on one project for too long, so I’ll often split my writing between projects.  I might throw 1000 words at the novel, another 500 at a short story, and then edit another project.

Motivation is hard to come by at times. Sometimes it’s easy, but regardless I find the only way I can continue forward progress is to plunk myself at a computer with no distractions.  Internet access is an ongoing battle, but for the most part one I win…inevitably…usually.

Characters are fun, but sometimes quite a challenge.  They tend to speak with a similar voice at first.  Male, female, young, or old they all end up sounding pretty much the same.  On subsequent passes through in the editing process I try to make them unique, give them their own speech patterns, vocabularies, etc.  I’ve learned to try and think beyond the basics of individual motivation.  Try to flesh them out and make them as real as possible.

The same can be said for world building.  When the novel began in 2010 there were many mistakes to learn from.  One being the world was pretty one dimensional.  There were no nations or borders, it was all towns within unspecified countries.  One looked the same as the other despite relative large distances between them.  Weather was always the same everywhere.  There was never any wind or rain or snow, unless it was a plot device.  The cities had no histories, or culture, or anything…everything existed purely as was required by the story.

Now there are many diverse nations (I hope others see it that way) with many cultures, religions, languages, monies, governments, and so on.  Towns within a country have differences.  The people may speak differently within the same nation, sometimes even within the same city.  This becomes especially true in places where cultures have merged or coexist.

I wonder what else I will learn before the draft is finished, from the editing process, or ten years from now.  I can tell it’s (the novel) and I have already come a long way to get where we are.  Part of me is nervous to finish the draft and, upon a reading, realize how much work there is to do to make it a coherent, presentable story to sell to agents and publishers.  The other part is quite eager to see it through and where it can go.  I guess I’ll keep updating as I go along.

Writer’s block and updates

Been awhile since I’ve updated the blog, so I thought I’d just check in.  I’ve finished the first draft of one of the novel’s (by the way, working title is Time’s Scar) story lines.  I’ve begun work on the second story line and it is progressing well enough for a first draft.  I’m sure I’ll have much work to do to get it ready for beta readers, but such is the nature of a first draft.

I took the better part of a week to focus on some short stories.  I’ve written a few drafts, and edited two or three old ones as well.  Also took the time to write down a few of the ideas bouncing around in my head.  Otherwise I’m liable to forget them before I get them on paper/screen.  But back to the shorts, I’ve got one I’m getting ready to submit for contest here locally that is in the final stage of editing.  I’m nervous and excited for that, it’ll be the first piece I submit for judging.  There is another I’m going to start putting a lot more effort into and, if it turns out, enter it into Writers of the Future.  I’m also looking for decent publications to submit the odd short to, in the event I get a piece I feel is worthy of submission.  I’ll worry more about that in the future though.  (Both of those contest entries will be posted here after the contests are over for the period they are entered into.)

That’s about it for now, still plugging away on Time’s Scar…although the last few days have been a drag in terms of getting myself into the feeling of the story.  I discovered it was because I was forcing the story too much.  I knew where I wanted it to go, and I just kept pushing it in that direction.  Once I realized this, the solution was clear.  I sat back and let the story speak to me, let it tell me where it wanted to go.  After that the words started to flow marvelously!  And, lo and behold, I even progressed the story to the place it “needed” to end up.  Something to think about, I would say, to any other writers out there.  If you’re experiencing writers block, consider the reasons why.  Maybe your story is trying to tell you something.

Two Wrongs – Short Story Post

Posting another short.  This one is in a very different vein than the last one.  Most of my reading tends to be in the fantasy genre, but I’m trying to expand beyond my “comfort zone” with my writing (and reading).  Lately, I’m trying to write things I don’t normally read about in genres I am not entirely familiar with.  I’m writing from perspectives I can’t possibly have which forces me to put myself in someone else’s shoes. The end result of this, hopefully, will be steady growth and improvement as a writer.  Enjoy!

    “What do you mean?” I spat. I felt my cheeks warm and my hand curl into a tight fist. I forced it open with deliberate effort and used the back of my hand to wipe the spittle from my chin, doing my best to not reveal my embarrassment as I did so.

    “I mean no, Julie. N-O. Not this time, anyways.” Mom remained perfectly calm, as she always did, as she sat on the couch with her stitch work in hand. The needle never wavered or faltered. Mom never seemed to miss a beat. Not even during an argument.

    “That’s completely unfair…Hannah’s parents are letting her go!” I said. I raised my arms in frustration, but dropped them to my thighs with a smack when she didn’t even bother to glance up.

    “It’s too far, for one. It’s too late, for two. It’s too dangerous, for three. Three valid reasons, so you go ahead and pick your favourite.” Mom actually put the stitch work down to count the reasons off on her fingers.

    “It is not too dangerous Mom” I gritted my teeth. “It’s just a city.” I muttered under my breath.

    “Yes,” She picked up the needle and began to work again, “it’s a city – a big one at that. You’re just seventeen. You are too young and too naive to spend the night without an adult.”

    “I wouldn’t be alone though…” I strained, weakly, to keep the quiver from my voice, “Hannah will be there, and maybe even her brother!” The bit about her brother was a lie, but she didn’t have to know that. “He said he’d probably come down the see the show, and he’s twenty four.” I held eye contact to see if the lie would land or be swatted aside, yet again. It was like she had some kind of special mom radar, calibrated specifically for truth.

    “I said no.” Her mouth turned to a thin line. “Tell Hannah maybe next time. Maybe.” The needle began to move more vigorously, “and thank her.” Her black hair bounced lightly as her hand worked up and down with the needle. Despite her calm exterior I could see I was beginning to get to her. Her eyes were narrowed ever so slightly, her breathing more erratic. She was getting worked up, I was getting to her. She was, to her credit, hiding it well. I just knew the signs.

    I huffed and groaned with exaggerated displeasure for Mom’s benefit before raising the phone to my face again.

    “Sorry Hannah, I won’t be able to go. My mom,” I stressed the word with a little extra emphasis, “won’t let me. Thanks anyways. Take lots of pictures for me, okay? Call me right after.” I clicked the phone off and threw it on the couch next to Mom.

    “Dropped your phone.” She said without even raising her eyes from her hands.

    “I don’t know why you have to be like this!” I could almost hear the blood pumping vigorously through my veins. My hands were fists again, my breathing suddenly heavy, and I felt my brows pull down slightly. “All I wanted to do was go to a stupid concert with my friend, but you can’t let me have any fun can you?” I gritted my teeth as I stared at her with narrowed eyes.

    “Julie,” she dropped the craft to the side and looked directly at me without batting an eye, “I am your mother. I am responsible for you. If I say no, it’s no. That’s final.” Her gaze wasn’t cold, not by any stretch, but it was firm. She meant it, and that made it all the more maddening.

    “You’re not even my mother!” I blurted out. The silence hung awkwardly between us for several seconds before Mom said anything.

    “I…beg your pardon?” She blinked.

    “I…” I mumbled incomprehensibly as I rubbed the back of my neck. I was suddenly warm everywhere; beads of cool sweat ran down my back uncomfortably.

    “I’m not your mother?” Her lip twitched, not unlike when she was angry.

    “I…the thing is…” I looked skyward but the words weren’t there either. There really was no good way to start a conversation like this. “You were sick.” I decided it was easier to start from the beginning. “The doctors put you in a coma.” I looked to her.

    “When I gave birth? Yes. There were complications. The doctors put me into a medical coma.” Mom nodded, her face a blank sheet not betraying a shred of what she might be thinking.

    “The child you gave birth to…” Here came the hard part; I looked down at my toes. I was afraid to say it, to tell her the truth after all these years. More than anything I was ashamed at how it had come out. I had shouted it at her in a moment of anger. It wasn’t right.

    “…it wasn’t me.” I said, letting the words hang between us awkwardly.

    “It wasn’t you.” Mom parroted slowly.

    “No. Your child…birth child,” I added hastily, “died shortly after she was born. I’m…I’m sorry.” I sat down next to her on the couch. The seat was cold, but I sunk into my usual seat next to her and grabbed hold of her hand. “Dad, in all his flawed wisdom, decided to adopt me to fill that void in his life. His words.” I shook my head, memories of that day flooded my focus taking my attention away from the moment. “He told me a few weeks before he died.” I snapped out of my reverie and felt my mouth curl into a guilty little frown.

    “He had a good heart.” Mom’s eyes crinkled as she thought of him, apparently oblivious to my day dreams. Her lips curled into a little smile. “He loved you very much.”

    “And you.”

    “Yes.” Mom sighed. “What do you suppose he would say if he heard what you said to me just a minute ago?” She looked down on me with her brows drawn together. I pressed my knees together and looked away.

    “He would be ashamed of you.” She said. “Be happy he wasn’t here to see it.”

    I nodded and sucked on the inside of my lips drawing them into a thin line. “Are you okay?” I dared to glance back up at her.

    “I’m hurt you would choose this way to tell me.” She nodded, “but as it so happens I already knew.”

    “You did?” My eyes went wide, my jaw slackened. Dad failed to mention that. “How? When?”

    “Do you remember when you were three and you fell into the glass coffee table?” Mom’s eyes went distant as though she were remembering it.

    “No. I don’t.” I racked my brain but it didn’t sound familiar. I bit my lip nervously.

    “Well you did, and it shattered. It was very serious, and you lost a lot of blood. Your father and I worried we might even lose you. When we got you to the hospital the doctors told us to prepare for the worst. In the end you needed a transfusion. When neither your father nor I were a match…well, he had to come clean.” Mom chuckled to herself. “Of course we found a donor, got you stitched up and you were right as rain in a few months. Like it never happened.”

    “Is that how I got those scars on my legs?” I grabbed at them self consciously. Mom nodded.

   “Hit an artery. Doctor said it shouldn’t scar too badly, but try telling a teenage girl her scars aren’t too bad.” She smiled warmly. “So I’ve known the truth since you were three.”

    “And you never told me?”

    “We didn’t think you were ready to know. I’m surprised your father told you to be honest. It must have weighed on him greatly.” Her eyes drifted off as though she were deep in thought. “Judging by this display I’d say we were right. You’re not mature enough to handle the truth.” Mom pulled her brows together in a frown.

    “Do you know why he told me?” I felt the fire rising within me. Feelings long ago sorted out, or so I thought, bubbled back up to the surface, “Because I confronted him. I’m not stupid mom.”

    “No…no of course not.” Mom blinked. Her mouth opened and shut a few time wordlessly.

   “You, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Johnny, everyone in the whole family has black hair and brown eyes. Except for me. Red hair,” I shook my shoulder length auburn hair at her, “blues eyes.” I pointed to each of my eyes. “Dad had great intentions and a good heart, but he didn’t understand genetics worth a damn.”

    It was Mom’s turn to lower her eyes in shame.

    “I found out I had been adopted in the library, looking at the state adoption records. I was alone. I was all alone!” My voice shook, whether with rage or hurt I wasn’t sure. Probably both. “I felt like I had no family. One had sent me away and the other hadn’t cared enough to tell me the truth.” I felt my lip quiver. I forced my face into a hard, blank slate. I refused to allow tears to form.

   “I never wanted that for you.” Mom’s eyes were wet, her lips twitching downward slightly. “I hope you know that.”
“I do.” I nodded, “Now. It took a lot of time to get over the anger.” I shrugged, my anger melted away at the sight of her this way. She didn’t birth me, true, but she was my mother through and through. More than that though, I was her daughter and it pained me to see her in pain. “I guess…we both owe each other apologies.”

    “We both made mistakes…” Mom nodded, “And for my part I am sorry. Sorry I hurt you. I’m so sorry you had to find out in that way.” She shook her head as if it would cast the tears away. “If it helps at all…at least you know your family chose you. And we never second guessed that decision.” Her eyes were wide, wet, and hopeful. Full of love.

    “If it helps I’m sorry too.” I wiped the wetness from me own eyes with a sleeve, “at least you know I choose to call you Mom.” I smiled back.

Short: The Cunning Warrior

Hey all, posting my first short to the blog!  Posted this on reddit as well in the writer’s prompt sub, so credit goes to gives-out-hugs for the prompt.

I felt the sweat trickle down my face in beads as I breached the inner circle. The sun beat down on me relentlessly as though it was the one I had challenged to the duel. I nodded to my second who stood off to my right side at the front of the crowd. The crowd had grown to a sizable number, perhaps a hundred, and circled up around the pitch.

What bloody fool came up with the idea of duelling at midday?

I wiped the sweat from my brow with my forearm and waited for my opponent to enter the circle. I thought I saw Pallos, my opponent, making his way to the inner circle, but with all the people and bustling activity it was difficult to tell one man from another. The moments passed like hours. My chest felt tight and my stomach quivered. My heart thudded hard within as though the gods were beating on it like a drum. It was to be my first duel, and if all went according to plan, it wouldn’t be my last.

The crowd of men across the way parted and my opponent strode towards me. He seemed to carry himself with an air of nonchalance as if to say he already had won, or at the very least that he didn’t care if he lost. The man waved to the crowd while the fine, billowing cuffs of his overcoat flapped in the wind. The people began to cheer his name.

“Pallos! Pallos! Pallos!” They called out, chanting his name over and over. Women were pushing to the front, fawning over him, fighting to get a chance to touch his hand. Pallos smiled and took a bow, his bronze skin glistened in the sunlight. I felt my brows tug upwards slightly when I noticed he wore the same simple tunic and pants I had seen him in this morning when the challenge was made. I had expected him to change into something a little more forgiving of movement.

Curious.

“I thank you, good people!” Pallos’ voice was silky and smooth. If he felt even a fraction of the nervousness I did he wasn’t betraying an ounce of it. He wore a bright coloured scarf over his forehead, which I suspect was to keep the sweat from cascading down his face, but to my mind it only served to make the man look even more effeminate. His features were already soft, his skin smooth, his long black hair flowed behind him in the warm summer breeze.

Growing impatient I drew my steel, the familiar ring of blade on scabbard silenced the crowd. The sound drew attention back to me and a resounding utterance of admiration could be heard from the onlookers. The length of steel being the measure of a man’s skill in these lands, I proudly held my steel for all to see. Barely a hand’s span of blade protruded from the hilt. I smirked across the circle at my opponent, but if he took any notice of my scant steel he gave no outward indication.

With a shrug he wriggled out of his overcoat and let it fall to the ground. He leisurely walked out opposite me on the pitch. Once at the appropriate distance he made a point of eyeing up my blade. I twist it in the light, trying to catch the sun and reflect it back at him but the angle isn’t right. He smiled playfully back at me, sticks his tongue out a little, and put his hand to his hilt.

“En garde.” He smiled, revealing his perfect teeth, and drew his own steel.

What?

I blinked to clear my vision, sure I had missed something. I glanced down to the man’s scabbard to confirm it is empty, then to his hand holding the hilt, then back up to his face. Pallos’ grin widened, his eyes crinkling as he took a step forward. I matched him with a step backward. I heard the crowd beginning to mutter in their confusion. I was hardly able to comprehend the situation before me myself. The mutters turned to jeers as I continued to back away for each step of advance Pallos made.

Let them jeer. This man is my focus. Him and his…hilt.

I swallowed with some difficulty as I tried to push the crowd noise from my attention. I tried to get the image of the hilt out of my mind, but found it continually wondering back there. I carefully watched Pallos’ eyes to try and gauge his next movement. His eyes never left mine. His features, once appearing soft and feminine now took on a new light and seemed hard as rock. He bore holes through me with his stare, and I felt my entire will collapse beneath it. His smooth skin, at this distance, was not so smooth but covered in fine scars. Scars I feared came from a lifetime of duels. I glanced once more to the hilt, highly refined and jewel encrusted, but completely without blade, and something inside of me snapped.

I’ll not be another notch for this man.

I dropped my sword. “Yield.” My throat was dry and raw, the word barely escaping.

Pallos nodded his head respectfully towards me and returned his hilt to it’s scabbard, tying it in place so it would not fall with an expert hand.

“Another bloodless victory for Pallos!” He called out to the crowd. The people roared in excitement. I picked up my steel and pushed through the ruckus, turning back only once to see a curious look on Pallos’ face.

Is that…relief?

I turned away and walked down the path back into the city with my mind swimming in my thoughts.

And what did he mean another…?

Novel is half done and some info on shorts

Well the first seems fairly self explanatory, though I should probably add the caveat that the first half is done in the first draft form only, so there is still much work to be done.  Still it is an accomplishment to be proud of, and I am.  I’ve had the character’s voice in my head for over five years now, so it’s a bit surreal for me to be “done” telling his story.  Also very exciting to start a new POV and see where this character can take me, and the story.

If all goes well with the novel I hope to complete the first draft in five weeks, give or take.  Then I’ll likely take a week off before I start the massive first round of cuts and edits, getting it ready for future edits and eventually for beta readers!  But that’s getting a bit ahead of myself.  First I need to get some words on screen and then I can worry about edits and cuts.

And some shorts!  Yes, I am nearing completion on a short I intend to enter into the Islands Short Fiction Contest (limit 2000 words to Vancouver and Gulf Islands residents).  Hopefully all will go well for me.  I am having loads of fun getting a submission ready to go regardless of how it ends.  Also have a couple other shorts I hope to polish off and post on here when they’re ready!  That’s all for now, back to editing and outlining!