Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten - Part 17

Screaming, weeping, Matilda followed the other three to the ladder, falling over obstacles in the dark, tripping on her own feet, hysterical with grief. She knew she had to get the rest of the team out, but she could hardly breathe. Panic took hold of her as another tremor, longer, deeper and more urgent shook the ground under their feet.

The other members stood by the ladder, uncertain what to do. "Up the ladder, reverse numbers!"

She had enough where-with-all to know she had to be last. Jane went first and the rest followed, hesitating over the gaps in their ranks, noticing and mourning those missing.

There was one person left, the largest man in the group. Mike delayed before going up. "You first, Matilda."

She shook her head. "By the numbers, Mike."

He forced a grin. "Yes, ma'am."

He put one foot on the ladder and the shaft began to crumble. He leapt back, knocking her aside as the soft, black dust fell over them. She had a moment of panic and she knew no more.
* * *

Matilda woke with a start, gasping for breath, the darkness thick around her. She couldn't move, her arms and legs pinned down. The weight was excruciating and she wished she had stayed unconscious. A minute or two later, she realized what had woken her.

"4-6-2, this is Base. 4-6-2, this is Base. Can you hear me?"

She moaned, her entire body felt broken.

"4-6-2, Matilda, this is Jane. Can you hear me? Mike? Answer me!" Her voice held an edge of desperation.

"It's me," Mike croaked. "Matilda is here, I can feel her next to me." He tapped her left arm.

"Can't see..." Matilda groaned.

"The tunnel fell in on you. A team is on the way. Can you move?"

"No," Matilda said after a few moments of trying.

"Negative, Base," Mike sounded less wounded than she.

After a few more minutes, she realized part of the weight on her was Mike's body. She moaned again.

The pain was incredible and she slipped once more into unconsciousness. When she woke again, she was in the Guild infirmary. Sterile white walls met a black and white tile checkerboard floor. Muted voices and the sounds of food carts greeted her ringing ears.

She could not turn her head as she was in a neck brace, but her peripheral vision showed her the bed next to her was empty. The sheets looked rumpled, so someone had been using it.

The toilet flushed and Mike hobbled out on crutches. His smile was warm and friendly, tinged with sadness. Reality struck home as she remembered Bobby's last words as he fell. Tears ran down her cheeks and she sobbed, mourning his loss and that of their friends.

"They are still looking, Matilda."

"He fell too far, Mike. I know it. Their bodies will never be found. What happened?"

She rubbed her eyes with the back of her right hand. The left was in traction.

"They hit a pocket of Essine gas when they were digging. That entire side of the mine went down. They've had to close the whole site."

"Tests and scans are supposed to be done for Essine...."

He nodded sadly. "Someone screwed up."

"I'll have their job for this!" The pain increased with her anger.

"They're dead, Tilda. Just like Bobby."

"Not just like! At least their death was quick! He fell and there was nothing I could do! Just stand there and watch!" It was then she noticed her ring finger was bare. "My ring!" Before she could get more worked up, he handed her a small plastic bag with her engagement ring. The band had been sliced and it was covered with muck and crusted blood.

"They had to cut it off, but the nurse made sure to save it. You can get it cleaned and repaired, it will be good as new." Her lip was trembling and hot tears spattered the bag, puddling in the folds and creases.

"It doesn't matter. Put it away."

He did as she asked and waited for the food cart to stop by. There was nothing left to say. No words could make her feel any better.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

NaNoWriMo is in Full Swing. Are You In?

I'm participating in NaNoWriMo again and loving it. The first part of the novel came fast and furious, but the muse is now being stubborn. I have had to cut and restart a couple times. I know technically that's not something they encourage, but I knew I wouldn't ever finish if I didn't redirect and fix it. It's going more in the right direction now -WHEW! Below is an excerpt of my story, a crime/ romance blend.

The original idea came from something that actually happened to me. The character of Teague has my perspective & point of view in the incident that sparked this story. Of course, I've added to and embellished, but the basic thread here is real. I don't know what the bikers were doing, if it was a strange and oddly convenient coincidence, but it's something that stuck with me.

Teague McMurtry has recently left the Army. At 24, he's seen more blood and death than most men his age. Quite by accident, he gets involved in something strange, mysterious and deadly. Is the beautiful Vivica really what she claims, the innocent sister of a psychotic mastermind? Or is she drawing him into something dangerous and deadly? An excerpt from "The Ninja Tattoo" is below.



Early morning sun set the sky on fire, glistening off the water, momentarily blinding him. He flipped down the visor then dug his sunglasses out of the glove compartment, sliding them up his nose with one hand. He'd chosen the scenic route to work just so he could enjoy the sunrise. It wasn't often he got out this early. The river looked like molten silver shot with gold strands. The sky was a cheerful blend of rose, lavender, azure, peach and plum. The sun peeping over the horizon was tinged with red, indicating the start of another scorcher. Hot weather was not unusual in Florida, but wasn't the norm for this late in the year.

Teague McMurtry waved to the few pedestrians out at this hour. He knew some of them slightly, since many of them were his neighbors. Working the odd hours he did, he rarely saw anyone. However, since moving a month ago to his small house on Riverside Drive, his neighbors had made a point of coming over to introduce themselves. It was by far the friendliest neighborhood he had ever lived in.

The road was empty as he drove south toward his job site in Oak Hill. He had an estimate to do down there and had to be in New Smyrna by 10:00, leaving him plenty of time in between. By the time he got to the police station in Edgewater, only a few blocks from his home, he had joined a convoy of sorts. In the lead was a bronze Ford pickup. Directly in front of Teague was a guy on a motorcycle. Behind him was another motorcycle, a red Jeep and, he thought, a third bike behind the Jeep. It seemed odd since the road had been so empty before. He couldn't quite remember noticing when he came upon these others, but figured they all had the same idea, keeping out of school traffic on US-1.

The pickup was going the speed limit, which was a little frustrating. In fact, the driver went 25, then 20, 30 and 15. Teague wanted to lay on his horn, but didn't want to startle the biker, so he kept his frustration to himself. The biker didn't look any happier with the truck than he was. From time to time, he glanced behind him, trying to see around Teague's white Dodge Ram. Apparently, the motorcycles were traveling together and somehow Teague had gotten in between them.

At the turnoff for 442, the guy ahead of Teague gestured with his left arm, motioning as if he were turning. Teague slowed, anticipating the right turn, but the biker sped up, his black and white Ninja, following the truck as it continued past the intersection. Instead, the red Jeep, followed by another biker, turned right and headed up 442. This left the truck, Teague and two bikers. It seemed strange to him and he began to wonder what was going on. His overactive imagination clicked into high gear and he started imagining scenarios.

“Maybe the guy in the truck is with them and he's giving directions to the guy on the white Ninja?”

He thought that over, wondering how they were communicating. The guy ahead of him was probably about his age with short, sandy brown hair. He had on a T-shirt, baggies, skater shoes and sunglasses. He wasn't wearing a helmet and he didn't have a cellphone out. So that was probably not the case. The biker behind Teague was also on a Ninja, this one bright blue, He wore a white helmet with a dark visor. He was wearing clothing similar to the man ahead of him. What characterized them both was the fact they were heavily tattooed. What Teague had first taken as a tan or sunburn, on closer inspection, revealed itself to be elaborate tattoos on neck, arms and legs.

The road turned right, coming to a end at US-1. Stopping for the light, the man ahead of Teague leaned back on his bike, glancing at the guy behind him. He motioned to himself, indicating he was going right. Gesturing at the rider behind Teague, he pointed left. The other man nodded, giving the lead biker a thumbs up. The light changed and the fellow on the white Ninja followed the truck while the man on the blue one followed Teague. Feeling a bit paranoid, he moved over to the right lane, anticipating that the biker would go around him. It didn't even occur to him that the other man would stay behind him, but he did. He didn't ride Teague's bumper, rather stayed at least two car lengths back, shadowing him. If Teague changed lanes, so did the biker.

The hairs on his neck stood at attention. Something was decidedly weird. This man's behavior negated everything Teague had ever seen bikers do. They generally crowded until they could pass, then buzzed around the other vehicles way too fast, disappearing suddenly as they sped up. Approaching the subdivision near Oak Hill, Teague signaled his turn. The biker looked ready to follow, but continued down the highway. As Teague checked in at the security gate, the biker slowed, making a U turn, he continued back up US-1. Once he was cleared, Teague drove to the house whose yard he was landscaping. He tried to put the bikers out of his mind, but their odd behavior was so out of the ordinary, he couldn't.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Pat Bertram is my Guest Blogger!

Most how-to books on writing suggest getting the first draft down as quickly as possible so that the passion shines through. This is good advice, and I would follow it if stories came easy to me, but they never do. I worried about this (for five minutes or so), wondering if my novels would feel dry and unemotional because I approach them as a puzzle, but the only difference between my way of writing and the so-called right way is that I do my thinking as I write rather than as I rewrite.
Is one way better than another? I don’t know, but if we accomplish what we set out to do, both the logical writers and the passionate ones can end up with interesting stories that will evoke emotions in our readers. In my case, during rewrites I get rid of much of the dryness that comes from the puzzle approach. In your case, perhaps, you lose some of that freewheeling passion when you organize what you have written into a more cohesive story.

We all have to find the best way to write. I am not condoning poor grammar, typographical errors, bad plotting, ignorance of story elements, or any of those other rules that new writers rail against. I’m talking about the fun of writing, the passion, the puzzle.

Samuel Johnson remarked, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” I guess that makes most of us blockheads, because we write knowing that except for a select group, there is little money to be made from writing. We need other reasons for spending so much time bleeding words.

For me, it’s the puzzle. As frustrating as it gets, I love figuring out plots, character’s motives, new ways of presenting common thoughts. Beats crossword puzzles any day.

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter Am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Daughter Am I: When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents-grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born-she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians-former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

Christmas and a Vampire - Part 11

"I'm sorry I doubted you." "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, or take you with me. He wasn't in a compromisin...