Kage Baker was clearly looking over my shoulder today. She was at least standing behind me, poking me in said shoulder – she always poked hard, too – and telling me to get to work.
It wasn’t my intention to do anything much at all, Dear Readers. I got my first full night’s sleep in weeks, slept late, woke up to find that the outdoors was already burning to a crisp in the heat, and decided to just be boneless all day. Eat lime ices and drink iced coffee. But I didn’t. For your amusement, Dear Readers, here is what I did –
Last August, I handed a nice publisher (who was always good to Kage and me) a novel via e-transom. That is, I ambushed him and handed him a thumb drive at World Con. Today I worked up the courage to anxiously inquire as to it’s fate? Turns out the poor man had misplaced my manuscript, with many others, in the wake of installing a new submission system. But that does not mean NO! So I sent it again, and am now in hope once more.
And here are the first two pages of Knight and Dei:
“Any sound in my ears but Your silence, O Lord God.”
Distantly a horn blared. The praying woman opened her eyes and leaned forward, frowning.
After a moment she shrugged and got to her feet. She bound back her hair in the red scarf of her Order, making stray locks stand up round her forehead like flames, and went down the hill to camp.
Down in the shadows where the sunrise had not yet arrived, the other woman looked up. She scowled.
“One of us should charge the battery on the car, Sister Pilot,” she said pointedly. “And I’m busy breaking camp.”
“I’m sorry, Sister Driver,” said the woman with the red scarf. “I was praying.”
“Works would be more appropriate at the moment, Sister.” The Driver pushed the ends of her own scarf – which was blue – over her shoulder, and bent back down over the tent she was rolling up.
The Pilot sighed, and went to the aircar settled deep in the dry grass. She opened the cover to the starter motor, seized the battery crank in both hands, and began to recite the Dedication to Labor. When the Driver turned to glare at her, she hunched her shoulders and set to hurriedly on the crank, continuing the Dedication under her breath.
“Boy, this is awkward,” she remarked in a few moments. “I wonder why they put the crank up here, instead of down on the side?”
“It’s a cheap little starter. And it’s cheaper to make the gears horizontal to start with, instead of adding another gear to translate the cranking motion from the vertical,” Driver said. She buckled the tent bag closed and started rolling a bedroll. “Does that tell you anything you need to know?”
“No. Sorry,” said Pilot in automatic guilt.
She cranked unsteadily but silently until Driver had stood and was loading the gear into the cargo bay and the back seat, checking the straps that kept the roof folded back and open. Then she asked politely:
“Don’t you find it distracting to tell your Deds while you’re actually doing the labor?”
“No.” Driver went round to the front of the car, pulled off the air filter and began shaking a storm of dried bugs out of it. “I love the monotony, the soul-numbing boredom. It’s such a soothing contrast.”
I got hit with a sudden idea about little girls. And childhood memories. And ghouls. Here is the first page of “The Misses Take and Treat”.
This is the way I always see them, whenever I remember my childhood:
two little, little girls playing in a walled garden, derelict but green and madly alive with Spring, under a low grey sky.
One is white-blonde and one is dark. Both are so pale they almost glow. They are wearing cut-down women’s blouses as dress-up gowns: a sequined T-shirt that sheds sparkles in the dim air, belted with a scarlet silk scarf; a white lace peignoir over a black velvet tunic that falls to skinny ankles. The girl in rhinestones is draped with strands and strands of donkey beads and translucent Bakelite. The one in black velvet is wound around and around her arms and legs and torso with brightly coloured telephone wires, and there are bells and spoons and anything that will rattle or ring wired to them.
They are playing with ribbon wands. They dance wildly, the sort of frenetic hopping and skipping that only kittens and small girls dance, leaping among one another’s arching ribbons like fish in nets.
To be honest, I don’t know any more if they ever really danced like that, dressed like that, in a green feral garden. But it’s what I always see, when I remember them.
One of them had pointed teeth. And one of them was human.
The mist was hanging low as I came up the road. It ran narrowly through the trees here, and among the trees there was nothing to see but curtains of fog. The tree tops were invisible. It was like walking through an enormous soap bubble, a ballroom made of tissue-thin nacre. No matter where I looked, the walls were never more than 50 feet away; and as I walked, it looked like the trees were moving through them while I stood still.
My name is Natalie Osborne, and I’m a private detective. I track, and hopefully find, missing people. I’m a particular kind of specialist. There’s more money in specialization in any field – there’s pet detectives, credit detectives, wandering spouse detectives; even a few of those black leather and tattoo weirdos you see on reality shows, who claim they track down parole violators. Personally, I think they’re fake. But my standards of reality are a little more eccentric than most people. What I hunt are cryptids.
I guess that’s a little melodramatic. Actually, I hunt their victims. Not all cryptids prey on humans, but enough do that it pays well to be one of the few people who will believe an hysterical wife claiming that her husband was dragged off by a monster. Look at Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton – she said a dingo, a real actual feral dog that everyone knew existed, took her infant daughter, and she ended up charged with murder. Took years for that poor woman to be vindicated and declared innocent, and she still had to deal with the loss of her child.
I was hunting another missing little girl. I meant to see her mother didn’t end up in jail, with a dead
daughter. Which is why I was hiking into the Los Padres National Forest (“Land of Many Uses” had warned the sign down on Highway 1) in search of a convent of ghouls.
I found my zombie story, which had gone MIA. I didn’t work on it tonight, but I at least found the damn thing, and hope to breathe some life into it tomorrow.
Did you know there are arboreal chinchillas? Have you ever heard of chinchilla rats? They are related to expensive chinchillas, they have fur just as soft and velvety, and most were considered extinct until recently, when several species were found alive. One lives at Machu Picchu. One lives in a cloud forest in Argentina and is called Mendoza’s Chinchilla Rat. I kid you not, Dear Readers. Just consider it. I have begun notes on a story called “Malocclusion In The Arboreal Chinchilla”.
I found a large unopened bag of malted milk balls, and have been steadily consuming them for the last half-hour. Man, am I buzzed!
Which is why I have written this huge, ungainly blog entry. But it is actually about writing, and about Kage, and about about being responsible and creative and even sort of organized in a weird, giggly way.
Enjoy, Dear Readers. Consider it as little tidbit for your late night delectation. And if it’s not to your taste, (and it may not be; I have no illusions) have some chocolate – that never disappoints.