Papers are stacked all over my writing room. Some papers are receipts and other pieces are scratch paper with a combination of typing and handwriting. It’s hard for me to remember a time when I would stare at a blank piece of paper or computer screen, willing the black letters to scrawl across the page.
I do wish that all of my characters would show up during the day instead of at night when I am tucked in bed, relaxing, and getting ready to sleep. Sometimes my body will decide that sleep isn’t necessary. I will wake up three or four times during the night for that bathroom break or muscle cramps. The cramps start at my feet, work up my calves, and sometimes end up in my thighs. Then when I try to get back to sleep, the problems of the day will run through my head like a herd of stampeding cattle.
Recently I started a class with Dean W. Smith. If you are writing fiction, you should check him out. He teaches the skills that are needed to write readable stories. I thought that I was doing well with my writing. When I don’t have a challenge then I do a little skating, which in other parlance means procrastination. So to my surprise I found that I am plot-driven and am not grounding my characters well enough. It is another way of thinking and I am realizing that my skills need a lot of work.
I don’t mind work and in fact I get a little thrill when I find out something new and can use it. Also my little smugness from getting four stories out last year has been knocked out of me. I need to tend to the characters a little more.
I always thought that it was plot that was hard to write. To my surprise, I don’t have that problem. So on to my problem areas and I’ll have fun in the process. Damn. I didn’t realize until just now that when it gets tough, I get happy.
So to show that I am actually writing, I am giving you a small excerpt of “Xandra Peel,” widow and ogre-human hybrid.
Scrip. Scrape. Scrip. Scrape.
I gripped the shovel tightly. The blisters on my hands cracked and bled, as I scraped the last of the loose soil in the bottom of the grave. Wiping my eyes with the back of my hand, I left a swathe of dirt across my face. Sweat trickled down into my eyes. I gasped and held the tears in. I couldn’t cry. Not in front of these people.
I had been digging this grave for hours. The vultures hadn’t bothered to help me. Oh yes, I knew I was hated in this community, but they had been careful to hide their animosity until the death of my husband, my John. They peered down at me as I scraped away the last of the dirt. I refused to look at them. They were ghosts to me.
My lips cracked. I yearned for water. The dust coated my mouth and tongue. It tasted of ash. Then a voice jerked me out of my reverie. He wanted to kill me there and lay my body beside John’s feet like grave goods. At this moment, my heart was dead. I would have lain at my John’s feet and let them slit my throat.
The sweat trickled down my neck. My hair stuck to it. I lifted it from my neck. No breeze reached me six feet down.
John had loved my hair. He had said that it was all the colors of autumn—red, yellow, and brown. It wasn’t a natural color for a human. But then I wasn’t human. I was a troll-human hybrid.
When the dimensional gates opened, when the scientists had used the Large Hadron Collider, searching for the “god” particle, the collider had put so much stress on the dimensions that it had ripped open the earth. Two worlds collided — Jorden and Earth. The clash between the two societies had been brutal. Worlds pillaged and women raped. I was a product of such a troll-human interaction. Just by my existence I was hated by both worlds.
As I tried to scramble out of the grave, a hand reached down and lifted me up. I blinked when the sun hit my eyes. From its slant it was late afternoon. I could smell the sour sweat of fear on the townsfolk. The mayor, his face stern, took the shovel from my hand and pushed me toward my house. The mayor’s black hair spiked around his face, his skin was swarthy, very different from the other town folk, and his feet ground the dirt like a conqueror. In a small town that didn’t like the new or strange, he was strange. For an instant his countenance wavered and I thought I saw something else behind the mask of his face.
“Xandra,” his voice pulled me back to the present. I felt my body pull to attention, and I faced him. It would be bad. He was the only person since John’s death to talk to me. The townsfolk had dragged me here, put a shovel in my hand, and forced me to dig.
“You have lost the name Peel,” he said. “By morning if you are still in this town… you will be killed as a creature of darkness.”