WIP Snippet: The Lord of the Wild Beast Makes a Creature

So, I have ol’ Cernunnos, the Green Man, the Lord of the Wild Beasts, in this here Southern Arthuriana novel (which desperately needs a working title). The Horned God has gotten in on the drug trade–shaman and deity of Nature that he is, I figure he’s down with some shade-tree pharmacopeia. This snippet, though, finds him paranoid about a certain local sheriff named Luther Penderton. Plus, he owes the good shire-reeve for an encounter earlier in the novel–at least mentioned re: Art’s winding up in the Horned God’s company.

Here you go, folks:

. . . He summoned eld glamour from slough mud and stripped bark from various trees and coaxed rusted iron from off the odd machine here and there along with not a little blood of indiscriminate origin poured from a Mason jar.

“What’re you doing?” said Zeke.

“Not paying you to mind my business. Go check the lab,” said Ernest. He reached in a pocket and retrieved a folding knife, a handkerchief, and a lock of hair a mouse had brought him. He dug a hole on a little hilltop amid some cypresses and paused at one point to sip from stump water and eat a lizard brought him by an osprey. Knife, handkerchief, hair–Ernest imagined Luther’s hands on the first two, a comb running through the latter.

In a five gallon bucket went the mud and bark and metal. Then the other ingredients after lilting words of Middle English were spoken over them along with a few dashes of Welsh for good measure. He saved the Mason jar of blood for last–just dropped it in and crushed it with a shovel, then mixed.

“Don’t agree with this,” said Morgan. She bled out of the dappling of light and shadow among the cypresses. Frost melted on her, and Ernest briefly wondered where she had gone as she steamed a minute in the humidity.

“And I don’t rightly recall needing to explain myself to such as you,” said Ernest.

“This place has changed you.”

“Whole world’s changed, can’t you see that?”

“I have, and for ages, Cernunnos.”

“Love how you use my given name.”

Not dignifying him, Morgan glided past and vanished amid the swelter of shadows in the slough.

Ernest broke a twig from out the bramble thick in his beard and picked at its end until he had a passing suitable impromptu toothpick.

“Well, I ain’t exactly saying I disagree, neither,” said Zeke.

“You should have been gone by now.”

“Got my curiosity up.”

“Go check the lab like you were told. Also, go buy more Sudafed. Drive to Savannah. It’s been a while since you’ve bought from there.”

“Some where far away.”

“You’re a genius among men. Stay gone for a while.”

“Giving me a vacation?”

“A reprieve.”

“Okay. Hey, Ernest.”

“Zeke.”

“You all right?”

“Been a long, long time since I created something. He tapped a grimy finger to his temple. “Still got the knowing of it.”

“It scared off Morgan.”

“And if you had a lick of sense, Zeke, you would be long gone,” said Ernest. “Lab. Out of town. Sudafed. Lots.”

“That bad, huh.”

“It will be some kind of hungry upon its birth,” said the Lord of the Wild Beasts. “And it will exact a toll from out this womb of hers.”

He set the five gallon bucket in the hole he’d dug and covered it all. As he spoke the glossolalia there in that slough, Zeke left. He’d never seen Ernest’s eyes go all white.

Or him flickering like an old broken television’s picture. . . .

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WIP Snippet: Creepy Critter

Here’s a follow-up to the Cernunnos post re: the ingredients for the pot/meth lab guard monster. It’s the birth of the monster.

OOOHHHHH!!!! Just call me the master of horror.

Or not.

Here be a Woods-Lurker!

. . . It gnashed together teeth of barbed wire and broken glass–snapped impotently at the air as it lurched on twisted, rheumatic tree-root legs. It was still growing and moaned in its own birth pangs and internal fluxings–twisting sinews and unwarping bone.

Eye sockets filled with blood and viscera, and four pairs of eyeballs squirmed and lolled on its skull. One eye grew from the crown of the beast’s head.

“I shall call you Woods-Lurker,” said Cernunnos.

The Horned God set out a bud of marijuana and a teaspoon of methamphetamine.

Woods-Lurker tested them with a bifurcated tongue mottled purple and with carbuncles of tree bark.

“Take in the place–it is only part of my desmense, but an important part,” said Ernest. “These two bits, you help protect.”

It whimpered, then tested the drugs again. Barbed-wire-and-glass teeth bolted them down.

The man took down the bag from the tree. The bag had a stained bottom and dripped blood. Cernunnos dumped out snakes and a small/juvenile gator. A deer’s hindquarter. Rabbits and squirrels.

“Eat.”

He watched for an hour while . . .

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Characters and Wandering Thoughts

Since last weekend, I’ve been in other character mode. No, not Other/other, but more like secondary character. So far, I’ve not addressed the Knights of the Round Table beyond Perceval (C.V.) and mere mentions of Lancelot (Lance) and Gawain (DeWayne). Long walks due to lovely weather and some long drives just for the sake of long drives or what have you helped loosen some bits and pieces about Lance and DeWayne. Won’t go into major details here other than brief stuff:

* I wanted to subvert their characters, i.e., Lancelot is the perceived best knight (fighter though jerkface betrayer) while Gawain is the best knight (gentlest and LL Cool G). Subverting them’s easy (but I’ll hold back exactly how).

* Love the bit about Gawain’s strength waxing/waning as the day progresses and have figured how to use that along with a very, very terrible inciting incident for him involving a lonely stretch of river road and a cemetery and coyotes and ghosts. Just sayin’.

* Am not handling race with kid gloves, either, in their sections of the novel. If I’m going Southern Gothic and bringing in the grotesque in places with this story, then I am also going to have to address uglier sides of culture down here. Guess that would be the realistic side of the magical realism spectrum.

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Jay Lake’s Death of a Starship: A Rambling Not-Review

Before we get into this Selfavowedgeek Rambling Not-Review ™ of Jay Lake’s novella, Death of a Starship, let me be frank: I am a huge fan. He’s one of those authors–by “those authors” I mean (1) I found him via blurbs and suggestions on fora and whatnot and found my way to Lakeshore back before I found LiveJournal. I read some of his reprinted flash fiction pieces he’d CC-ed over yonder. Around that same time, he had a story drop at Clarkesworld: “The Sky That Wraps the World Round, Past the Blue and into the Black.” Yes, I specifically linked it because it’s a damned good story; it had me at “Hello.” Then I managed to make it to Mainspring and Escapement, though I have yet to read Pinion. I’ve read Green and look forward to Endurance and Kalimpura.

What has essentially drawn me to Jay’s writing is his transparency of process as I tend to learn a great deal about the craft by reading his writerly updates and such. Then there’s the work itself, which tends to be the best set of lessons-proper. I get bored easily–that whole variety being the spice of life thing–so I burn out on writers or series if’n I’m not careful. But I haven’t with Jay Lake, and now I think I’ve figured it out.

He doesn’t box himself in. If you follow his blog, homeskillet is a man who loves life. He’s passionate about [insert apropos issue, person, etc. here]. He puts his work out there–his life, too. There are four specfic writers I don’t go too many days and fail to check their blogs; he’s just a wealth of information, and he’s willing to *share*. Period.

Remeber, folks, this is a Rambling Not-Review, so I can take my time (I’m getting there).

So, I’d been reading with interest these snippets of his Sunspin WIP and gleefully learned that, hey, there’s a novella out there. Not set in the same ‘verse per se, but part of Jay’s thinking ahead, the laying of the groundwork, so to speak, for a space opera trilogy. That’s what had gotten me, right there. A space opera. Variety, kids. Variety.

Anyhow, the actual thing I was doing here (plus, minor spoilage):

Death of a Starship is a first-contact story set in a ‘verse where the Church has taken it upon itself to have a bureau that searches for xenics, aliens. Long story short, the Xenic Question drives them as much as their faith, and you can see the questions emerging from *that* tension a parsec away (GET IT?!?!). I like the novella as it gives me the sense of the pop of reading a short story–some urgency–but without a sense of lockstep with, say, point of view. RE: POV–Lake handles a far-flung let’s-go-find-us-some-aliens plot with a revolving door of POV’s: Albrecht, Menard, and Golliwog. Albrecht is a down-on-his-luck Everyman stuck on Halfsummer until he happens upon a key which gets him in a small ship. This small ship, Jenny’s Little Pearl is actually pretty frakkin’ big boat and part of a *missing* really daggum big ship. Well, Albrecht just wants to leave the planet he’s stuck own and get to the missing ship so he can start a new life, be the master of his own vessel, BUT gets caught up in the wheels-within-wheels of an insurance scam and alien-huntin’. The big ship’s been riding out its time in Claimville, see, and Father Menard has to see what’s up with that all the while Albrecht wants to get back on his spacefaring feet with a spaceship he can claim himself if he can just, maybe, get up a crew.

But, look out! Golliwog, a bione or made-lifeform, is part of a plot to keep tabs on and potentially stop Menard. Why? Because the Powers That Be are jerks who don’t really want xenics found. At least, not now. The bits of politcal and social interplay are pretty good backdrops for what really turns into a character study in three parts. Lake handles Golliwog’s situation in a tropish manner–a made-thing/person wondering if he’s a sin against Creation itself although he’s been created to serve the Church to kill xenics just in case–pretty well. In fact, Golliwog strikes me as the most human of the characters. He’s not just a heavy, and he’s much more cerebral than his minders/handlers give him credit for in the story.

For lovers of hard science fiction, there’s plenty of talk of probability curves and zero-G fisticuffs and nanotech and such. Not saying my eyes glazed over reading the hard sf neepery, but, then again, I chose to read most of the novella right before bedtime.

Also, any writer who drops allusions to Macbeth and John Donne, I’m there. Plus, I tend to learn a few new words when I read Lake’s stuff. New word of awesome: chrism. How that bypassed my radar is beyond me, but it’s there now. Thanks, Jay.

Now for a few quote-worthy, erm, quotes (non-spoilage, no-context, just nice):

* “‘ . . . We won’t be a true spacefacing species ’til our masters are born, live, and die in space. That’s what the xenics are waiting for.'”

* “Who was human in God’s eyes?”

* “‘You’re in a library. Use it. . . .'”

Oh, and just for fun, if you read Death of a Starship, don’t forget about the newt. Or the angel.

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WIP Snippet: From the Store to the Porch and a Lurker!

So, Luther and Eva drive back to Rancho del Penderton. He eats his burger and drinks his Dr. Pepper and, otherwise, says little to his riding companion. They relax on the porch and break the ice about the past, including Eva’s coming back, Luther’s dad’s death, and a few things more, but now everything shifts from a Luther-centric piece back to Art’s POV.

. . . If either knew the boy was near, neither indicated otherwise, and Art stayed if for no other reason than the novelty of a child believing he’s getting away with something in a world of the perceived sovereignty of adults. There would come . . .
“. . . part of me wasn’t thrilled to see you move back,” said Luther.
“I can understand, up to a point,” said Eva.
“Up to a point?”
“We both could’ve handled things differently, Luther.”
“I was green around the gills.”
“You were–no disagreement here.”
“Well, Eva, what’s your excuse? You don’t exactly have the same problems some of the rest of us have,” said Luther. “You want some coffee or tea?”
“No, thank you. My age, experiences, and problems–now or then–have little bearing on one simple fact.”
“Which is?”
“We both could’ve–”
“Listen. How the hell was I supposed to explain where that old woman got off to? From a dream, no less, Eva? You just don’t put stuff like that in reports.”
“Luther . . .”
“She wasn’t there.”
“I told you . . .”
“No! I’m telling you, who trespassed my dreams.”
“It was the Other. And it was he who did it.”
“Why would he even do that to me? To some old woman?”
“She had wandered, old soul that she was, for too long between here and there.”
“Stop.”
“Nothing’s as it seems.”
“Eva.”
“Luther. You picked up an old, disoriented woman who couldn’t tell anyone the last time she’d pissed or shat.”
“Nobody should die like that–alone and confused.”
“She was a monster, and that’s why he tricked you.”
“But still.”
“Your duty included keeping monsters alive?”
“You don’t have a clue, Eva, about monsters. The parents who keep their kids in cages. People prostituting their children for drugs. Dismembered folks whose supposed loved ones got jealous or high or both. A teenager beating a Mexican to death ‘cause he’s both old and Mexican, and the kid believes he’s doing the world a favor while he’s admittedly bored. Why don’t you explain to me what you couldn’t years ago about this monster.”
“She’s the one who burned down your father’s house,” said Eva, her voice as flat as the pond on a calm day.
Art’s stomach dropped when he observed Luther’s scooching forward on the chair. “Beg pardon?”
“I spoke plain English, Luther Gideon Penderton. And did not stutter.”
The man turned away, cataloguing a hundred bursts or expression. His knuckles shone white as he gripped the rocker’s arm so hard. “Is she the–”
“Your father died as he died. I think in her loss, her own grief, she severed the only other connection to him in that home.”
“How?”
“Do I have to, man? Really?”
“Never did cotton to the glamming/gloaming,” said Luther.
“What did they say of that fire?”
“Bad attic wiring. Just a confluence of things. Cascade of failures.”
“Exposed bad wiring. Maybe animals.”
“An animal.”
“What was she ever to me, other than a mentor. The sister of my other mentor, too.”
“Eva, we’ve talked a while.”
“We have.”
“I’m thirsty.”
“Me, too.”
“Coffee or tea now?”
When she stood, so did he. From his coverts, Art was struck how petite Eva really was–how Luther inhabited so fully his own space.
“If it’s all the same,” she said, “I’d just as soon have something stronger.”
“Jack, or Jim?”
“Surprise me.”
After they went inside, Art sat still, afraid to break the spell of having trespassed their conversation. . . .

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WIP Snippet: Surreal Country Store Moment

Per the comments of a previous entry, here’s that partial scene. I have a few gaps to fill in with addenda material, but Luther’s at the store, in the store, and back out but gearing up for a weird moment with Eva, the Lady of the Lake . . . EXCERPT:
. . . The gravel crunched under the wheels. When the truck door shut, the noise spooked a murder of crows in the field adjacent the property. Two of them lighted in a pecan tree, its limbs full of green and drooping under the heavy palm of humidity. The crows hurled squawky invectives in Luther’s general direction.

He entered through the back where a small privacy fence partition stood, and he hopped up on the small loading dock and went in through the feed room door. The dry-dusty, sweet smells of grain and horse feed crouched in the shadowed coverts of the room.

“Knock, knock!” said Luther.

“Yeah, man!” called Joe.

As Luther navigated the cramped hallway and the equally cramped hardware section–just the back corner, really, of the store–he grabbed a Dr. Pepper out of the refrigerator and made for the counter.

“What say, Joe?”

“Work this here short order grill, Luther, and you will have read my mind.” The confluence of scents like a potpurri of Philly cheesesteaks and onions rings and bacon cheeseburgers fairly assaulted Luther’s nostrils.

“Done worked a wreck midday,” said Luther. “You don’t want to swap that with me, I’m afraid. One for the nightmare factory.”

“Sorry, Luther.”

“The job, bub. The job. Listen, how’s ‘bout slapping me together a bacon cheeseburger.”

“After a bad wreck?”

“Man’s got to eat.”

“This is true.”

Joe worked the easy magic of his short order grill, calling forth with spatula clangs and splatter-hisses of fat globules on hot metal. A wrapper later, and Joe slid it toward Luther across the counter; Luther paid.

“Thanks, Joe.”

“Pleasure, Luther. Hey, you think you could maybe swing by or have another deputy do a courtesy check or something at night?”

Luther tucked his head. “Yeah?”

“Well, front lock’s got some scratches ‘round it and at the door jamb,” said Joe. “Weren’t there yesterday.”

“Will do. You thought about an alarm?”

“Ain’t got the money right now for a system.”

“No, Joe, I am talking a big ol’ dog you get used to keeping in here. Keep him watered, fed.”

“Oh, that kind of alarm.”

“Yep, and it don’t expect you to put a pretty sticker on the window announcing its presence to everyone, either.”

Joe laughed and shooed him out.

“You nut.”

“Takes one,” said Luther on his way back out through the grain room.

Once he got to the truck, Luther found his tailgate down and Eva sitting there. She twitched her head; a few blue-black feathers spiraled out of her hair and drifted lazily to the gravel.

“Hate when you do that,” said Luther.

“What’s that?”

“Just showing up uninvited like, for one.”

“For other?”

“Changin’.”

“Well.”

“Well, hell, Eva.” Luther leaned with his elbows on the pickup bed after balancing both drink and burger nearby. “What you want?”

“To talk.”

“We’re doing it.”

“Barely, Luther Gideon Penderton.”

“Oh, beg pardon. Perhaps you meant conversate,” said Luther.

Her smile a razor, she said, “Have you been reading again?”

“I have, and the books have no pictures.”

Eva eased off the tailgate and shut it–SQUEAK-SLAM. The three feathers on the gravel rumpled, then dissolved. A trio of viscous goop slithered among the stones and crept up her sandaled feet–black vascularity throbbing into flesh.

“See? That, Eva. Hard for a man to abide such as that,” said Luther, grabbing his drink and burger. . . . ETA: More in a few days!

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Scene from Southern Arthuriana WIP

Here’s a bit of young Art watching his father Luther clean *his* father’s gun. This is after he rediscovered it after a funeral that never happened (old guy’s house burned down around his body in state at the farmhouse for a viewing–terrible stuff). Anyhow, here you go:

. . . He had taken an old throw and spread it on the living room floor. Nearby was a can of spray solvent and a small can of Hoppe’s No. 9 oil. Beside a grimy chamois lay a cleaning rod tipped with a brass bristle. Luther alternated running that implement down the breeched barrels and swapping a needle-eyed tip through which he’d run a solvent-soaked cleanin patch. In such manner he repeated until patches came out looking the same as they’d entered the barrels. The cutting solvent odor hung redolent–the thickness of the Hoppes No. 9 oil close beneath as he oiled hinges, the barrel release lever. Drops on the exterior of the barrels. Slow, smooth wipes with the chamois.

Luther was far away again even though Art now watched, one eye around the corner, as his father ministered the gun. He was sure a trick of the overhead light limned the barrels with a bluish tinge.

“It’s okay, boy, you want to join me,” said Luther, his thick-slabbed back concealing most of the gun.

Art eased into the room.

“That sure is a pretty gun.”

“The old man didn’t clean it as much as I thought he should’ve,” said Luther. He took a final wipe down, tip to buttstock. “The old man–”

He set down the gun and cleared his throat. A massive hand ruffled Art’s hair all of a sudden. He squeezed the boy’s shoulder, then excused himself. The way the man inhabited any space, now he’s was gone, left Art feeling so much smaller–men, fathers being giants in the eyes of their sons.

It was one of two times Art could ever say he’d witnessed his father cry.

Alone but for the gun and cleaning tools, Art reached out and traced his fingers over the vine-and-leaf motifs etched on the receiver, pressed his fingerpads into the script reading “Ex calce liberatus.”

“I’ll take care of it, Daddy,” whispered Art. . . .

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