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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Biggest Writing Mistake (As posted at Khaalidah.com)

I was excited.
Malak, Honor, Alia
Malak, Honor, Alia
I had a character in mind and I could see her face.  She was a tall big-boned brown-skinned girl with attitude and an anger management problem.  Raised by a kindly old woman who kept stray children like someone else would keep stray cats, Honor was raised in a home with other orphan children like herself.  Despite this, Honor always felt alone and adrift without a family to call her own.
Honor In SInistral
Honor In Sinistral
Honor knew she had a twin brother named Truth somewhere out there.  If she could find him, he would be the family she didn't have.  If she could find him, she might learn why they had been seperated and why she couldn't remember her past.  Along with her brother, Honor hoped to learn the truth of her past, the meaning of her visions, and the reason she had supernatural powers.
Truth and Segher Satellite
Truth and Segher Satellite
This story, like so many that I dreamed of before, also serves as my own personal PSA, as it addresses in its way my fears about the environment, and cultural, racial and religious bigotry.  For me, writing is often an act of catharsis.
When I think about it, that story sounds pretty good, if I say so myself.
Honor, Malak, Alia at The Hole
Honor, Malak, Alia at The Hole
I designed a pretty slick looking blog (I thought) and I posted a chapter every two weeks with accompanying art.  I enjoyed hacking out this tale.  Hacking.  Yes.  Hacking is exactly what I was doing.  I was hacking this idea to bits.  I was slowly and systematically losing the best bits of this tale through forgetfulness and neglect and replacing those bits with…nothing.
Honor&Truth has so many plot holes I couldn't fill them with five tons of asphalt.
Here is why:
While H&T started with a phenomenal idea, I never completed even a cursory outline.  As a result H&T was directionless.  As a result the characters were too many and not well developed.  I wrote whatever came to mind.  This is fine, for a rough draft, but not for something that I intend to post online for the world to see.  In short H&T wasn't ready for primetime and neither was I.
Alif
Alif
What do I think of H&T today?  I still love the concept of this story at its most basic level.  I am still intrigued by the central characters and their personal dilemmas.  I'm not so sure about the direction they're traveling in though.
I've decided, after long lamentations and fear, and well, let me be honest, guilt, that this blog will have to go the way of the dinosaur.  I'm going to leave those old bones alone and build another stockier animal; one with staying power; one built to live in this day and age, in this climate and atmospere.  I won't let that baby out again until she is dressed in her finest and ready to showboat.
H&T is not a mistake but starting serial blog was my biggest writing mistake ever.  EVER.  I've learned a lesson and I'm proud to say so.  This has been terrific!
(I hope you'll follow my progress and my words at my new website. Look for H&T within the next year.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chapter 31 - One Moment


Alif and his team tensed when they heard footfalls pause at the mouth of the alley.  Boona, a member of Alif’s team, shifted the club in his hand, prepared to take down the Authority guard whose shadow blocked out the light.  Fortunately, the guard turned back before a confrontation became necessary.
The number of Authority guards and drones on patrol seemed to have doubled since their Midling band entered the city.  They'd taken refuge in the alley hours earlier, but instead of Authority presence easing, it intensified.  Alif worried that they might not make it to McKinley’s compound.
Alif leaned against the brick wall.  His heart galloped behind his ribs as if he'd been running.  His breaths came in feverish gasps.  His leg throbbed maddeningly and when Alif touched the bandage around his left thigh, he felt the thick clotted blood that had soaked through.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chapter 30 - Regroup


Siti, Taha, Honor, and Truth managed to navigate through the corridors of McKinley’s mansion without being caught.  Siti wasn’t likely to forget the reason for their success for a very long time.  Taha met them as they exited the basement where Honor's apartment had been.  He’d been waiting for them at the head of the stairs to the basement, as if he’d known exactly where they were.  Later Siti would learn that he had known.  He had maintained a mental link with Truth the entire time. 
The screams they’d heard while in McKinley’s basement had belonged to some of the members of McKinley's staff.  Taha had managed to insert himself into the psyche of many of them, suggesting certain actions.  Passing through the corridors of McKinley’s mansion on their way out, they’d seen the results of these suggestions.  Around one corner, they found a young woman who’d been scrubbing the floors on her hands and knees.  She kept plunging her head into a bucket of soapy water in an attempt to drown herself.  She tried to fight against the command, alternately removing her head from the water just before passing out.  She sobbed like a terrified baby between dunkings.  When they passed through the formal dining hall, they found a man who lay twitching on the floor.  His eyeballs were shredded and oozing vitreous.  He held a steak knife in his left hand.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chapter 29 - Found and Lost


McKinley signaled toward a row of examination tables.  Taha acquiesced and took a seat on the first one.
“Now what?” he asked.
“That’s obvious, isn’t it?”  McKinley signaled two men in white lab coats.  The tallest man wore a name tag that read Dr. Rider.  The other wore a tag that read simply assistant.
They came forward tentatively.  Dr. Rider removed a gleaming silver instrument from his pocket.  “Is he the one?” he asked disbelievingly.
McKinley nodded.
“But he’s just a boy.”
Taha sniffed.  “I’m kind of getting tired of people saying that about me.”
Dr. Rider ignored Taha and addressed McKinley again.  “My experiments show that they don’t reach their full potential until the completion of puberty.”
Taha balked.  “Hey, I’ve reached puberty already.  I’m almost a man.”
“This boy can’t possibly...”
McKinley held up a hand.  “He is everything that I told you he was.”  McKinley cast a cool knowing eye on Taha.  “Imagine how much more he will be when he has reached true manhood.”
“You’re sure?” asked Dr. Rider. 
McKinley simply smiled.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Chapter 28 - Are You Ready to Blow This Cage?

Taha didn’t bother to rise when McKinley entered his cell.  He lay on the cot, gray eyes trained on an invisible spot on the painted cinder block ceiling. 
“Hasn’t anyone ever taught you to show respect to your elders?” asked McKinley.
Taha chuckled.  “My elders?  Yes.  The ancient?  Nah, not so much.”Squaring his shoulders, McKinley bristled, and then to Taha’s shock he laughed.  “You have fire.  That’s good.”  McKinley eased himself onto the cot opposite Taha; Airun’s cot.  That reminded Taha.  Two hulking men had entered their unit earlier that morning and took Airun away.  Airun had been prepared to fight, unwilling to be drugged into servitude yet again.  He’d told Taha that he would first die, but Taha thought that was foolish.  Why die when you could live and make a difference?  Airun had already made a difference, helping to free Truth, thwarting McKinley’s plans.  There was much more he could yet do.  Taha was sure that he would too, because Airun was a good man. 
When the two black leather clad thugs had arrived with a breakfast tray for him and a set of cuffs for Airun, Taha had lain a blanket of protection over Airun’s mind. For the next few days, Airun would be immune to anything McKinley put to him…provided McKinley wasn’t hiding a weapon stronger than the enchantment Taha could conjure.
“Where’s my mate?” asked Taha.
McKinley’s thin dark brows climbed up his pale waxy face.  “You mean Airun, my slave?”
This time it was Taha’s turn to bristle.  Living underground all his life, among those who at the very core of their being resisted the trumped up Scientist rule, had taught Taha a lesson. 
That he was only a slave if he believed he was.
Those who lived underground weren’t scared rabbits hiding in a hole.  They were the real resistance and they’d been biding their time.  Taha was no slave, and if he had anything to do with it, neither would Airun be ever again.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chapter 27 - More Than One Way


Among the Midlings, the punishment for treason was death.  There was no other way to deal with someone willing to sell out the entire tribe for their own personal interests.  Evera allowed Meager to live, not for her sake, but for the sake of Ramses who begged for her life.  Ramses, her second in command, and leader of the second team to enter Sinistral, would need to be able to concentrate on his assigned task.  Evera could not risk his mind being divided by worry or remorse for Meager, nor could she risk dividing his allegiances so close to the realization of their plans. 
Meager had been remanded to Ramses and she had been ordered under pain of death to stay with him at all times.  If at any time she was found to be alone, where and when her actions could not be corroborated, Evera had made it clear that she would be killed.  This seemed a harsh tact even to Evera, but the fact was, there were plenty of people among the Midlings who would have gladly dispatched the woman if given the chance.  The order was as much for Meager’s protection as it was for Ramses.  It did not escape Evera’s notice that he no longer looked on Meager with any hint of the affection he once did, nonetheless, there was something there that none of them could yet name.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Chapter 26 - Trail of Cold


Honor lay in the center of the enormous bed.  McKinley had told her that the mattress was stuffed with feathers.  It was softer than anything she’d ever slept on in her life, and the lilac scented silken linens felt like rose petals against her skin.  Honor heaved a sigh of resignation.  The wall mounted digital clock read 0523.  Honor had remained awake throughout the night trying to think of a way out of the underground apartment McKinley had trapped her in.  The difficulty lay in the fact that until now, her gifts, while born of Scientist attempts to exterminate her people, had always been enough to see her out of difficult situations.  All she had left now were her wits and her will.  Honor felt naked.
Honor closed her eyes and slowed her breathing.  She could hear her thudding heart slow to an impossible ten beats per minute.  When she felt ready, Honor tried for the seventh time to reach out.  She imagined her psyche as innumerable undulating ribbons.  They writhed in her head like snakes.  She sent them out away from her in all directions, overlapping and intertwining.  There had to be a chink in the asomatous field through which she could slip out.  If she couldn’t find a way out of McKinley’s trap, she had to try to lead someone in.
As with the other times each ribbon whiplashed back to her after butting against the field, leaving Honor with the equivalent of a mental welt.  Honor mused that she’d probably have a headache for days.  As the last of the ribbons came back to her, Honor decided to leave the fruitless endeavor and try to sleep.  She turned over onto her side.  The last ribbon to return moved sluggishly and felt stretched, as if the end was stuck.  Honor allowed her mind’s eye to travel the length of the ribbon to the surface of the shield.  It appeared as an enormous electric golden orb with her at the center.  When she reached the end of the ribbon she saw that indeed, the ribbon was stuck.  It had caught in one of the chinks that Honor had been so sure was there.  The ribbon could not pass through however, because it was too large.
Honor stretched the ribbon, thinning it, and pushed it through the chink.  She didn’t have to go far.  Taha’s consciousness waited at the boundaries of the field.  His own consciousness must have found the chink and waited for Honor to do the same.  Communication wasn’t easy, however.  Honor’s battered consciousness recoiled with each of Taha’s frantic attempts to communicate, making it difficult for her to understand anything he said.  When Honor’s throbbing head caused her ribbon to falter, she felt suddenly buoyed and Taha’s thoughts cleared to a coherent steady stream.  Taha’s ribbon, stronger and more substantial than hers, acted as an insulator as it wrapped around her ribbon.  His voice was as strong and clear as if he was standing right in front of her.
 “Where are you?” Taha asked.
“Somewhere underground.”  Honor sensed Taha’s confusion.  “McKinley has me trapped in an apartment at least a couple of stories below the mansion.”
“I told you he was a freak.”  Honor could tell that wherever he was, Taha was smiling.  “Sorry,” he murmured.
“He’s created some kind of field.  I’m caged in here like a rat and I can’t use my powers.”
“Sure you can.”  Taha’s response sounded distracted.  “You’re talking to me now, aren’t you?”
“Yeah but---“ Honor’s voice trailed off.  Taha was right.
Sounding even more distant, Taha said, “All you have to do is keep trying.”
“What are you doing?” said Honor trying to draw Taha back from whatever was distracting him.
“Trying to find the source of this shield.”
Even with Taha’s support, Honor’s strength was quickly ebbing.  “I can’t hold on much longer.  Are you and Airun okay?”
“Yeah.  For now.  I think McKinley is too preoccupied with you to be worried about us, but that won’t last for long.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I can hear him.  His thoughts are like sirens.”  Taha sounded as if he was smiling again.  “For instance, he’s sleeping right now, and yet when I listen closely, I can hear him repeating your name over and over.  What a total freak.”
“Speaking of sleep…”
“Right,” said Taha, “you better try to get some.  I think I may have been able to find a way through.”
When Taha released Honor, she was already on her way to sleep…unfortunately for her McKinley met her there.
*****
Airun was standing over Taha when he opened his eyes, concern etched on his face.  “What happened?  One minute you were talking to me, the next, you were gone.”
Taha sat up and swung his feet over the edge of the bed.  He was smiling hugely.  “I finally reached Honor.  She says that McKinley’s got her trapped in an apartment in the cellar.”
Airun’s eyes lit up.  He snapped his fingers.  “He’s had crews of construction workers and scientists going in and out of the cellars for months.  I never knew why though.”
“Yeah, well now you know.  He’s got the place dampened by some kind of shield, and Honor can’t use her powers to get out of the place.  She was barely able to communicate with me.”
Airun shrugged his shoulders.  “You’ll think I’m a jerk for saying so, but I’m not really worried about Honor.  It’s us, I’m worried about.  Actually, it me, I’m worried about.  I don’t have a gift and that makes me very disposable.”
Taha leaned forward and closed his eyes.  His fists were clenched at his sides and sweat broke out on his brow.  His breathing quickened.
“What now?” asked Airun as he paced the floor of their 10x8 foot cell.  This made the third time in the last few hours that Taha had blinked out.  It unnerved Airun.  He had no idea what was happening. 
When Taha spoke, his eyes were still closed.  “You’re right to be concerned.”  Taha’s eyes flew open but his deepening brow hooded them.  “McKinley is awake and he’s got plans for you.”
*****
Truth refused the blanket Siti offered him.  “I’m cold, yes, but it’s not a problem.”
Siti said nothing to this, but Truth could see disbelief on her face.  She pulled her sweater closer around her shoulders.  Since the previous night when Truth announced that he could no longer feel Honor, Truth had undergone a transformation of sorts.  He became like a human refrigerator, his skin as cold as ice.  Waves of chill cascaded off of him.
“What I mean to say it is that this feels right.  It feels normal.”  Plumes of steam billowed when he spoke.  “I feel more powerful.”
Siti glanced at Seraph and Michael who stood in the opposite side of the tent.  Each of them were dressed in black and each carried a knapsack with their weapons.  “So this means that you’re able to…”
Truth flexed pushing his shoulders back and his chest out.  “…more than ever.”  Truth chuckled, his voice seeming to emanate from a well.  “I’m ready to confront McKinley once and for all.”  He closed his eyes and cocked his head as if listening to some distant voice.  “I caught a ribbon of Honor’s thoughts earlier.  Her voice was so quiet and distant.”  Truth smiled.  “But she’s okay, right now.  Scared though.”
“We have to plan how we’ll go about this, if we’re to be successful.”
Truth shook his head.  “No.  If you plan to help get my sister back, then follow me.  Otherwise stay out of my way.”  Truth walked out of the tent taking the cold with him.  For a moment Siti felt relief, not just from the cold, but also from Truth’s frozen temperament.
Seraph placed a hand on Siti’s shoulder.  “How do you want to proceed?”
Siti smiled gratefully at her friend.  She’d always been able to depend on Seraph and Michael.  This time, she feared they would be of little help though.  No one could control Truth, and he was turning out to be just as impulsive as Honor.  In fact, she feared he was even more dangerous than Honor.  A small voice in the back of Siti’s mind whispered that none but an evil person drains the warmth from a room.  But her more reasonable self countered that whatever Truth was, and she was beginning to think he was an aberration, it was not his fault.  He was the result of Scientist connivance.  “Why not use it against them?” murmured Siti.  She met Seraph’s confused gaze then said with resignation, “I suppose we had better follow.  There is more than Honor and Truth at stake.”
Seraph glanced at Michael who nodded in agreement.  They all shouldered their packs and followed the trail of cold.