Sometimes, you simply don’t know what to write about in your blog, and wind up writing about subjects that interest no one. I am confident that this is one of those times, and that the title gives good advice. This post is a self-promotional one, which I am normally loath to write, but since the evidence from my previous posts is that no one will read this anyway, why not indulge. I will try to disguise it as entertainment so as not to bore. There are certain subjects I will not touch, as they are not in the least germane. In this post, there will be no keen observations on world affairs, the proclivities of cats, or any helpful hints on how to remove grass stains from clothing. I am saving those topics for future articles.
No one likes incessant self-promotion, and authors are not excepted. So, why do it? In my case, it is a matter of survival. If I don’t aggressively promote my books, members of an unnamed crime syndicate have threatened to—
Again, I kid.
Truthfully, I happen to like my books and want others to like them, too. Is offering random passages from my novels, which people will read and probably not understand (or, more likely, not read and not understand), the best way to promote books? Of course it is! Well, no it’s not, but as I said before (crime syndicate), I have no choice. You could turn away, not read these incredibly moving and gorgeously written sentences, and thus save yourself the agony of puzzling over their reference; or, you could be brave and not care if context is lacking. I would prefer you choose the latter and at the same time ignore the part about the sentences being moving and gorgeous, as calling them that leaves the impression that they are.
I reiterate: these passages have no context. For that reason, I would normally run a disclaimer here, with a fast-talking pitchman speaking unintelligibly so you wouldn’t catch on that there really is nothing to disclaim.
I kid—yet again—as I am wont (and want) to do.
In reality, these are nothing more than harmless snippets, unlikely to damage the psyche or increase intelligence or awareness. What you get out of them (and I’ve already made clear that won’t be much) is up to you. So, enough prattling and onto the first moving and gorgeous sentence.
The following excerpts are from my action/adventure/fantasy novels Sanyel and Disrupter.
A few hours into the night, a cry shattered the quiet, a shriek of pain coming swiftly and just as swiftly gone. Dwelve leaped to his feet and drew his long blade. His look of terror indicated that he knew the thing he feared had come. It had snatched away one of his men, and even now might be sizing him up as the next victim. The men not guarding the perimeter had also drawn arms. Their eyes nervously scanned the darkness and their bodies twisted, trying in vain to cover all avenues of danger at once. The drooves were in a panic, obviously smelling the intruder and not liking what that portended for them.
I was anxious. Trussed hand and foot, we were helpless to defend ourselves. Our captors apparently had no qualms about losing their bounty to this nighttime killer. I glanced over to each of my fellow captives. Izzy seemed calm and alert. The wide-eyed girl flailed about, uselessly endeavoring to loosen her hand ropes while whimpering and crying. The bruised young man who had earlier tried to escape had a bitter look and the other, a plump man in his thirties, seemed resigned to his fate. The other two women huddled together, perhaps drawing strength from each other’s proximity.
Another man’s scream pierced the night.
Then, I saw it.
He knew his eyes would betray him and fail to recognize the quiet form lying upon the hard ground as the woman he had loved for the past ten years. Spirit had departed and no longer animated her delicate features, so there would be no response to his smile, no reply to his words, no reaction to his touch. He cursed his inadequate hands for letting her ardent and unwavering light slip through them, and he later described feeling a shudder in his soul as he contemplated a life suddenly bereft of that radiance.
“You are without senses, shaman,” scolded Barkor, who was a foul-smelling, dark-bearded man with a square, brutish face. His long black hair shone from sweat and accumulated grease, with its filthy strands knotted together in matted clumps that would break the teeth of a metal comb. Massive shoulders, no perceivable neck, and a voice that threatened like low thunder reinforced the council chief’s intimidating appearance and bearing.
I asked to speak to Lillatta. As surprising as it might seem, I wanted to tell her that I held no anger toward her, that I understood her predicament and that she should not blame herself for what had unfolded. To my dismay and sadness, she declined to see me. I could understand why. How do you face the one you betrayed?
“I have done everything you asked of me, Disrupter,” he spoke, in a voice plaintive, yet determined. “I have followed the ways and words of Sester as you explained them to me. I trusted in your assurance that Sester had returned to guide our people. I prayed and prayed for the sun god’s help in freeing my son and all the others from Danara’s madness, but there was no answer. I doubted you and was about to turn back to Gor-jar.”
As Borsar spoke, his despairing expression abruptly changed and he grew excited.
“Then, one day, I witnessed a young girl slightly singe her fingers when a hot ember spit out from a fire. Immediately I thought of you and of the spear burn that harshly marks the palm of your ruthless right hand, the symbol that made all Spood aware of your divine favor and purpose. It was then I knew that Sester desired me to seek your assistance. I have come because you are the only one who can save my son and the other children.”
“I know you have no reason to believe me, but I am striving to change. When the Disrupter spoke to us last year about embracing the desires of Sester, the words she spoke had real meaning to me. I have told no one this, but as I sat there listening, a bright light startled me, suddenly appearing to her left as she spoke. It grew, and as I marveled at the sight, within the light I could make out a young boy. It shocked me when I realized that no one else saw him. He had long, black hair, was dark of skin, and he was gazing at you, young woman.”
Lillatta jerked her head at the words, and she now focused intently on the priest’s recital.
“To my surprise,” Borsar went on, “the boy then glanced to me and I swear he smiled. It was then I knew that I must change, as that young man’s smile washed over me like a fresh spray of cold water on a hot day. His look spoke to me without words and it became clear to me at that moment that I must change my life.”
I glanced over at Lillatta and her face had drained of color. She knew that the man was speaking of Kalor, he of the long, dark hair and ebony skin, the boy of her dreams, the love of her life.
Izzy stepped to the charcoal remains of a rock-lined pit centrally located on the sand floor, from which ancient fires had once illuminated the sharp walls. She asked Lillatta to gather a few pieces of dried wood that littered the floor, and to place them in the old fire pit. Then she used the lit geffsan to ignite a blaze from the gathered wood. She handed me the geffsan and excitedly proceeded to make her way to the back wall, with her fire-enlarged shadow preceding her.
“It’s here, somewhere,” she spoke to herself as she methodically ran her hand over the cold rock surface. After a short examination, she shouted, “I found it!”
What Izzy found was the eye, the crystal eye that had the capacity to open a door where there appeared to be none. We had seen similar objects back at the fortress Grell, where Izzy and Brilna had discovered by accident the hidden doors built into the walls of the fortress. They opened when in proximity of a tone. The metal that composed Izzy’s nose and finger rings, the “singing metal” as she called it, apparently emitted this tone naturally.
A grinding sound brought our full attention to the back wall, where Izzy stood triumphantly as the seemingly solid rock began to slide sideways. A dim light shone through a crack that grew larger as we watched in fascinated awe. Soon the stone wall had opened enough to reveal a perfectly round tunnel behind it.
What kind of magic was this that could cause a wild animal to turn from its path, and from a distance where it could not even have heard my voice? My father was an all-powerful shaman and I felt certain that even he could not control animals in this manner.
So, how in the world could I?
Nanki had risen and the night’s festivities were about to get underway. It was the responsibility of the medicine man to open the proceedings by offering a small gift (on this night a colored stone) to the sun god, Ra-ta, for the blessings of a satisfying hunt. My father lighted a small bundle of sargrass and the pungent odor soon wafted to my station. I will always love that odor, as I will forever associate it with my father, standing proud and powerful as he addressed the people, chanting the sacred words to connect us all to the spirit of Ra-ta. After acknowledging the sun god, my father waved the sargrass and thanked the spirits of the porse who had given up their lives to feed us this day. When he finished, council chief Barkor rose and grunted a few slurred greetings, for he was already well on his way to inebriation. Then, the story telling began.
A handsome, dark-skinned boy with hard muscles and long, wavy black hair had approached me unseen. A smile formed on my lips as I turned to greet him. His familiar, friendly grin had the effect of making my own expand.
“Did you miss me?” the boy asked.
“Were you gone? I hadn’t noticed.”
“Oh, you noticed. How could you not? Am I not your reason for living, your very breath, your every thought?”
“You wouldn’t want to know my every thought, especially the one I’m having now.”
“I’m sure I would. It’s about me, am I right? You’re thinking that Javen cannot possibly get any better looking, and yet he has! And what a hunter! He has brought me two birds which I will lovingly cook up for him, then stand adoringly beside him as he savors each bite.”
“No, I was thinking that this Javen you speak of is a bit of a porse’s rear end, an insufferable braggart, and as appealing as fresh droove dung.”
“So, if I read you right, you are pretty much saying that you love me.”
The corpulent priest waddled over, an eager expression conspicuous on his sunburned face.
“When are we leaving, Disrupter?” he asked, apparently under the impression that my assistance was a foregone conclusion.
“I have some business to attend to up north,” I told him. I indicated the murky waters, saying, “As you see, we have other concerns.”
Borsar then gave me one of those looks, the kind that a child gives when a trusted adult breaks a cherished promise.
“But—my son. What about Porlak?”
“Is he in immediate danger?” I asked. “Will Danara hurt him?”
“Ah—no, but I don’t want to leave him under her control for too long. Who knows what evil she is feeding his impressionable mind.”
“Look, Borsar, I have decided to help you. But this flooding situation is a priority for my tribe. If you wish, you can go back to Grell without me and wait; or, you can stay here until this dilemma is resolved. I have confidence that Ra-ta—er, Sester—won’t mind if you wait until I finish this. I’m sure he’ll protect your son in the meantime.”
What a load of porse dung! For all I knew, Sester might dislike the little snob as much as I did. I had no idea what priority, if any, Sester might have in helping Borsar. He didn’t tell me. But if this flooding continued, it could overwhelm our entire land, our means of livelihood, and thus threaten our existence.
Borsar did not appear too keen about my assurances.
“All right, Disrupter. I can only accept your wishes. If you do not mind, though, I would like to accompany you on your mission. I have an engineering background, so perhaps I can be of some use in determining a solution to the flooding problem.”
“Fine,” I told him, shrugging my indifference. “It’s up to you.”
“I can teach you to swim, if you like,” a voice broke in.
Lillatta separated from our embrace and stared at the fat man. He was sitting in the center of the raft, water dripping from his soaked tunic; with his legs crossed, he munched hungrily on the flesh of a leg bone from one of the birds Javen had brought me the other day. Lillatta seemed hesitant to engage the priest, even after his selfless act, perhaps simply not knowing what to say to a man whose past deeds had earned her mistrust. She had reason to hate him, and yet he had just saved her life.
As I waited out the storm, I grew hungry. I pulled a wettle fruit from my pouch, split it in half and chewed on the pulp. I listened to the rain for a while, swatted a couple of insects, got up to stretch and relieve myself, and then settled back down.
A movement to my left caught my attention. The starfen that had fallen with the kanser branch was back, rustling for something in the ferns several paces away. An idea came to me. I checked the bones in the bracelet on my wrist—sure enough, a starfen’s was among them. I touched the bone, glanced over at the starfen and said, “Come to me.”
To my amazement, the creature dashed right over. It looked up, directly into my eyes, obviously anticipating a further command. It was almost creepy the way he just sat there, waiting and staring. Not knowing what else to say, I said, “You can go,” and like that the rodent was back rustling in the ferns.
Wow! I was going to have to study this ability further. That was fantastic!
Nanki’s funeral took place upon the same hill where the tribe had cremated my mother years before. It was odd, the coincidence of my father dying near that very campsite, the place where I was born and where my mother perished giving me life. Knowing this, it was my father’s final wish to ascend to Ra-ta from that hill and have his ashes mix with hers.
It was early morning and cool. The rising sun warmed me, perhaps a gentle touch from Ra-ta to comfort me on this sorrowful day. The hill, as Gorsek’s had, overlooked the Raso. I gazed down at the glinting water, scrambling and pushing its way downstream, hurrying to get somewhere that was not here, this place of pain and suffering. I was in no such hurry. I had studied the hill the day before, looking for some trace of my mother’s presence. There was none. The grass hid nothing. There was no sign, not even a charred timber. Nature had groomed the site for years, wiping away all reminders, accepting the ash back into the soil. The flowers bloomed and the grass grew—and no remnant of my mother existed any more in this world.
Tribal members gathered, gradually making their way up the slope. Lillatta stood by my side, but might as well have been invisible. A mournful drum sounded. The beats thumped loudly in a slow rhythm, but I heard nothing. My father’s body looked small, wrapped in his white shroud and lying still upon the wooden bier. I knew he could not feel Ra-ta’s rays upon him, but hoped his spirit was feeling their warmth in Mimnon. Pilkin, the oldest of my father’s apprentices approached, and I dutifully followed him to the platform. He mouthed some words and I hoped he got them right. I held the torch and lit the oil-soaked bundles. I watched the flames leap and for an instant wanted to grab them back, to undo the act that would take my father from me forever. But I stood there, unmoving. I could not cry. I was empty and without form. A light breeze would have blown me away and I would have scattered into nothing. The fire reached my father and the black smoke obscured my view. I turned away and walked down the hill.
Anger always resides in me and I try to keep it in check, but it has to have space. Now it was squeezing into too tight places and that was dangerous. I felt there was no room for anymore and yet more kept coming, with no means to dump what was already in me.
I had been keeping an eye on two of our male cellmates, both of whom had been in the room when the newcomers arrived. They were talking to Miras, the Sakita woman I had first spotted in Lillatta’s caravan. I could tell by Miras’ body language that she was uncomfortable with their conversation. Then, one of the men grabbed her arm and the other touched her hair.
I quickly stood up, causing Lillatta to jump. I marched across the room.
“Are these men bothering you, Miras?” I calmly asked.
The two men, one who was about twenty and the other older, glanced over at me with undisguised irritation. After he got a good look at me, the younger one leered.
“We can bother you instead, if you like.”
His companion laughed.
I ignored them and spoke to the obviously frightened Miras.
“Are these men bothering you?” I asked again.
She gave a barely perceptible nod. The young man did not appreciate my interference.
“You better get out of here, little girl,” he threatened. “Or I can’t be responsible for what happens to you.”
They were both standing directly in front of me now, the older one grinning.
“Let’s show her what we do to those who don’t mind their place,” he suggested.
I was aware of the dead silence in the room. None of the men watching seemed inclined to intervene.
“Which one of you is the stupid one?” I asked conversationally.
They stared at me dully, caught off guard by the unusual question.
“Well, don’t answer that,” I quickly said, “because I already know. Sorry to disappoint. I know each of you wanted to claim it, but I’m afraid it’s a tie. You’re both stupid.”
The young one cursed, and in a bellowing rage lunged forward, swinging his fist to crack my face. I curved out of its path and countered with a furious fist to his stomach. He bent over with an audible grunt and fell straight to the floor. The other came in wildly, swinging one arm and then the other. I avoided both and punched him hard squarely in the nose. He cried out and put his hands to the broken flesh as blood seeped out between his fingers.
The younger one had gotten back up and had raised his fist to hammer down hard upon my head. But I was no longer playing. The anger in me needed an outlet and I had found it. I blocked his downward thrust, and then chopped him sharply across the throat. He gasped and choked. I grabbed his left arm and spun him around, then shoved him hard into the wall. I cranked his arm up his back until he screamed in agony.
“I could break your arm with one more little push,” I told him. “And do you know what would happen if the Spood found out you had a broken arm? They would kill you. So, do you want a broken arm?”
“No, don’t, please,” the man pleaded.
A scuffling sound and a thump sounded behind me. I turned my head to see the other man lying on the floor, out cold. Lillatta stood over him with a wicked grin on her face.
“He tried to take advantage while your back was turned. I thought he might want to take a little nap,” she said in explanation.
This concludes the excerpts. Be forewarned that more could be forthcoming. I cannot promise they will be any more enlightening.