WIP update, a photo and a poem

 

Since mid-July I’ve been working on a complete rewrite of The Green Woman series, and a couple of weeks ago I finished it. It has grown by 100,000 words and is very different to the original in just about everything. The central idea is the same, but not the way it’s presented, and the characters, the tone and the story threads are all different. It’s gone from straight YA to an older readership that I would describe as crossover adult.

About ten days ago I started revising another manuscript that I like a lot but was far too short. It’s now finished, 13,000 words longer and just about passes muster for length. I have two other projects that are started, and I should choose one of those and get on with it, but I think I need a break first—too many characters and too many stories still squatting my brain.

The brilliant hot summer weather has just broken this afternoon. Not with the thunderbolts and torrential rain we were promised, but the persistent wind rose to violent gusts, bringing rain clouds. It rained for a half an hour, the wind dropped and the evening is dull and grey. Summer, I think has finally gone.

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The change is coming, the turning of the year into the dark time. South wind blows blue and the sky is still full of summer, but the shaking of the trees is eerie. Not just the whispering, sea-hiss of the poplars but the ploying and raking of the oaks and the alders, green leaves silver-backed writhe in torment on twisting branches with the roar of the ocean. Soon, the wind will turn, bringing cloud and rain, and the leaves will give up the unequal fight. Are they leaves or birds that scud across the meadow?

Do the hinds count the young ones left of this year’s brood, mourn the lost and cover the survivors with panic-stricken care, or do they cast a cold eye on the changing sky, the flickering leaves and listen for the heavy human tread, the snuffle of dog in the bracken? With grace, they melt into the shadows where perhaps another day waits at the other side.

Year ends in rain

golden and crisp, feathered

as fleeing birds.

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#writephoto: Farewell

The last time I participated in Sue’s photo challenge was the Pillars, because it was so apt for the novel I was rewriting. I’m rewriting another story now, and this photo is so exactly right, I have to slip this in. Thanks Sue. Must be telepathy.

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I sit on the rocks exposed by the low tide and watch the house on the cliffs. I watch the man walk to the end of his garden where children play and an unseen wife moves back and forth in the house behind. I wonder if he sees me, and if he does, if he knows who I am. This is not his place. He was born for the lights of the city, the glamour of la côte. He should have been preparing for the theatre, a first night, a vernissage, a meal at a fashionable restaurant with a starlet on his arm. Yet he stands on this cliff overlooking the Atlantic, watching the waves, and his life ebbs and flows like the tides, but mainly it ebbs.

Tears well, the woman’s tears I never shed when I left him, too intent on making my own life complete. Complete? Did I have a choice? We do what our nature bids us do, and mine was to return to the sea, but I can still weep, because he never understood why I left, and because he still forgives me.

The others are calling. Does he hear too? He turns, his shoulders slumped. How old is he? Time flows differently in the ocean. He turns and the others call.

Forget me, I whisper to the waves. But I know he never will.

#Writephoto: Inside the Great Temple

This morning the Oracle gave me a poem based on my rewriting. Looking at Sue’s photo for this week’s Thursday Writephoto prompt, I see that this is also from the story. Here is a section from the end of Book Two.

pillars

 

Gula held Halki’s hand as they hurried towards the red glow, listening to the roaring of hundreds of frantic voices and the screaming of women. Her face darkened­—she thought she heard the cries of children too. She glanced at Halki and saw the same expression of suppressed anger and disgust. Suddenly she was filled with pride in her old man, with his strong chin, his big nose, his receding hairline, and a heart full of compassion.

Something was changing in Providence. She felt it and saw it in the faces of the enders who had also refused their destiny. Something terrible was happening, but it signalled a break in the deadly rhythm, the dull monotony. The air was filled with electricity, as if a storm were breaking within the Hemisphere. The bridge between the past and the present was broken, and the future seemed suddenly possible.

Halki sensed Gula’s eyes on him and his expression softened. He had felt the change too and realised he was grinning. He didn’t care about anything any more, except the future. He wanted a future, and he wanted to share it with Gula.

An astonished cry rang out. Halki looked over his shoulder—the medic must have had a look in the waiting room. He had burst into the corridor and was shouting for the guards. Almost instantly, his voice was drowned by the pounding of heavy-booted feet. Halki was filled with dismay. He hadn’t expected the Black Boys to be alerted so soon.

“Run,” he shouted, grabbing Gula’s arm.

“No, wait.” Vidarr stopped him, counting the running shapes rapidly. “We can take ’em. The corridor’s narrow—they can only come at us two at a time.”

The men hesitated, clenched their fists and nodded. The women stood back against the wall but made no attempt to run. They had all begun to dream of a future, and they could not envisage it without their husbands.

Shouting their excited war cries the Black Boys were upon them, but strangely their batons were held low, not raised to strike.

“Get outta the way!” they yelled, and without slowing their pace shouldered past the stupefied men to disappear into the red glow round the last corner.

Gula put her hand on Halki’s arm. “Things are changing,” she said, and set off in the wake of the Black Boys.

When they rounded the corner they looked down on the glittering altars and fluted columns of the Great Temple bathed in red light. The air was dry, crackling with heat and noise and vibrating with the running steps of the Black Boys. They hurried down a staircase leading to one of the lateral chapels, hesitating to set out across the echoing marble immensity. The Black Boys were pouring out through the half-open temple doors in a howling mob, eager to get to grips with whatever was outside.

The world was changing. She was the proof. Gula looked at the faces of the enders gathered about her and recognised the light in their faces, knowing the same light was shining in hers. Whatever happened next, nothing could take this moment away from them. They had defied the destiny imposed by the law and they had not died. They hesitated at the foot of the staircase, listening to the roar of a great crowd in the Square. Things were changing and they had no idea how. They hesitated, not wishing to break the spell of the moment of complete freedom, unwilling to tread the marble pavement and perhaps discover slavery and death at the far side.

Gula looked into Halki’s eyes as if for the last time, to take the memory of them wherever she was going. Then she flung her arms about his neck and reached up for his lips. Nothing would ever erase that moment, that kiss that might have to replace a lifetime of tenderness. They made that one kiss count for a thousand, and when they parted, they were ready. Hand in hand, they walked across the cold marble towards the din and however much future the changing times had in store for them.

A haven perhaps

 

Since the season started, the deer have been round often. Do they know? Since the guns started blazing they have been coming here. Perhaps they do know. Often they are in pairs, a mother and a young one. Usually they stay close together. The young ones have been among the first to be born this year, almost fully grown, sensible. This morning the young one was a later birth, one of those unruly kids, leaping and gambolling like a little goat, straying further and further from its mother. They grazed along the bramble hedge then back to the corner beneath the alders where they crossed the stream. I thought they’d gone, but Bambi popped up again, by the willows, mother following.

An hour later, they were still there. I took Finbar out for a pee. He didn’t notice them; they didn’t notice us. Mother ambled beneath the alders and crossed the stream at the place where I go to pass the time of day with the frogs who sit in a patch of sun on the bank. Ten minutes later, Bambi frisked out of the ditch beneath one of the willows. Looked about for ma. Frisked up towards the house, looking around all the time for mother. Then he ran. Bounded. But not in fright, not to run from anything, with the simple joie de vivre that I recognised from watching Finbar do the same. He ran almost a hundred yards along the stream then ran all the way back again. He ran, skipping and leaping in deer-twists back and forth, with no other thought than amusement. Same long legs, same careless leaping through brambles and over obstacles, but lighter than a big racing dog, less powerful but with more grace.

Back and forth, skip, jump, brisk shake of the head. Ears prick. Ma? I imagined his mother, sighing to herself at the other side of the stream, maybe settled down to wait. No calling, quiet. Eventually he trotted over to the track that goes over the stream by the frogs’ place. I saw the white scut in the shade as he sauntered back to his mother. Perhaps to get a clip around the ear.

 

Carless joy beneath

a milky sky—wild children

chasing

Three Line Tales: Memory Lane

A three-liner for Sonya’s Three Line Tales prompt.

photo by Nathan Wright via Unsplash

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The front door wasn’t locked so she pushed it open, letting in a drift of dead leaves and setting spiders and beetles scuttling in alarm.

Sunlight fell through a skylight in a great golden beam full of motes, time capsules, each one a memory that meant nothing to anyone anymore.

Such sadness was enclosed in these silent walls waiting for the demolition crew—she knew she should never have come home.