It's been a while since I shared a straight excerpt here on my blog, and since I am almost through editing The Proper Bearing, it seemed fitting to give you all one now. Our hero, Nick Forsythe, has just entered his final year of secondary school (what the English consider high school). His friends, trouble-making twins Cris and Terry, have been late in returning from detention for a couple of hours, and when they finally arrive, their reasoning is not what he expected in the least...
Since this week's theme is "First Line of a Scene or Chapter", I have two pieces to share, simply because I couldn't make up my mind. Both are from In the Cards, coming in September.
June shoved the door of her car shut with her hip and hoisted her bag up onto her shoulder. “Crowley!” She barked, jogging up the sidewalk toward the Balefires. “How many times have I asked you not to burn one while you're loitering outside my store?”
He took a long, defiant drag of his cigarette, then flicked it onto the concrete and ground it beneath the heel of one steel-toed boot. “Duncan never had a problem with it,” he drawled.
“Duncan never lived to see you picking his nephew up once a month, either.”
Crowley scraped his bottom teeth across the traffic-cone orange paint on his thumbnail. “S'a lotta love for an old family friend.”
June took a step back between the sidewalk and the white line, squinting at him. “You know, for an old family friend, you've got one hell of an aura.”
“Like that, do ya? Picked it up in Soho, back in the sixties.”
“I think so. Tell Ral he'd better be out here on time. We've got places to be.”
“Please and thank you,” she chirped, smiling as she breezed through the door. Still grinning, she spoke through her clenched teeth as Ral turned away from taking inventory. “Your very nice family friend is outside.”
The last in a series of rimshots echoed around the tiny gymnasium of the community center. With a squeak of sneakers against the floor, Troy hustled to retrieve his ball, and wiped his forehead with the back of his free hand. He'd gone down the street to Madie's for dinner, then come to the Center to work through his lingering frustrations after his meeting with Ral. Several laps around the gym and a bevy of free shots later, he was left only with his confusion. As he crossed the court to return the ball to the cage at the end of the bleachers, Troy ran back along his train of thought.
Never mind how weird the whole magic thing is ... Ral himself was acting weird, even without it. Why the hell did he run out of there? If only I knew who this friend of his was. I wonder if it was the guy he was talking to, before we went down the trail. He took off like a shot, too.... maybe that's what I'll go ask June, instead.
The back of his throat was parched, and Troy leant down to take a drink from the worn bubbler near the locker room doors. The water trickled down the basin in tiny lines, splitting and rejoining each other on the way to the drain. Lines, he thought. Like he ones he was telling me about. Even if the whole thing is a fish story, it's a popular enough one for someone to use as a pattern... why didn't I pick up on that while I was there? As he went back into the locker room to throw on the spare jeans and chambray shirt he'd brought in from the back seat of the cruiser, Troy hoped that the crude diagram Ral had sketched for him still remained on the path.
This week's excerpt from In The Cards takes place during a reading for its heroine, Beatrice, as she's trying to find her footing in her new hometown. The image to the right is from Peter Pracownik's "Dragon Tarot", which is the deck I chose for her new friend and mentor, Louise Mullein.
Beatrice glanced down at the tarot spread on the table and wrapped her hands around the tea like a life raft.
“No, you’re … you’re very right,” she said. “Go on. Please. … You said there was something I needed to be careful of?”
There were footsteps nearby – uneven, but quiet, and Louise glanced up, distracted for a moment, before continuing. “Yes. That’s this card, The Moon. It generally points to some sort of unseen influence. It can be a person, a thing, or even a group of people who are having some kind of effect on your life without your knowing it. It can also be an illusion, or something you’re not seeing clearly.”
“But isn’t it typically associated with the Goddess? Shouldn’t the moon be a good thing?”
“She’s the moon, yes, but think about how different things look in the moonlight, and how much harder it is to see. Think of all the fairy tales or horror stories where creatures or spells only have power by night, and fade in the light of day. The dark is where we keep our fears and our secrets. The Moon is the card that illuminates them and warns us that they’re nearby.”
“I see. So – there’s another card that can help me with whatever the darkness is hiding? That secret or illusion, or whatever?” Beatrice squirmed forward in her chair, careful not to spill her tea.
“Yes. There are a few.” Louise glanced down at the cards again, as there was a soft rustling from one of the herb racks nearby, and the muffled sound of someone coughing. “I see people who are willing to help you, but you’re going to have to make a very conscious effort to reach out to them and trust them...”
This week's optional theme for #2bitTues is "Forgotten" ... in searching In The Cards for good lines, I found this little gem of a scene, and decided I had to share it with you all.
As the last few rays of sun disappeared over the horizon, they were replaced by the spark and flare of a lighter, then the single glowing eye of a cigarette. Crowley drew in a lungful of nicotine, then sent it up to join the dark clouds closing in over town. “Bugger of a storm comin’ down soon.”
“Okay, seriously?” Fritz kicked over a rock with his sneaker as one of the first fat raindrops landed on his shoulder. “Being here is already enough of a cliché. Do you have to add the dialogue?”
“Not my fault the weather agrees.” Crowley bared his nicotine grin, turning toward the riverbank. “Besides … they’re getting closer.”
“Not that I mind a little rain, but we really should get outta here before anyone sees us.”
Crowley flicked his thumb, sending a spit of ash into the current as the rain begain in earnest. “Think you just bloody well jinxed yourself there. But at this point, it don’t matter who sees us. As far as I could tell this afternoon, cat’s nearly outta the bag.”
“That was awful. Why can’t we leave him out of this mess?”
“Those’re the orders.”
“Said the guy with the anarchy patches on his jacket.”
Crowley reached out and dug his neon fingernails into the collar of Fritz’s coat. The blue and green highlights in his pale blond hair flopped into his face as he leaned in close and bared his teeth. “Listen, you walking ball of nerves. I don’t know if you forgot what tree you stashed your brains in this morning before you drank your Ovaltine, but there’s only one authority I respect enough not t’question. It’s in your best interests – and Ral’s – t’do the same!”
Fritz flailed, swatting Crowley’s hand as he tried to wiggle free. “I – but – it – just - that – I – he – let go!” He squeaked, swiping raindrops off his chest and straightening his collar. “It isn’t that I question the big black bossman. I just don’t see why he doesn’t let you handle the girl.”
“I’ve got my own hand to play. As for the girl,” Crowley said, shielding his cigarette from the rain, “it’s gotta be one of you. When it comes to Iknara, I paid my dues a long time ago.”
Fritz shook his head. “I don’t care what he says we’ve got to do. There must be some way to finish this without getting someone else’s blood on my hands.”
Crowley rolled his eyes.
“Oh, don’t look at me like that. Not everyone likes being a pain in the … butt.”
“One of these effing days, I’m going to see you swear.” Crowley smirked, pulling a cell phone from his pocket.
Fritz slicked rain from his broad forehead and shook it out onto the ground, where the riverbank was quickly degrading into thick, red mud. “If you make that call, I’m leaving. I can’t watch you involve anyone else in this mess and just lurk around getting your kicks out of watching them flip out.”
“Suit yourself.” Crowley shrugged mid-dial. “Just remember how t’make an omelet. Wouldn’t want you to starve.”
As he trudged up the hill to where he’d parked his Galaxie, Fritz raised his eyes to the storm clouds and let out a wordless whine. “Trixie,” he told his car, settling in behind her wheel, “I’m liking this job less and less.”
This week's excerpt is straight out of From The Desk of Buster Heywood, due for release in mid-September!
The overhang outside the door kept him dry as he looked out at the storm that had rolled in over the North End. The slush banks Cameron had kicked to pieces were already melting under the onslaught of the rain, pitted and spiked like termite hills, and rivers ran past the edges of the sidewalk into the gutter. Buster pulled his gloves on and buttoned up his coat to steel himself, then stepped out into the frigid deluge.
The tenement building had no roof overhang for him to duck under, so he was soaked by the time he reached the alley. Even so, the building shielded him from any gales coming at him from the side, leaving him to contend with the rain from above. He ducked beneath a fire escape and paused to remove his glasses, wiping droplets off with his scarf. It wouldn’t last long, but at least he’d be able to see long enough to find his way back to the Jetta.
“You,” an unfamiliar voice called out from behind him.
Buster turned, feeling his dinner turn, as well.
“Yeah, you.” A short, thin man with a patchy goatee moved forward into the alley. He wore a faded grey wool coat that looked as though it had seen several previous owners before him, and tattered jeans. The stained apron around his waist and red bandana tied over his hair marked him almost unmistakably as Luis’ busboy. “I know who you are..."
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