Monday, April 22, 2013

Outside the Walls: The Maker's Place

      The Moon was windblown and bright. I could see the girl, but she was an outline, part of the night, and she didn't answer me. She just started walking again, heading back toward the wagon road. We followed her until she turned and gestured at us to stop. "Hide here and wait for me," she whispered. 
         Before we could react, she was running down the narrow, muddy track, disappearing into the trees. Fob and I looked at each other. I could tell he was still angry. I was, too, but that was the least of my worries. The girl was almost impossible to like, but I liked her anyway because she wasn’t afraid. I was. I had never known anyone who wasn’t afraid. So I started walking, following her.
            When I heard an odd sound, I ran and I could hear Fob’s footsteps behind me. We kept going, staying close to the edge of the rutted road so we could disappear into the trees if we needed to—then we finally stopped when we saw the glint of another metal cage shining in the moonlight.  It looked like the one we had seen on the wagon, except it was bigger and full of odd things: There was a pile of what looked like dried clover, a long, thin rake of some kind, a mound of blackish tar, and a row of woven baskets like the wagon drivers hired people in the Old City to make, but they were woven much finer, the sizes and shapes more complicated than any basket I had ever seen.
            Fob and I stood shoulder to shoulder, looking at the cage until a little breeze ruffled the clover and I stepped back from a strong, strange smell in the air—just an instant before the girl was coming toward us, waving her hands,  screaming at us to run. We turned and sprinted back up the road. She caught up and we all kept running until we were back on the far side of the meadow, gasping for breath. Then she turned to me.  “What’s your name?”
            That pissed me off. Things were bad enough without stupid jokes. She was the only one who had kept her name a secret.
            “What’s your name?” she asked me again.
            “Dickens!”  I leaned toward her and shouted, hoping to startle her into jumping. But she didn’t. She just turned to Fob. “Tell me your name.”   
            He looked at me, then at the girl. “My name is Fob,” he said quietly. “You know that. What’s your name? Have you found a new one yet?”  The girl shook her head, and they stared at each other, like dogs that were about to fight.
            The girl glared at Fob for a moment more, then she exhaled and stepped back. “That was a makers-place. One where the poisons are made.”
            My  skin prickled. Fob and I had both awakened by the river without any memories. Everyone in the Old City does.  I looked at the girl. “The children in the wagon seemed so sad and—”
        “No,” she interrupted. Her shoulders dropped and she looked up at the moon before she answered.  “They are small but they aren’t children. Those are the makers.”

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Russet (in progress)

    When the train slows, then stops, I close the curtain--all but a slit, so I can peek out. From where I am sitting I mostly see the tops of people’s heads. They are getting off the train, hugging the relatives and friends who are there to pick them up.  
     I am almost relaxed until I think I see the jeans-and-running shoes guy.
     I hold my breath.
     Yeah. It’s him.
     He’s pacing a wide circle, or I might never have noticed him. He’s not glancing up or down. He isn’t looking for me. He tilts his head and I realize that he has a phone against his ear. I sit up straighter. Is he talking to my father?
     I put the make-up back on in a few seconds.
     More this time.
     I want to look a little older, sixteen or seventeen, less gloss, more color on my mouth. 
     I leave my jeans on, switch to a soft pink tee that says “Geek
Magneto” under a loose, light jacket from the Salvation Army bin. It covers my lack of breasts and my battered knuckles. Then, once I am a girl again, I hurry.
     I swim upstream against the people boarding.
     When I finally get through an open door, the man is still pacing in circles.
      I fall into step with a group of people headed his way and strain to hear his end of the phone conversation. I slow down as we get closer and fiddle with my jacket zip, my back toward him, then pretend to answer my own phone before I walk past. I catch seven words: “No. Not yet. But he’s here somewhere.”  
       I keep walking, my skin crawling, my stomach tight.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Every morning I check email. This morning, among the fan mail, there was an especially kind letter from a reader in France who loved my books and was learning to speak English in part so that she could read my work in English. I skimmed her letter, then went down though other emails, answered a few business things,  cleaned out a few ads, etc, then went back to answer the fanmail and it was all there....except for the letter from France.

I tried to find it, and I have no idea how I lost it, but I did. So I apologize.

Dear reader in France, in case you read this blog, I want to thank you for the kind words and for liking my books and taking the time to write me. Your English is far better than my French will ever be and you made me smile. Thank you.

All best wishes,

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


     I am always amazed at the evolution of any story I write. The more I   follow the characters around, the more I begin to understand their world, their hearts. This place is a bleak one, I knew that from the start. I have been reading about child labor, witch trials, faeries, folk tales, and the history of segregation in many cultures, recent and ancient. So.... 

Here is the first page of the book as of this morning. 

                                               Chapter One  
            The night-walkers only come when the moon is a thin, curved slit of cold light. They wear black robes and each one carries a sleeping child. Sometimes there are three or four night-walkers. Sometimes there are ten or twenty.  Each child is left to wake up on the riverbank below the Old City. 
            They don’t know where they are. 
            They don’t know who they are.
            They can’t remember where they came from or anything else.
            I couldn't.
            No one ever can.          
            A few of them will sit and stare at their own bare feet long enough to starve. Every year, some wander into the river, and let the water bury them somewhere far downstream. But most of them stop crying and start looking for food when the sun comes up. 
            Almost everyone helps them at first.
            We all know how hard it is.  
            But there are as many hungry children in the Old City as there are pigeons, crows, mice, rats and ants. And there is never enough food for all of us. Never. 

                               I don't use plot charts, but if I did, they would look like this: