Apologies for the scarcity as of late. NaNoWriMo really is taking every effort from me, trying to maintain the word count. I’m just barely on target, hovering somewhere around 32K at the moment. Hoping to make up for lost time this weekend, where my husband won’t be away!

Anyway, a little snippet in the mean time, from Pilgrim of the Sky.

They had now arrived by the Roth’s black carriage; the single golden wheel at the front had been recently cleaned by one of Mrs. Hildebrandt’s servants, and it stood gleaming in the chilly winter light. It was striking in its simplicity, that simple circle, and she stared at it a moment in wonder before letting Randall help her into the carriage. She nestled into her seat, pulling her stole around her shoulders.

“I’ll be happy to take you by home,” said Randall, swooping up beside her, and closing the door in one swift movement. He did move well, she thought. So unlike Randy, so deliberate—almost as if he’d had instruction as a dancer. “But would you permit me just one detour? It’s something I think you’d find fascinating—I know your love of cathedrals, and well, we have our own. It’s called the Church of the Weeping Lady, and it takes up nearly two entire blocks downtown. You can see some of the domes and spirals from here.”

“Oh?” said Maddie. She felt Matilda there, suddenly, like someone peeking over her shoulder, except from within her. A very strange feeling. But she just shuddered and clenched her teeth, waiting. No, Matilda wasn’t saying anything at the moment. Maddie had the sudden impression that she was just listening, waiting.

“It’s the gem of our city,” he continued. “Designed by William Morris himself, if you’ll believe it.”

“William Morris? As in–he’s got some art there, or–”

“No, he was the chief architect. Every detail is his; every inspired detail.”

“And here I had him pegged as one of those Pre-Raphaelite socialist sorts with thoughts bent on saving the world one hand-pressed tile at a time,” Maddie said, thinking herself quite clever for the near mini-lecture she’d delivered in the space of a sentence. “Didn’t think he’d have undertaken a whole church.”

Randall nodded, “Indeed, that’s Morris in your world. In this world, he was one of the most devoted Marian priests—and his talent, well, I say it flourished here even greater than it did in your time. There is a certain indelible well of inspiration for some, when it comes to the Great Mother.”

“Great Mother,” said Maddie. “You sound like a neo-pagan.”

He shrugged. “Not much of a difference, in some things, I suppose.”

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I’ve been scribbling short stories like crazy the last few weeks, with little work on the actual novel. Not a complaint, rather an observation. The one I’m excerpting here is from “Dead’s End to Middleton” which borders between steampunk and weird west. I just like this bit from the beginning.

_ _ _

“Mary Mother of Jesus.”

Up until that moment, I had no recollection of my mother swearing. A proud, quiet, Catholic woman, she navigated the majority of her life with cool, calm reserve. It was my father who swore, adhering to that form of expression not unlike my mother to her rosary–repetitive, quiet, and a cadence unto itself.

“Christ almighty on a donkey.”

That was my brother Jack. Six years my senior, he was the one steering the covered wagon as we made our way from Dead’s End to Middleton, a near three day’s ride through the desert. We were on our way to Middleton to visit my father, who’d been working there for the better part of a month while the rest of us were left to the ranch, being at it was, time for the cows to birth. But most of that business was done, and my two oldest brothers Hector and William stayed back with my younger sister Bettany.

Mother let me along with her and Jack since it was my birthday in a week, and she reckoned seeing my father would be good for me. She said I’d been ornery, and that I needed a good sitting down with Father. I suspected it had something to do with the steam gal rags she’d found under my bed a few weeks past, but I couldn’t be sure. Hector had given them to me, and said that they’d help me calm myself. Whatever that had meant. All the pictures and stories had done was made me feel wound up as a spindle, though I couldn’t put a finger on quite why.

Still, on my way to becoming a man or not, I could make no more sense out of what I’d just seen than anyone else. Mr. Stein, Father’s business partner, shuddered next to me, and held a handkerchief over his mouth, gagging back blood and snot. He had the consumption, and the lights had just about scared his soul right out of him. It was to my great dismay that I had to sit next to him and, on the order of my mother, attend to his whims.

“What do you suppose—?” he asked, his voice gritty and low, wet from coughing.

I’d only emerged from the back of the wagon when my mother had screamed. The horses had been startled, too, but that wasn’t uncommon. I’d figured it was a snake, as had been the case a day ago.

But due to my late entrance, I only caught the last few moments of the event. A black streak in the sky, fire, and an explosion. Now, whatever had landed was smoldering on the horizon, long tongues of green and orange flames intermittently flaring and quelling. Smoke rose, too, casting gray puffy streaks into the sky, dissipating as they reached higher, but not going out entirely.

There was a sound, too. A low crackling–inconstant, and yet familiar. Like dry logs in a hot fire, but louder. Like distant thunder.

“Don’t reckon we can go around,” Jack said, wiping his eyes. He looked back at me. “Jess. Get back in the wagon.”

“You’re the first to rise,” says the voice at the intercom, surprised. Brother Bell thinks this may be Brother Fesu, judging by the slight northern twang to his voice, though he can’t be certain. There are too many monks to memorize by face let alone by voice. “Demons in the dreams?”

Brother Bell tucks his hands into his opposite sleeves, the metallic fabric catching a moment on a hangnail, but he ignores it. “Memories of my father, is all,” he says softly.

“Ah, well, someday—soon I hope—you’ll find yourself rid of such distractions,” says the presumed Brother Fesu.

“Gods be it,” replies Brother Bell automatically.

“If you will, we’ve got a new arrival we were hoping you could take care of.”

“Monastery or Asylum?” asks Brother Bell.

There is a pause, the sound of the surveillance equipment beeping, then says Brother Fesu: “We aren’t entirely sure yet. A bit of a puzzle. Arrived just ten minutes ago—I had thought of waking Father Altercan, but seeing as you’re up—”

“Of course,” says Brother Bell. “Gods be it.”

“Gods be it indeed. Your passcards and directions should arrive momentarily.”

“Thank you.”

The slot in the wall near the sink buzzes, and then prints out two plastic passcards and a data sheet. The cards he slips into the deep pockets at his waist, and the data sheet he holds, pressing his thumbs into the boxes at the corners. It’s a paper-bioplastic, so that as soon as it reads his print, the writing swirls into appearance, followed by pictures and background on the new arrival.

More zombies. Strange birds. Something called aetherspore.

—Della.

—Birdies, said Anton.

—Good evening, Doctor Henrickson, I said.

He did not look up at me, but held up a hand and beckoned me forward.

I inhaled briefly, as I always did, when trying to prepare myself for the next few moments. These were always the hardest.

—I was right, you know, he said. Terribly right. And I’m sorry for that.

—For? I asked.

—Birdies, insisted Anton.

—There was a problem, continued the Doctor. There is a problem, I should say. You see, they don’t know I can see them, of course, and I’ve deduced that they do not understand our language in the least. Though I imagine it won’t take long. They are remarkably smart!

He still did not look up at me, and instead flipped one of the pages he was reading, then slid the glass magnifier over it to both weigh it down and make it easier for him to read.

Now I could see what he was looking at: a book on optics. That made sense of course, this being the Celestial Collection. Astronomy was at the heart of such studies and with it, the acquisition of better and more powerful lenses.

—You see, of course, I was right in my thinking as, you know, I most always am.

He did look up now, and his gaze slipped quickly from me to Anton who said:

—Birdies.

Maybe. Having fun with a short story this afternoon: first-person with zombies.

Something fell in the entryway, a thump and then a muffled moan. I sat up from my work, moving the lamp to see a little better. It was dusk, and I had hardly realized time had slipped so far from me.

–Doctor Henrickson?

But there was no answer, just another moan, this time more mournful. Thinking the man had done something irreversible–offed himself, for instance, since even then he talked about it far too often–I rushed to the door toward the source of the sound.

It was my brother Anton.

–You shouldn’t…

He was trying to speak, but something was preventing him. Anton was curled up like a wood shaving, his face waxy, his lips chapped. And his pallor and general stench made sense, considering he had been quite dead for the last year.

Ansel Adams' Saguaro Cactus

Yes, I realize this picture is of a cactus.

Elizaw mentioned it might be a good idea to do something with airships for the website. So I drew one. It’s not done much to help the general OMGWTF malaise that’s come over me since I flushed 10,000 words into the toilet earlier today, but it helped a little. I mean, she’s right. Airships are cool. I may scan and share tomorrow, just for hahas.

I do wish I had more of an ability to bounce back from disaster, but at the moment am feeling rather bleh and meh by turns. 10K isn’t a lot, compared to the whole novel which, in its first draft is over 100K and in its revised version (at approximately 50%) is already 75K. That’s roughly 10% of a lost book. And it’s two weeks of work, hours now completely lost to time and space (I feel like I’m playing Arkham Horror all of a sudden).

My birthday was Saturday, and I got a copy of The Born Queen by Greg Keyes, which I hope will help jog my brain into writing mode again. Though Stephen King certainly wasn’t the first to say it, he’s right: The more you read, the better you write. I can trace much of my book’s progress by the reading I’ve done on the side–it’s a hodge podge group of writers, not all of whom are exactly Pulitzer Prize winners, of course.

In the mean time, I have now successfully installed the Orchestra Jam Pack for GarageBand, so hopefully my podcasts will be a little more interesting. I’ve been meaning to re-record chapter four for some time, but it’s a long chapter, with some tough voices (a raspy Territories Alderman by the name of Bratner, for instance, who always makes me cough when I read him). It’s also the first Emry chapter, and since he is the character most like myself, I want to do him justice. Emry is so important in the books that at one point I considered starting off the narrative with him. But then I realized that might be a little toward selfish, or at least, self-serving. He’s the easiest character for me to write (well, duh). I’m actually looking forward to editing his PoV, though it’ll probably come after Cora’s. Right now I’m working on the Brick PoV, but that’s the one that bit the dust. Ah, square one.

At least I didn’t lose everything. There are a few bits in the Brick PoV that I’m really happy with. A little fun is provided behind the cut. It’s the introduction of some of the second-string heroes, including Sir Sally Din and Lark.

Below the cut: from Chapter Six: Attention

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