“Oh Look… a Squirrel!”

This post is brought to you by my friend and crit partner, Lani Longshore, who today talked about her distracted quilting. I’m stealing her idea, because it occurred to me that this is my approach to writing. I just don’t stay focused.

Oh look - it's time to play!
Oh look – it’s time to play!

Yes, children are a distraction, even when they’re grown up.

This is why I start a book, write a couple of chapters, and…

Oh look - it's time to Skype!
Oh look – it’s time to Skype!

Yes, grandchildren are also a distraction.

So anyway, I write a couple of chapters, get busy with something else, and can’t think of anything else to write. So I start another book.

Liam is born!
Liam is born!

Children having children is the most distracting of all. Isn’t he adorable? He is now 1 month old and yes, he’s still adorable.

So here. I’m giving you a couple of book openings, partly to see if any of them seem worth pursuing, but also because, you know, I should give you something to read once in a while. If you are patiently waiting for a sequel to something already written (and I know you are), please note that this is not an either/or vote. I do intend to get those sequels done!

Book #1: No Name Yet – About Shandari (a prequel to Worlds Apart)

A mental scream tore through Shandari’s mind. The shock of it brought her to a halt, her forward foot hanging in mid-air until she sank to the ground, arms tight around her head. It did no good, of course, as the scream continued without pause. Someone was hurt, an injury as serious as it was unexpected. Shandari gasped a shaky breath and forced her mind barriers into place until the scream faded to a bearable level. She tapped the Strap around her wrist, searching its screen for the patient’s location. Her finger trembled. There–East through the forest if she left the main path and caught the antelope trail toward the lake. A walk of fifteen minutes.

She ran instead, shoving aside the branches of the small bushes that lined the narrow trail. The scream faded to a moan, tinged with injured one’s pain and fog. Her patient was falling into shock. Shandari sensed a breath of death brushing past her toward the source and she put more speed to her feet. Seconds later, she tore into a clearing, unable to stop her crash into a hunter’s back. They both fell forward, but hands grabbed her upright and push her through the crowd.

“Here! The healer is here. Make way.” Her path followed the shouts as hands propelled her onward to the center where lay the injured boy.

He was looked close to her own age of seventeen. Just old enough to join the hunt with supervision. His skin, normally as deep a black as her own, was a dusty gray. He lay on his back, his right arm and leg kinked at obscene  angles, but it was his head which drew her immediate attention. The right side of his skull revealed a bloody cave-in, already swelling with a speed she could almost see. The bone was surely driven into the tender brain. Death hovered, patient, as the unconscious youth’s jerky breath gradually slowed.

Shandari dropped to his side, her eyes flaring into the Sight that was still so new to her. She did not fear the ability, so Looked with confidence to evaluate the extent of his injury. The bruised brain pulsed yellow and black, but the worst of the injury was not as deep as she had feared. Fluid filled the bruised area, bringing healing cells, but also pressure. Too much pressure. Bone fragments pushed into the gray matter. She Looked deeper and Saw with relief that none of the fragments penetrated more than a centimeter. She had only to shift the broken pieces outward and slow the fluid that threatened to crush the delicate brain. [How will she treat the shock?] Someone had covered the youth with a blanket, raising his temperature slightly and easing his trembling. Death moved back a pace.

Her hands were already on his head, a feather touch of sensation through her fingers. Lift your barrier. She heard the thought in her instructor’s, voice. Lift your barrier and enter the injury. You See the way. Do it.

Her own breathing grew ragged as she hesitated. She could See her fear, holding her barrier tightly sealed. Stinging tears added to her struggle. Drop the barrier, Shandari. This voice was hers, angry and full of loathing. You damn coward, drop your barrier!

Death drifted forward again.

The youth shook under her trembling hands as her mind and soul pounded against the barrier. He was taking longer between breaths, as if his heart and lungs needed to recover energy for each inhalation. In fact, that was exactly what was happening. Shandari could See it.

Death moved closer. Shandari squeezed her eyes closed, as if a physical push could break through her mind’s shield. A crack…yes, at last. This time she would do it. She could save this life. Emboldened, she reached, ready to send healing power to the brain under her hands. She needed only to drop her shield a little more.

Pain lanced her head, overwhelming, severe. Self-defense reared up, her own personal demon roaring to furious life and slamming her barriers into place. The youth jerked in her hands, his last breath grazing her wrist. She cried out in despair.

Warm hands suddenly covered hers, then slipped under them, releasing her from the Sight. Hyper-aware, she knew it was Sensei Reldoul, saw him corral the last breath, saw the youth’s chest expand once more and the bloat of the head begin to recede. The silence ragged emotions of the watchers oppressed her. Her relief that the Sensei had arrived in time, mixed with anger, embarrassment, and pity at her failure.

Book #2: SOUL SINGER

Mama

My first memory is of darkness and cold, with Mama’s gentle arms holding me against her thin, shivering body. Her head rests on mine and she is murmuring into my ear, “Hush now, shhhh. Shhhh.”  She is rocking a bit as we sit together on the dirt floor.

I try to decide how old I am in this memory, but I can only guess. I’m sure this scene had played out over and over again in the preceding years. Perhaps I am four. Mama would have been ten.

She wasn’t my real mama, of course. Not even in the dank ghettos of Banthi do girls get pregnant so young, although the men do not hesitate to try. The others called her Cris, but to me, she called herself Mama and that was my name for her. She called me Tera, which meant princess in the Bantheran tongue. I am certain Mama never saw a princess, but somewhere she had learned about them, and gave me the name, as if determined that I not end my days as I began them.

The others often called me Tera Reekam. Princess Cockroach. They learned early to not call me this in Mama’s hearing, for she had deadly aim with a stone, and believed in the doctrine of serving revenge cold. She taught me everything she knew.

I heard the stories early and often, of how Cris became my mama. Others talked of the time when the empire’s soldiers came to our planet and conquered our cities. Of the demon-commander who came to Banthi, and the unfortunate body-worker who was forced to take him to her bed. She did all she could to rid herself of me, but I was a stubborn embryo, and soon she was shunned and driven into hiding with fear and stones.

Mama herself told me of the day in her sixth year, how she heard the whimpers of a tiny babe in a long-deserted hovel. She had to step over the cold body of the body-worker to search the windowless room before finding me in a corner, covered with blood and shit, the pulp of the placenta still connected to my belly. She knew who the body-worker was, and she knew I was the one the others called “demon-spawn.” While this was a bad thing, she didn’t know all it meant, and she very badly wanted a doll. She’d been begging her parents for one, but of course such a thing was only for rich little girls, and she had begun to carry a large stick wrapped in a dirty cloth. Crude, but she felt better for it.

She traded the stick for me without hesitation, cleaning me as well as she could before wrapping me in the stick’s cloth and carrying me away. She knew better than to take me home, so hid me in a basement closet of a neighboring building. To her daily chore of stealing food for herself and the others, she added the task of cornering a nursing goat and filling her own cup with all the milk she could manage. She stayed with me as much as she could, or tied me to her little chest as she searched for food. The difference in our sizes could not have been great, and she told me that I made her clumsy. But she learned to sneak and run and throw a rock around my added bulk, and for the most part, she kept to her quota of stolen food. As long as she did that, the other children did not care that she had me, and the adults paid no attention to the children anyway.

People say it was my demon blood that allowed me to survive such a mean beginning and they are probably right. My father’s power filled my veins, and I was always strong and fast. The littlest children were tasked with stealing food, and once I learned to toddle, my agility allowed me to bring in more than anyone else. In all fairness, it was not just my father’s power that did this. I watched my Mama with careful eyes, and her skill and resourcefulness were my first lessons. Between the two of us, we kept most of the children fed, and eventually the name of Princess Cockroach gave way to Wadun Ha, Strong One.

When I was nine, the pale and terrified faces of two little girls warned me that something was wrong. An unnamed fear filled me as I entered the alley behind the crouching girls. In just a few steps, I found Mama’s naked body atop a trash heap, an arm and leg dangling loose from their sockets and streaked with blood.

In the ghetto, grief is fleeting and quiet, but in my shock I screamed my raw feelings to the universe. This was the first time my subliminal power manifest, and the backlash knocked me off my feet into a momentary stupor. The power was felt all over the planet and even as far as the space station. It came to be called, “The Agony,” and it caused many accidents around the world. The various power cults all searched for the source, but I had instinctively shut my mind away. No one ever traced it to me.

I stayed with Mama until the trash ‘bots came to shovel her into the incineration pit. Later, I found the girls who had seen her die and had them point out the three soldiers who raped and killed her.

I marked them and went on my way. Mama’s revenge would be served cold, and the empire itself would pay.

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