Rachel, Clarence, and the Pretty Clock Lady

Final post from my pre-writing before NaNoWiMo.  Rachel and Clarence have a nice evening out…

 

“What is this place Rachel?”  asked Clarence looking about at the tents and people.

“It is ‘Dr. Magnifico’s Mechanical Wonders and Traveling Sideshow.’” Rachel read from an ornate hand lettered banner that hung over the entrance to the show.

“Mmmm” replied Clarence around a brightly colored nugget of rock candy on a stick.

Rachel watched men and women milling about or standing on tiptoes craning for a look into the open sided tents that held the mechanical wonders.  She squinted through the haze of coal smoke and steam lit to a warm glow by hundreds of kerosene lamps towards a broad opening at the other end of the show where she could hear music playing.

Clarence tugged at her hand and pointed into one of the tents where she caught a glimpse of a wiry haired old man in a long apron and goggles hung at his neck staring lovingly as a pair of mechanical mantids cavorted about on the table before him.

“Step right up! Step right up!” Rachel heard the call of a show barker on a small stage opposite a brightly painted calliope that huffed steam and raucous music into the night air.  “Come see the mechanical miracle, the jewel of the Jade Empire that has traveled thousands of miles to astound you with the wonders of the modern technological age.”

Clarence eagerly pulled Rachel into the crowd that had gathered at the foot of the small stage where a young Chinese woman in a red silk robe paraded sensuously.

“May I have two volunteers from the crowd please?” the barker asked.  In response, two young men leapt forward and clambered up on the stage.

Plants thought Rachel.

Rachel watched as the barker held a brief conference with the men and then conducted them to positions on the stage where they raised a cloth with a colorful landscape highlighted by a rolling turreted wall.  The Chinese woman slipped behind the screen, turned away from the crowd and slid the robe from her shoulders.  A blue and green dragon tattoo could be seen in flight on mechanical wings across her back dipping beneath her long black hair that flowed from her head.  She turned to face the audience and gave a demure nod to the men holding the screen.  At this signal, the men dropped the makeshift curtain.

Rachel heard Clarence gulp as he clapped his hands over his eyes.  All around her gasps filled the air, as she stood mesmerized by the Chinese woman standing naked from the waist up.  An elaborate brass cage with fanciful etchings and ornate filigree stood where her breasts and stomach should have been.  Inside, Rachel could see hundreds of spinning gears, coiled springs, and a slow, almost hypnotic motion, of what appeared to be jewel encrusted bellows.  The woman’s flesh was pink and puckered where the mechanics met the rest of her natural body.

“It is ok Clarence,” Rachel said tugging at his arms.  “She is part automaton.  Look, you can see her breathing.  And there,” Rachel pointed, “you can even see her heart beating.”

“Something is wrong Rachel,” said Clarence.  On stage, a look of shock registered on the face of the Chinese woman that, only a moment ago, held a look of supreme confidence.  Within seconds, the woman had fallen to one knee and put a hand to the stage to steady herself.

“It is all part of the act” Rachel assured Clarence.  But it was the frantic actions of the barker, all attempt at showmanship gone, that shocked Rachel into action.

“Rachel, you need to help the pretty clock lady!” Rachel heard Clarence shout as she pushed her way toward the stage amid the cries of alarm raised by the crowd.

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Roland Pritchard – Character Sketch

I have been debating between Roland and Jakob as a main POV character in my current project “The West Wind.”  Both have strong stories to tell.  A little nod here to one of my favorite authors.

 

Roland Pritchard watched a towering storm cloud as it crept slowly toward the estate against the backdrop of a ruddy evening sky and felt a slight motion beneath his feet.   Odd, he thought, that the leading winds of the approaching storm would affect an estate this size.  Jakob Hardy had indeed told the truth though–   the view from his estate at this altitude was truly astounding.

“Jakob, I disagree with you.  You are being hasty,” Roland said still looking out the window.  “I think the prices could easily go higher.”

“It doesn’t matter.  We have him Roland.  We have him” Jakob said.

“Think about it Jakob.  Your reserves are still not large enough to move the market far enough in your favor.  You will make handsome profit certainly, but Whitley will just ride it out and we will have accomplished nothing.”  He heard the squeak of the leather chair Jakob sat in behind his large mahogany desk.

“Even you must see the truth in this Roland.  He owes too much. Selling now will crush him.”

There was a quiet tap at the study door.  Roland turned from the window to see a man in a well-tailored black frock coat and matching leather gloves enter carefully carrying an unpresumptuous black valise.  Roland was relieved to see Jeremiah Wilkins wearing his gloves; the appearances of those wretched hands were deeply disturbing.  Jeremiah carefully placed the black valise on Jakob’s desk.

“We caught up with him in an Overland Stage outside of Wyattville” said Wilkins.  He was traveling with a Grounder woman and boy.  “We searched the Stage and found the valise with the money and watch making tools just as we were told we would.”

“Where is he now?”

Jerimiah pointed at the valise.  Jakob opened it and then quickly snapped it shut.  He raised his eyebrows and gave Jeremiah an appreciative nod.

“And the woman and boy?”

“They were not a problem.”

Roland turned back to the window to hide his dismay.  The storm was growing closer.

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

In the depths of pre-writing in preparation for NaNoWriMo.  This is my first go at this so I have been paying a lot more attention to what the other participants are saying about their process.  Watching the forums I am seeing two distinct camps developing: the “heavy outliners” and the “wing-it” discovery writers.  I suspect that this is nothing more than a reflection of their normal writing process – November is just the time to talk about it in the forums.

For my part, I am doing my best to outline and structure the character arcs.  Focusing on each individual character and how they are going to develop through the story.  Meshing these together and integrating with the world building is something I am leaving for the last week of October.  The outcome, I hope, will be a useful outline that I can then spend the month of November more or less filling in the detailed blanks.  Of course: “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”  (Moltke)

Eli Hardy – Character Sketch

Another couple of characters in my current project “The West Wind.”

Eli Hardy slouched in a rear pew of the old stone church; a half-empty bottle of whiskey in one hand and a loaded colt revolver in the other.  A small balding priest approached in whispering robes through a strong odor of whiskey mixed with horse manure and a sour sick smell that hung in the hot still air.

“Please my son, think this through” the priest raised his hands in a pleading gesture. “This is not a path you should choose to travel.”

Eli could see the priest’s hands shake and absently wondered how much of the man’s calm exterior was a lie.

“I am not your son preacher man.”  Eli said.  “I am Jakob Hardy’s son.”  Eli’s voice trailed off, “though I wonder if even he realizes that at times.”

“Jakob is a good man,” the priest said.

“A good man?  Ha!  That’s what you think.”  Eli could feel his anger burning through the haze of the whiskey.  “His money built this town.  Built this church.”  The gun in his hand forgotten as he waved it around pointing for effect.  “Probably even paid for the fancy robes on your back.”  Eli said in a slurred voice as he pointed the gun at the priest.  Eli looked over the barrel of the revolver and saw the priest’s eyes go wide and his face drain of color.  Time froze.

Bang!

Eli heard the door of the church flung open and the spell was broken.  He turned and squinted at a tall man silhouetted against the afternoon sun.

Eli blinked and the man was next to him.  It was Jeremiah Wilkins.  Wilkins’ anger revealed by the livid purple scar that crawled from the right corner of his mouth back to a missing ear lobe.

“Eli!” Wilkins’ voice boomed in the small church.  “Put that gun away.  Stop being foolish.”

“Oh Wilkins, what a surprise” Eli said then laughed. “He couldn’t bother to come himself then.  Couldn’t pry himself away from that mahogany desk.”

“Eli.” Wilkins voice softened. “Put that gun away, you are scaring the priest.”  Wilkins dismissed the priest with a slight nod.  The priest scuttled away without looking back.

Eli watched at a distance as Wilkins gently took the bottle of whiskey and gun with his mechanical hands, precision gears whirred quietly within the protection of the brass framing of his hands and forearms that protruded from the pressed linen sleeves.  Wilkins set aside the bottle and tucked the gun into the back of his trousers in the process revealing his own well-oiled holster and revolver beneath a crisp black jacket.  Eli was suddenly embarrassed by his own grubby appearance.

Eli let himself be half lifted out of the pew.  The unnatural strength of Wilkins augmented arms assisted him through the door of the church and into a hydrogen powered carriage that waited outside in the bright desert sun.  Wilkins mounted the driver’s seat and the carriage soundlessly pulled away from the church.

The carriage passed a small two-wheel horse drawn cart driven by a boy that seemed large for his age with a happy expression and a vacant look, the reins held in his meaty hands.  An attractive woman with long black hair tied smartly at the back of her head rode with the boy.

Eli turned his head as he watched the two-wheel buggy pass and was surprised to see the woman staring back at the carriage with a shocked look of recognition.  Eli could not recall having met the woman or her large companion.  He puzzled over this briefly before sleep overpowered him.

More yet to come…

NaNoWriMo

Starting to get geared up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  To “win,” a participant merely need complete a 50,000 word novel during the calendar month of November.

Doing the math…

50,000 words in 30 days is 1,667 words per day.  Assuming about 300 words per double spaced, 1 inch margin, 12pt Times New Roman – that’s about 5 and a half pages a day.  More, of course, if you like lots of dialogue.

Every day.

Every day for the month of November.

I can’t wait.

Rachel West – Character Sketch

A short sketch of a couple of characters in my current project “The West Wind.”


Rachel West leaned forward on her stool watching through the broad store window as rich coaches clattered by on the cobblestones.  The occasional passerby hurried past with scarves and collars held tightly against the wind.  The activity on the street stood in stark contrast to the emptiness of the clock shop.

The early fall chill seeping through the poorly glazed windows was barely being held in check by the heat from a small stove.  The smell of the anthracite coal would always remind her of the hours she spent learning the craft of watch making from Hamilton.

The ticking of the hundreds of clocks lining the walls filled the shop with sound; each clock a distinct voice in the small crowded shop.  Twice a day Rachel would make the rounds winding each clock with great care.  It was a solemn ritual that Hamilton had conducted with great pride.  With Hamilton gone, Rachel wondered why she still kept this vigil.  Perhaps it would be better to let them run down.  It certainly would be quieter.

Rachel turned and watched Clarence completing his chores in the workshop behind the store.

“I finished sweeping Rachel.  I also straightened up the tools just the way Papa and you like.”  Clarence smiled brightly at her.  “I am really good at that.”

“Yes you are Clarence.”  It was strained, but she couldn’t help but smile at Clarence’s sunny mood.  Rachel doubted the tools needed his attention.  They had not been used in the weeks since Hamilton had passed away.

“I am hungry.  Is it time to close the shop?” Clarence asked.

Rachel looked at the clocks on the walls, then at the empty store.

“Yes Clarence” she said.  “It is time to close the shop.”

More to come…