In what-I’ve-learned news: Every book is different to write. Even the same book being revised is actually a new book, apparently. It requires new skills, stretching stiff muscles, and finding unique ways to maneuver around my own anxieties. Yay?
This revision of Ferals & Blights will not be a clean draft. It won’t be me efficiently setting up scenes and knocking them over like bowling pins. Nope. This draft feels more like a jigsaw puzzle wherein I must create each piece, and then decide if they fit the narrative I’m trying to communicate.
John Adamus (he’s revamping his site, so YMMV) gave me a bit of advice this week. He told me to remember it’s the cumulative meal that satisfies, but you have to take your time and chew each bite to get there. Isn’t that smart? So, my goal is to take small bites and savor them. Even though I feel like I need to write like I’m running out of time – as if there’s a set timeline on draft to query to agent to break the impostor syndrome chains – that is simply not true.
I’m trying to find a place of rest and peace about this. Meanwhile, here’s the next scene in our Saturday story. Enjoy!
Surely there was a version of alcohol in this gray, grinding world. Jackie let her feet lead her, and craned her neck as she passed each intersection. The main thoroughfare was store-fronts, and the spokes leading away were full of residences. Nothing moved.
If you could call this living, she thought.
The entire city felt like a tomb. Jackie shivered, and then ran her hands through her pockets to see what she might have to barter for a drink. The displays in each shop window were thick with dust, clerks leaned across tables or shuffled worn goods from one shelf to another. A young woman wearing a drooping hat with three feathers the color of putty pushed what looked like a handful of dirt across the counter to a middle-aged man with eyes that curved down toward his frown.
“If you look closely, there’s protein in there,” she said.
The man bent forward and peered at the mound, and then without moving anything but his eyes, looked back up at the woman. “Golda, there’s barely a mouthful. Don’t you need this for your boy?”
She hiccuped, and Jackie realized she was crying. “He’s gone. I was saving it, but he’s gone. I should have given it to him, shouldn’t I?” The clerk hurried around the counter to comfort Golda. He held her close, and Jackie was ashamed when he looked over and caught her staring. She took two long strides to escape their tragedy.
She began to run. The streets flickered past the edges of her vision: left, right, left, right, until she crested a hill. The roads fanned out before her, and at the very end of the city sprawled an enormous stone structure. The walls and roof-tops looked like a child had been playing blocks and gotten distracted. From habit, Jackie looked for vulnerable spots and weak points. If there were any profit in this bleak world, it was behind those walls.
She growled at herself. Her gut was no longer to be trusted. She’d been so sure the Cloud Realm would solve all her problems. Her inclination to take risks and leap from disaster to disaster had led her deeper into debt and trouble. She was done.
A sound of revelry from a side street caught her attention. Light shone from an open doorway to scatter across the dirt. Shadows of people flickered back and forth. Jackie moved closer to investigate.
The room was full of women of all different ages and appearances. Some were seated at makeshift tables, while others stood in clumps. Everyone was talking, arguing, and drinking. A woman with broad cheeks pinked by the room’s warmth gestured to her from where she was perched on the stoop.
“It’s bad luck to go to the Fathers with a thirst.” She lifted a tankard to her lips and sucked at the foam. “Grimsby’s still handing them out if you want one.”
Jackie dipped her chin in thanks and slipped inside the door. Eyes darted to her, but no one reacted with anything but disinterest. They had their own worries.
Grimsby was bleary-eyed and loose-limbed. When Jackie stepped up to the counter, he squinted before bellowing, “Another flower to be plucked! Another cat to drown in the river! Another -” He broke off his recitation with a burp, and shoved a full tankard at the thief before leaning forward on two sharp elbows.
“My Penny-pigeon was a plump pumpkin.” Each enunciation sprayed Jackie with a bit of spit, and she grimaced at the flecks landing in her beer. “Them Fathers think they can harvest you women like gourds, knocking you open to see if you’re ripe, but I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you. Every last one of you,” he flung out an arm and fell over at the loss of support, “is perfect and fine. No need to check. I’ve verified it.” As he wobbled back onto his elbows, a woman sat down next to Jackie so close their shoulders rubbed.
“Don’t mind Grimsby.” She spun in her seat to face the room. “He had a wife and three daughters. It’s made him a bit…well, broken. Good man, though.” She side-eyed Jackie. “I don’t recognize you, stranger, and I know everyone.”
She stuck out a square-palmed hand. “Seven. What’s your tale?”
If you like what I do here, please consider joining my Patreon or buying me a Kofi. Any and all contributions go toward my work in the form of writing convention tickets, contest fees, chapbook materials, and the query-coach fund.
Thank you, and thanks for reading!