Barnaby

Prompt: Snippet


Hello Wednesday,

I am immersed in finishing NaNoWriMo before tomorrow (November 30) and so have drawn up a random snippet of the book to share. This is not a wonderful snippet, or representative of the book, but here you go. Cartoon to follow. 🙂

Ivy opened her eyes. Had she died, again?

No. While it hurt to breathe, she could smell leaves and mud, and hear birds arguing in the distance, and what she saw, straight ahead of her, was a cloudless blue sky.

She heard a snort. It was her horse, Barnaby, probably nearby, contentedly feasting on shoots of fescue and wildflowers, instead of returning back to the ranch riderless, thus alerting Sable and Mr Clarence and Dean and all the others that there had been an accident, that there was an emergency.

And there had been an accident. Ivy felt like she was hanging upside down, and while she couldn’t move, she could see that she lay on a steep slope, a rocky slope with persistent white flowers and creeping horsehairs that grew from every crevice and crack. She could move her right hand, and her fingers wrapped around a handful of gravel.

“Barnaby— shoo!” she cried, but her voice was ragged and raspy, and barely above a whisper. She heard him snort. He was a nice horse, a handsome horse— a glossy coat speckled with white, grey, and soft brown— and a good horse, but he wasn’t hers. They hadn’t bonded the way Dean had bonded with his working horse, or Clarence with his old mare, and even Sable and her lively stallion seemed to have a special connection.

She was Barnaby’s temporary burden, and Barnaby was her temporary mount, or he would have sensed that she was in grave danger, and raced back to the ranch instead of hanging about, taking a break, snacking on sweet grass, enjoying the sunshine, with no one pulling at him this way and that way— someone inexperienced, green, and who pulled too hard or not hard enough, jostled on his back like a sack of rocks, and almost strangled him when they dismounted.

Barnaby didn’t know she was injured, in trouble. For all he knew, she was taking a pleasant break in a rather harrowing ride, just as he was.

For she had ridden him hard, across the meadow and through the river, anxious to prove herself to Dean and Sable, because she wanted to enter the race. The race was all anyone talked about. Even Mrs Donovan’s pregnant ladies, when Ivy accompanied her on her rounds, talked about the Nettle River Cross County Race.

If you were underage, as Ivy was, you needed a sponsor. Mr Clarence, Dean, the ranch manager, and Sable agreed she wasn’t ready. She’d made good progress! She’d graduated from the corral to the trail quickly, and what she lacked in innate skill she made up for in determination.

Of course, neither Ivy nor Sable told Dean or anyone that she was learning to ride so she could go with the other Immortals on a grand, dangerous adventure. They were to join an army, Sable said, an army on horseback. They would travel across country, camp in tents, learn to protect themselves with swords and agility, defend the weak against the powerful. Sable said it was a lark for the ages. Sable said they would live on their horses, and Ivy needed to learn to ride, quickly and very well.

It was crazy that they wouldn’t let Ivy race. She could handle Barnaby. Barnaby was fast, when she let him. She was smart enough to give him free rein across the wide spaces, and to let him pick his way through a narrow path on the side of a mountain, and to let him choose the safest route down a steep incline— but wait.

The long meadow ended just beside Peggy’s Rock. They flew over the edge of the cliff, because that’s what all the riders did. The drop looked steeper than it was, and the horses gained their footing quickly. The trick then was to lean back, keep the reins loose, and let the mount fly down the hill, then take control again at the bottom.

Ivy got scared. Yes, that’s what happened. She knew the cliff was less fearsome than it appeared, but as she and Barnaby approached, she was reminded of the cliffs at the plateau, the ones that surrounded the cave, and how the drop from those ledges was a drop into nothingness, to mist, to death.

So she pulled up on Barnaby. In a panic, she pulled on the rough leather reins with both hands as they cleared the ledge and, for a few seconds, they seemed to float. Barnaby was off balance though, and instead of landing cleanly he faltered, tripped forward, and there were several moments of sheer panic as the horse tried to regain balance, before Ivy was thrown.

Then the blackness, then the awakening to a sky.

Ivy felt a sudden stab of pain in the back of her neck, then her left shoulder blade. She realized her left eye was closed, and there was something wet on her cheek and neck.

She could just make out Barnaby from the corner of her eye. He was not bothered by the steepness, he relaxed his legs and lowered his elegant neck and pulled vegetation from between the rocks with his teeth. His tail swished.

With all the strength she could muster, she lifted her right hand from the ground. It trembled, it resisted, but she heaved the handful of gravel as hard as she could at Barnaby’s rump.

“Go!” she tried to shout. “Shoo!”

The small rocks landed near Barnaby’s hind hooves, and he lifted one as if in acknowledgement of a small distraction, then continued to feed on the grasses.

Ivy couldn’t see her hand, so she opened it flat and groped and scratched blindly across the earth until her palm found a rock about the size of a ping pong ball. She gasped with a new pain as she raised her right forearm again, and taking as deep a breath as she could, flung the stone with all her might.

The rock found its target. Barnaby felt an intense sting on his rump, kicked, and if suddenly snapped from an idyll, he shook his head and started scrambling up over the ledge, where he disappeared.

Where there had been no pain, a blanket of agony slowly began to cover Ivy with its heavy warmth, and she started to cry like a child.



cartoon horse jumper

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Try Honking Again

Prompt: Honk

cartoon cars honking


Dear Wednesday,

Here it is, Day 15 of National Novel Writing Month, when half of the novel in the challenge– 25,000 words– should be written by midnight tonight. I currently have just over 20,000 words counted, and this includes a narrative poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge that I put into a letter from one of my characters to his love interest, even though the poem had little to do with their relationship, which had not yet been established anyway.

Such are the twists and turns of Nanowrimo.

At the moment I have two of my characters in modern day Austria, looking for Nazi treasures, and by that I mean statues or busts of Hitler, adoring portraits, icons, mementos, alleged bits of his hair or a ring he wore or a letter he wrote. These are all to be secured and permanently locked away or destroyed, so that they never fall into the hands of the European alt-right or neo-Nazis. They are attempting this task for the money– even immortal storybook characters need cash to indulge their adventures.

How do I make break and enter exciting? For some reason, possibly the plethora of such scenes already saturating fiction and television and film, I am at a loss as to how to make it fresh. So here I sit, stumped at 20k words, while thinking about honking.

In tribute to today’s Daily Prompt, honk, and its success in distracting me from the blank page of my Scrivener program, may I present two more of my tangentially related favourite cartoons?

cartoon geese honking


csrtoon ducks paddling


What ever you are attempting this rainy Wednesday, may you find every success!

~~FP

Simmer

Prompt: Simmer

cook illustration cartoon

Nanowrimo Day 2 and I can tell you I won’t be appearing in the role of the above illustrated cook any time soon. I love to cook, but Nano is too damn distracting.

Today I wrote a little bit about the youngest of my protagonists, who while on an adventure learning to ride, was mortally injured in an accident. She can’t die, but she can feel pain, and that was the hard part about today’s session.

Meanwhile, I got a chicken to have for dinner and then leftovers. Whole chickens are easy. You roast them until done, and they become delicious. We may be eating a lot of chicken this November.

The Mystery Deepens

Prompt: Mystery

cartoon easter island bandaid

It is November 1, the first day of National Novel Writing Month, in which participants attempt to write a 50,000 word novel, of any level of quality, in an effort to prove that it can be done.

My posts here are usually less than 500 words, so it is a true challenge to churn out 1600 words per day, especially since I have no detailed outline nor clear ideas about my protagonists. It will be a very long month.

One day I will write a mystery– I always think there is some kind of trick to a mystery novel that I can’t quite grasp. My problem could be that I have a terrible habit of writing as if I’m reading… I don’t like to spoil the experience (my experience!) with too much information. I irrationally don’t like spoilers, even when I am the author. So I avoid thinking too much about the details and even the resolution and ending, which makes novel-writing pretty impossible.

Nanowrimo is hard. I keep trying, because though I’ve always hit my 50k word count on time, and thus “win” the challenge, I have yet to produce a book that is readable, even in raw form. So onward I go.

The novel I am writing this year has six characters and unlimited settings. If I can’t find 30 stories for 30 days for the month of November, then maybe I should throw my pencil off the roof. Because I’m not throwing my Macbook Air off the damn roof.

Interview with the Immortals, Part 2

Prompt: Orange

orange tree art

In which journalist Lindsay Hatcher sits down with Immortals Harp and Donny to discuss the rules and vagaries of not dying.

Lindsay Hatcher: Harp, as the elder female of the group, do the others look to you as a mother figure?

Harp: What? No. I don’t think so. Do you, Donny?

Donny: What’s a mother figure?

Harp: So much for your expensive education.

LH: Donny, I see you are juggling four— no, five— oranges, rather adeptly.

Donny: I had time to practice. Oranges are my favourite fruit of all time, at the moment. No matter where you are, how filthy or grimy, when you peel an orange it’s clean and fresh inside. They are juicy and quench your thirst. They are full of vitamin C. And some of them have seeds you can plant and grow a whole tree full of oranges. Amazing.

Harp: It is, when you think about it.

LH: How many Immortals are there?

Harp: Six, in our group.

LH: How many outside your group?

Harp: I don’t know. I’ve seen others in the cave. Sometimes when I’m in the world I see people I suspect are immortal because they behave so recklessly, like the first few times I went back.

LH: How many in the cave? What do they do? Do they form their own, separate groups?

Donny: Nah, they are scared. They just stay in there and don’t get any older. It’s gross.

Harp: That’s true, no one ages when inside the cave. And there are some who never leave it. We call them the Undead, because they aren’t exactly alive. Because they don’t actually live.

LH: Do you talk to them? Do they have, like, friends?

Harp and Donny exchange looks.

Harp: Some inside the cave seem to form friendships of a sort.

Donny: They fuck.

Harp: …

LH: And do they venture outside the cave? On the ridge?

Harp: I’ve seen a few people out there. They don’t follow any of the paths.

LH: The paths are marked with bits of coloured string. Who marked the paths?

Donny: Goff did. He’s been down most of them. He knows where they lead. He’ll say, if you want to go to Nettle Valley, find the blue and black string. If you want to go to Pyongyang, find the black and green string.

LH: Why would anyone want to go to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea?

Donny, shrugging: For an adventure. To see what it’s really like.

Harp: Goff has only marked the paths that he himself has followed. There are others.

LH: Have you ever wanted to stay somewhere in the world? Set down roots? Have a normal life?

Harp: It’s not possible.

Donny: What’s a normal life?

Lindsay Hatcher, Harp, and Donny take a break to peel and eat oranges.


==

Choices

Prompt: Express

Crossroads In The Forest

“Are you sure you understand what we are about to do?”

Ivy nodded her head. She looked down the narrow path that wound among tall, leafless trees until it disappeared into a yellowish fog.

“Nodding isn’t good enough, Ivy,” said Sable. “Do you understand your choices? You have to tell me clearly. I know you are only twelve but I can’t make this decision for you.”

“Yes,” said Ivy peevishly. “You’ve told me a hundred times. I can go back if I want to, instead of staying here. I don’t want to go back. My grandmother is dead.”

“And your parents? Your friends?”

Her cat was her greatest friend, and he was wandering somewhere in the cave or in this strange, misty landscape. He would come find her.

As for her parents, she had a sudden snapshot image of them— her mother in front of the mirror at her dressing table, applying impossibly crimson lipstick, and he with his hand on her shoulder, wearing that ring, the gold one with the square cut emerald.

The snapshot turned into a moving vision, and her mother turned her gaze slightly in the mirror until her eyes were locked with Ivy’s.

“I don’t want to go back,” said Ivy.

“You can’t change your mind, after this,” said Sable.

Ivy sighed. How many times?

“And,” said Sable carefully, “the dying. To come back here again, and we must, you will have to die again.”

“It didn’t hurt,” said Ivy.

“It might this time,” said Sable. She reached out and touched Ivy’s freshly cut hair, short and practical, like her own, but without the curls.

“I don’t have any choice,” said Ivy. She frowned. Couldn’t they just get on with this?

“You do, honey,” said Sable. “You could stay here.”

Here? What here? An endless cave, lit by distant fires, smokey, barren, lifeless— or this plateau, with an invisible landscape, colourless, stifling?

Ivy said, “Can we go now? I can’t breathe here. Can we just go?”

Sable burst into a broad smile. “Let’s go have some fun.”

They started down the well-trodden path. “We’ll arrive just outside Nettle River,” said Sable. “We can hike into town, find the outfitters and get directions to the ranch.

“It’ll be a lark.”