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.

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.”

Interview with the Immortals

Prompt: Cloaked

old rembrandt man with headphones

In which Globe journalist Lindsay Hatcher shares his exclusive individual interviews with members of the six-person team, The Immortals.

Lindsay Hatcher: Hello, Sable. So are the Immortals like The Avengers or The Guardians of the Galaxy? What are your plans to save the world?

Sable:  We aren’t heroes. Who said we were heroes? We are simply people who can’t die. We don’t care about saving the world. We want to have a lark.

LH: A lark?

Sable: We want adventures. See the world. Have fun. Get scared. Have a lark.

LH: Want adventures, or need them?

Sable: What’s the difference?

LH: Where did you come from? It’s hard to tell from your appearance. I thought you were a boy at first.

Sable: It doesn’t matter. I think my parents were artists. I forget.


LH: Hi, Ivy. You are the youngest member of the Immortals. How did you happen to join their group?

Ivy: When I woke up, there was Sable. She helped me move from the cave into the light, and watched over me while I slept. She also said she would help me find my cat, who came with me to the cave.

LH: Have you been on any adventures?

Ivy: Sable says I’m not ready. Anyway, we have to wait for a couple of the others to get back. So I’m going to learn to ride a horse.


LH: Goff, as the eldest Immortal, do you guide and counsel the younger ones?

Goff: Hell, no.

LH: Why not? Surely you’ve gathered a lot of wisdom in your— how many years?

Goff: Countless years. I can’t remember how long. That happens when you get older, you forget things.

LH: As their leader, do you make the decisions about where you’ll go next?

Goff: I’m not their leader. I know about places, but I don’t tell anyone what to do. I’ve learned to keep my head down with this group.

LH: You look like you’ve been somewhere… possibly Medieval, with the leather cloak and leggings.

Goff: This is just my outfit of choice. I get bored trying to pick out something new to wear every day, for millennia.


LH: Hello, Jonah. How long have you been one of the Immortals?

Jonah: Time kind of loses meaning, you know? So, a very long time, longer than anyone other than Goff.

LH: He says he is not your leader or guide. Who is?

Jonah: We are ostensibly a democracy, though I find if you take command, others follow.

LH: So you are the leader of the Immortals?

Jonah: No.


LH: Donny, why are you laughing?

Donny: This sucks. So I laugh.

LH: I see you have wings. None of the other Immortals have wings. Do you each have special talents?

Donny: We have the same special talent— you can’t kill us. We come back. And these aren’t real wings; they’re a prop. Like a hat or a fake beard.


LH: Hello, Harp. How many adventures have you been on with the Immortals?

Harp: Six or seven. Sometimes it is hard to coordinate. We all have to begin at the cave at the same time. It can take years. So while I wait I go do my own thing.

LH: You have your own adventures separately from the Immortals?

Harp: Of course. We aren’t joined at the hip. You could get tired of a person’s face or beard or accent over the course of a hundred years or so. But they aren’t adventures, or “larks”, as Sable insists on calling them. I just go hang out somewhere interesting, see what’s going on, learn things.

LH: Do all the Immortals go back and have individual adventures?

Harp: I have no idea. Ask them.


Fade and Day 30

Prompt: Faded

Dear Wednesday,

As National Novel Writing Month 2016 fades into the sunset, which is a lot earlier than usual because of dang Daylight Savings Time…. I’m a weiner! That is, I won the challenge of uploading 50,000 to the Nano site before midnight, November 30.

This was my second most difficult attempt: The only more painful one was when I sat down with a bad idea but kept writing anyway. I lost interest and it took great effort do the wordage, which was consistently awful but I just wanted to get it done (and did).

Usually, Nano is challenging but also invigorating, and there is something liberating about concentrating on one thing, one activity, for an entire month. You eat, think, sleep and dream the novel. Then December 1 happens and you awake to reality. Reality is nice too!

In celebration, may I present three cartoons from young American cartoonist Matthew Diffee, whose quirky yet gentle humour and contemporary design sense are very appealing to me just now:

cartoon-face-painting


cartoon-cafe-order


cartoon-canada-geese

December!

~FP

Vigor and Day 28

Prompt: Vigor

surreal-moon-and-dock

You know who is filled with vigor? The young son of two intergalactic travellers, named Radical, the second child born on a distant planet. His parentage is somewhat of a mystery, as he gestated longer than normal human babies. Despite that, he is a curious and active child. What will life be like in this new civilization? Who and what is Radical?

Yes, I am eager to get back to my people, the people I write about here, once NaNoWriMo is done. Nano is a great challenge, and an exhausting one, and if anyone is interested I will put together the chapters I finish writing in some kind of order, ready for comments and suggestions. I think the story is interesting, but I have been wrong before.

The problem with the Nano novels is that after a month of concentration, you only want to be free of that particular plot and those particular characters for awhile. I want to get this one done, however, as a first finished attempt, or what’s the point?

At this stage in the process I just feel tired! I want cucumber slices on my eyes and a good neck massage. I want a clean house and stacks of clean fresh towels and laundry.

I can’t decide yet what kind of entity Radical will be, but I think his journey will be a lot of fun.