Grotto (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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She descended into a pool of water, halfway up her calves before the ladder ended and she stood on firm sand. The sounds of conflict from outside became muted and muffled, as if a door had been shut, and while there was no mistaking the shrill whistles of Kwakitl soldiers squaring off against their technologically far superior foe, the reverberating echoes of waves lapping against stone dominated the rocky chamber. Anna’s eyes gradually adjusted to see Laxmi, Jaci, and their juvenile guide waiting for her in the dimly yet colorfully lit grotto. Shafts of sunlight pierced through gaps in the ceiling of boulders, lighting the watery floor in hues of aquamarine and turquoise, reflected to dance across the stone walls.

The young Kwakitl regarded her for just a moment more, then shook her head in an unmistakeable come-hither gesture before darting into a darker gap between two stones making up the chamber’s walls. Jaci turned to follow, with Laxmi and Anna right on his heels.

Read more at

Grotto

(1,902 words; 7 min 36 sec reading time)

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Things have gone poorly in the first meeting between Orta and Kwakitl in a thousand years, and the breakout of hostilities does not bode well for our heroes’ chances. They have escaped from the initial conflict into a hidden system of sea caves, led by one of Li-Estl’s students. But where do the caves lead? Where are they being taken? And what good will any of it do against the technologically far superior Orta, who have arrived with spaceships, hovercraft, and beam weapons? The Kwakitl have only sailboats and spears, so can they provide any real protection?

For those paying attention, the grotto into which Anna and her friends are escaping is based upon a real place here on Earth. Most likely, there are many such places to be found on this world of mostly water, but I had one place in particular in my mind as I envisioned and described the caves, a place I had the good fortune to visit in 2004 while sailing in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Should it ever be reasonable to do such travel again, and you find yourself there, be sure to visit The Baths on Virgin Gorda. As in our story, those tunnels lead to a different destination as well, though not one quite the same as on Kepler 62f.

As always, tell me what you think! What can I do to improve the story? What don’t you like? What do you like? Where would you like to see our intrepid adventurers go next?


header image credit: Stefan Keller / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Cliff Divers (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued…

… at long last!)

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After the meal, the humans bade goodnight to Li-Estl, and Jaci led the women back to his chamber. It was a small, circular room, rough-hewn and low overhead, and lantern-lit like the others they had been in. A pallet of cushions lay on the smooth floor, with a low table and a woven basket beside the pallet. Neatly folded in a pile beside the basket lay the two e-suits retrieved from the boat.

“Welcome to my humble abode. It’s not much, I know, but it’s home, or at least it has been for these past weeks.”

Laxmi looked askance at the single pallet, then at Jaci with a cocked eyebrow. He laughed and reached into the basket, pulling out more cushions.

“Never fear, Laxmi, you won’t be sleeping on cold, hard stone.”

“Oh, I wasn’t worried about that. I was worried about you sleeping on cold, hard stone, not us. However, I see you’re equipped to host visitors.”

Read more at

Cliff Divers

(1,765 words; 7 min 3 sec reading time)

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I know, I know, it has been almost exactly eight months since I last published a (written) scene from the novel. In the interim, I’ve published a few blog posts, I’ve tried my hand at a couple (pre-emptive) audio versions of early scenes (there will be more, for those of you who enjoy that!), but all of that is not the same as new material that continues the story.

So here it is. Eight months have passed since our intrepid explorers sat down with their alien host for a meal. You’d think they’d already be hungry again! But for them, it has been mere moments. They need a place to sleep, and they’ve already heard that tomorrow will be a big day for the Kwakitl community.

And there’s still the mystery of that object in space approaching orbit…


header image credit: user:1980supra / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Telescope (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The ship was not huge in the telescope view, but her shape stood out clearly. Anna could see the double ring structure of the Alcubierre drive, one ring forward and one aft, both tethered to the central fuselage much like the orbital ring was to the planet. She could almost, but not quite, make out the blister of the observatory on the nose of the ship, and the bay windows of the cockpit just above. She could see the hangar doors from which she had launched the shuttle, open wide in the belly of the larger ship, awaiting the return of the smaller craft, a return which now would never come. That shuttle lay smashed and abandoned in the lagoon of a forbidden island.

A sense of loss and of longing came over Anna, and her vision blurred a little. She wiped the moisture from her eyes, upset at her own emotional reaction when she knew she needed to remain laser-focused on survival, dedicated to the task of getting her crew and herself back to that starship, more than forty-one thousand kilometers away, no matter how close the telescope made her seem.

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Telescope

(2,000 words; 8 min reading time)


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Did I say last week that this chapter was a little slower? Well, it’s not slower anymore. We’re going to end the chapter on a cliffhanger, one that makes it obvious that the tension is about to ramp right back up again as we head into Chapter 7. Of course, you’ll have to go read the scene to see what I mean!

Seriously, it will take just 8 minutes of your Sunday afternoon. Go read it!

Are you done yet? Because I want to discuss what you just read! What do you think the ending of the scene signifies?

You may have noticed a few devices I’ve been using all along to ratchet up the narrative tension. Almost from the beginning, there has been a time lock, a deadline by which Anna and her crew need to figure out their own rescue, and in this scene I gently remind the reader that this deadline is approaching. Many stories use either a time lock or an option lock to introduce tension, but in SoAL I’ve opted to do both. As the scenes progress, our heroes have their choices gradually narrowed down to fewer and fewer options, and there are plenty of hints that later there will be fewer options still. Remember how many space suits they have with them? Hmm, yeah, future problem brewing there.

If you were Anna, what would you do next?


header image credit: user:Free-Photos / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Taboos and Discoveries (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The sun passed its zenith and shadows lengthened outside, but inside the cavern the changing hue from the light ducts provided the only hint of passing time. Anna and Laxmi continued to interrogate Li-Estl about her world, with Jaci acting as interpreter and filling in what he had already discerned, but Li-Estl was equally curious about their own origins.

“I’ve tried to explain about Earth and how far away it is,” Jaci said, “but I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of it. Li-Estl understands that she lives on a planet, that it’s a sphere, and that it revolves around their sun. They don’t seem to be hampered by any flat-earth kinds of fallacies here, or at least she isn’t. She knows that there are other planets also revolving around the sun, because she has observed the difference in their motion compared to regular stars in the night sky, and because she has texts from earlier astronomers that describe their motion. She gets that.”

“Wait, so they have astronomers here?” Anna asked.

Read more at

Taboos and Discoveries

(2,087 words; 8 min 20 sec reading time)


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Clearly I did not maintain the NanoWrimo momentum of a week ago, but I’m still pretty happy with publishing another scene in only a week’s time. My average scene length does seem to be creeping up, however, with a handful of 2000-word scenes within the past several, including this one. Still not my longest yet, though.

You’ve probably noticed that Chapter 6 is a bit slower, overall, than the preceding chapters. Is it too slow? Too much exposition and explanatory dialogue? Too much telling, not enough showing? I admit, I was almost as exhausted as my characters must have been after the harrowing ride of the previous chapters, when they lurched from one emergency to the next, so I sort of felt like they needed a bit of a break.

Not to worry, however. They aren’t out of the frying pan yet, and out of the frying pan leads to… you guessed it… the fire. There’s plenty of danger still, and things are definitely going to ramp up another notch in intensity. I’ve slowed down on the pace of killing off characters, too, after knocking off nearly half of them almost right away, but don’t let that lull you into complacency. One wrong move, and your favorite gets it! Don’t make me go all GRRM on you!

Of course, his works are international bestsellers and have been made into the most highly rated and watched show in all of HBO history, so perhaps a little GRRM isn’t a bad model to emulate.

So, if these scenes seem slower, you should also pay attention to a fair bit of foreshadowing for coming tension and conflict. Tell me, reader, what do you think is going to happen next?

Leave me a comment and let’s discuss it!


header image credit: Evgeni Tcherkasski / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Changing Course (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Twice more the avians fished over the ensuing week, but each time it was clear to Anna their hearts were not in it. Understandably, the divers were hesitant to go into the water, and when they did they stayed quite close to the boat. As a result, the hauls were but a fraction of what they pulled in the day of the octopoid attack. Beta and Gamma argued over the fishing, but who was taking which side, and what were the sides anyway? Anna supposed that one pushed for more aggressive fishing, the other for more restraint, and neither seemed happy with the compromise.

There were no more attacks, however, and in between fishing episodes most of the crew remained idle.

Early on the morning six days after the attack, Beta squawked an order and the crew jumped to stations. Laxmi leaped out of the way of a pair of rushing sailors and found herself a spot on deck where she would not be run over or bumped aside.

“What’s going on?”

“We’re changing course.” Anna pointed out the sailors taking up slack on lines strung through blocks on the port side of the boat, while others to starboard stood ready to let loose on their side. “We’re tacking. You might want to hold on. And duck.”

Read more at

Changing Course

(1,434 words; 5 min 44 sec reading time)


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First off, you may have noticed the little insert just above where I put the word count and estimated reading time of the linked scene. This is the first time I have done that, and I mentioned in the announcement blog post for the previous scene that I was thinking about it. What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea?

Changing Course is indicative of more than just turning the boat to a new direction. There is a bit of a different feel, a different tone for this scene compared to many of the recent scenes, which I am sure you will pick up on. I also estimate this is about the halfway point for the story, though of course that could change as the back half develops (see what I did there? I swear it was unintentional!). Not to say that our heroes are out of danger! Oh no, things could be about to get far worse…

What elements keep coming up again and again in the narrative? It’s probably not hard to determine where Anna and her crew are going after this. I promise you, however, that there is a major plot twist (!!) coming up when they get there.

Please let me know in the comments what’s working for you, and what isn’t. Otherwise, see you at the next scene!

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header image credit: user:nir_design / pixabay.com under Pixabay License