Interrogated by the Orta (beta/WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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An hour passed, and then another one, or at least so it seemed to Anna. Without sight of the sky, and without easy access to Jaci’s tablet, she could not really be sure. Once her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she realized it was not quite complete, though nearly so. The hatch was well sealed, but still a faint circle of dim grey outlined its circumference and provided some small reference in the pitch black. Occasionally the circle would be obscured, and she knew that was Jaci, between the hatch and her, shifting about to find some less uncomfortable position.

The hold may have been dark, but it was far from silent. Only a few centimeters of wood separated Anna’s ear from the ocean waters outside. The port outrigger in which she and Jaci were hiding was windward, and with the trimaran beating upwind on its southerly course the narrow hull spent most of its time lifted out of the water. The water was not flat, however, and as the boat climbed each wave the outrigger plunged into it, surrounding them with frothy, noisy, bubbling sounds of the sea sluicing past, until the stomach-dropping moment when the boat crested the wave before tipping down into the next trough. These were not big waves, nor deep troughs, and it was not a strong wind, but with only sound and motion to go by, it felt like the previous night’s storm remained with them.

Fortunately, Anna’s nose gradually adjusted to the initially overwhelming odor of fish. The hold was mostly dry, though not completely, and didn’t seem to have been used for quite some time, but the not-quite-rotten smell permeated the wooden planking. In the first hour, she could hear Jaci trying hard not to retch, and he muttered a few choice comments about the environment, but equally fortunately he managed to control his reaction. Anna sympathized, as she too fought not to feel sick. By the third hour, however, the aroma, like the noise, had become background: present, but no longer overpowering.

Read more at

Interrogated by the Orta

(2,093 words; 8 min 22 sec reading time)

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When last we left our heroes, they had locked themselves into the dark, smelly, claustrophobic holds of a small fishing boat and entrusted their fates to a teenage alien. The invading Orta were hot on their trail and about to intercept their boat at any moment. What would happen when they arrive? Could Ca-Tren, the youthful Kwakitl, talk their way out of a jam? Or would the Orta simply shoot her on sight, as they had already done to others back at her village? Or would Ca-Tren give them up to save her own feathered skin?

Follow the link above to read the entire scene, here on this site. And if you do, feel free to drop me a comment, here or on the scene page itself, with your thoughts. This is a work-in-progress, after all, and also an early beta read, so I welcome your feedback. Or, feel free to just read it for your own enjoyment. It’s free!

If you haven’t been following along from the beginning, however, you might want to go back and start from there. With this new scene, we’re currently up to a 72,000 word count for the entire story, and there’s still more to come. And every part of it written so far is available here on the website. Look to the menu at the top of this page, under Works in Progress / Alpha Reads, for the entire chapter and scene listing, also available in list form under the title page for The Silence of Ancient Light, and under each chapter heading. Or, click here on Arrival to go straight to the first scene! A link at the end of each scene will take you straight to the next one, so it’s easy to keep reading in order without having to pop back out to the menu.


header image credit: user:GeorgeB2 / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

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…


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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.

Read more at

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?


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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