Tuesday, July 28, 2009


So after I made a big deal out of apologizing for being a day late, this is three weeks later that I actually put anything on the blog. As expected, writing challenges don't just disappear when I make a commitment to make them disappear, but I'm working on it. Anyway, the way the writing is going, I can't exactly post in chronological order. Some scenes don't work at all, and some flow out nicely. So today I'm posting my most recent effort. Time to introduce some new characters, neh? Well, not really; but they do come up.


As Yuki and I circled warily, I mused that it wasn't actually all that different from work. All right, so office suits didn't carry swords into the conference room, but their verbal sparring often had the same life-and-death quality.

She moved first, reversing direction and coming in hard with a slash towards my left shoulder. I took it on my left guard and punched out with the other, pivoting towards her, but she just kept moving and ended up to my left with a clear shot at my back. I dropped into a forward roll and winced as her sword cut the air above me.

I spun as I rose, expecting a fast-approaching blade, but Yuki just stood there looking at me curiously. Not questioning my fortune, I started my own charge, hoping to get in close, where my mailed fists would be more effective than her blade. But she danced away, and I had to put up both arms to block a flurry of blows.

"Slow," Yuki taunted as she struck. "Perhaps it is my fault for expecting something. What happened to the skill of the one known as Iron Fury?" She worked my guard high, then suddenly reversed into a middle thrust.

"I'll take age and treachery over youth and skill any day," I retorted. I pivoted around the incoming sword and dropped my right hand down to keep her from shifting to a slash. The pivot ended with my back to the sword, as I reached out for a vicious backhand blow. Yuki traded for a knee to the side, and then it was her turn to fall away in a roll. I pursued, but stopped before a nigh impenetrable steel curtain, Yuki whipping her blade back and forth to keep me at bay even as she rose.

"You say that, but you don't really mean it," she pointed out. "You fight tricky, but you never used tricks to fight. You've laid on a world-weary veneer, but--"

I interrupted with my fists. We exchanged a few blows, sword on fist, then separated. Yuki was the worse off; I could feel a bruise coming up, but she was limping.

"Why'd you cut me off?" she demanded.

"After years apart, you still talk like you know me," I said. "Not to mention you still talk like it's a free action. I'm not here to listen to you. I fight, I take you to the hospital, I go. That simple." I closed in, leading with my left.

And blocking with my right, against Yuki's descending blade. I told you it was her feet, right? Against anyone else two fists beats one blade, but Yuki was already miles away from my intended attack. Not just that, either. Her grin was all the warning I had before I got a hammer blow to the side. I staggered, and she was behind me. I whirled, left arm sweeping below my right guard, but she just came in behind the block and poked my chest with her sword. I raised my arms in defeat.

"So is this what it takes to get you to listen?" Yuki inquired, breathing hard.

"Well, it helps," I replied.

"'Good," she said with some asperity. "Because 'simple' is the last word for our situation, and if it takes a blade to make you listen to an adventurer, I'll leave it there till I'm done."

"Now you're just being contrary."

"Maybe I am," she admitted, smiling. "Besides, inside's better than out for long talks." She sheathed her sword. "But then, the only reason you're not leaving right now is that you know I'm faster. And when I'm done, you'll know why that's worst for all of us."

"All of you, maybe," I retorted. "Worst for me would be--wait a second. All? You mean everyone's back? And how did you manage that little feat?" I looked quizzically at her, but faltered at her suddenly grim expression.

"Not everyone," she said quietly. "Verth never took to townie life the way you did. I found him a month ago, all right--found him with a layer of snow covering the hole in his belly. Word was he'd fallen in with the local thugs, and ran his mouth once too often for the boss." She stared into the distance. I laid my arm across her shoulders.

"The thugs?" My voice was soft.

"Dead," she said, almost without emotion. But her eyes were moist. "Took me a week to root them all out. Not sure anyone else knew who was who--got myself a couple of wanted posters by the fourth day. You know how it is."

"That I do," I sighed. "How about the others?"

"Carran never left," she answered, blinking her eyes dry. "This is his life. Couldn't pry him away from it with a crowbar. Lyran was on-again, off-again. Trying to have it both ways, I'm surprised he never got--caught. Too fond of creature comforts for his own good, the rascal," she grumbled good-naturedly. "We'd pick him up in Plesset and he'd drop out in Deringham, saying he'd never be back. Didn't have your resolve, I guess. Ephestra settled down like you, though. Hell, she was going steady when I showed up. She was more trouble than you, honestly. You don't want to come back, but she didn't want to leave. Love's harder to budge than hate."

"She left, though," I cut in. "Why don't we head back to Folger's, and you can catch me up on why."

"What, you don't want to hear more about Ephestra's exploits?" she asked mischievously. "Time was you'd be jealous."

"Time gone past," I replied in kind, then sobered. "Besides, you may be chuckling now, but last night you weren't so pleasant. Not angry, either, however you tried to fake it." I fixed her with a serious stare. "You were nervous--scared, even. And that's got me more worried than when you had three feet of steel pointed at my chest."

"Yeah, but that's because you knew I wouldn't follow through," she pointed out.

"No, that wasn't it," I replied, moving suddenly. Before she could react I had her in a headlock. She yelped, reaching for her sword, but I blocked her from drawing. "Notice anything?" I asked her casually.

She sniffed. "You didn't break a sweat. But why let me think you were out of practice?"

"Because I wanted to see if you needed me, broken down as I wasn't," I replied, releasing the hold. "Besides, if you'd been going all out yourself I'd have been down at the first blow. Shall we?"

"I still would've won," she said irritably, stalking towards the road. I smiled and followed.


I'll also be editing the first excerpt for continuity and style whatnots.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ok, So It's a Day Late

As promised, the first part of my writing. I may have to rethink this--it wouldn't be fair to me or to you to release half-finished junk (for example, right after the end of this section I've skipped a good deal of what I envision to be internal dialogue because it depends on where I take the novel later). OTOH, it means I could edit the posts as I go along, which might be educational in itself.

All right, here goes.


“So a guy walks into a bar.” I used to laugh at those. Get a man drunk and he’ll do things he wouldn’t soberly consider for love or money. Ever hear the one about Superman luring people off the roof? But sobriety hadn't stopped me from doing unimaginable things. And love had nothing to do with it, worse luck.

So I ignored the joker and ordered my drink. Yeah, I was sober, but I didn’t want to be. And this was the only place in town that served 12% beer, so here I was. The first swallow scorched my throat going down, and I was going for actual flames when a shove from behind turned the rest of the bottle into glass shards and foamy splatter. I turned around to let the shover have a piece of my mind, and perhaps a few hours’ rest. Like a drunkard, remember, I thought, and let my fist come around in a massive, sloppy arc that it never completed.

Yuki stood there, one hand on her hip like the other was meant to be, only it was busy crushing my wrist. “Really, John, I knew you must have deteriorated, but this is pathetic,” she said with a hint of accent. “It makes me wonder if I shouldn’t just break this and leave you to fester.”

I’d prefer if you didn’t—break it, anyway,” I managed with some semblance of politeness. “Be hard to work one-handed.” If she was here, then so was the rest of the gang.

“Relax, John,” she said scornfully, seeing my eyes dart. “They're busy trawling--you know the drill. I wouldn’t need backup anyway, the state you’re in.” I didn’t dispute the point, even if she had mistaken my punch for the real thing. “On the other hand,” she added, “I’m not here to drown myself in alcohol either, like you are. I’ve got better things to do than dwell on the bad old days, and now you do too.”

“Yeah, I have a job.” I freed my wrist. She let me. “I make an honest 9-to-5 living now, and I don't need--"

"Trouble," Yuki interrupted, sneering. "You used to live for trouble, John. You've got the scars to prove it. Are you so scared of acquiring more that you'd hide behind a desk and a mug of beer? Have your fists gone soft? Or is it that you're too good for us, with your steady pay and comfortable lifestyle?" She looked up at me, face hard. "I guess we don't need a man getting fat in the belly and the purse. We'll just be about our merry way, and let you be about your job." She made it seem a dirty word.

I knew she was goading me, but I was never famed for my patience. "Do you want to see if I've gone soft? Take this outside, and we can have ourselves a philosophical discussion." I almost said "put up your fists," but I remembered that it was her feet I'd have to watch.

"It can wait until you've sobered up," she replied. "We're staying at Folger's Inn down Broadside Way. Tomorrow, at noon--if you still have the guts." She strode away. I didn't bother to protest that I'd had less than one drink. Watching her flowing movements, I wasn't sure I could best her, sober or not. One fight, I told myself. I have my pride. But after that, I'm done, no matter what they say or do.


ps. John and Yuki are just names, right now, and subject to change. I can tell you one name that won't come up as Yuki's replacement, as if it matters: Kagemoto Hoshiko. I want to use that name, but not on a character who seems so hard-headed. I might even write something just for that name, because it's so evocative to me. It translates: Star's child, origin of shadows. Sweet.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Those who know me know I have a problem with writing. It's not that I write poorly, as I hope a quick sampling of this blog would show. I've never gotten a grade below A- in any English class, and a large part of that is my cumulative essay grade. (Certainly it's not my work ethic.) No, writing well is not the problem. Writing quickly is the problem. I take forever to put fingers to keyboard, far longer to put pen to paper. Every sentence is a hard-fought battle against my twin desires to rewrite the sentence (I'm doing it now, with this sentence--and yes, I often end up with long paranthetical remarks as a result of this) and to go surfing my routine websites (a smattering of webcomics, manga websites, and Facebook-related material) for the umpteenth time just to get away from the writing.

This difficulty is made infinitely more frustrating by the fact that I deeply enjoy writing. As an avid reader, it's hard for me not to fantasize about turning my own ideas into essays and stories--hence this blog, at least regarding the essays part. I look forward to filling white space with words, words that interconnect to form rich dialogue, complex analysis, (I'm freezing up again here, trying to come up with another example to fill the gap and fit the rule of three) evocative poesy, and all the other types of literature I so eagerly gobble up from the reader's end. (My brain is screaming "aagh, repetition!" I'm trying to ignore it.) I go on Facebook and read my friends' poems, stories, and essays, and I think, "I want to do that!" or even "I could do better than that!" Yet my resolve dwindles after another few (synonym for frustrating, synonym for frustrating...ah, what the heck) hours watching a white screen remain infuriatingly (yay, found a synonym!) blank--unless I fill the screen (and the time) with games or other escapes.

Much of the problem is what rests between my ears--not too little, but too much. This is not a reference to my intellect, but rather to my extraordinary dependence on mapping out everything I plan to write before writing anything at all. (I'm doing it now--gotta stop, gotta stop!) The papers I turn in for my English classes are generally my first drafts--with an inner voice driving me to perfect everything as I write it, revision often proves redundant. Yet going through the whole process of revision would still take less time than the time it takes me to produce those first drafts, more because the tension of producing quality work according to plan in one go drives me quite literally to distraction than because it's more difficult to produce quality work. Write well, write quickly, or write according to plan--I can only do two of the three at any given time.

Therefore, I'm now working on how to facilitate the interplay of planning and writing so that each helps, rather than hinders, the other. As part of this exercise, I'm writing a story. What kind of story? I had no idea when it started. I went with a bar joke and let the characters play out from there. As I write, the story takes shape--something like the result of a three-way between Watchmen, R.A. Salvatore's work, and Order of the Stick. That's if the story doesn't change, which it's guaranteed to, but so it goes. From here on out, I'll post weekly updates to the story, and I promise they will be substantial. I mean, as long as I'm producing large quantities of verbeage, why not throw it to whatever snarling Internet trolls (or possibly even reasonable people, if I'm lucky) might frequent this blog?