The Promise of a Good Beginning

What’s the best way to start? For many writers this choice can be daunting. But using other novels as a guide, you can find a way that will suit your story. It may even garner you some attention, if from beginning to end the fictive dream is maintained. Now, consider the following openings by a few authors whose work I greatly admire. They are used here only for reference:

I was born on the night of Samhain, when the barrier between the worlds is whisper thin and when magic, old magic, sings its heady and sweet song to anyone who cares to hear it. (Once a Witch)

Rei Ellis whispers to me as the light goes dark.
“Anna, don’t go.” (Auracle)

Tana woke up lying in a bathtub. (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown)

According to Nancy Kress, in Beginnings, Middles and Ends, “Every story makes two promises to the reader.” One is emotional and the other intellectual, “since the function of stories is to make us both feel and think.” To do this however, the writer has to engage the reader. Grab them. Hook them into the story so that nothing else matters.

Can you do the same? The three openings above highlight ways in which three separate authors have tried to do just that. Sometimes a writer can open the story with a prologue and at other times, at chapter one. Whichever method you choose, remember that every story is different, so if you opt for a prologue, use it wisely, to dispense information that is pertinent to the tale; without which the story might not make sense. Or be weighty.

Truth be told, the first opening from Once a Witch is taken from a prologue which does a lot to enhance the story, which in and of itself is quite compact. In fact, you can think of it as a story that has two parts. The first part being somewhat like Harry Potter going off to Hogwarts. But unlike JK Rowling, this author (Carolyn MacCullough) has only a few pages to catch you up on her protagonist’s past before the spinning of the tale.  How she does it? You’ll have to read the tale and find out for yourself, but the first few sentences give you a glimpse of the protagonist and lets you know what sort of story you are about to encounter. I believe without it, the story would not seem complete or fully fleshed out.

Nevertheless do remember that every story is different. And the decision to use or not use a prologue, should be taken with care, because the information introduced in a prologue should be something pertinent, that will further the reader’s understanding of the story. Something without which the reader may be confused or hesitant about undertaking the journey. For some this might even be the why of the story. Clues that will only come to life after you have accepted the challenge and agreed to delve further in for example in Shaunta Grimes’ novel, Viral Nation.
So, using a prologue can help you to create a better story, if you give the reader vital information. Do the same with your story. But make sure that whatever it is that you are telling them is just enough for where they are in the story, and that it is not a sensory overload, of too much information being introduced into the story all at once.

For other writers though the first few words of chapter one heralds a new beginning. Think of Auracle (Gina Rosati), the two lines quoted above and the first line of Taken (Erin Bowman) given below. Both of them present you with the main character (and hint at the people that they hold dear).

Today is the last day I will see my brother. (Taken)

Whenever possible, start your story either with your main character or the opposing force. And if you cannot begin with the opposition, then use some other minor link to it, that shows the reader what’s at stake. If you can help it, don’t wait.

Because part of what will make you a good writer, is your ability to convey emotion to your reader. To get them interested in what is going to happen to your protagonist. But to do that you will have to make them care about who your protagonist is and then eventually what he is up against. Think of Guy Montag in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
Part 1.
It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flickered the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.

And then, another part of what it takes to be a good writer is to be a good reader. Use emotion but make sure that what you present is believable. Take your readers on an emotional journey and remember to make your opening words count, like Mr. Bradbury. Or even with the two pieces below:

An icy wind seeped through the floorboards and I shivered, pulling my gray wool sweater tighter around myself. (Blackberry Winter – Sarah Jio)

I felt it coming this time. I shoved my drawings into the hidden slit I’d made in the back of my mattress, then grabbed the metal bed frame to steady myself as my brain suddenly jolted back into connection with the Link. (Glitch – Heather Anastasiu)

Although I have focused mostly on first person point-of-view stories, such openings can work no matter which person or perspective you choose. Reel your reader in. Start strong and make every word count. A strong beginning sentence, paragraph, chapter or prologue if well done can be enough to entice your reader and get them to dive in. How? Let them see your main character doing something. Or familiarize them with the story world and your opponent. Take it one step at a time, if you are a beginner or still learning some of the techniques. But make sure every word counts and whatever is said, is meant.

And until next time, keep reading, writing and blogging!

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What’s in A Name?

Naming Characters

“O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” Now, imagine if Shakespeare had misspoken, and instead named our fair compatriot Julius. Or Anthony. How would Juliet have made out? “O Julius, Julius! wherefore art thou Julius?” No. Okay, “O Anthony, Anthony! wherefore art thou Anthony?” You get the picture. Anyway, for us writers, names are very important and serve many purposes. Namely, they clue your reader in, to who your protagonist is, (and by extension, the rest of your cast of characters). Clues for example about their profession: Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple.

Make your characters memorable. I remember meeting Cormoran Strike for the first time in the Cuckoo’s Calling and being bowled away. Thinking, here is the name of a man who stands out. Who against all odds, seems different. I am certain you can remember some of the names that have stood out for you in the past. Frodo Baggins, Darth Vader. Lord Voldemort, etc. Think of reasons why these names continue to stick out. Do something similar for your characters.

One way to do this might be, to get your hands on a copy of the Character Naming Sourcebook, which someone else might have also been blogged about here. Trust me, I copied a few chapters a few weeks ago just to get started. In her 2005 book, Sherrilyn Kenyon provides 10 hints of how a writer should go about naming their characters. Choosing names from a wide range of origins, e.g. English, Dutch and Gaelic. And in case you need a little more help, she has also included advice from among a host of other well-known, published authors.

Here, though, I will mention three of them just to get you started. Rule number one, make sure that whatever name you use, captures the persona of that character. Or in other words, make sure that it means something. Does Cormoran Strike seem to you like a private investigator who gets his man? You can believe that he does. Or Hercule Poirot. Is he a man who is always using as he always says, those little grey cells (to outwit the villain). What about your character? Can you give him or her a name that says something about who they are? Brandi Daniels for example was supposed to be a kid, who like her namesake, Brandi Carlile, could be counted on to be inventive, an eventual initiator, someone who might even steal the spotlight. (Does she seem that way to you?)

Rule number eight, use genre appropriate names. Hence, Cormoran Strike and V.I Warshawski make great private investigators. But if you cat them in a romance novel, would the name still fit? Would he make a great Rhett Butler. Or could she be a Stella? Or consider Zoel Q-24, who appears in a sci-fi YA novel, called Glitch. If she was to make a crossover debut in a western alongside Longmire and Shane, would she seem appropriate. Does her name have enough heft?

And finally, the last rule. Avoid populating your fiction with the names other authors have already made famous. Say for example, Anita Blake and Harry Potter. As an aside, I should mention that after falling in love with the name Lucien in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, I used it for my messenger in The Way of the Seer. Granted he wasn’t the main character, but then again, we all have to be careful. So I pinky promise…to never do it again. Well, now that I am aware of the rule that is.

What Poetry Can Teach Us About Naming Things

For anyone who has ever read, written or discussed poetry, it should come as no surprise that it can provide you with a rare insight into how to name things. What I am referring to here, may be seen as the appropriateness of a title. Consider Rita Dove’s American Smooth, W.S. Merwin’s Yesterday or even Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. To some extent, poets have a keen sense of time and place; and nowhere else is that insight more valuable, than to the writer of fiction, poetry and playwriting. Consider, the pieces included in Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard.

It was there, that I first realized the extent to which a good name can focus your reader. Force them to see the world through your eyes. Below, I will present a few examples. Hopefully, they will serve as a guide and be as relevant to you as they were to me. The first poem is called, At Dusk.

At first I think she is calling a child,
my neighbor, leaning through her doorway
at dusk, street lamps just starting to hum…

So here, of course, the title keys us into the setting. Sometimes, the name of the novel can be about a place. e.g. Viral Nation. Sometimes it might not be apparent to you at the start of the piece, but looking back, after mulling over it, you can find a title that best serves your purpose. Something that tells the reader about the work.

The second example is called Myth. Myth like with Greek Myths.

I was asleep while you were dying.
It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow
I made between slumber and my walking,…

Some of the poems from Native Guard, deal with the death of the poet’s mother. Others are about things she has learned. Myth gives you that feeling of being asleep. Being in a type of dream, like she is creating a type of myth in the way that she orchestrates the poem. In the novel, Glitch (by Heather Anastasiu), that I mentioned before, Zoel, talks about how she is changing, glitching and what would happen if anyone else found out. Is there something significant about your main character that could serve as a title? Eg. Jenny Downham’s novel, Before I Die, which like the title says is the story about a young girl who is about to die. Of course the novel, has been renamed to Now is Good; and was made into a movie that starred Dakota Fanning, but honestly I prefer the old name (even though it may seem a little bleak). It gave you a sense of what you were up against. Consider the following, the Abomination, the War of Art and 88 Killer.

The third poem is called, What the Body Can Say

Even in stone the gesture is unmistakable–
the man upright, though on his knees, spine

arched, head flung back, and covering his eyes,
his fingers spread across his face. I think

grief…

Taken in its entirety, I am sure you would be able to get the full picture of what this poem offers. Here though, I can only give you a snippet of the piece, with its gestures.  Things we cannot help seeing. Feeling. Something also expressed in the following poem, which might be a bit graphic, (content wise) because of the way it presents the image of people. But please keep an open mind, and consider the piece being located at the center of the page. With the title like the overhanging roof of a house or building.

Suji Kwock Kim’s, Occupation (taken from Notes from the Divided Country).

The soldiers
are hard at work
building a house.
They hammer
bodies into the earth
like nails,…

Kim here is making reference to the Korean War, in which her grandparents and father perished. Here though, she is only mentioning things that the people would have seen and felt. I admire the haunting nature of the things she presents. Here though, it is that sense of inhabiting a space. And what it means to be occupied. In the same way, you will have to think about what will be presented in your novel. And the type of experience you want your reader to gain. What do do you want them to see? Hear? Consider: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Lean In and Married Love.

What is your novel, poem, play about, at its core? What clues are you going to provide for your reader? Here, consider the appropriateness of the title. And if you have time, check out some of the blogs I follow. Eye-Dancers has a piece on Names called: The (Name’s) the Thing (Or, what Should I Call It?). While these four bloggers have poetry posts: FracturedGalaxies, Legends of Windemere, mysuccessisyoursuccess and Write, Write, Write, Sleep, Write. Some of them have more than others but do check them out. See how the titles of the pieces work for you, and the piece that is being presented. Then apply what you have learned to your own work, all the while, making sure that you have given subtle clues to your readers.

But above all, choose wisely. Make sure that the name says something about your character, or highlights something about your novel. So, until next time, keep reading, writing and posting. And good luck with all of your endeavours. Oh, and check back next Friday, for a post on novel beginnings.

So Far, What Did I Learn?

Above all, that writing is a process and you should always try to follow that process.

Beside that, you should follow a routine. So if you say you’re going to upload at x time on x day, do it. Or the readers will come knocking. Trust me. I’ve gotten the you’re uploading too slow and then, you’re going too fast. Either way, get a routine and stick to it. Granted, I am guessing  that this takes time, energy and effort. (My current aim is at least two a week) although I have other things lagging, and greatly admire those of you who can manage doing at least three post a week.

Anyhow, I realize that this is how you get better incrementally. If you allow yourself to follow the process. I have a habit of sometimes shifting from one thing to another, but when it comes time to focus I try to buckle down and do the work.

Gather honest feedback. Likes are good, sometimes I try to figure out if one of the pieces is better written than another because it has gotten more views. And although I cannot always tell, I’ve learned from (one of the 10 Advice for Writers by) Neil Gaiman to listen to people (key: more than one) when they tell you that something’s wrong. But don’t believe them when they tell you what that thing is (because they will most likely be wrong).

Sometimes the work surprises you. I have this habit of trying to think things through beforehand, but like I mentioned earlier, the more other things changed in the start, the more that I know my other ending would hold up – so I had to let the piece take me where it was going. A better way might have been knowing your ending and letting the other things strengthen that. Or to unify what I had already done before. But either way, surprises can sometimes be good, leading you somewhere you didn’t expect to go.

Looking back, I can see that I’ve managed to pick up a couple of things, like some of those that I’ve posted about here. Aim for clarity, using action, description and dialogue to get more substance into your fiction and finally not burying your lead.

So until Friday! Happy Posting, Reading and Writing! Keep your eyes and ears peeled for new sights and sounds.

Latest Writing Tip : Don’t Bury Your Lead

In the last week, I’ve managed to upload a bit more chapters and I’m grateful to you, the readers for accepting, reading and liking my posts (for the Way of the Seer). Seriously kudos and thank you! While doing this though, I’ve also tried to keep up with my reading, which as you all know can help us, to write better. One good thing I’ve learned in that time is that while there are many maxims for writing, one of the greatest seems to me: don’t bury your lead.

Now, depending on the writer, such a line might come either at the end or the start of the paragraph. For some of the really great writers, having a good lead-in at the start of a piece can be really insightful. Moving. Even if every writer is different or uses different techniques. Check for yourself. Get a copy of the Cuckoo’s Calling or the Husband’s Secret and see for yourself. Both are a good read. No, sorry, great read. Or even check the novel you are currently reading.

I mean here are two writers are not afraid to create intrigue by laying it all on the line. The Husband’s Secret begins with the line: It was all because of the Berlin Wall… I know to some of you it might not seem like much, but this very line, lays the groundwork for the entire novel. Think of other novels you may have read, how did they begin? For me the novel, Every Day (by David Levithan) comes to mind. It starts with the line: I wake up. Either way, the writer (of THS), Liane Moriarty digs deep, gets us in there. Down in the trenches, where her story unfolds. Trust me, I read the first three chapters before going to bed and woke up ready to thumb through the rest of the novel as if I had discovered the Holy Grail.

As writers, sometimes we may lack direction and purpose, but keep at it. That opening line is just as crucial as the adjoining mini steps that comes at the start of the other alternating paragraphs. Create a trajectory. Focus your readers by redirecting language that might have otherwise seemed like sloppy edits. Take your time. Relax and read over what you have written, edit it and then re-write. Give your readers their money’s worth. (Or if you’re still learning the craft, like me, keep at it, in time you’ll be duly rewarded).

And just in case you’ve like the post, leave a comment. Tell me some of the books you like/d and some of the lead in’s that really hooked you. And above all, remember to the two most important lessons of being a writer: Read, read, read. And write, write, write. I wish you all the best in your many endeavours.

Below is a copy of the before and after versions of chapter 21, The Dog Ate My Homework. See for yourself how the first sentence helps control the piece.

Chapter 21: No Seriously, the dog ate my homework.

As the other students walked through the huge mahogany doors, Brandi strolled in after them. Wondering how it was that one minute she was, where she was supposed to be, and then (the next) somehow she was in another. Cursing under her breath, she grabbed a couple of things from out of her locker and then made it further down the hall to math class.

Oh great, she though, as a trio of teachers moved past the door before her. Her head/she caught sight of the back of Mrs. Jenkins’ head and the curl of her horn-rimmed glasses. She would have thirty minutes to accomplish a feat that should have taken her all night (a few hours).

Brandi groaned and dropped into one of the back chairs, noticing for the first time that Roger and Teresa’s chairs were also empty. Until the door opened again, and she caught sight of her friend removing a pair of sunglasses from her face. She frowned, not really remembering her friend as someone who would be dulls up/glammed up. Brandi lowered her head, pulled out a few books and laid them almost silently onto her desk. As she bit into the bottom of her pencil, almost snapping/ chewing off the eraser.

Chapter 21: The Dog Ate My Homework

As the other students walked through the school’s mahogany doors, Brandi followed. Wondering how it was that one minute, she was, where she was supposed to be and the next, in another place entirely. Cursing under her breath, she grabbed a couple of things from her locker, and then, she went further down the hall to math class.

Ahead of her, she caught sight of a trio of teachers. Her breath caught. She was dismayed at seeing the curl. Edge of a pair of horn-rimmed glasses which she knew belonged to Mrs. Jenkins. Oh, great! she thought, feeling the huge expanse that she had often thought of as time, slip through her fingers. There was no way she would accomplish this feat in half an hour, she lamented, holding her head in her hands. Why had she squandered the night?

She dropped onto the black-cushioned, metallic chair, searching for her friends, but Roger and Teresa weren’t there. They had absconded. Why hadn’t she also received the memo? she thought, pulling books out of her bag and dropping them onto the desk, as if their usefulness meant nothing to her. She glanced out the window and forced herself to take a calming breath. Then she heard the side door open again and she caught sight of Teresa. A new and improved version of Teresa, who was wearing a pair of designer shades, and looked way too glammed up. Something inside of her shifted and she shook her head, remembering the party that she had been tricked into attending. She turned her face, hoping to avoid another confrontation, like the one on the bus.

Chapter 19: Come Let’s Switch, the Future Once Said to the Past

Scooting down in her seat, Brandi did her best to ignore the feel of the pendant as it brushed against her skin, underneath her t-shirt. Looking around at the other students, she wanted to run. But she squelched the feeling down, as she opened the window wider, to avoid the rising smell of feet and sweat.

She rubbed her palms together, hoping that today would be different, because somehow yesterday she had avoided her mother’s reprimand, because Nicholas had assured her that it was safe, and she had returned to her room. It wasn’t as though she felt, she couldn’t trust them. Only that they had hidden everything about her father – because as they had put it, they hadn’t wanted to alienate her. Her? The only loner in a family of extroverts, she chided herself, trying to forget where she was, as she extracted a few books out of her bag.

“Are you writing a journal?” a once familiar voice asked, as a slim body leaned closer. She raised her head and eyeballed Teresa, wanting to become smaller; the same way she had seen Latoya do it in the Hummer.

Oblivious to her friend’s discomfort, Teresa nodded, pulling out her own assignment. “Did you enjoy the party?”

Doing her best to keep a straight face, she wondered how her friend could be so malicious as to use Latoya. And try to injure her. “Nothing too dramatic,” Brandi said, thinking about how she and Roger had managed to defeat the messenger, and Latoya. How they had even managed to return home safely. Surely Teresa wasn’t going to play innocent, like she had done nothing. Brandi turned away from her friend’s steely gaze. “Somehow we managed it.”

“Yeah, I bet,” Teresa said opening her own book, before glancing swiftly out the window. She wiped her face. Turning back, Brandi watched as she focused on their assignment on fate, as she bypassed the small intro that mentioned something morbid about destiny as Teresa thrust the book into her open palms.

As if Teresa knew her and was familiar with what she had written, she offered Brandi some advice. “If you’re going to mention A Christmas Carol, this would be the worse place to mention the inciting incident,” Teresa said, pointing to her third paragraph, after she took possession of her friend’s partial essay. She pursed her lips and thought for a moment before continuing.

“What you need to do is to say something ingenious to help draw the reader in and then discuss how the hero had no other choice – how he had to do what was desired.” She arched an eyebrow, looking outside as if everything else except Brandi could understand what she was getting at as Brandi raised her head, trying to dismiss her and the neat script that seemed to be written in front of her.

Wishing that Roger was there beside her. That he could at least offer some other explanation for the way things were turning out. And what was expected of her. Brandi took a deep breath, almost wishing for this to pass, as Teresa scooted closer.

Her friend tore out a page and pushed it forward, as the bus lurched to a stop on the crowded street. Teresa took her hand. “You can use it if you like. I’ve already written another,” she said, lowering her head, pensive. “My mother always warned me about being prepared, but somehow I think it’s also ok to be a little reckless. To fly by the seat of your pants.” She offered a tight smile that Brandi though looked pinched. Forced. She nodded her head, so accustomed was she to her friend’s need for absolute favor.

“Your mother? How is she?” Brandi asked, remembering the harsh laugh that she had heard over the phone, when Teresa had tried to warn her away from Roger. But then nothing was wrong with Roger. He was her friend. He had danced with her at the party and then ensured that she got home safely. She shook her head, dismissing the aberrant thoughts. If anything the messenger was the one who needed to be questioned. She looked at her friend. And Teresa.

She eased back. Not knowing who to trust. Or what to do, as her fingers continued to scribble across the page. Whatever it was that was done – maybe it could be undone. She thought about Quasimodo’s warning and felt a sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach. She pushed the pages back to her friend.

“Thanks. But I don’t need it. Them,” Brandi said. Heard a soft click and then there was a ringing of bells. She covered her ears. Some of her books fell to the floor as the scene changed. And everything became fuzzy, she was only a few feet from her house. She turned. Watching it, she realized for the first time that the bus had disappeared.

Behind her, a bunch of children cheered and she caught a glimpse of something that looked like a baseball. It whizzed past her face and landed in the bushes nearby.

Then a thin boy with glasses appeared and retrieved the ball, casting a wary glance at Brandi, he turned back to his more muscular friend, who appeared to be wearing a pair of gloves.

Unconscious of Brandi, the muscular boy stepped forward and closed his palms to receive the ball, which the dark haired boy threw back.

He stepped forward, surveying Brandi for the first time. “You ready for my curveball, Dwight?” The other boy dusted off his pants and jeered, as if accustomed to his friend’s ogling stare. His greeting around new girls.

“Sure thing.”

Brandi looked at them, feeling a sense of familiarity. She was almost certain that the boy with the gloves, Van, resembled the man in one of the portraits at home. And then she shifted her gaze to the other one, who kind of reminded her of Roger.

The two of them watched her for a second and then made their way across the street. Then the boy who had first appraised her, Dwight, turned and gave her a quick wave. She waved back. Hesitantly and then as if deciding to follow them, she tugged at her bag and crossed the street.

“You know how to play?” Van asked.

She looked up at him, eyeing the now familiar brown glove and indicated to the other boy. “Ask Barnes, he’s adept at these things,” she said, before she could stop herself.

But Dwight shook his head as if she was misremembering things as she almost touched the pendant. She looked at him quizzically, somewhat baffled as his eyes met hers. “You must have me confused with someone else,” he said, adjusting his spectacles. “Van is the one with all the skills.”

Her father? Her mouth formed into a small o as she tried to wrap her mind around what was happening. How her father was the talented one, when Roger’s father was the one who seemed geekier. More scientifically prone to follow baseball. She shook her head, because she hated sports. Had never done anything that required too much effort, besides soccer tryouts. Something was wrong here.

Because she didn’t know half of the things, she thought she knew. Her father was into baseball even though Dwight was still his right hand man. She shook her head, wondering just how accurate the things the Nameless Ones had shown her, were. Unless she was wrong.

“Van?” Brandi asked, wondering why her father had chosen to use part of his surname instead of his first name. She peered closer because she had no idea that he was knowledgeable about anything. Let alone, baseball. She smiled. “You’ve got a rather unusual name.”

“I know,” he said, pointing to her colorful backpack. “Do you go to school on the weekend?” Brandi looked at him confused and then nodded, knowing that it would be difficult to explain where she came from and what she could do.

“Alright.” He moved away as if dismissing her and she scratched her head.

“I was going to the library.”

He nodded, apologetically as if he understood her dilemma. Felt her pain.

Brandi gave his shoulder a playful punch and muttered thanks. He smiled gleefully. “My mother thinks my brain isn’t screwed on right.”

He held up the gloves as if in protest. “I know the feeling.”

Beside him Dwight pocketed the baseball and offered her a comic. “Do you have a favorite hero?”

Brandi shrugged, hating to admit that reading wasn’t her strong suit and that she perused rather than read them. As her mind wondered to Roger’s desk and the hordes of comics, she imagined he possessed.

Dwight patted her hand. “Keep it.”

Wordlessly, Brandi stuffed it into her backpack, as her eyes turned and she continued to appraise her father, who was busy pitching another ball up into the air and catching it, just for fun.

She touched his shoulder blade, offering a goofy smile. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

Van shook his head, exchanging an unknown look with Dwight. “I take it, you’re not from around here,” he said, leaning closer.

Brandi’s eyes perked up and her shoulders deflated. “Not really. But I guess like time, it’s all relative.”

Dwight tilted his head and frowned at Van as Brandi adjusted her bag.

“I’ve heard that the two of you like adventures,” she said as if the conversation had never been halted. Watching as the other kids behind them, continued with their own baseball game, and others attempted jump rope. The boys exchanged glances. Seemed intrigued. The kids in her time would be more busy playing video games or listening to music. She scratched her head, thinking about her mother, how that since she had began to work late, Brandi had gotten better at re-heating frozen dinners; and keeping herself company. Not that she minded.

Dwight opened another comic, pushing it closer to her purview. “They say Superman’s nothing without his weakness against kryptonite.” Brandi stared at him, wondering if he could really see her. Like Roger had.

He nodded.

“Thanks,” she said, giving his hand a light squeeze.

“No problem,” he said, wiping his eyes as if he was tearing up.

Van laughed. “Don’t mind Dwight. He’s trying to start a revolution.” Brandi looked down at her hands. Wondering how much damage he could do with a comic, as big drops of rain fell on their heads and they scrambled towards a house that resembled her own.

Chapter 16 : An Encounter with the Nameless One

It wasn’t as if Brandi had any sort of confidence in her powers. All she knew was that something was coming after her, and in her head that something had changed from one thing to another. Like Tom, the boy she had met and liked in New York who hadn’t even noticed that she existed. Her uncle’s illness that was slowly causing him to wither away. Her friendship with Teresa, that she was trying so steadfastly to restore. Her mother’s new interest in Nicholas.

Brandi closed the window in her room and took a seat on the floor, wondering what her father had learned growing up where he had, because as far as she could see the effects of the environment seemed far more insipid than she had first thought when she had gotten there. Now, she could almost count on one hand all of the trouble that had befallen her and all of the people who had come out to counter her. Not that she believed in conspiracy theories. Only that life had a way of making things seem even more coincidental than they had appeared at first.

Like the two dragons that danced outside her window. She was almost certain that for kids in China, they still held some significance, something that she would have previously wandered at, as she passed through the streets of Chinatown. Now, far away from the action she could barely think on it. Barely see the connection.

Passing her hand along the side of her bureau that her mother had said had once belonged to her father she saw a carving that reminded her of the Chinese symbols for yin and yang. Using her finger she pressed her hand into it, thinking about how similar it looked to one of those hankos that Japanese teachers used in place of their signature.

She was almost sure that someone like Mr. Chen would have something like it and she told herself that when next they met, she would ask him about it.

Not thinking too much about the insignia, she pulled back when she felt a sudden heat, and saw that the skin on that part of her flesh was growing dark. How was that even possible, if this bureau had been made so long ago. Surely such heat, or spark was something that would be unheard of, she said to herself, getting up to retrieve some of the healing salve that her mother had given her for her abdomen.

Maybe, something said behind her, as the room began to spin and Brandi found herself once again on a journey back in time.

#     #     #

But when her body hit the ground this time, she discovered that she had fallen on something that resembled sand. She pushed out her hand and let the grains fall through her fingers. It had been a while since she had last seen the beach, much less been able to feel the grainy texture of sand.

She blinked, pinched herself and licked her hand. Thinking that all of this had to be nothing more than a dream. But the sand was real. She found herself crunching down on them as if they were pieces of black pepper and she wiped her tongue in her t’shirt, trying to get the salty, acrid taste out of her mouth. She sputtered, coughed and then ran to the water to rinse her mouth.

How could she have been so stupid? she wondered, thinking that a pinch would have sufficed. Beside her a crab, clicked its claws as it observed her. She watched as its colour changed from red to green to blue. She rubbed her eyes, thinking that maybe she was seeing things and then she shrieked, remembering the sand and not too long after, she was back in the sea, washing her eyes out. This time though, forcing herself to keep her eyes closed because sand, saltwater and clear eyes were not a good mix.

“Merde. Really!” she said, reaching her arms up in the air as if begging the heavens to take pity on her because she was doing something foolish. Something that maybe she could be excused from.

Another crab crawled closer to her and then after a while, she found that at least ten of them, sat close by, clacking their claws as if they had seen something humorous. As if she was providing them with some sort of entertainment. She passed her hand in the water, this time collecting some in her palms and threw it over then. How dare they choose to make fun of her. To see her plight as something bemused?

“Life is better served with laughter and mirth,” the first crab said, staring up at her.

Brandi dusted her hands off in her pants and moved herself back further. Was she also hearing things? she wondered, looking from one to the other.

Again, the crab edged closer. Spoke. “You are here Brandi because there is no time like the present. Nothing greater than to see and be seen.”

The crab drew back, waiting for her to acknowledge what it had said, before all the crabs drew together and formed another body. This time, though, it was a rusty colored cocker spaniel and it wagged its tail.

Brandi stood up, knowing that this was the present time, which didn’t have anything to do with her. “Were you the one who called me here?”

The dog barked, racing up towards a clearing that Brandi realized led to a house when she got further up the path. Looking across the wide expanse, she wondered how something so small could create something so grand.

“To the human mind everything else is always a mystery,” the dog said, after issuing another bark. Then the dog’s body changed into that of a human, who after walking up to the verandah, threw on a robe that hung loosely on the back of a deck chair. Standing there, it extended a hand and drew Brandi closer, eyes almost sparkling. “Yes, I am the one who called you here.” Her hands cupped Brandi’s. “I needed to know if you have what it takes.”

Brandi’s hands dropped. Her mind racing as the woman’s red hair fell onto lithe shoulders and the robes’ straps tightened. While Brandi clutched the pendant, thinking that just having it had made her position more secure.

Beside her, though, the woman leveled her gaze and as their eyes met, she shook her head. “No, not necessarily. But every man, and in your case woman, is called to fulfill her destiny.”

An Early Christmas Present: Beginning Chapters upload, on Fridays in December

When I first started this blog, it was supposed to have been so that I could write and publicize my first novel, which shared its name with this blog, They Walk the Night. Yet with the completion of that novel, the need for and my use of this blog as a writing forum/vehicle still stand. So if in any small way I can off advice or assistance to other writers, poets, screenwriters etc, so be it. I believe that the best way to learn is from each other, if we share what little knowledge we possess with each other the world will indeed be a better place. So if you have comments or suggestions of topics you would like covered, please send me a comment or drop a line. And starting this Friday, (and for the following 2 Fridays) I will upload one chapter of my current novel, which is currently called The Way of the Seer.

Send me your feedback, impressions, ideas and the like. And thanks for reading.