Writers Workbook for the period between
August 25 to December 1, 1997

Kay Curry kkcurry@classic.msn.com Thu Nov 27 13:37:02 PST 1997

This is background/introduction for the novel I'm working on. I've got at least six storyl-lines started, plus one short story that is a prequel about the initial protagonists. Please let me know if the background sounds interesting enough that someone might want to review a draft of the short story or the first few chapters of the novel itself. Or I'll probably post some of each here, someday.

In the aftermath of World War II, things changed. When the camps were liberated, when Germany's guilt and shame were laid open, when the pictures and the survivors came back, telling of wholesale murder, of rape and torture, starvation, medical experimentation, sexual slavery, and more, and more, and more, the outcry for punishment shook the victorious nations of western Europe.

The United Sovereignties of America tried to intervene, pointing out that punishment of Germany after WWI had led directly to the conditions that presaged Hitler's rise. The USA urged a longer view, and mercy.

USA was shouted down. Latecomer to the war, she hadn't suffered what Britain and France and the others had suffered. No one had been killed on North American soil. Certainly, a few USA POWs had been killed, tortured, or starved to death, but only a few. USA's say in the treatment of Germany would be in direct proportional to her representation among the inmates of the concentration camps. No more.

Fine. Western Europe would do what it wanted. But it would do it on its own. USA would not participate, would not lend aid to a blind and senseless revenge. Europe could go to hell in its own handbasket. But first, they'd pay what they owed, for the lend-lease ships, for the out-and-out loans, for what USA had given.

So there was no Marshal Plan, no partnership in rebuilding what war had destroyed, in Axis or Allied territory. USA retreated into isolationism. Europe and Russia sank into a prolonged depression, unable to muster the capital to repair what was ruined, or start new enterprise.

The USA GIs came home, took back jobs from wives and sisters and mothers, and got on with life. But there was no revitalization of the economy in partnership with their former allies and enemies. No GI bill gave education to the multitude who had "seen Paree." No government-backed loans made home ownership affordable. The factories tried to turn from wartime goods to consumer goods, but there was little demand. Export didn't exist, and the domestic economy was stagnant, unable to absorb a demobilized army that needed jobs and couldn't be shunted into education first. Lack of an educated cadre of young men prevented expansion of the middle class, and the market that a strong middle class would have provided did not develop.

Eisenhower came home to Kansas, and watched his boys fall into despair and crime. A former GI who had lost every friend and two brothers at the Battle of the Bulge came to Eisenhower's home in Liberal a year after the war had ended and asked to see the general. Eisenhower agreed. The man was shown into the study. He told Eisenhower about the deaths of his friends and brothers, and described his attempts to find a meaningful life after the war, and his failure, and then drew a service revolver from his coat pocket and fired two shots. The first shot fatally wounded Ike Eisenhower, and the second ended his own life. Rumor ran that Eisenhower's last words were "I really can't blame....." The term "military-industrial complex" was never coined, and no warning against it was ever promulgated.

Remobilization seemed the only answer. The factories could still produce weapons, and uniforms, and all else a standing army needed. Canada and Mexico drained their own economies and stationed troops at the border. Society fractured, the merely poor descended into utter poverty, and were blamed for it. The rich gained wealth, and power, and held it compulsively, and frantically sought ways to extend it. Medical research became a growth industry, one of the few outlets for wealth that didn't involve defense against an increasingly desperate citizenry.

The critical point came when the medical establishment developed a series of treatments that could prolong life, stop aging at the point at which the treatments were initiated. The first step was complex and dangerous, but with each succeeding step, the treatments became simpler, until at last only an occasional maintenance dose of a set of drugs was required. The drugs, and eventually, the treatments themselves, became known as "spice," after a drug that had conferred immortality on certain individuals in a novel of the future.

The wealthy and powerful could now be wealthy and powerful forever. It changed their viewpoint only marginally, but it changed everything else. Over very little protest, the most wealthy and powerful took on governance of the country, and used the still vast military to enforce their rule.

So the United Sovereignties of America gave way to the Hegemony. A few tried to resist. An Underground formed, based on somewhat romanticized stories of underground resistance to the Nazis in WWII. Hegemony responded by creating a special branch of the Army, called the Hegemony Elite Forces, or HEF, whose sole purpose was to confront and destroy the Underground. The HEF was remarkably successful.

Within ten years of the Consolidation, as Hegemony's coup was styled, Underground was utterly defeated. Resistance flared, here and there, and a new force came on the scene. Storm troops, called Nilje, were used for wholesale slaughter. They were utterly fanatical, without mercy, would attack a town or village or farmstead and kill every human being, even infants, even pregnant women, with no sign of hesitation. The occasional survivor, hidden or mistaken for dead, told tales of horror. Nilje died rather than be captured, killed any of their own wounded who could not be taken away. They used heavy weapons, assault weapons, when the target was universal, as it usually was. They could be used selectively, however. At Hegemony's whim, they would murder only women, or only blacks, or only young men, or selected individuals, pointed out to them in some mysterious manner.

Quasi-independent groups, American Indian tribes in particular, came under extreme suspicion. Some left the country, some disbanded, and some were slaughtered. Navaho, Hopi, and Cherokee were among those destroyed by Nilje and HEF. Blacks, few of whom had ever attained great wealth or power in the United Sovernties, were also considered a threat, and pogroms were initiated in city ghettos. Hegemony offered to "repatriate" members of any identifiable minority. Amerinds, Intuit, and Aleut found themselves unemployable, their only alternative return to reservations. Blacks in huge numbers accepted exile to Africa rather than remain in America, and citizens of latino ancestry flooded America's southern border. Japanese-Americans were interred and then sent overseas, willing or not. Chinese-Americans, foreseeing their fate, went to Hong Kong if they could, or to Canada or southeast Asia. Israel and the Arab nations found themselves allies, trying to absorb an influx of people generations away from their roots. With Hegemony as a common enemy, the children of Abraham suddenly found a reason to cooperate.

In the former USA, repression turned out to be fun. Hegemony leaders, for the most part in middle age at the start of WWII, did not approve of homosexuality, bohemianism, abortion or unwed mothers, paranormal abilities, or of any religion except Christian, and that only as they defined it. And suddenly, anything they disapproved of, they could annihilate.

The diminished population bothered Hegemony not in the least. Enough remained to provide them with goods and services, now and for the future that stretched, glorious, into forever. With Underground destroyed, the only countervailing force was organized crime. The mobs had no difficulty reaching an understanding with Hegemony. The two organizations shared the gathering and distribution of wealth, and crossed paths rarely. Neither Canada or Spanish America, as Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean collectively were called, posed a credible threat. Overseas countries were struggling with their own problems. Hegemony seemed fated to rule the former United Sovereignties of America forever.


Except that Underground hadn't been destroyed, had only stopped fighting overtly. Underground went underground, literally and figuratively. Recruits weren't asked to fight and die, but only occasionally, when it was safe, to contribute their skills and abilities. Technicians at Dallas Space Center contrived to shut down the spy satellites, depriving Hegemony of means to track Underground's activities. Engineers and architects designed hidden sites. Laborers disappeared, not only into Hegemony's clutches, but also, willingly, into Underground's, and the sites were built. Slowly, in utter secret, Underground infiltrated Hegemony's systems.

A generation passed. Most citizens believed that there was no Underground, that rumors of Underground's existence were traps set by Hegemony to lure the disaffected. Hegemony knew better, but was not worried. It's three armed forces were more than enough to deal with Underground, should it surface.

In Denver, Hegemony stronghold, a new batch of recruits entered Citadel, the HEF training ground. They were accompanied by a new batch of scholarship students. The year turned, and in the new year, two of the scholarship students, twins, became the catalyst for change.

karajoy fallucco@hotmail.com Fri Nov 7 09:21:26 PST 1997

i found the train interesting. I would change one thing the constant use of you outside of dialougue. Example you awakened, you looked around. I feel you are bringing the reader into the story to abruptly. I like to be the protagonist, but I also like to take on the characters name and personality. I want to escape. i don't want to be karajoy(you) anymore I want to be the author's character.
Kurt winced. He never really did like his music, but strangely, he found himself listening-almost feeding of the melodies. There was a sembalance of familariarity around him.
_I enjoyed the story

roman wrr@primenet.com none Mon Nov 3 21:33:07 PST 1997

I'm looking for a last line to the following poem. I'll appreciate any comments...


for the ninth time

losing you
was easy
as a dropped penny.

this time

finding you
with another

Goodweed of the North bflowers@northernway.net Sun Oct 26 11:53:49 PST 1997

Hi everyone; What I am looking for is a critique of the storyline. I need to know if it moves well or if it tends to bog down. I try to taylor my story to those who like a fast paced novel with plenty of action. I'm not looking for critique about sentence structure or compostition as this is the first rough draft, the "get it on paper, we can make it clean later" draft. Please let me know what you think.

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North

What is the Spirit of a Man
The air was cold and damp in the dark cave. Water, blown by the ever-present mountain winds, collected in the air vents formed long before in the solid rock walls of the Great Meeting hall. Timitus, the once powerful King of Tibre, felt the pressure of his permanent tomb as the Dark Star talisman sucked the warmth from his immortal body. Encased in solid rock for three years, with the talisman embedded in his chest, he had listened quietly to the spells of the hated witch who was responsible for his present state.
Timitus had quietly become a powerful sorcerer in his own right. Through careful observation, he had gained sufficient power to challenge Quella herself. His hatred for the dark witch consumed him. He had been the King of Tibre, master of that city located on the barren, rocky face of the Kesk mountains. Armies had obeyed his every command as he planned and executed strategies for taking what the mountain could not give. From the people of the Northron valley, the Tibrons had stolen crops, tools, weapons, and slaves. His very name had struck terror among the Northron tribes. His reign had been absolute. His power had given him fame throughout both mountain and valley.
Quella, in her own lust for power had used dark sorcery to embed the Darkstar talisman into his chest. The orb transformed him into the hapless slave of the Heartstealer. When she was defeated in battle and entombed in the Great Meeting Hall of Tibre by Trok the dragon's unquenchable fire, she threw him into the molten rock which had created their present tomb, letting the Darkstar's irresistible cold save her from the intense heat and solidify the stone. Timitus would have his revenge.
Though partially surrounded by solid stone, the talisman sustained his life, its energy being his. Indeed, it could be said that Timitus and the Darkstar Talisman had become one. Timitus had been working on a spell to break his enslavement to Quella for months. Unknown to the witch, he had succeeded. His next task was to develop a spell to free himself from the rock. The deposed king concentrated on the orb in his chest...

Quella had been trying to free herself from the Great Meeting Hall for three years. Her attempts however had been frustrated by the sheer mass of hardened stone covering the entrance. She obtained food and water by commanding her slaves, located outside the cavernous hall, to push food stores through the vents. Her spells wove through the air vents on crackling ethereal mists, searching for hapless victims. Though entombed in a cavern filled with stinking human excrement and nearly devoid of light, the Dark Sorceress's power remained potent.
Men and women scratched at the once molten rock with implements of wood and steel. Many were the times when just as they were about to succeed in freeing the witch, the mighty dragon, Trok would reappear, as if she had spies monitoring the Tibrons, and negate their attempts with dragon fire, destroying those not fast enough to retreat and reforming the rock wall with her superheated flame. The solid stone wall remained intact.
Quella paced in the dark, dank chamber, brooding in her solitary prison as she desperately reviewed the many spells and incantations of her magical discipline. She dreamt of the time when she could exact her revenge upon her jailers. They would come to know exquisite, everlasting pain. She reviewed all she knew about the Great Meeting Hall searching for a weakness in the impenetrable stone cavern. It had been hewn from the mountainside, built to protect the Tibrons from any danger,.
As she was thus occupied, she failed to notice the faint blue light radiating from Timitus. It bathed the room and washed over the witch. She felt suddenly chilled but blamed it on the cold mountain winds. Cold was no stranger to the city of Tibre. She felt lightheaded and disoriented , as if she were a disembodied spirit floating in the room. Suddenly, Quella felt an incredible pressure confining her entire body, and unimaginable cold searing through her. She tried to scream but found her mouth unable to utter a sound. Panic grew within the Heartstealer and terror filled her mind. She fought to regain control but could not. What had happened to her she could not know, only that she was imprisoned somehow in a place devoid of energy.
Timitus, King of Tibre stretched his new body, enjoying the newfound freedom. He had succeeded in switching bodies with the sorceress and relished the feel of her strong, lithe form. He had become a she in one brief moment and looked forward to exploring this new form. He rummaged through the witch's belongings and found a syringe containing healing elixir and injected it into his own arm. He felt exciting warmth as the potion spread through him and knew that his new body was revitalized and youthful once more.

Timitus turned to his previous body, frozen forever in stone and projected his thoughts into Quella. He felt the terror in the once mighty witch and laughed aloud. He forced his thoughts into that most hated enemy:
"Quella , Witch! I have suffered more at your hands than any other. Now you feel the cold of the talisman, and know the imprisonment of the stone. You are trapped in my body while I get to enjoy yours. I will now erase your mind of all knowledge of magic and you will be trapped forever."
When Quella heard the words, she tried desperately to block the King, but in vain. He had become powerful and she became an ordinary person, albeit trapped in the entombed body of Timitus.
The King\Queen of Tibre reviewed his own knowledge of the Great Meeting Hall. He knew of no other exit save that which was covered by the solidified rock. He called upon the power of the Darkstar knowing the pain his old body was feeling. Ethereal mist issued forth from an iron cauldron under which a flame had one flickered brightly. It crept along the cavern floor and spread until contained by the solid rock walls. Like water, it rose seeking an escape. Finally, the mist found an air vent and passed through to the outside. It snaked through the vent, following the sheer walls outside the dragon-made prison to the street. It flowed along the avenues, seeking a target. It passed the miller, though as it touched him he fell to the ground in agony. The mist crackled as it continued its relentless journey. It split into hundreds of fingers connected to the main trunk as it explored every street, building, and corridor of the city. Finally, it found its target.
Eflan walked the empty streets of Tibre, contemplating the state of the city and its inhabitants. After Quella's defeat, Telgar had appointed him King of Tibre. He had returned to his homeland hoping to rebuild the city to its former glory. He knew that the task would be difficult but didn't know just how tough it would be.
It had taken a year for him to regain his peoples trust. However, the cities economic base had been destroyed. The mountains offered few resources to sustain the people. With no army at it's disposal, raiding was no longer an option. In addition, Eflan had agreed to a treaty between Tibre and the Northron valley.
While the treaty prevented the Tibron's starvation, the Northron Kingdom was in the midst of its own rehabilitation and could spare little. The hunting/gathering civilization had been replaced by a loose confederacy under Telgar. Though Telgar supported Eflan's attempts to re-vitalize Tibre, the valley people resisted. Three short years was insufficient to quell their hatred toward the Tibrons.
The Tibron King walked toward witch's prison. The thick stone slab created by Trok's mighty fire showed the markings of numerous implements, used by Quella's enslaved to wear away the stone. The King inspected the stone regularly to ensure its integrity. He knew the importance of the witch's continued imprisonment. She must never be allowed to escape.
As he thought about these things, he failed to notice the mist that moved silently, slithering along the ground like a venomous snake, stalking its prey. As the mist surrounded his ankles, blue lightning flashed upward into his body. He convulsed violently under the unnatural assault. After several minutes Eflan collapsed on the cold street. He lay on his back, unable to move for a short while.
The Appointed King slowly regained consciousness. He propped himself on one elbow and rolled to his hands and knees. He shook his head to clear it of the blinding pain which throbbed in his temples. The pain gradually subsided. Eflan rose to his feet slowly and staggered toward the Great Meeting Hall.
A voice rang through his head, a voice he hated with all his might and soul. It was the voice of the Witch and he was powerless to resist. His head swam once more as he fell under the magic of the Heartstealer. He would listen to her, obey her, until death!
The voice beckoned him and he followed.
"Eflan. It is the voice of that dark sorceress you hear but it is your King who speaks to you. Come to the entrance of the Great Meeting Hall and I will instruct you."
Eflan obeyed the voice and walked to the appointed place oblivious to all else. He stopped upon reaching his goal and waited. Time passed by, but as far as Eflan knew, the mighty mountains on which he lived could have collapsed. The voice rang again in his head.
"Eflan. Take your armies to the mouth of Trok's Hole and destroy the beast. Cave in the dragons lair with her in it. This is your King speaking and you will obey!"
Timitus removed the spell from his once loyal general and turned his attentions toward weakening the solid lava wall entrapping him. The imprisoned sorcerer felt very peculiar inhabiting the body of a woman but that would be taken care of after he freed himself.
Eflan stood before the solidified rock which sealed the entrance to the Great Meeting Hall. How he had arrived at his current location was a mystery to him. He did know however that he had to destroy the mighty Trok before the dragon could escape. He had been commanded by his king and could not refuse. He was once again, the First General of Tibre.
Eflan returned to the castle. He knew his once great army was now a broken rabble of drunks and beggars. They had been a proud and powerful force. Eflan promised himself by Rhaos that they would be again. He knew much needed to be done in preparation for the reconstruction of the army. Men would have to be gathered, officers appointed, retrained, etc. It would be several weeks before the army could hope to carry out the most simple assignments. Eflan made plans as he walked. He knew the hangouts of his best officers and resolved to visit them, one by one until they were brought together once more. His first trip was to the tavern.
Several months passed and the Tibron army was again shaped into an effective war machine. The men were hardened by relentless mental and physical training. They learned new battle strategies devised by Eflan and were ready to destroy the dragon.
Garren watched the soldiers train as he gathered together his earthen ware. He was a strong young man; too powerful to be stuck hawking pottery in the square. He longed for adventure and excitement. His father was content with the life of a vendor and assumed his son felt the same. However, Garren was ambitious. He wanted more from life than a paltry existence. With each day, he grew more restless, more impatient with his life.
"I wish I could be out there." he thought to himself. "If I could get away from my dad, I could be a soldier."
Garren continued gathering his goods and prepared to close shop for the night. He put his wares in a canvas bag, slung it over his shoulder, and trudged homeward. As he walked, a plan grew in his mind.
The march from Tibre to Trok's Hole was accomplished in less than two weeks. Eflan commanded his men to make camp in a field overgrown with dense undergrowth. They spent an additional week observing the beast's cave after which they prepared to strike. Finally, the eve before the day of Trok's planned demise was at hand.
Eflan posted a solitary guard to watch the cave entrance but expected little action. Eflan knew Trok was away on one of her hunting trips and had no wish to harm the dragon. After all, she had been largely responsible for Quella's entrapment. They could easily destroy the cave during her absence. His men would believe her destroyed, and she would have to search for a new home. With Trok thus occupied, Eflan would weaken the solidified rock imprisoning his king.
The lone guard posted by the First General, watched in boredom as the night slowly passed. He succumbed to sleep shortly after the beginning of his watch. He dreamt of buxom ladies in warm taverns, of tall mugs brimming with the frothy head of stout ale. The guard snored lightly in the quiet night.
A squat figure with short, wiry hair, and large eyes crept within an arms reach of the guard. It moved with sure-footed stealth and purpose toward the camp. With the eyes of a creature suited to the dim light of the nighttime forest, it made its way around a host of obstacles which would have easily tripped a man. The creature, one of the Mindos, inspected the camp, touching nothing. It surveyed the weapons, the food stores, the tents. It noted every detail, from the number of tent stakes driven into the ground, to the number and kind of cooking utensils.
The night cloaked the creature's movements as it continued its task for nearly an hour. Finally, it left the way it had come, undetected.
The first glimmer of daylight appeared above the tall peaks of the Kesk mountains. Nature's alarm, the birds, chirped noisily, waking the other forest animals. Squirrels searched the forest floor for seeds, while owls watched from their leaf covered perches, waiting for a careless rabithorn to step from its burrow too soon. Tiny field mice scurried through golden thorn bush thickets as they too fed on seeds, fattening themselves during the plentiful summer months.
For such a large creature, Trok was virtually silent as she returned to her cave. She normally returned before sun-up. Game however was scarce and she was later than usual. As she drew closer, she witnessed men scurrying about.
Trok prepared to unleash her soul scorching fire into their midst when the loam erupted in a shower of dirt, rocks and debris. The dragon watched her home collapse into a pile of rubble. She screamed after the manner of dragons and bathed the Tibrons in dragon fire. They were prepared however and sheltered themselves with dragon scales gathered together from the carcasses of dead dragons. She turned and flew toward the Kalb. Her course took her toward the Northron Headwater Camp...

It's Been Very Peaceful, Hasn't It?

Diana Strolled along the white sands which lined the beaches of the river Northron. The fragrant air held the warmth of a late summer day despite ominous clouds which hid the mountain peaks. The silt squished under her bare feet as she walked in the cold water, letting it cool and refresh her.
The Queen of the Northron tribes reflected on the previous three years. Since the imprisonment of Quella and subsequent defeat of the Tibrons, the valley had prospered. Never had there been such bounty. Never before had there been such harmony. The various tribes had united under her husband to fight in the Tibron war and had retained the union after victory.
Telgar was a powerful and just ruler and no person would say otherwise. He governed the valley and its inhabitants, setting up seven geographic districts watched over by elected ministries. Each district was called a frea, able to create its own laws and bylaws as was required by its unique circumstances, but under an umbrella of laws common to all in the valley. The McCourser clan however, as couriers, fell under the immediate rule of Telgar. As popular king, it was Telgar's responsibility to maintain a defensive army of men and "The Friends of Men", as the rocs and dragons had come to be known, to watch and protect the valley. The McCoursers, as always, were charged with the task of courier.
Diana knew the heavy responsibilities weighing heavily on the king and acted as a trusted partner and wife, offering her own talents to help serve and protect the valley.
The Skyangle Talisman was a powerful tool which enhanced the natural psychic abilities of any who possessed it. It was the Queen's responsibility to find those people and train them to use their powers more effectively. In the three years following the war, she had found and recruited eight men and six women into a unique and powerful unit known as the Order of the Skyangle, or simply, the Order. The most well trained were; Eilie the healer; Buck, who had a natural affinity for antlered creatures, much as Rau lived and was a part of his wolfpack; and finally Ramah who with a gesture of his hand, could temporarily blind an opponent. Her senior pupil was Lara the illusionist.
The Order swore an oath to Rhaos to defend the tribes of the Northron Valley from any and all danger and to provide compassionate understanding for those who had been outcast due to their unique powers.
Next in power under Diana was Rau,Wolfkeeper. He was responsible for training the recruits in the fundamental discipline required to live with the greater society. Sarren, the twin sister of Balon, trained initiates to focus their powers onto her brother whose power allowed many to use the Skyangle simultaneously. They were young children (thirteen years old) but were seasoned veterans of the Great War, as it had come to be known, who took the challenge and honed their own psi-skills as well as guiding the others.
In conjunction with the humans, a group of animals had been gathered in a loosely knit band known as The Protectors, which could be called into service whenever the need arose. These animals included the great roc Melna Tor Kara, the incredibly powerful dragon, Trok, The alpha wolves from the pack of Rau, and various other animals.
Diana was expecting one of the weekly student progress reports to be delivered by her senior pupil, but was unprepared for the prank which greeted her. Lara was an apt student and was skilled with his talent. His ability to create illusions had gotten him into some trouble as a youth. He had unwittingly caused the death of a prominent village leader with an illusionary dragon attack. The elder succumbed to a very real heart attack. For the crime, Lara was banished to the Kalb, never to return to his village of birth.
He was found by Rau and brought under the queen's training. Lara learned quickly to channel his mischievous nature and harness his illusions. Working with storytellers, he brought the oral history of Northron to life.
He still had fun with his pranks but was careful to keep them within sensible boundaries. His fifteen year old mind was too easily tempted. As the queen waded through the shallow water he cast a small illusion...
Diana heard a commotion in the water behind her. She turned to find a breathless Balon racing toward her. His intent was deviously obvious. He meant to splash her thoroughly. Well she thought, she would turn the tables on the boy. As he approached ever closer, he stooped low, scooping a great deluge toward his aunt. She deftly sidestepped his attack while sweeping her leg forward to trip him. As he was an illusion, the queen's foot met no resistance and she fell backward into the river.
Lara was one of two illusionists she knew. The other illusionist, Bolo, was limited, however, to creating multiple images of himself, or making himself appear in places other than his actual location. Because of this, Diana knew exactly who was responsible for her predicament.
She stood and called out to the lad who promptly burst into uncontrolled laughter. Diana lifted herself from the water and walked to the edge of the forest, confronting the prankster.
"So you think that was pretty funny. We'll see who's laughing tomorrow when you return to my training."
"I'm sorry but I couldn't help myself." said Lara. He continued between bursts of scarcely contained laughter, "I came out to give you this report and saw you wading. Well, you can see that I couldn't pass up such a golden opportunity... and when you fell in the water... Wait until I show this picture to the others".
"You're already in trouble. If I were you, I would quit while I was ahead," she told him.
"I really am sorry," he said.
"Your still in trouble. Now let me hear your report."
He gave his report and returned to the camp. Day passed quietly into night and the camp gathered for the evening kolihara where the community gathered to exchange their daily experiences.

Bill Bwhitney.usmo.com Sat Oct 25 10:33:25 PDT 1997

Here it is, my attempt at something different.

Ninety Day Amulet

Icy wind pierced her thin clothing, biting at her skin. The darkness shrouded her with an uncanny mystic sense as the leaves eddied around her feet. She couldn't stop—not now. Beverly's only alternative was to continue, driving herself forward, or fall wasted to the land that seemed to call to her, urge her to give herself unto it. Thickened black clouds swirled above without a pattern, lowering closer with each fleeting moment. Only brief flashes of light streaking the skies lit the path before the desperate woman. Desperate to find her son and warn him of the disasters to come. Only he, Simon, could stop what was to happen if she could reach him in time.
The earth shook with unrelenting violence, each night becoming worse. Soon the clouds would reach the ground and the land would split apart and devour the life that walked upon it. The forces of evil held captive in the pits of Hell would escape and control the land for eternity. It would forever enslave the souls of humans succumbed to the sorcery of the evil beings released from its depths.
Folklore and legend had told of the evil coming when a wingless dragon with a fiery tail would light the night skies. No one would see this until after the death of a mighty and powerful King. That time had come and each night the dragon glowed brighter and became larger. It shed its might scales across the darkness until obscured by thunderous storms that wage war within the heavens.
Simon was the son of King William Kalar and his wife Beverly, rulers of the Itanz, the largest of Earth's continents. Simon was born under a crescent moon at leaves falling when the wind changed directions and brought forth a killing frost. Since that day, he has seen twenty and six such seasons and grown into manhood. A wanderer at heart, he set out at that age to find the meaning and purpose of his own existence.
It was but five nights passed that his son was gone when King Kalar slumped from his chair and lay dead on his castle's stone floor. Clutched in his hand an amulet of gold glittered with precious stones, its necklace broken. Only a righteous King, by legend, could wear the precious ornament. If another should don the chain around his neck, the world would see its doom and perish in smoke and flame. In the hands of evil, the amulet would glow and lend power of destruction to whom it was kept. "Ninety cycles, a day no more" was inscribed upon the amulet—ninety days to find a new and belonging King—a King of good and trust.
Queen Kalar awoke with heartfelt grief, a cold wind blowing into her chambers. She heard thunder breaking the night silence and the shutters crashing against the stone walls. She hurried to draw the shutters inward and latch them to keep out the wind and rain. Drowsily, she returned to her bed and flumped onto its feather layering. Beverly's nightmares were worsening and becoming more vivid. She thought of the amulet her husband wore and realized how much it resembled the necklace in her dreams. The Queen knew of the legends, but paid them no mind, but the uncanny feelings inside her grew.
Beverly saddened and frowned not knowing when Simon would return home, or if he would at all. The dreams began the night of the day, four days hence, that she waved to him as he rode off on his steed. She reminisced that day clearly. Beverly helped him pack his satchel, making certain that he took plenty of food and a pouch of gold and silver coins. The King refused to see him off and sat staring at the fire in the hearth, his heart broken.
The thunder now ceasing and the rain stopped, Beverly reopened the shutters and let in the light of the breaking day. She dressed and hurried down a damp corridor to the stone steps leading to the main hall. Beverly found her husband asleep in his wicker chair. A book of weaponry lay open on the floor beside him and a burnt candle near the chair. She smiled and headed to the kitchen where she found her daughter rummaging through the pantry. Lisa was already awake and helping herself to the fresh eggs brought in moments before by their servant.
"Good morning Mother," Lisa said cheerfully. "I felt strangely hungry this morning and helped myself to breakfast. I do hope that you don't mind."
"I don't mind, but you know how your Father is about having breakfast together."
"I know Mother. Father hasn't joined us for breakfast anyway for the last several days and I didn't think that he would miss me this morning."
"Your father is ill," Beverly said. "He should be fine in a couple of days."
"Is he really ill, Mother, or is he still upset over Simon leaving?"
"You're perceptive, daughter. He is more upset then ill, but never-the-less, he'll get over it soon enough."
The kitchen door swung open and the days full light filtered through the smoke from the wood burning cook stove. The servant appeared in the doorway with two freshly slaughtered hens for the evenings meal. She tossed them into a water filled half-barrel to soak and dumped in a handful of salt.
"There is rumor in the village me lady," The servant said. "The townsfolk say that the old sorceress who lives in those caves on the hill came to town yesterday. They say that she babbled on about the King being sick and that he will die soon, his son not returning and all."
"That old woman does not know of what she speaks," Beverly scolded. "The King is fine. He is just in need of his rest is all. He has hardly been sick in his life."
"I'm sure of that me lady, it's just that with the legends about that amulet he wears, it has the folk a bit on the edge, that's all."
"I shan't hear any more of this talk," Beverly demanded. "Those old legends are mere myth and nothing more."
"Yes, me lady. I'll get breakfast started right away."
"Go and wake your sister, Lisa, so that she will be ready when the food is on the table."
Lisa went to wake Heather, then returned to fix her Father a cup of his favorite herbal tea. She placed it on the table next to his chair and nudged him gently. He awoke with a snort, swinging his arms wildly and glancing around the room quickly. Realizing that he had been dreaming, he shook his head to waken himself further.
"I've brought you your tea Father," Lisa said. "Breakfast will be ready soon."
"Thank you, Lisa. I'll be at the table shortly. And put something on less revealing. I shan't have a daughter of mine running around with such scant leather strings. You'll have every lustful man in the village chasing after you."
"Yes Father," Lisa smiled, intent on ignoring his request. The deer hides that she wore was more than enough to cover things in need of covering. She felt cramped and restricted in anything more. Besides, how could she run as fast as she does bound in heavy clothing?
Lisa loved to run through the nearby forest and race the animals within. They were her friends and she learned much from them by watching and listening to their chatter. She learned the animal's skills in hunting, their prowess and cunning and their speed. Spending most of her nineteen frosting seasons among her free and wild friends, she was content. Thoughts of wonder encircled her mind about the likes of being a bear, a lion, or wild horse.
Extra clothing only hampered her swift and graceful movements and caught upon the thicket thorns. She enjoyed her freedom of movement and would don no such extra burdens. Only at meal, and to please her father, would she wear a woolen shawl, patterned in a shepherd's check, about her shoulders to hide her excess cleavage. At meal's end she would cast the check upon her bed and make for the forest.
Heather probably fell back to sleep as usual, so Lisa decided that she would check on her. Standing but a flattened hand's thickness taller than her sister, Lisa was one year's cycle younger. She graced the steps to Heather's bedchamber, landing on less than half the rough stones. Pushing the metal latch, Lisa swung the thick oaken door inward and, without a second's hesitation, strode to open the shutters. The sun now fully within the sky, lent is warmth into the room and its light in Heather's face.
Heather, sleeping late as was her norm, moaned and faced away, squinting from the brightness. She covered her head with the blue-patch quilt made for her by her, since departed, grandmother.
Lisa bounced upon Heather's bed and giggled as she poked at her sister's sides. Heather jumped, unintentionally knocking Lisa onto her butt on the floor beside the bed.
"That should teach you," Heather grumbled.
Lisa laughed, though her thigh had whelped an unsightly bruise. She rubbed at her leg and scampered off the floor. "Come on and get up, you lazy wench," Lisa joked. "Breakfast is ready and its getting cold. I don't know how anyone can sleep as the likes of you."
"I don't know how anyone can rise before the cock," Heather mumbled. She tossed the quilt from her face and sat upright on the edge of her bed. "It's unnatural to be sure. What is this you mean by calling me a wench? I am not lewd nor do I squander my favors to any man."
Lisa laughed. "I was just kidding my dear Sister, but it did arouse you from your slumber. Now get up and come downstairs. Father awaits us." Lisa sprinted from the chamber and down the steps to the kitchen, stopping briefly to fetch her shawl.
The smell of fresh bacon filled the air mixed with a round of homemade bread; eggs popped in an iron skillet. Lisa passed through the kitchen and entered the great dining hall. King Kalar sat at his usual place at the head of a sizable walnut table, the Queen to his right. Her Father seemed different to Lisa. He lacked his usual cheerfulness and perched less erect in his chair.
"You're a bit pale today Father," Lisa observed. "Are you feeling all right?"
"I feel a bit light headed, as if taken by a fever. Other than that, I am fine. I'll feel better after I have had something to eat," the King replied. "Where is your sister? I have matters to discuss and I wish to get on with it."
Heather entered the dining hall as her father spoke. "I'm here, Father," Heather said. Heather, unlike Lisa, walked in shorter strides and awakened slowly. She shuffled across the floor and took her usual place at the table across from her mother, her eyes not fully open.
"Now that everyone has finally joined us, I want to discuss these rumors that are circulating through the kingdom," King Kalar began. He glared at Heather, upset to her late presence. "According to these unfounded rumors, I should have died already and, as you can see, I am very much alive. They have long said that if the King's amulet should fall into evil hands, or the King should die, that the world will end. As you know, I don't hold much faith in fairytales, and I consider it nonsense." William sipped at his, now cold, tea and glanced at his daughters for their response.
"Tell us about the amulet, Father" Lisa pleaded. "What makes it so special?"
The King rubbed his chin in thought, then conceded to Lisa's request. "The amulet is nothing more than a token of sentiment, passed down from one generation to the other," he explained. "I have never told you the story behind it because I have never believed in magic and evil powers. My Father gave the amulet to me, and his Father before he gave it to him. Thus, it has passed to each generation for as long as anyone can tell." He slapped two pieces of bacon on a torn hunk of of bread and took a bite.
"So, what is the story, Father?" Heather asked curiously. "What do the legends speak of these magical powers?"
"Yes, Father," Lisa added. "Please tell us. The townsfolk seem to know more about it than we."
William hesitated. He held up his hand to quiet his daughters, then finished chewing his food. After washing the bread down with the last of his tea, he spoke, "You are right, daughters. The people think that they know, but as I had said, they speak rumors. You know how rumors increase the interest of a story as time goes on. The tale changes with each telling."
"So, to set them straight and teach them the truth, then tell them the story, William," Beverly insisted. "How do you expect them to know if you keep avoiding their questions?"
William glared at Beverly and her to him. "I guess that you outnumbered me in your request. I shall tell you the story, but don't be disappointed if it is not as exciting as you would expect." William picked up a wooden ladle, clanging it on a chime to call the servant. He handed the servant his empty mug and she left to fill it.
"We're listening, Father," Lisa urged.
"My father, your grandfather, told the story to me when I was but a boy. I sat on his knee by the hearth during cold winter nights. It was there that I listened to his tales. Impressionable then as I was, I listened with interest. The tale of the amulet interested me most at that young age. He said that his father told him the same story, word for word. My father also said that I was to tell my son in those same words, lest the stories get confused with time like the people's rumors. He told me many times until I could recite the tale to him without falter." The servant replenished William's tea and he continued when she had left the room. Lisa and Heather hardly touched their meal as they listened intently to his story.
"I remember the tale well. At the beginning of time itself, evil beings ruled our world. They enslaved humans and forced them to labor for the creature's own survival and enjoyment. Much of the Earth blazed with fiery volcanoes and pits of boiling sludge. Violent storms were commonplace with hailstones as large as a mace's ball. The sun shone, but only at the calling of the ‘Evil Ones.' These Evil Ones cast fire from their eyes and created the storms with the flick of their hands, or claws as my father had said it. Does this fable still hold your interest, or should I go about my day's work?"
"Do continue, Father," the girls spoke together.
"Go on, William," Beverly insisted. "Finished the story."
The King frowned. "Very well, but keep in mind that I don't believe a word of it." He swallowed some tea and took another bite of his bread, continuing with his mouth full. "Led by a young man of seventeen frosts, a small band of humans revolted against the Evil Ones and hid within the darkest forests. Within the hills, this gallant boy met a sorceress by the name of Denicha. As my father told the story to me, Denicha was good at heart. She preferred to live alone, not bothered by the Evil Ones' dark spells. She was the only creature alive on the planet who possessed magic, but did not use it for evil. She used it only for her own survival."
"The old woman, who lives in the caves in the woods, isn't her name Denicha?" Lisa asked.
"How would you know that Hag's name, Lisa?" William asked, disgusted. He shot a stern glance toward his daughter.
"I have talked to her in the forest," Lisa whimpered. "She does not seem to me like a bad woman."
"You stay away from that woman!" William demanded angrily. "She is crazy and who knows what she's capable of doing. Anyone who lives in a cavern as she does, can't possibly have all their wits about them."
Beverly placed her hand on her husband's arm to calm him. "It's all right, dear, just continue with the story," she whispered softly.
William smirked, then continued. "Running from the Evil Ones, the boy and his followers had grown weary. Spotting a cavern in which to hide for the night, they crept inside and found the sorceress bent over a flame. She was already preparing them a meal. It was if she knew of their coming, expecting them. Denicha took the boy, Darth he called himself, and his followers in and fed them well. She cared for them, and nursed the wounds that they received from skirmishes with the Evil Ones. When the boys had rested, she took the leader aside. She told Darth that if he could bring her the fruit from the hand of palm, then she would help him to destroy the Evil Ones." William paused to finish his meal.
"Is that all there is to the story, Father?" Lisa asked impatiently.
"Just you give me a minute to finish my meal before it gets any colder," William demanded. "You should finish yours, too, if you are to keep your health."
Breakfast consumed, the servant cleared the table and left to clean the kitchen and make preparations for the evening meal. William's family waited.
"Darth set out on his quest with his friends," William Explained. "Ninety moons from the day of his departure, he returned with Denicha's request. With the fruit, mixed with other ingredients, the sorceress concocted a salve in which to bathe. The bath smoothed the old woman's wrinkles and renewed her youth and beauty. In return, Denicha kept her word and gave Darth the magic amulet to use against the evil.
After Darth had rid the world of the Evil Ones and peace fell upon the land, he fell deeply in love with Denicha. He offered to marry the sorceress and make her his Queen. She accepted, although her marriage to a human would take away her powers and immortality. Before their marriage, however, Darth fell in love with another woman and married her instead. Denicha was heartbroken and took revenge upon the new King. She took away the amulet's magic and placed a curse upon it. The sorceress told Darth that if he ever resorted to evil, or if his heirs failed to pass the necklace to a righteous King within ninety moons of his death, then the world as he knew it would end. The evil and human torture, which once existed, would again rule."
"That's interesting," Lisa remarked. "I wonder whatever happened to Denicha?"
"As I said, it's but a fable; not one shred of truth is in it," her Father repeated. "It's just a myth that passed through time to young children to pass the time on a winter's night."
"If the story is no more than a fable, Father, then where did your amulet come from?" Heather asked curiously.
William laughed. "As I have told you, it is nothing more than a token of sentiment. The amulet was no doubt made by a metal-smith in exchange for some service or goods. It's something of value that families could pass on to King's heirs like my Father handed it to me."
"Then what about the inscription on its back?" Lisa asked. "The writing must have some significance."
Lisa's question had stumped her father. He didn't know the answer. "I can only guess, Lisa, that somewhere through the ages someone had it engraved to suit their own purpose. It's an ornament, like that which you might have engraved to give to your mother. I have work to do, girls, and I don't know any more than what I have told you. I must attend to my duties. Go now, and do your chores. You have to feed the animals. You know how impatient your horses become when you're late with their feeding."
Heather and Lisa left for the stables to tend to their horses as their father had ordered. Beverly headed to the market to spend the day shopping.
Lisa couldn't get the story from her mind. She pondered over every word that the King had told them. "What if the story is true?" she asked Heather.
"Do you really believe that it could be true?" Heather replied.
"If it's not, then why does Mother have those weird dreams? The people in the village don't tell the story any differently from Father. I have heard them talk about it. If it's just rumor, as Father says, then why is the story the same? Another thing, Father has never been sick as far as I can remember. He didn't look at all well today, even worse than he had for the last three days." Lisa tossed a fork full of hay into the horse's bin.
"I know, Lisa. I'm worried about him. I have never seen him like this either. You don't think that Father is dying, do you?"
"I don't know. Maybe we need to find Simon. If Fathers is dying, then Simon should be home with us."
"We wouldn't even know where to look for him. Besides, you're scaring me with all this talk about Father. Can't we talk about something else less morbid?" Heather dumped a bucket of water into the trough for the horses.
"Tell them you're welcome, Heather."
"I wish you'd stop doing that. Those animals can't talk to you. Speaking of rumors, the townsfolk are talking about you."
"Really? What do they say?"
"They are saying that you might be a witch, or a demon. They say that you talk to the animals and that they talk to you."
Lisa laughed as she gave her favorite horse a hug and handful of sugar. "They do talk to me, and I do talk to me. That is not a rumor."
"You keep this up and the townsfolk are going to run you out. They might even stone you."
"You're being silly," Lisa chuckled. "People don't do that anymore."
"That's not what I've heard. Someone told me that they stoned a woman to death in Cryennia for practicing witchcraft."
"I seriously doubt that the people here in Itanz would do such a thing. Besides, I don't think they would even consider attacking the King's daughter."
"Well, you may have a point, but I don't like people talking behind my back about you like you're some kind of beast," Heather said, irritated. "I'm done. Do you want to go target practice with me?"
"You know that I can't shoot that thing of yours," Lisa said.
"It's not a ‘thing'; it's a crossbow. I need to practice for the tournament. I plan on winning and make Father proud of me, even if I am only a girl, as he puts it. Anyway, it's a lot safer than swordplay."
"So what's wrong with swordplay?" Lisa asked, confused. "You may shoot someone by accident with an arrow and kill them. With the metal strap on my sword, the worst I could do is give someone a heck of a headache."
"I'm not going to get into that argument with you again," Heather sighed. "I have to go get ready to practice. Are you coming or not?"
"I have some things to do on my own today. I'll see you later when I get back."
"Yeah, I know. You're going to the forest to talk to your animal friends."
Lisa ignored Heather and headed to her room in the castle. I don't know if the stories about the amulet are true or not, but I should not take any chances. I know how to find Simon, I hope. For hours she worked, writing out little notes and rolling them up and tying them with a piece of string. When Lisa had finished, she climbed the long narrow stairs of the castle's tallest tower. At the top she entered her favorite room.
Lisa and Simon kept homing pigeons. She alone took care of them while Simon was gone and kept them company. They kept her company in return when she felt lonely.
"I have a job for all of you today," Lisa told her birds. They cooed excitedly. "I need you to find my brother, just like you had found him when he visited another village. I'll tie a note onto each of you and you give it to him when you find him. He needs to return home as soon as possible." One by one Lisa tied the notes. After kissing each bird on top of its head, she gently nudged the bird from the open portal. A half-hour later, all twenty birds had flown off in different directions in search of Simon. "Be careful. I'll check back here tonight for your return." Lisa watched until the pigeons flew too far out of sight to see them, then went back to her room to fetch her sword.
Heather had finished her practice and returned to do the evening chores. She found Lisa practicing with her sword against a straw-filled dummy on a post. She watched Lisa's fencing maneuvers with amusement as her sister stabbed and sliced at the dummy. A wild crow flew and landed on the dummy's head and Lisa stopped. She said something too softly for Heather to hear. Lisa then nodded her head. The crow let out a squawk and headed straight for Lisa. She raised her arm and the huge bird landed upon it, pecking gently at Lisa's lips.
"That's a neat trick," Heather shouted to her sister. Startled, the crow flew away when Lisa jumped. "Maybe there is something with you and those animals. They don't come near me."
"I don't shoot them like you do either," Lisa snapped.
"At practice, I shot against the best archers and beat them all. They said that I just had a lucky day. They wouldn't admit that a girl could be more skillful then them."
"Since when has a man ever admitted a thing like that," Lisa laughed. "That's like asking a horse to fly."
Heather laughed with her. "I'll show them at the tournament next week. You just wait and see."
"I have no doubt that you will," Lisa continued laughing. "I just hope Father doesn't cancel the games because of Simon being gone."
"He wouldn't dare. I won't let him."

Rhoda rfort@infoway.lib.nm.us Fri Oct 17 18:12:13 PDT 1997

Dear friends,

I am considering giving my book THE RELUCTANT BARBARIAN another try at marketting. Here is the three page synopsis I am currently using. Any comments as to how I can improve this would be appreciated. Also I would like to know if judging from the synopsis, do my characters seem like interesting people a reader can identify with. Does there appear to be a suitable conflict in the story and does this conflict come across in this synopsis?


Brock had once distinguished himself as one of Arthur's most accomplished warriors in the struggle to save Britain from the invading Angles and Saxons. When the powerful King Maelgwn of Gwynedd publishes the report that Brock's natural father is the notorious Anglian pirate, Edgar of the Seven Ships, Brock looses his place in British society, his inheritance, and the woman he loves. Bitter and disillusioned by the feuding of the British kingdoms and by the destruction of the confederation, Brock walks away from his British heritage.
Now Brock finds himself in the service of his natural father and must integrate himself into a foreign, heathen society while holding fast to his Christian faith. After he is made thane of an Anglian manor, Brock is forced to endure the enmity of his retainers who distrust and resent him because of his British blood and his past service to Arthur. Edgar's heir, Reginald, makes mischief for Brock and threatens to eliminate him once Edgar is dead. Because of the differences in their upbringing and in their values, Brock endures an uneasy relationship with his natural father. Half British and half Angle, Brock can't find acceptance in either world.
Vanora strives to fulfill her father's dying wish that she protect their ancestral home, Glenarbor, and its people. Now that her husband is dead, she finds herself surrounded by ambitious men who seek to take her land from her. Vanora is forced to pay tribute to the Anglian chief, Edgar of the Seven Ships, but her most dangerous adversary is her late husband's half-brother, King Maelgwn of Gwynedd who makes several attempts to take control of Vanora's land and life.
When Brock is forced to accompany Edgar to Vanora's home at Glenarbor, he is horrified at the prospect of meeting Vanora because her father, once Brock's close friend, had betrayed Arthur. Wishing to avoid uncomfortable questions about his change in allegiance, Brock embarks upon a plan to disguise his own British identity.
Believing Brock to be an Angle, Vanora struggles with her growing attraction to this mysterious barbarian. Though he has never spoken a word to her, his eyes and his actions communicate a seething passion that frightens yet intrigues her. Meanwhile Brock battles his own desire for the lovely widow by reminding himself that she is a British woman, no doubt as faithless as the one he once loved. Did not Vanora break her own betrothal to his younger brother so that she could marry King Maelgwn's half-brother? The rumors he has heard regarding the questionable paternity of her son further underscore his distrust of her.
When Vanora discovers that Brock has deceived her by disguising himself, a bitter quarrel ensues where Brock confronts her with the rumors he has heard regarding her infidelity to her late husband.
Brock leaves Glenarbor and retreats into his Anglian world. Though he experiences more acceptance among the Angles, he becomes increasingly miserable as he finds himself unable to forget Vanora.
When Brock learns that Vanora has been condemned for the murder of one of Maelgwn's captains, he puts aside his doubts about her and rescues her from Maelgwn's guards. He takes her to Feaholt where he can ensure her safety. Here he is forced to reconcile the difference between his preconceived ideas of Vanora's character and the courageous, self-sacrificing woman he observes.
When Brock asks Vanora to marry him, she accepts though she realizes that, like Brock, she will be ostracized by her native people. Shortly after their betrothal, Brock is called to Edgar's death bed. Thinking that Vanora would be safe, he leaves her at Feaholt.
Brock returns to Feaholt to find Vanora gone. When he discovers that she has been taken to Deganwy Castle, Maelgwn's stronghold, he sets out to free her before Maelgwn puts her to death. With the help of an influential bishop and the discovery of a hoard of gold at Glenarbor, he is able to win Vanora's freedom.
Brock and Vanora marry after returning to Feaholt. Brock decides to visit his mother and relatives in Cornwall. Brock discovers that through his love for Vanora and the trials he has encountered throughout their courtship, that he has found the strength to fully live out his Christian faith by forgiving the Britons.

Michael E. Davis michael.e.davis@boeing.com Fri Oct 17 15:31:07 PDT 1997

This isn't a manuscript, and I promise to bring some of my stuff to the site soon. I really would like some feedback from others. At the site, I mentioned a book I'm reading by Thom Jones. As I read it, this thought came to my mind. I'll pass it on as I wrote it down.

"Until we build a world where everyone can live in dignity, and die with dignity, we have no legitimate claim to the title, the most intelligent creature on the earth."

That's it for now. I've got some guy on the phone who won't let me concentrate.

Toby Buckell bcbuctsa@bluffton.edu Mon Oct 13 18:54:07 PDT 1997

(Hello everyone, it's me again, Toby B. I have some time to work on the next little installment, sorry about the abrupt length of the last. As before, every little bit of critique helps sharpen this story, and I really appreciate it.)


His first impulse was to smash the phone, but he didn't. He called Sean Kurtz instead. Six years ago Sean had spearheaded the turn of the century demand for Violent Investigative, then left when the vision went sour, funding cut out from under the 'finest detective-squad in the whole damn country'.

Now he lead the loose association of dedicated bounty-hunters Adrian worked with.

"Adrian, are you trying to retire on me?"


"The bounty on Michael Piedmont was over two million dollars, you're the envy of every damn hunter I know!"

Adrian vaguely recalled the previous offer being closer to seven thousand than the ridiculous, faraway sum of two million. "Sean..."

"I swear, if I had known..."

"Sean, they kidnapped Jennifer."

There was silence on the other end for a second.

"Who kidnapped Jennifer?"

"I don't know." The weight suddenly landed on Adrian's shoulders. "I don't know." His nose throbbed, and a vague headache made his eyes water. "They used Eckhardt's phone, there's probably no way I can trace them."

"It has something to do with Piedmont, doesn't it?"

"I would guess. But I don't have a clue."

"Someone wanted him dead enough to put out a two million bounty," Sean said. "Dead, or alive."

"Who." The headache receded as Adrian fell back to his old habits. Whoever issued the bounty was worried about covering something up, something that Piedmont could possibly expose.

"I'll find out for you."

"Call me as soon as you find out." Adrian disconnected. Whoever was doing this had to be scared Piedmont said something on the roof, and that was how Jennifer figured into this.


Piedmont had said something. The six fingered man. But that was hardly enough of a lead for anything.

"SHIT. Shit. Shitshitshitshitshit."

Adrian decided it was time to search Piedmont's apartment.

The phone rang just outside of Cleveland. Adrian slowed down to hit a patch of standing water.

"Adrian," he answered.

"It's Gavin. I called you at home, you weren't there. What's up?"

"Nothing," Adrian clearly recalled the message he had recieved. Gavin would have to stay in the dark. "Just on the move. What do you need?"

"I'm here to satisfy your curiosity. The six-fingered prints don't come up on anything, as far as we're concerned Piedmont did it."

"What about the DNA match?"


"Hey, thanks Gavin. I appreciate your time."

"No problem. Where're you going to go take Jen?"

That hurt.

"I was thinking about the zoo." Adrian disconnected.

It took three extra minutes to find Piedmont's rundown apartment building. He pulled on the old brown overcoat and made his way up the stairs to 339.

The door was slightly ajar and the yellow hazard-tape broken. Someone had beaten him here. Adrian pulled out his gun and slowly slipped through door.

"Hello," a voice whispered. Adrian half turned and was hit in the ribs. He gasped and dropped the gun.

"Son of..." The second hit sent him sprawling over a couch he couldn't see. He crouched behind it, waiting for his eyes to adjust.

(God you gotta love a cliffhanger! Sorry, this is it for today!) It's really interesting how much time my character spends on the phone in this story.

Goodweed of the North bflowers@northernway.net Sun Oct 12 18:03:05 PDT 1997

This is my third time trying to post this. Hope it works this time.

Dear Mr. Valentino:

Thank you again for evaluating my manuscript. As requested, I have included a synopsis of the story, the manuscript, and a SASE. Please feel free to make suggestions, critiques, and comments. I hope you enjoy the manuscript as much as I enjoyed writing it. I am currently at work on the second book of the series and should complete it within the next four to five months. Should the first book capture the imagination of its intended audience, I would be glad to consider a long term arrangement.
Dear Mr. Valentino:

Thank you again for agreeing to evaluate my manuscript. "The Power of the Talisman". As requested, I have included a synopsis of the story, the manuscript, and a SASE. Please feel free to make suggestions, critiques, and comments. I hope you enjoy the manuscript as much as I enjoyed writing it. I am currently at work on the second book of the series and should complete it within the next four to five months. Should the first book capture the imagination of its intended audience, I would be glad to consider a long term arrangement.


The story begins with orphaned, ten year old twins, a boy and his sister, wandering alone through a wild and primitive forest known as the Kalb. The Kalb is flanked on either side by the Kesk mountains. The children witnessed the brutal murder of their parents, and the destruction of their tribal camp by Tibron raiders from the eastern mountain ranges. Having been taught survival tactics by their father, they survive the perils of the forest until witnessing a man tormented by a swarm of angry hornets. This man dives into a smoky den to drive away the insects and lapses into unconsciousness. The twins inspect the stranger and surmise that he is a member of an elite tribe of couriers known by their tribal name, The McCoursers. They discover that he is carrying a strange, triangular shaped object which resembles milky white glass.
He is nursed back to health by the twins. After waking, he identifies himself as Dana McCourser. The McCoursers are trusted implicitly by the various valley tribes. Dana McCourser leads the twins, Sarren and Balon through a series of adventures wherein they are attacked by wild dogs, a crazed bear, and a Tibron spy. The trio meet a gigantic hawk-like bird, a mythical roc, named Melna Tor Kara.
Sarren and her brother Balon have shared the power of mental telepathy since early childhood and discover that with the aid of the object carried by the courier, a powerful talisman called the skyangle talisman, Sarren can control small winged creatures such as insects and small birds. She finds that the more intelligent the creature, the less control she maintains. Rocs and dragons have human intelligence or better so she has no control over them.
The trio arrives at a city located on the mighty Northron River which runs through the middle of the Northron Valley. The city is known as Misted Twin and is the home of skilled artisans. It is politically neutral and trades with Tibrons and Valley customers alike.
Dana and the twins stay at an Inn where they are attacked by a Tibron spy. Sarren uses her power over insects to drive the spy away. Dana, Sarren, and Balon flee the city and travel northward toward the Northron River headwaters. It is during this part of the journey where they meet Melna Tor Kara. The foursome continue northward until they team up with Telgar.
In the mountain city of Tibre, an evil sorceress named Quella plots to overthrow King Timitus. He is a powerful monarch, ruthless, intelligent. At his right hand is Eflan, First General of the Tibron army. It is Eflan who creates and plans the strategies used against the people of Northron Valley. Eflan is a master soldier and creator of weapons. He is also hated by Quella.
The sorceress has secretly developed a serum, which when injected into an injured person, causes perfect regeneration of the injured part or perfect healing. The effects of the serum last for several days. She uses it to prolong the lives of those she tortures. The woman is very sadistic and cruel. Her most potent spell is carried by a mist which travels along the ground, seeking its victim. All men touched by the mist fall hopelessly in love with Quella. They will do anything for her, including the murder of their own loved ones.
This spell is made possible by the Darkstar Talisman, an orb of obsidian which absorbs the energy from all it touches. It transforms that energy into a powerful force which the sorceress uses to form her magic.
Before the capture of Timitus, Eflan develops an explosive weapon which he tests by igniting it in the mouth of a cave. Inside the cave lies the powerful dragon, Trok. The mighty beast is injured by the blast and flies westward to the home of the dragons, Manandalar. She soaks in the mineral pool and lets it clean her wounds.
Quella eventually succeeds in capturing the King and destroying the ruling class of Tibre. She enslaves the male populous of the city with her love spell and prepares to invade the valley.
In the valley, Dana and the twins continue their journey toward the Northron Headwaters to meet the future King of Northron Valley, Telgar. The King is traveling southward at the time, to meet with neighboring valley tribes to discuss the problem of the Tibron raiders.
An outcast wolf lover known as Rau attacks one of the villages. He is a man who was driven from his own camp due to his obsession with wolves. He and his four legged friends had been driven ever deeper into the forest by superstitious men who blamed everything on the wolves. Rau divorces himself from human company in favor of the pack.
Telgar's wife, Diana travels with him. Like the twins, she enjoys super-normal mental abilities. She can enter the minds of others and know the true person which lies inside. She also controls creeping animals. The same laws of intelligence which limit Sarren also limit Diana. Diana is their aunt.
Telgar's wife finds Rau and is made aware of his bitterness and its cause. She helps him to become accepted once more into the mainstream of society. He uses his abilities and the help of his wolfpack to aid Telgar's growing force.
Telgar unites the valley tribes and plans a campaign against Quella and the Tibrons. Eflan escapes Tibre and offers his expertise to Telgar and his cause. He successfully proves himself trustworthy through a series of tests in which he participates. The Valley force continues to grow, enlisting the aid of the rocs, dragons, and wolves to augment the human fighters.
Balon becomes a central figure as it is his power to act as a human relay which channels the psychic abilities of both Sarren and Diana, into the talisman.
Quella has created an unstoppable army of Tibron soldiers by injecting each of them with her healing elixir. They are absolutely loyal because of her spells. With the help of the Darkstar, she can open visual portals and view any place in real time. She plans her own campaign against the valley.
A blacksmith named Ross creates a mighty sword for Telgar and impresses on it runes of protection and power. It is learned that he is a rune mage and his magic can partially protect certain key figures.
The battle between the Tibrons and the Northrons is waged with dire consequences for the valley. Quella succeeds in capturing nearly a third of the opposing army with her love spell. She uses them to fight against their own families and friends from the valley. This of course demoralizes the Northron army as they are forced to fight against their own people. Telgar and most of the leaders are captured. Quella plans to torture and kill them.
Diana, and the twins escaped, as did Rau, Trok the dragon, Melna Tor Kara and the other rocs. With some luck and a previously unknown force used by the dragons, Quella is entrapped with King Timitus in a great meeting hall created from a tremendous cavern located on the side of the mountain. This ties up the loose ends and simultaneously sets up the second book of the series.

Thu Oct 9 15:41:10 PDT 1997

toby buckell bcbuctsa@bluffton.edu Thu Oct 9 09:01:37 PDT 1997

Here's a third installment to the six fingered man detective story (Rosemary, thanks for prodding me :). Anyone feel free to say anything you have to say about this.

Mango loudly voiced her opinion on being left locked in the apartment all day. Adrian lifted the Calico colored cat onto his shoulder with a smile and checked the phone for messages.

Three of them. Two from Charlene and one from Eckhardt, the landlord. Adrian reached up and scratched Mango's cheek. She responded by purring and arching her claws deep into his collar bone. It had always been a mystery to Adrian why the cat choose to perch on his shoulder like a demented furry parrot, but he welcomed the company.

"Hi," Charlene said, "Just want you to know that I appreciate your taking Jennifer out for the weekend like this, I'm really swamped with work, Heddinger..."

"What the hell!" He hadn't seen Jen since last week. Adrian punched in Charlene's number. Busy. Shit. He disconnected and played the second message.

"Hi, it's me again. Just for the record I'd like to know how long will Jen be staying? I might be having...uh...company. Thanks."

Adrian tried again. Still busy. He punched the desk, and Mango leaped off from his shoulder to the floor, sensing his anger. What was going on? He hadn't told Charlene about his plans to spend time with Jen. Eckhardt's message remained, the 'unread' dot blinking steadily. Adrian touched it.

"Mr. Steele, I'm sorry," it wasn't Eckhardt, "but you've probably figured out by now that your daughter has been kidnapped." Adrian felt ice grip his stomach. "You see, we need your cooperation on a few matters and this was the only way we could get your help. We'll be calling again to tell you what to do. Need I mention, of course, that you are not to mention this to Investigative, we have our sources. Thank you Mr. Steele, have a nice day."

Well there it is. I gotta run now. See you all again soon!

Thu Oct 9 09:01:35 PDT 1997

TaiMing carlinda@thegrid.net Thu Oct 2 22:52:44 PDT 1997

Tai here....THANKS to EVERYONE for your help, critiques, kind words and definite encouragement. If you were in my area of town, you would see me glowing from a mile away! I cannot tell you how much it means to me that you guys like my work and feel so comfortable in advising me. This is the best thing that has happened to me in my life, and I am not kidding in the slightest. Once again....Thanks so much. Keep those critiques coming....because....here is the second chapter...........*hugs* :-D *kisses too...*

Li'aam was tired and sweaty, his leather jerkin darkened with his moisture. And the only thing he drank to assuage his thirst had been the fined beer the women had been making and storing for three fortnights. He had enough with the games. After competing for thirty hours and tired from riding to arrive here, and the lost hours of sleep, the time spent grooming and feeding his mount Farge, and all the women gathering too closely try to please him. He was just tired of it all.

He slipped around the corner of one of the unlit tents and quickly made his way back. No one was awaiting him, all being either in the games or observing them. Or possibly, to find their way back to their lodgings, or to find lodgings more to their liking, he thought, and nodded to himself at the probable accuracy. Creeping into the quarters usually reserved for the guards and knowing that there was a good chance of a pallet open, he quickly found one, crawled under the skins and fell fast asleep. At least...he closed his eyes and rested his mind. This was as asleep as only a Swadhi could be, especially in the midst of the continuing noise.

He was startled back to full consciousness by Thim, the newest member of the Swadhi and an eager-but-foolish and brilliant-but-young man. And now rather hopelessly drunk. So much for his intelligence, Li'aam thought smilingly. Thim would be questioning his own wisdom come firstlight. Li'aam smiled again at the thought. "What'er you smiling about, Li?", Thim mumbled roughly seeing Li'aam wake. "A good dream, or some woman sliding into your bed before I got here?", Thim said. He visibly surveyed Li'aam's face and saw no secret grin and caught no scent of woman about him. Thim's head sagged halfway to his chest. He was rather disappointed at the lack of his idol's dalliances lately. Well, he thought...that certainly wouldn't be his problem! Why...when he got to where Li'aam was in the Swadhi, he'd have women pouring all over him and he'd turn away none!

"I was just smiling about your current state of being," Li'aam said, breaking into Thim's thoughts as he turned to right the pallet and loft himself erect simultaneously. Lifting aside the tent door, and peeking out warily, Li'aam turned to face Thim who was obviously struggling to remain upright. "Dawn breaks in a short few measures, Thim...I'm just wondering how you're going to ride...", Li'aam said cautiously.

"As well as the best and better than the worst!", Thim boasted, pointing a finger to the heavens for emphasis. "And what makes you so mush better, Li?", he questioned with a thick tongue. Li'aam's smile returned in full force. Lest Thim think he was laughing at him or pulling rank of some sort, Li'aam met Thim's weaving gaze full on. "Because I've lived through a day like you're going to have on the morrow. And I learned not to do it again...at least", he grinned,"not on purpose." Feeling rebuked, and dizzy on top of that, Thim sat down with a thud on the pallet Li'aam had just vacated - the skins covering the bed sending up a small cloud of dust around him and powdering Thim's clothes. "Careful on now, Thim...", Li'aam said. "It wouldn't do for you to be feeling bad and have a sore backside as well...", he cajoled. "Just you don't fret about me, Li...", Thim slurred. "I can hold my own. Boots!!! I'll be up before you! ...just you see..." Thim mumbled and fell across the pallet. He was snoring within two breaths of a winded cloakust...except that a cloakust, winded or otherwise, would not have smelled nearly this bad, Li'aam thought.

Li'aam turned his gaze to the room idly, looking for anything he might have left behind - or that Thim had left out for the free taking in his own haste to hurry to sleep. Nothing he could see... He rolled Thim over on his side, holding his breath as he did so, just so that the lad might not choke on his own bile should the ale revolt against remaining his in his stomach during his sleep. Nearly gasping for air as he rose, Li'aam again looked out the tent flap and, seeing no one, slipped quietly into the night.

That's the first installment on the second chapter, friends. Slice and dice...especially you Bob....Oh...it's YOU, BOB!
I appreciated all your suggestions and am doing them as we speak...but no, I do not have this on disc. I am retyping everything I have already written and have on hard copy. I haven't learned how to do all that other stuff yet...I'm REALLY new to computers and am just bumbling my way through...

Anyway Gang.....More to come soon... Thanks so very much for your encouragement and help. This forum of friends makes my very existance feel vibrant! Love, again..to you all!!!

TaiMing carlinda@thegrid.net Wed Oct 1 12:31:40 PDT 1997

Hey guys! Time for.....submission #2 on my novel in progress... Please read this second...(otherwise you might lose my train of thought) *giggle* HUGS! ;-D

Sunii set her vanitybag on the divan, peeled off her dark clothes, and followed her needs to the watercloset. The warm waterfall in the corner was so inviting, she allowed herself a brief splash. She washed her teeth and hair, dried herself quickly and was completely comfortable wrapped in a soft pink robe within five minutes. She paddled into the main room and stopped in her footsteps. There on the divan was the purrling - stretched out in full glory - lavender in the candlelight and she imagined, probably lavender in the full light. Such was its shade, it was hard to imagaine it any other color, or to believe it could have been concealed in the dark at all.

Preening again, it was. With full trust and willfulness, licking furiously between its long legs and its longer tail, it glanced up at Sunii as if she were the intruder. Then, and only then, it spoke.

Sunii had heard about purrlings, and had heard rumours of their speech. She knew they spoke within you, rather than to you, but had never understood the concept. Until now. She heard the purrlings voice, somewhere between her body and her mind, and she felt its hunger and thirst. And, wonder of wonders, she knew its name. Instantly, and without a doubt. She felt its name. Meep. And it was really hungry and thirsty, it reminded her.

Somehow, the purrling's name fit perfectly. It had "eeped" at her when it had become frightened in the street. And,somehow, not just because it had trusted her with its name, but just because...it was now her purrling...this Meep. And she must feed it and give it water - now! Sunii walked to the fridge, thought-opened the entry and extracted the water and greens the little vegetarian desired. She laid the transluscent trays on the dining table and waited. But no Meep was forthcoming. And no Meep sounded at her table. Meep stayed, content, upon her divan and stirred not one inch. Yet, she heard the Meep speak again. And she reluctantly moved the trays to the divan, and placed them in front of the Meep.

And the Meep purred, and looked up at Sunii, blinked her big eyes, and began to eat and drink delicately, almost without a sound. Then licking herself loudly, the Meep rolled up into her nearly invisible furry ball, and fell nearly asleep - only her golden eyes peeking out of her fur, until they at last closed.

Sunii was exhausted. She felt so like the purrling now that she could have laid down next to it and fallen asleep with the same contentment. Unfortunately, that would not do tonite. She had too much to accomplish to afford herself the luxury of sleep just yet. She had the bag to unpack, the 'things' to put away in a safe place, and the desperate need to eat something herself. She could hear her stomach making hungry sounds, and she knew that the pain of no food for too long would soon be upon her. She again approached the fridge and peered hopefully inside. Some bread from week past, a piece of outlander cheese, two precious eggs, a few greens leftover after feeding the Meep, and a flask of ale. So, she thought...I'll make a morning meal. Only in the size of a midday!! She chopped up some of the greens, broke the bread into tiny pieces, sliced off a few pieces of chese and mixed it all up in a pan on the highest heat her stove would offer. The result was rather gluey, but tasty. She relished every bite. Finally, her hunger was sated and she could get back to the tasks at hand.

Polishing off the last of the ale, two cups at most she speculated, she went about the job of undoing the bag and pouring over the contents. It was so nice to work at the Wouldn'T'it, she thought. Instead of tips, knowing that people sort of knew who she was and what she did other than be a barmaid, she often received 'gifts' from her customers.
Tonight the haul had been overly generous. That really handsome man dressed in leathers that came in this evening, the one she suspected was a scavenger from the outlands, had left her not only a bit of gold which was rare in itself, but also a single blue lens. This lens was worth so much more than he had paid for his meal - more than he would have paid for fifty meals - if she hadn't been so eager to snatch it up, she would have been suspicious.

Sunii had heard words whispered about these lenses, and knew of the reasons for their worth and usage, but she had never seen one before. Even though she knew exactly what it was when she saw it left upon the table. Thank goodness she had been standing next to him when he left it there, or she would have lost it to the nearest customer who first spied it. And thank goodness it had fitted so perfectly into her bodice that no one else had seen it then or when she continued her work.

This was a treasure, she thought, a real treasure! She could sell it, to be sure. And for a great sum! But it was going to be very useful in the next few days or so, when redlight was upon them and she had to be even more careful than usual in her dealings and wanderings.

She carefully concealed the rest of her day's bounty, hiding some in the floorboards under her bed, some in the pockets of her clothes, and some inside empty tea canisters she kept in the cupboard just for that purpose. Satisfied with herself, she undressed to go to bed, and ate one last slice of cheese that didn't get thrown in her hastily concocted meal. By now, the day had certainly worn on her and she was more than sleepy. With her last thought to the vagabond who gave her that wonderful, unexpected gift, she fell quite soundly, and gratefully, asleep.

Well...that's the rest of Chapter Two, friends. Again,....comments, critiques, TELL ME THE TRUTH! *HUGS to all*

Jack Beslanwitch jack@webwitch.com Wed Oct 1 04:59:28 PDT 1997

Well, here is a visual prompt for a story. I loosely have called it Moving Day. Sometime tomorrow I'll try to add some text as a beginning of a shared story. It may or may not work, but at least creating the visual was a joy to do.

TaiMing carlinda@thegrid.net Wed Oct 1 00:41:34 PDT 1997

This is the third time I've tried this and I keep getting booted by my server, or whomever...I hope it flows this time...
*With a nod to Bob Hanford* Well guys...this is the first few bars of my scifi novel. Those who have read my poetry on both the Workbook and errantly in the Notebook, might recognize a few of the characters. I'll post more poetry so you get to know a few more. And Philip, please feel free. As a matter of a fact, EVERYONE FEEL FREE. As one writer previously said, please slice and dice. It's how I GROW!

I should tell you that the first chapter is temporarily lost in a disc that I wrote on my now-defunct word processor. When I find a way to get it read and printed, I will include that chapter as well. But for now....Here it is!

Sunii slid her hand cautiously down her right ankle, feeling for the fur she had felt a second before. Then she gingerly searched the around around her foot, hearing the scraping of her fingertips along the rough walkway. She caught the tiniest tip of a tail, moving softly away from her touch."Eeping" its surprise, the creature revealed itself, slunk against the stairway and cowering - it's eyes aglow in the half-light.

"Surely you know I won't hurt you...", Sunii said quietly. "Moreover, I would never hurt you, but wish nothing but to help you. Are you lost?", she said sweetly.

The young purrling held itself very still. And, very confused, resorted to what purrlings do in time of doubt - it began preening. Licking itself all over, inch by minute inch, very carefully and methodically. And all the while glancing periodically at the human observing it. After it had licked the last piece of fur on its tiniest toe, it stopped its self-indulgences and looked up at Sunii. And moved into the tiniest sliver of light, so that Sunii could barely see it and so that it could easily observe Sunii.

"Come on...", Sunii nearly whispered. "You can come to my house if you have nowhere else to go. It's safe, and I'm not usually this bold to be wandering about in the dark myself!", Sunii lied. "If I ever do it again, you can become my companion," she said,"...since you seem so familiar with it."

The purrling started to purr - quietly, softly - living up to its name. Its eyes glowed golden in the shaft of light that illuminated it. It crept out of the shadows and wrapped itself around her ankles. Sunii reached down and lofted the little bundle up into her arms and held it as if it were a human baby: its tummy straight up, its little soft paws curled kneading in the air, its neck vulnerable and it's body trusting.

Within an instant, startled by the near-silent click of a footstep off in the distance, the purrling had spun itself into a flattened, palm-sized furry ball. Sunii had to quickly cup her left hand into a fist to stop the little being from falling through her fingers. Startled herself by the purrling's rapid transition, she shoved the little fuzzy thing into her vanity bag, clicked it closed, and hurried up the stairs to her doorway. She laid her hand upon the door, and being recognized, the door opened to let her in and shut quietly behind her.

She took the stairs two at a time, not wanting to be stopped for idle chatter, and not wanting to be comfronted by inquiring neighbors. Leaning into her room's door - the room her family had always owned and which had been passed on to her at her mother's death - she rapidly placed her eye against the oracle glass and was admitted. No alarm sounded. The purrling had not been detected.

Sunii had never thought that it might have been. Surely as contraband, it was easily detectable, she reasoned. Because it had a heartbeat. But this was an old building, she thought. And, though she didn't know if other kept contraband pets, she did not suspect that they didn't or hadn't. She was hoping that this little being would become her pet and companion. She was glad there had been no fuss.

So she was safe. And so was her purrling.

More to come tomorrow guys, if you can stand it. It's 1am here now and I'm beat. Give me INSTANT FEEDBACK, OR ELSE!

Bob Hanford bobhanford@cmagic.com Tue Sep 30 18:11:12 PDT 1997

Writing Under the Influence

Of course I should have known better. But, when Gloria, an accomplished writer friend, invited me to stop by for just a little vintage steinbeck on my way home, I accepted. I was having the usual new-writer's problem of finding and trusting my own voice. Poetry and my Germanic love of drama kept overwhelming my first drafts.
Steinbeck would not be the exorcist I needed.
When I arrived, the familiar leatherbound, blue book was already opened on the coffee table.
Gloria welcomed me and read:
"She picked up the fork and combed the boiling grease and brought out a curl of crisp pork. And she set the pot of tumbling coffee on the back of the stove."
"Couldn't we have eased into it?" I asked. "Did we have to start with The Grapes of Wrath?"
"I was afraid if I told you, you'd make an excuse and not stop," she replied. "It's Friday evening; you don't have to work tomorrow. You could even listen to the opening lines of Cannery Row."
I got up and headed for the door as she turned the pages. "I'm sorry," I said to the back of her head. "I'm just not as experienced at this as you are. Thanks anyway. I'll call you over the weekend."
She ignored me and read even louder:
"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream."
She followed me to my car, reading:
"Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky-tonks, restaurants and whorehouses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flop houses."
I felt flushed. In front of my computer a few minutes later, I knew what was wrong with my rejected stories. I needed more unexpected verbs and adjectives. I needed more 'ands', more rhythm, longer sentences punctuated by short, choppy ones, and much more attention to detail. It was amazing how obvious everything became after a little Steinbeck.
I would have to do total rewrites but my stories would never sell in their present form. The plot, setting, and characters wouldn't change-just the form.
A little voice snuck into the right side of my brain. "What about finding yur own voice?" it asked. "Isn't that what you're supposed to be doing?" But I'd already had too much; perhaps if I'd stopped after just one of his sentences...
When my wife came home, I told her I wouldn't be eating dinner. I had a lot of rewriting to do. "Everything's going to be OK now. In just a few months, checks will be piling up in the mailbox. I'll take you out to eat and we can get serious about those house plans you like. Just keep the ones that have 3000 square feet or more. Let's not settle for second best."
She stepped across the threshold of my playpen, as she calls it. "What's changed? Where's all this money going to come from?" she asked.
"I stopped at Gloria's and we shared a little Steinbeck. Just a little, but now I understand why editors don't like my stories," I told her, wishing she wuld leave so I could get started.
"Don't you remember what happened the last time when you two read Hemingway till early in the mornng? You rewrote everything that time and the ediotrs fell off their chairs laughing."
"That's why I only really listened to two sentences this time. She read the beginning of Cannery Row, but I didn't listen."
"Sweetheart, I know you want me to leave so you can write but we have to talk about our relationship. This can't continue. You said you'd do anything I asked because you love me. Well, it's Friday night, which means there's a meeting of Writer's Anonymous at the library. I want you to go, please, for me...for us."
I fought with her a while, telling her I wasn't going to just copy Steinbeck's style. But love prevailed.
It has now been six months of Friday night meetings. I'm not allowed to read Steinbeck at all, though I do carry a paperback version of Cannery Row with me to avoid panic attacks. I'm also not allowed to read anything by Maya Angelou. I don't stop by Gloria's anymore. When I didn't call her that weekend, she talked to my wife. Susan told her about my low tolerance, the Hemingway fiasco, and that I just hadn't been writing for very long.
"Oh, I feel so guilty," Gloria said. "I thought he'd done a lot of writing in college. I should have taken his car keys and let him sleep it off here on the couch."

Jason Coulterman couljaso@renc.igs.net Mon Sep 29 17:42:27 PDT 1997


Afraid Of Being Alone
By : Jason Coulterman
{ this poem is dedicated to all those who have the fear of rejection }

I pass her down the halls.
She leans against the walls.
I sit here thinking.
Waiting for her calls.

I sit with her in class.
It all goes so fast.
Does she know I exist?
This day may be our last.

What should I do.
About someone I never knew.
She's walking down the hall.
This love I speak is true.

And again she passes by.
A love I can't defy.
What should I do, with a love
I can't deny.

Something to indever.
Something so clever.
If I don't say it now
I could lose her forever.

This is my one last chance.
To give her romance.
If she says yes...
I'll take her to the dance.

So I walked up beside her.
I gave her a flower.
Would like to go to the dance.
She said meet me in an hour.


Something To Say
Written By : Jason Coulterman

When I look into your eyes
Sometimes I regret
The things I did
The things I said
I can't get this feeling out of my head.

Something to say.
It came out this way.
You need to forgive me.
Please, someday.

Something to say.
I turned out this way.
I shouldn't have done it.
Now I must pay.

From the day that I met you.
It was love at first sight.
What could I say
I was scared with fright

I walked up beside you
and asked you on a date.
Little did I know
it was our collective fate.

Something to say.
It came out this way.
You need to forgive me.
Please, someday.

Something to say.
I turned this day.
It's over now.
And that's the way it's going to stay.

I guess all I can say is
"I'm sorry..."


I've had alot of good complements about these two. I have more. But I
figured I'd just leave you with my best ones. Also let me know what you
think. Thanks!

jaye lisarich@eisa.net.au Mon Sep 29 05:01:58 PDT 1997

Angel Sent From Heaven Your first appearance on the worlds stage revealed a shy and unassuming girl.Your future before you like a beacon lighting the way.The world stood up and took notice of this beacon,.whose destiny would surely to lead to the throne of England as it's Queen , beside your Prince charming. It was the stuff that fairytales were made of .You were living the daydream of girls around the world ,young and old. To be able to meet her prince charming and to ride off into the sunset., to live happily ever after. Unfortunately the fairytale wasn't to be ,your Prince charming wasn't so charming ! The charade of the fairytale life was kept up for the worlds eyes, but behind closed doors your life wasn't such a fairytale. You suffered the bouts of bulimia and the scorn of the Royal family .You hated the separations from the prince charming, it seemed the "Firm" were against you from the start.The constant spectre of the third person in your marriage proved to be an insummountable barrier,which eventually tore your marriage apart . You suffered the trauma and sadness in the glare of the worlds papparazzi.They followed your every move, and the world watched mesmerized at this Hollywood style blockbuster played out before our eyes. You were on our television screens every night, we would pick up the newspaper or a magazine and there was your face ,the face of an angel sent from heaven. In your private world you suffered never knowing how the world loved and adored you.You strode the worlds stage casting aside the glitz and glamour that was your martial right and the privelege as the mother of the future king. You strode the fields of Angola to bring attention to the victims of landmines.You graced the corridors of the worlds hospitals to comfort the sick and dying. You held the hands of those who suffered from aids and leprosy.To show the world there was nothing to be feared. You loved and adored the sons you gave birth to, two new Princes for the house of Windsor. You were pictured in Pakistan holding in your arms a sick and dying baby with no prejudice or fear for yourself !.You walked the halls of power around the world. Then you would jump right in and help the poor. You were truly were an angel sent from heaven hidden behind the person seen by the worlds cameras.There was now a woman , no longer the shy and unassuming girl we first meet ,but a mature and self confident person. Despite all of this, you were still searching for something,never quite finding what you were looking for. Then just when it seemed you may have finally found were you belonged in the grand scheme of things, fate dealt you a cruel blow taking our angel sent from heaven away from us. And behind, you left a world in mourning .a world grieving for it's angel sent from heaven. You once said you wanted to be known as the "Queen of Hearts".Well "Diana Princess Of Wales".You will never know ,but you truly were and will always be known as the "Queen Of Hearts".

Kay kkcurry@clasic.msn.com Fri Sep 26 16:57:14 PDT 1997

Start of my only short story. Needs work. Do with it as you will.

The evening meal was more a supper than dinner; and a light supper at that: a, fresh salad of greens and herbs and roasted red pepper, with a mild dressing, crisp flatbread from Donatino's bakery, halved fresh papaya with a lemon slice. Richard had walked to the neighborhood shops for the ingredients. The shops were close, it was one reason they'd taken this house. Not that the walk was easy, it was steep uphill coming home. But his doctor had said it would be good for him. Richard made the walk every day, slowly.

If Michael noticed how light the meal was, he didn't comment. He would never, of course, have complained. In their early years together, they'd shared household chores, cooking, doing the dishes, cleaning, laundry. When Richard stopped writing for publication, he'd taken on most of that work. He didn't mind, Michael certainly didn't mind, and they had gone on in that mode for a long time. The pattern had evolved, gradually. Now, Richard arranged things. He arranged meals, either cooking them, or ordering in, or making reservations out. He arranged the housecleaning, and supervised it, and arranged for any maintenance or repairs that were needed. Michael did dishes. He insisted. He said it wasn't onerous, and he got to feel that he was contributing. Richard had never understood, although he certainly wasn't going to object. He hated doing dishes. Still, the food they ate wasn't Michael's primary sustenance, after all. It wasn't necessary that he eat with Richard, he did so for enjoyment of the taste, and out of courtesy. If he weren't living with Richard, there might easily never be dishes to do.

They had wine with dinner, and after, Richard told Michael to go sit on the deck. It was a mild evening, rare, warm and windless. Richard brought out a tray, loaded with champagne, flutes, strawberries, a bowl of melted chocolate and another, empty bowl. He put the tray on the small, low table in front of their chairs. The chairs faced west, side-by-side, offering the view of the city, which fell steeply away in roofs and trees, to a small lake, and then to the beach, and the ocean. When Richard set down the tray with drink and dessert, Michael laughed, delighted, then looked at Richard with suspicion. "What are we celebrating?"

Richard smiled, serene, and let himself enjoy the scenery, for a moment. Michael was enjoyable scenery, that was certain. Age somewhere around twenty, black hair, intense blue eyes with a wide black band around the blue, symmetrical features, true beauty. Beauty now glowering at him, wanting an answer. Richard gave it.

"It's my eighty-seventh birthday."

Michael's response was immediate, positive. "No, it's not."

Richard put his eyebrows up, feigned astonishment. "I should know."

"No. We agreed on your fiftieth birthday, you weren't having any more. They're bad for you. You gave them up."

Richard smiled again, with pleasure and amusement. It was classic, pure Michael. Michael had always been able to make him laugh, even through tears. He had cried, on that birthday. The contrast had been just too much, his age, his greying hair, the lines in his face, the slackness of muscle no amount of time in the gym could halt. Michael's youth. Michael's beauty. Richard remembered that he had felt miserable, but at this remove, he couldn't call back the feeling of misery. He could recall how tenderly Michael had teased him into laughter, how good the lovemaking had been that night, how good he had felt in the morning. He remembered Michael forcing him to admit that the body might have aged but the pleasure went on unabated. Michael had insisted, adamant, that Richard was beautiful, desireable, obviously, how could he doubt it, when Michael had proved it for hours on end.

jaye lisarich@eisa.net.au Fri Sep 26 14:44:57 PDT 1997

A Moment In Life The ancient and mighty waters of the Murray River gliding past me on their ceaseless quest to reach the ocean at the river mouth.The sunshine twinkling on the waters like little shards of diamonds fallen from the sky. The warmth of the midspring sunshine is on my back as I sit in the sun and relax.I hear the calming and relaxing sound of gentle waves on the sides of the houseboat as it chugs up the river. I concentrate on the fishing line in my hand. I start to daydream about it what it was like to live and work on the Murray River in the boom times of the Sunraysia District. Towards the end of the 19th century, when the paddle-steamers were in their heyday. I hear the sound of horses hooves clip-clopping on the cobblestones. Ladies promenade around the wharves,up and down the street with their bustle, bow and lace umbrellas to protect their peaches and cream complexions.Children run between the adults playing tag. Swagmen wander from town to town looking for any work available. Clothes torn and ragged, ones lifelong possessions rolled up and hanging over one shoulder Along the river banks , giant river gums stretching for miles right to the waters edge, Kangaroos and wallabies venture down to the waters edge,fleeing into the bush with fright at the sight of the paddle-steamer. Cockatoos and parrots leap into the air, forming a cloud that blocks the suns warm rays. Then the unending peace and quiet are interrupted by the gentle thud of the paddle-steamers engines. The captain is in his wheelhouse navigating the treacherous rivers course to Mildura. He is watching for sunken trees and snags that threaten to end this journey.Then, pulling into the bank at night, the members of the crew, standing on each side with rope in hand, secure the paddle-steamer to the river gum. Bonfires cook the eveing meal. Then satisfaction in lying on the bank after a hard days work. To marvel in natures miracles of the million of stars in the night sky. Suddenly l am snapped back to reality with two short and sharp tugs on the fishing line.There is a struggle for life and death between human and fish.Finally l have success pulling in my prize catch, a rather small perch. The hook is removed, and its skin is slippery and very slimy. The sun shines on the skin. Because the fish is too small l return it to the deep and dark waters of the river.

Fri Sep 26 14:41:40 PDT 1997

TaiMing carlinda@thegrid.net Fri Sep 26 00:53:47 PDT 1997

After receiving a wonderfully, carefully thought-out critique from Philip McLaren, I reworked my next submission here and eliminated a lot of "unnecessary" verbage. His critique was right on the money and I hope you like the results. Please critique at will.... I LOVE IT! It only makes me better .....(P.S. Philip: just for you (and whomever wishes to read) I am posting the first few bars of my book here tomorrow....it is based upon the characters of Notown's poems, so I hope you recognize a few. Let me know what y'all think....This novel stuff is rather new to me...)


The first time she put on the red dress,
and saw her reflection in the mirror,
she ran around the room
like a madwoman in the midst a frenzy,
and blew out all the candles.

She sat upon the floor,
her legs folding beneath her
in a position of supplication.

The red dress billowed around her,
proud in its sweeping elegance -
speaking aloud of its silk and satin
and the care of its stitches -
oblivious to her quick breaths
and clammy skin.

When she permitted herself,
stolen thoughts overtook her,
and she envisioned herself
quite different...

More confident,
more graceful,
as is the dress could become
and she the gracenote of its splendor,
and enchantress of its spell.

as if without thought,
she rose.
She ran to the open window
fearful some may have seen her
silhouetted against the candlelight,
brazen and bewitched,
embraced by the red dress...

as if she were waiting for someone
to appear in the darkness
and envelope her in kindness,


as for a long-awaited signal in the distance,
or a familiar song in the air,
she very, very slowly drew the shutters.

Turning back towards her black-cloaked room,
she lit a single white candle.
Placing it on the bare window ledge,
she shed herself of the red dress.

She replaced it upon its hanger of satin,
in the far corner of the closet,
and climbed into bed,
pulling the sheets up to her neck.

In the light of one candle,
she could still see the dress -
and it appeared to burn
with a life of its own....
like a raging fire....
and lit up the room with a ruby glow.

Passersby could often be heard
to whisper to each other
very quietly,
about rumors they had heard
regarding the lady that lives
in the room with the red light.

So,...that's it...I know it has a difficult part in the middle, and I'm obviously still struggling with it, but what do you think? Any suggestions, guys?

Rhoda Fort rfort@infoway.lib.nm.us Thu Sep 25 08:45:52 PDT 1997

I thought maybe the best place to begin with critique is where I am at. I have been trying to market THE RELUCTANT BARBARIAN with some form or another of this query letter. Any thoughts or criticism on the letter would be appreciate.

June 25, 1997

Ima Agent
1600 Pennsylvannia Ave.
Washington, D.C. 10001

Dear Mr. Agent,

Though little is known of Dark Age Britain and of the individual Arthur, the history that we do know of the period reveals an intriguing time of anarchy and sweeping changes--the perfect setting for a romance novel.

Set in Sixth century Britain six years after the death of Arthur at Camlan Bridge, my novel, THE RELUCTANT BARBARIAN, presents the story of Brock who once fought with Arthur against the Angles and the Saxons. While in Arthur's service Brock believes himself to be son and heir of an influential British kinglet until a rival king announces that Brock is actually the son of the notorious Anglian pirate, Edgar of the Seven Ships. Through this revelation Brock looses his inheritance, the woman he loves, and the respect of his fellow British warriors. He continues to fight with Arthur until Arthur's death at Camlan Bridge.

Disgusted with the petty feuding among the British kings, and disheartened with the destruction of Arthur's confederation, Brock turns his back on his British heritage to serve his natural father, Edgar. Half Angle, half British, Brock cannot find acceptance in either society.

Brock chooses to live as an Angle, but discovers that his Christian faith and British upbringing will not allow him to blend in. When Brock falls in love with a British widow whose father was once his friend, Brock is challenged to come to terms with his mixed heritage.

What makes THE RELUCTANT BARBARIAN different from other Arthurian novels is that it rounds out the story of Arthurian Britain by introducing the Teutonic invaders Arthur fought against. This novel provides an historic picture of who and what Arthur was and the lawless society he sought to improve.

I have refrained from drawing on Middle Age Arthurian themes such as the Guinevere and Lancelot romance. In my novel, warriors are known as warriors and not knights since the events in this book occur over 500 years before the institutions of chivalry. Arthur's men are light cavalry units who fight primarily with javelin and sword, rather than with lances. Arthur is not a king, but a commander in chief. Nennius, a ninth century chronicler states, "Arthur fought against the Saxons alongside the kings of the Britons, but he himself was the leader in the battles."

I have also chosen not to draw upon the Celtic mysticism prevalent in some modern Arthurian narratives. The British Romano-Celtic aristocracy of the sixth century was primarily Christian. The "old religion" was primarily practiced among the peasants and in the backwaters of the northern British highlands where the late Roman Empire had exerted slight influence.

Anyone who enjoys a good story with lovable, but complex characters will like this book. My main characters are emotional, passionate, devout and intense, but never gushy. I have accurately portrayed the history of the times and have endeavored to give the reader the setting rather than a history lesson.

In my academic career, I have written two term papers dealing with the subject of Arthur. Through my extensive reading, I have a good understanding of the politics, religion, and major events of the time. Most importantly, I have a vivid imagination and can write a good story.

I am currently at work on a novel about Brock's mother and the circumstances that led to Brock's birth. It is named VALERIE'S SONG.

The manuscript of THE RELUCTANT BARBARIAN is 110,000 words and is available upon request. I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience. I appreciate your time and consideration of my letter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely yours,

Rhoda Fort

jaye lisarich@eisa.net.au Thu Sep 25 00:19:02 PDT 1997

A Moment In Life The ancient and mighty waters of the Murray River gliding past me on their ceaseless quest to reach the ocean at the river mouth.The sunshine twinkling on the waters like little shards of diamonds fallen from the sky. The warmth of the midspring sunshine is on my back as I sit in the sun and relax.I hear the calming and relaxing sound of gentle waves on the sides of the houseboat as it chugs up the river. I concentrate on the fishing line in my hand. I start to daydream about it what it was like to live and work on the Murray River in the boom times of the Sunraysia District. Towards the end of the 19th century, when the paddle-steamers were in their heyday. I hear the sound of horses hooves clip-clopping on the cobblestones. Ladies promenade around the wharves,up and down the street with their bustle, bow and lace umbrellas to protect their peaches and cream complexions.Children run between the adults playing tag. Swagmen wander from town to town looking for any work available. Clothes torn and ragged, ones lifelong possessions rolled up and hanging over one shoulder Along the river banks , giant river gums stretching for miles right to the waters edge, Kangaroos and wallabies venture down to the waters edge,fleeing into the bush with fright at the sight of the paddle-steamer. Cockatoos and parrots leap into the air, forming a cloud that blocks the suns warm rays. Then the unending peace and quiet are interrupted by the gentle thud of the paddle-steamers engines. The captain is in his wheelhouse navigating the treacherous rivers course to Mildura. He is watching for sunken trees and snags that threaten to end this journey.Then, pulling into the bank at night, the members of the crew, standing on each side with rope in hand, secure the paddle-steamer to the river gum. Bonfires cook the eveing meal. Then satisfaction in lying on the bank after a hard days work. To marvel in natures miracles of the million of stars in the night sky. Suddenly l am snapped back to reality with two short and sharp tugs on the fishing line.There is a struggle for life and death between human and fish.Finally l have success pulling in my prize catch, a rather small perch. The hook is removed, and its skin is slippery and very slimy. The sun shines on the skin. Because the fish is too small l return it to the deep and dark waters of the river.

TaiMing carlinda@thegrid.net Wed Sep 24 12:25:58 PDT 1997

Well...found out that I had been posting on the wrong spot...into the Notebook...so, if y'all want to see the first two of this series, you'll have to go there until it's archived... This is poem three:


I think it was near dusk -
but I could never be sure -
being twelve at the time
(and of course, older thereafter)
that I slipped into Notown,
quite quietly,
without notice.

My first alarm
was the stars -
glistening silver, etched silently
into the lavender skyscape -
Would they reveal my presence...
spotlight my elusive escape?

Or would the creeping warm fog
hold my bursting spirit its captive,
and bury me (please)
beneath its graying, velvet-brown cloak?

I had hoped for the exuberant denial
of the forestalled rape of innocence,
of the silent seduction bestilled
by abject purity -
and prayed for begging forgiveness
trailing in its sinfully woeful wake.

At last,
Notown's own sweet sentence
shattered my fantasies
and lay fallow
the fields of my young dreams.

Indeed, I was violated,
bewildered and beset upon
by familiar strangers
who saw me as their own -
their sisters, mothers,
friends, lovers -
and, for reasons of their own
wonderously and without conscience,
wished me to remain pure.

Joan rhodda@montana.com Thu Sep 18 19:49:01 PDT 1997

This page is great for my motivation! So, I've decided to inflict a little more writing on you. PLEASE slice & dice. It's rough draft of chapter one:

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds bounced off the gym ceiling and pinged against the hardwood floor before coming to rest on the reverberating ear drums of sixty of the best and brightest of Willow Drum High School's class of 1972. Of course, the class of '72 was now forty-something. Some of them did not look their best and brightest.

Skip Meloy pushed wire-rim aviator glasses back up on his nose, dragged fingers through his receding hairline and leaned close to Virginia Shipley as the Cellophane Union finished its rendition of the Beatles drug classic. "Man, they haven't gotten any better with time," he whispered.

Ginny quirked a dimple at him--wow, she still had dimples, he thought--and kicked him in the shin. Some things never changed. "Does anyone get better with time?"

"Oh crap, of course they do. Look at me!" It was, predictably, Peter that spoke.

"You couldn't help but get better, Pete. Look what you had to start with." Ginny laughed when she said it, but Skip saw her glance again at the gym door for perhaps the hundredth time in the last two hours.

"What did I have to start with? Just what do you mean by that? I was raised in a particularly lovely mobile villa--"

"By wart hogs."

"--I'll thank you to leave my mother out of this--which sat next to the glorious Willow Drum . . . Antique Shop--"

"--and land fill, which probably contributed to that masculine scent you used to blame on cologne."

"Had nothing to do with that! It was the stuff that used to come to the, uh, 'antique shop' in big barrels from the nuclear plant over at Slema--I sloshed it on for aftershave every morning."

"That would certainly account for your grades. And the lack of facial hair."

Skip just sat and grinned, observing; his role, as always.

"No, my grades were my own making. The warthog was never very happy with them. For some reason." Pete scratched his head--still lots of hair, Skip noticed with no small envy. Maybe he should have tried the stuff from Selma, himself.

Pete jumped up and hooted across the room, "Hey Mannie!" and launched himself over through a maze of tables to greet someone else.

Ginny looked at her watch, then at the door again.

"She'll be here, Gin."

"I don't know. You didn't hear her on the phone, you know? She sounded so . . . different."

"Yeah, well, she probably is different. We haven't seen her, none of us, in twenty years."

"We've written."

"You can hide a lot behind paper."

"You should know, huh? Skip, the writer." She grinned at him, and it had the same old effect. Man, how could he have stayed away from this town for 20 years? And why come back now, for some cheesy school reunion. He should have been back before; should have come back for Ginny; should have taken her with him on his travels. Should have never left her here to marry some dumb ex-jock with an IQ of approximately, oh, say 2, who didn't appreciate her. Used her up and left town when he found someone new, someone to make him feel young and not like some hick turkey with no future.


He jerked and nearly fell out of his chair.

"Whoa, Skip. Are you with me now? What'd you do, fall into one of your mysteries? You look mean enough to kill."

"Oh." She must have been talking to him when he faded out. Damn. "Oh, yeah . . . happens all the time."

He looked at her--really looked. Past the first signs of age gathered at the corners of her eyes and mouth, past the strands of silver (he couldn't bring himself to think of them as gray) that slithered through the black length of her hair drawn back in a French braid. It wasn't too late. Skip, of all people, knew that. The jock may have thought she was all used up--and he'd bet his mother's socks those were the guy's words to her he thought, with an angry twist of his gut. But the jock was wrong. All the youth and laughter and fine person she'd always been shone out of her eyes.

He leaned forward and grabbed her hand, before Pete could come blustering back to their table and wreck the moment with that exquisite timing of his. "Listen, Gin," he said softly.

But she was looking at the door again, a definite worry crease between her eyebrows. The fingers of one hand drummed the table.

Skip sighed. "All right. Why are you so worried about her?"

She fixed him with those eyes, pinned him right to the chair so he had to consciously make an effort to breathe, just as she'd done the very first time he saw her, sitting astride a horse, skinny white legs jutting over each side of the monster it had seemed to his always overheated imagination to be. The willow tree she'd stopped beside had been speaking to him, leaves struggling to get their message through his thick human skull.

He'd actually been takling to it--"C'mon, what are you trying to say?" when her voice jerked him out of his reverie and said, "Do you always talk to trees?"

Skipper McCune Trenary Meloy dragged his gaze away from the tree to face curious 11-year-old gray eyes in a too-sharp face beneath a mop of black hair. "Huh? Oh. Oh. No." He was stuttering. This would never do. He leaned back against the tree, put his hands in his pockets and crossed his feet. "Only when there's nothing better to do.

"What isn't better than talking to some leaves?"

He bit his lip before he said what first came to mind: well, talking to you, for starts. His mother was always cautioning him about that. "Don't get a flip lip, Skip," she'd say, then grin at him, inevitably following with, "I'm a poet and don't know it; but my toes do--they're Longfellows."

Besides, it wasn't true--that talking to leaves was better than talkingf to her. There was something distinctly interesting about this girl. And it didn't hurt that she was riding a horse. Skip had always wanted to ride a horse, but his mom gave her they-couldn't-have-one-the-landlord- wouldn't-allow-it spiel. Followed by the familiar maybe-when-your-dad-comes-back-from-the-war sigh. She always looked so sad when she said that. It made his stomach hurt.

The horse moved then, the girl turning it away. "Hey, wait a minute! Can I . . . I mean, do you think I could--"

"Wanna ride?"

He nodded--fast.

"Well c'mon." She leaned over and stuck her hand out to him, the other hand curled in the long, tangly mane of the horse. He went to grab her hand, then stopped, staring. The fingers on the hand she held out were short and deformed, no more than stumps at the end of her hand.

"Thalidomide," she said.

"Huh?" He looked up at her quickly, cheeks and ears burning red. He knew his freckles were standing out like exclamation points--his mom told him they did whenever her got embarrassed. He hadn't meant to stare at her hand; it just looked so weird.

"Tha-lid-o-mide. SIt's a drug the doctor gave my mom for upset stomach--that's nausea--when she was pregnant. It causes birth defects like this, but they didn't know it then." The words ran out of her mouth in a way that told him she'd rehearsed and said them plenty of times. There were two bright spots high on her cheeks, but her voice didn't go all high and squeaky like his did when he got in a tight spot.

"Are you coming or not? It's not catching, you know."

"Oh!" Don't skip out on my Skip, he thought in his mother's voice. He was always drifting off to some other place when he thought things through. "Yeah, sorry. About your hand, I mean." He grunted the words out as he took her hand and struggled to pull himself up onto the horse's broad back.

The horse--Bridie was her name--looked around as if to ask, "Are you up there yet?"

"I'm Virginia--Ginny for short. Now hang on--uh, what's your name, anyhow?"


Well, hang on to my belt loops. Don't try putting your arms around my waist or my brother'll punch your lights out."

"Like to see him try!"

"I don't think so." Ginny pulled back on the reins and looked over her shoulder at him seriously. "He's 24 and I live with him and he works at Spanky's Muscle Gym."

Zow. Skip knew exactly who she was taking about. He and Pete had seen the guy in town and followed him on their bikes to the gym one day, awed by the sheer bulk of muscle. It was pretty easy to spot something new in Willow Drum, with only a couple thousand people living there.

"Okay, belt loops."

"I'll go slow."

And she had gone slow, at first. With early summer sun slanting through the tree branches along the river trail, Skip allowed himself to day dream. He was a cowboy, then a trapper, a mountie, a knight in shining armor going to rescue a fair maiden. Maid Ginny--

"Halt! Who goes there?"

Startled, for a moment Skip thought the voice was in his daydream, but Ginny had jerked the reins in response to the voice, so it must be real. Skip peered around her shoulder, ready to jump and run if it was her brother.

It was only Pete, standing in the middle of the trail in front of the horse, one hand behind his back and the other pointing a long, sharpened stick "sword" at the monster Skip rode with Ginny.

"Cool, Skiperoo!" The stick plunked into the soft dust as Pete saw Skip on the horse. "Where'd you get it?"

Ginny ignored the question, which wasn't asked of her in any case, and turned to fix Skip with that intense stare. "He doesn't talk to trees, too, does he?"

For a second, before he caught the quicksilver glint of laughter in her eyes, he really thought she was worried. He grinned. "Nope, just me."

He slid off the horse and landed with a thump on his rear end. "And don't call me Skiperoo, you yuk," he said, giving Pete a punch in the arm. "This is Ginny and Bridie."

"Hi there, Ginny, old gal." Pete gave the horse a cautious pat on the neck and skittered out of reach when she swung her muzzle in his direction. He stuck a hand out to Ginny. "You must be bridie," he said in his best English butler accent. "Most pleased to meet you."

Ginny giggled.

"Not her, stupid, the horse."

Pete, for one rare moment, looked perplexed. Then realization dawned, and he turned to Bridie. "Most pleased to meet you, too. Er, whatever your name is."

------------OK, that's it for now. My daughter needs help with her homework, and I haven't had a chance to proof this, so sorry for all the typos!!!


"She's Bridie, I'm Ginny. She's the horse and I'm not."

Thu Sep 18 19:41:53 PDT 1997

Love to learn, so teach me 'bout query letters. Tear it up if you can (I expect you to). Here it is:

TechServices Inc., Literary Agency
Elizabeth McHugh

Subject: Submission of Fantasy manuscript for evaluation and representation.

Title: The Power of The Talisman

Subtitle: Book One of The Northron Chronicles

From : Robert J. Flowers

Pseudonym: G.W. North

Address: 710 West Buchanan St.
Sault Ste. Marie, Mi.
Zip: 49783

Phone: (906) 635-5806

E-Mail Address: bflowers@northernway.net

Length of manuscript: 108,750 words

Dear Ms. McHugh:
I have produced a fresh, exciting, and original story "The Power of the Talisman".
The Power of the Talisman is a fantasy novel in which I take the reader to a new world where mystical characters are woven into a fast-paced, and thought provoking story. The Power of the Talisman is filled with conflict between good and evil; primitive technology and magic; mental powers and old fashioned strategy. In a land where bears, wolves, mythical rocs, and dragons roam free, differing cultures must unite to defeat a supremely evil villain.
In short, my manuscript is an action-adventure, fantasy thriller.

I am an author seeking literary representation. I have read and loved Science Fiction and Fantasy from about the second grade, enjoying the works of Asimov, Donaldson, Fritz Leiber, Tolkein, and other great authors too numerous to mention. I've been writing for about ten years but have become serious about my work over the past twelve months. I've thoughtfully reworked my manuscript through numerous drafts and believe it is ready for publication.
The first three chapters of my manuscript are included per your request. Please phone, write, or E-mail if you are interested in reading the whole manuscript and I will gladly forward it to you. You may take comfort in knowing this work is not presently being read by anyone.
I thank you for your time and interest, and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely: Robert J. Flowers

Thu Sep 18 19:40:17 PDT 1997

toby b bcbuctsa@bluffton.edu Tue Sep 16 08:48:09 PDT 1997

This'll be shorter, I only have an hour.

The rain had chosen to ease up to a drizzle, and one of the officers had handed Adrian a bright red poncho. It was still cold though, and an occasional gust crackled the wrinkled plastic and sent him shivering. The mobile paramedics had managed to stabilize Piedmont by the time Adrian had reached the bottom of the stairs.

Gavin VonConant was present, head of Violent Investigative. A well built fellow with jet black hair and a casual feel for life. Adrian had worked under him the first five years in Cleveland. They had a long history together.

"That was a hell of a fall," Gavin VonConant said, briefly looking up the side of the building, and the mounds of trash below it. "It's a shame he's still alive." The ambulance turned on its sirens. Adrian waited until it was out of earshot before talking.

"Piedmont claimed he didn't do it."

Gavin winced.

"Come on Adrian, you've been in the bussiness for thirteen years."

"He also says that the woman was his daughter. Gavin, the man was crying!"

Gavin looked up the side of the building again, thoughtfully.

"Adrian, you're shook up a bit..."

"No shit!"

"...but I'll let you know what we find. We only just now are checking the room for prints, and I'll add a D.N.A check to that to see if Piedmont was telling the truth, though she doesn't have any official connections to him, who knows?"

"I appreciate it." The squad cars were shutting down their lights and leaving.

"By the way," Gavin said. "The bounty is yours. The department will drop you the check within the week. Enjoy it, go spend a weekend with Jen." Adrian smiled at the mention of his daughter's name. It had been two weeks since Charlene had let him spend some time with Jen, and she was growing up so quickly.

"Thanks. One last thing."


"If you get any six fingered prints, call me."

"Six fingered prints?" Gavin made a face, then climbed into his unmarked Chevy. "I'll remember that." The Chevy pulled out of the alley, leaving Adrian standing in the rain.


The drive back from Cleveland to Ashland was a decent one, a little over an hour. But only because it was down I-71, traffic moved along at a decent pace. A bag of fries and a cherry cola helped the time pass quickly enough.

Just off of the highway, five minutes from the apartment, the phone rang.

"Yeah, hello."

"Adrian, it's Gavin. I have a question."

"Go ahead."

"Do you think that Piedmont was innocent?"

"I don't know," Adrian answered, truthfuly enough. He still wasn't sure.

"Okay," Gavin replied. "Good enough. Got news for you, then. My guys found five sets of six fingered prints in the apartment. No record of this guy. Doesn't exist."

Having put the whole problem out of his mind at the drivethrough in favor of where to take Jen for the weekend, Adrian found himself wondering again. Piedmont may have been telling the truth. What now?

"What about the D.N.A test?" he asked.

"Still waiting. Look Adrian, you sure you want to keep this up? It isn't your problem anymore, you have your money for finding him, let it go. Investigative can handle it from here on. That's what we get paid for, you don't."

Of course, Gavin was right. Adrian slowed up under a traffic light, turned left.

"Alright Gavin. You win. I'll forget it all."

"Good stuff. Give Jen a big hug from uncle Gavin."

"Will do."

Tue Sep 16 08:48:09 PDT 1997

Tue Sep 16 08:48:07 PDT 1997

Toby B bcbuctsa@bluffton.edu Mon Sep 15 19:55:46 PDT 1997

As a project, I decided to start a story here in the notebook, adding to it whenever I am in the computer lab. What you see is the first, non-edited draft, made-up as I go along. I would love any comments, as I will lift what I write here once a week, take any criticism, and polish it up over the weekend.
This is a mix between the plot I wrote in the discussion group and some sci-fi thrown in to make me happy. And whatever else I think it needs.

Sometimes, but not too often, Adrian Steele wondered why he did it. This was one of those times. The dark clouds were pouring sheets of wetness, and his clothes didn't seem interested in doing anything about keping him dry. Or warm. His teeth chattered as he stepped out from the protection of a thundering ventilator.

"Piedmont, this is bloody stupid," he screamed out over the roar of thirty ventilator fans. "The Goddamn building is surrounded, you can't escape."

A faint 'fuck you!' floated out over the building. Adrian moved himself behind the ventilator to get out of the rain and pause for a second, sucking air that his lungs seemed to begrudge him. Damn asthma. Piedmont had forced him to run up six flights of stairs to the top of the Blanchard-Seth complex when he taken out the elevator. Damn Peidmont.
Somewhere to the left he heard a footstep. Piedmont was trying to make a run for the building of the only other building with a roof close enough to jump too. Adrian had anticipated that. He was behind the nearest ventilator to the edge.

He moved out from behind the casing and tackled Piedmont to the concrete roof. He estimated he had at least thirty pounds up on Piedmont's recorded weight of 169 pounds. The fall was clumsy, Piedmont hit the roof solidly, but he rolled with the tackle and squarely punched Adrian in the face.

"Get off!"

Adrian curled up, his elbows protecting his face from the second blow. Piedmont had bulked up a bit in jail. Adrian tasted salty blood on his upper lip. His nose was broken.

Piedmont was at the edge of the roof, standing on the water gutter, getting ready to leap the distance to the next roof.

"I swear to you Steele, I didn't fucking kill the woman," he yelled.

"Then why the hell are you running?!"

"Do you really think the jury will believe me?"

No, Adrian thought reaching for his gun, but it would have saved a lot of running around. The slight motion caught Piedmont's eye.

"Goddamn you!" He jumped to the next roof. Adrian fired once while Piedmont spanned the distance between the buildings. He thought the bullet hit Piedmont's leg, but in the rain it was hard to tell.

Adrian got up and approached the edge carefully, no-one still knew wether Piedmont had managed to grab a gun while on the run, he didn't want to be the first to find out. He peeked over the edge briefly.

Nothing but a visible trail of blood on the edge of the roof, ending where a maintenece hut blocked the view. Piedmont was still on the move. The next roof looked at least ten feet away.
Shit. He took a flying leap and hit the roof running, tripped and sprawled. The concrete ripped up the palm of his hands.

With the hut out of his way he could see Piedmont limping towards the edge to jump to the next roof.

"Piedmont, give up, Damnit!"

"I didn't kill the fucking woman!" Adrian now stood about fifteen feet away, gun drawn, feet apart.

"I don't care. There is no way you can jump to the next roof with your leg. You won't make it." Piedmont was standing at the edge, his back to Adrian.

"It was a six fingered man," he called out, over his shoulder.


"I swear to you, a six fingered man. He did it. I was there, he fucking raped and killed the bitch. And then left, after tying me to the bedpost next to her. My prints were all over the place man, that's why I ran."

"Why were your prints all over the place?"

"She was my daughter, I was living with her. Shit!" Piedmont's back heaved. Adrian suddenly realized that he was crying. "She was my FUCKING daughter man, do you think I'd rape her. That's fucked man."

"Come on Piedmont, give it up."

Piedmont turned and looked Adrian straight in the eye.

"You're gonna have to believe me," he said, then spun around and jumped. He didn't make it to the other roof, but glanced off of the wall and plummeted down to the street below.

Mon Sep 15 19:25:07 PDT 1997

Rosemary rcalien@gvtc.com Sun Sep 7 10:50:01 PDT 1997

I noticed no one had deposited their gems here for quite a while. Sooo, I decided it was time to get some idead for my Christmea story. I realize it is not quite timely but if I want to send it out, it's probably too late. I realize it will have a limited area of interest and would appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.



‘Twas the night before Christmas, and my house was a mess. The Christmas party for my critique group had come to a close, and by 11:00 p.m., everyone had finally gone home.
I stood in the kitchen doorway and looked at the debris. Any way I turned, there it was. Litter covered the living room.
Crumpled napkins, empty plates and crumbs covered most surfaces and a good bit of the carpet. Because my home is fairly small, we had overflowed into the dining room, and it wasn’t in much better condition. Even the kitchen was going to need a major overhaul.
I dutifully collected trash and whisked at crumbs for a while when the decision to take a break seemed a really good idea. I settled into the big plush recliner and picked up a red pen and the manuscript of a short story. Somewhere in the middle of page three, I took a nap.

The tinkling of tiny bells roused me from dreams of a nationwide book signing tour. Still in a sleep confused state, I looked around for the source of interruption. A miniature sleigh pulled by tiny reindeer landed on the coffee table in the middle of the room. I could hear the sounds of bells tinkling and tiny hooves making tiny dents in my table. A miniature chubby man in a bright red suit trimmed in white fur climbed out of the sleigh and floated over toward my chair. As he approached, his image wavered and expanded until he was normal Santa size.
“I thought fur was unpopular these days,” was my opening greeting.
“They make excellent fake fur now that takes an expert to tell the difference,” he said, as he pulled up a chair and sat down. “It’s not as warm as the real thing, but one has to go along with popular opinion.” The wistful look on his face as he ran a hand over the strip of white faux ermine on his cuff said volumes. “This is what I dropped by for.” He pulled a rolled up sheaf of papers out of his back pocket and held it out to me. “It’s well known that, though your writing has been pretty much of a disappointment, your critiquing skills are legendary. I thought we could probably work out a deal; considering the condition of your house right now, and the fact that I know you hate house cleaning.”
“A deal?” I was beginning to wonder if I was sleeping or if wishful thinking had gotten the best of me. If it was the latter, he could have left out the ‘disappointing writing’ part. “What kind of a deal? I thought you gave presents to people, not dickered for them.”
“No, no. I don’t deliver presents to people, just children. You think I’m made of presents? Anyway, I’m willing to give you the services of my elves to clean and polish your house until you won’t recognize it; in exchange, you will critique my manuscript.”
We hammered out a deal which included the repair of a few minor things around the place, having my poodle groomed, and hanging new drapes in the bedroom. In exchange, I agreed to edit and critique his three hundred page manuscript. Also, I would recommend it to an editor friend of mine if I felt the story had potential.
“A done deal then!” He held out his hand. After the formalities had been observed, he turned to the miniature sleigh and placed two fingers in his mouth and gave a shrill whistle. Six tiny men in pointy little caps with bells all over, jumped out of the back of the sleigh and did the waivery thing that increased their size. They were about four feet tall and pretty surly about the whole thing. “I’ll return when you finish your part of the deal. My elves will be finished then.” There was no question as to how he would know these things. He just would.
“I’m not going to be able to concentrate on your manuscript with all that bell ringing and grumbling going on.” I said as I looked around the crowded room.
“No problem.” He snapped his fingers and there was complete silence. No sounds: not of the wind outside, nor of the cat purring in my lap, nothing. “That’s much better.” I thought I said it out loud, but I didn’t hear anything. He had deafened me, not muffled the other sounds. Oh, well. Just so he puts my hearing back after it’s all over. I turned to page one and picked up my trusty pen.

I was marking the final revision on the last page when dawn’s early light peeked in through the window next to my chair. This wasn’t the first time I had pulled an all nighter, but it had been a long time ago. I looked around the room and it was spotless. Everything had a deep gleam that I had never been able to achieve on cheap furniture, no matter how hard I tried, that one time. Santa was standing at the window gazing out at the green yard with the chickens busily squabbling and scratching.
“You’re right on time,” I said as I stiffly got out of the deep chair on the third try. “How about some coffee? You’ve probably had a hard night too.” The fact that I could now hear perfectly was as expected.
He turned, and the expression on his face was not his usual jolly Santa demeanor. “Well, what do you think?” He ignored the coffee offer. It was obvious he was anxious about the results of his work.
“OK, we’ll get right to it. Your manuscript will have tremendous potential after you go through the rewriting and revisions. See, I’ve made notations and suggestions on the pages. Bring it back when you finish and I’ll do all I can to help you get it published.”
He took the manuscript and stood with his head bowed, watching as page after page of comments, marks, notes, and x’ed out blocks of prose, flipped by in his hands. “You’re sure all of this is necessary? I guess I didn’t expect quite this much. It’ll take a long time to make all of these changes.”
I smothered a yawn and tried to stay awake just a little longer. “A critique is strictly an opinion. You asked for my opinion. If you make those changes and revisions, I think this manuscript will be excellent, maybe even publishable. My opinion, not a guarantee. That was the deal we made.” I glanced around. “It looks as though you kept your side of the contract admirably.” My five pound poodle, Turkey, walked up and left his opinion of the entire situation in a pile at Santa’s feet. I had to admit, though, he was perfectly groomed while he did it.
Santa wrinkled his nose and gave a big sigh. “I’ve got to go now. It'll probably take me until next Christmas to finish this.” He didn’t look or sound happy. I stood and watched as he turned toward the coffee table where his sleigh was waiting. He began reducing in size as he moved toward it. Just before reaching the desired size and place, he turned, glanced at Turkey, and with a sour look on his face, snapped his fingers. Then he was gone.
I blearily looked around, half asleep, but everything was still spick and span. I trudged toward the bedroom for a long Christmas Day sleep and did not notice that Turkey was back to his dirty, scruffy self.


Sun Sep 7 10:49:58 PDT 1997

Sun Sep 7 10:49:45 PDT 1997

Sun Aug 31 10:54:22 PDT 1997

Stephen J. Pradarelli sprad19@athenet.net Thu Aug 28 21:18:20 PDT 1997

Major oops! Sorry to all for posting my mongo excerpt in the wrong area. I thought I WAS in the Workbook -- obviously not.

Stephen J. Pradarelli sprad19@athenet.net Thu Aug 28 21:14:54 PDT 1997

Here are the opening "chapters" of a short story I've tentatively titled "Offering." I've hit a bit of a logjam
a little later in the story and am not sure the premise will hold up through the end. It would be a great help if anyone could let me know where they think the story is headed, based on these two sections. Thanks in advance!

Except for the absence of head, tail and feet, it looked in all respects like a fat Persian cat.
Fritz Bader nearly tripped over the creature on his way to the Dumpster in the alley behind his tailor shop. He’d first dismissed it as a stray pet or a rat -- they grew as large in this part of the city. Then the clouds, bruised with rain, capitulated to the sun and the shadows melted away, revealing something far more peculiar.
“Yah!” Bader said, mindful to hold the wastebasket before him should the animal decide to strike. “Go away. Shoo!”
If the animal heard him, it paid no mind. It simply lay there, the only sign of life a faint ripple beneath its thick coat of fur. Could it be asleep? Or was it playing possum, as the Americans were fond of saying? Curiosity overcame Bader like a drug, dulling his apprehension. He set the wastebasket aside, retrieved a broken yardstick from amid the detrius surrounding the Dumpster and took a step closer.
Before all this Nazi business, Bader had been commissioned by dignitaries and ambassadors to make ball gowns and suits from the finest silks and fabrics imported from Europe. He had hand-sewn coats from pelts of seal, puma and fox that were nearly liquid to the touch. All these paled compared to the fur which covered this strange animal. It wasn’t grey, as Bader had first thought, but a dusky blue that seemed to deepen the longer he stared at it.
He tapped the creature with the yardstick and stepped back. It made a faint hiss like a lightbulb being twisted into a socket, metal brushing metal. From where exactly Bader couldn’t tell. There was no mouth, no eyes, no face to speak of. If the animal possessed limbs, these too were hidden from view. Bader eased the tip of the stick between the pavement and the animal and gently turned it over.
Its underbelly, if one could call it that, was more magnificent still. The thick dermus was scored a diamond pattern and covered in a sheen which sparkled and shimmered in hues of green, russet and gold. The only blemishes were two neat holes where fur and leather met and from which oozed a milky, redolent fluid that smelled faintly of lilac. Blood, Bader guessed, though like none he’d ever seen. The animal was injured and probably dying.
With his free hand, Bader gathered the front of his sweater to ward off the autumn chill and squinted at the ribbon of sky unfurled between the building tops. The clouds had reasserted themselves and blotted out the sun. Thunder shook the air and raindrops fat as coins began to stain the pavement. This was no weather for a man who would turn seventy-six by Christmas. Inside is where he belonged, locking up for the day and heading upstairs for soup with his wife.
He suddenly felt ridiculous, prodding and gawking at the animal like some schoolboy who stumbles across the bloated corpse of a squirrel. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to leave this creature behind. It would be gone by morning, of that Bader was certain, carried off by some urban predator in search of an easy meal. Without another thought he lay the empty wastebasket on its side, carefully scooped up the animal and went into the shop as lightening danced overhead.
After locking the front door and drawing the shades, Bader tumbled the wastebasket’s strange contents into the cast iron sink -- all that remained of the butcher shop that occupied the space years ago. The creature’s fur had turned the color of a sea before a storm, a velvety plum bordering on black. The hissing had stopped, as had any hint of movement. Bader held out a tentative hand and stroked the animal with a fingertip. Something clattered upstairs -- Hannah probably pulling pots from the cupboard -- and Bader jumped back in fright, his heart pounding in the back of his throat. He admonished himself for his dark imaginings and reached out once more.
His fingertips seemed to pass through the fur as they would wisps of smoke, only the shadow of sensation lighting his skin. He brought his hand to his nose and sniffed. Lilac had given way to heather. What in God’s name, Bader wondered, was this thing? There was one way to find out. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a trimming knife and slid the razor blade out of its plastic housing.
* * *

“Things are looking up, Mr. Bader. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear your appeal.”
Terry Williams sat in a wooden rocker across from the couch Bader and his wife, Hannah, occupied. He wore oxblood loafers and a charcoal suit, bought off the shelf from the looks of it. A large briefcase was open on the floor in front of him. He was a schwartz, a fact that did not sit well with Hannah. Bader had argued long and hard before she acquiesced to this visit. His options were few at this point. Half the attorneys in New York were Jews, and Bader would forfeit his soul to hell before letting one of them defend him against their own kind.
“This is lies, all lies,” Hannah said, her voice trembling.
She was thin and reedy, like her husband, but with a round face and deep-set eyes as clear as ice chips. Her hands were clasped on her lap, one thumb kneeding the knuckle of the other. Bader tried to comfort her. She recoiled from his touch.
“What court has a right to judge us, to judge my husband? These people, they say he is a criminal, a killer. They accuse him of unspeakable things and say they will take him to Israel for trial and prison. Maybe death.” She laughed without humor, a sharp sound like a bark. “I say they are the criminals, they should be in prison, to do this to an old couple.”
Tears tumbled from her eyes. Without another word she stood and walked to the bedroom, slamming the door behind her. Her sobs broke against the apartment’s thin walls like ocean waves.
“I must apologize for my wife,” Bader said. “These past few years have been difficult for us. It is on the TV and in the newspapers almost every day. Strangers yell at us on the street, say horrible things, paint swastikas on my windows. I try to keep the shop open but no one comes anymore, not even to fix buttons. This is supposed to be our home. I tell you, Mr. Williams, it is worse than a prison.”
The attorney shifted in his seat.
“I won’t try to kid you. This won’t be an easy case to win,” he said. “The prosecution believes it has enough evidence to have you extradited. As a rule, the high court doesn’t like to interfere in international matters.”
“This evidence -- it is all circumstantial, no? I try to tell them I was working in a clothing factory in Sembach during the war. I make uniforms and boots. Nothing more. They do not care. They say I was a doctor, that I experimented on the Jews.” Bader held out hands marbled and callused with age. “Tell me, Mr. Williams, do these look like the hands of a surgeon?”
Williams retrieved a piece of paper from the briefcase and placed it in one of Bader’s open hands. It was a copy of a very old photograph of a young man in an SS uniform. A silver medal bearing the squared crest of an eagle was pinned to his breast pocket. The youth was smoking a cigarette and laughing at something off camera. He stood beside a fence topped with barbed wire. Either the lighting when the picture was taken or the poor reproduction hollowed the eyes and mouth like a spectre’s.
“What is this?”
“Some say it’s you outside the death camp in 1941. The prosecution plans to use it to prove that you are who they say you are. Dr. Kristof von Edelstein. The Monster of Maidanek.”

Thu Aug 28 20:29:21 PDT 1997

ben Woestenburg Wed Aug 27 18:47:35 PDT 1997

He walked through the wide open atrium, listening to the dull thud of his boots on the polished floor, the gentle flow of the fountain and the low whir of machinery in the distance. A tall man, with a full head of jet black hair that always flopped in front of his face, Bill Sherman was determined to get what he could from the conference. He caught his reflection in a window and smiled to himself. He felt confident. His ship, THE STAR CHASER, was not the biggest ship in the galaxy, but it was one of the fastest.
He rounded a corner and saw the conference room ahead. The large double doors were wide open, and he could hear voices drifting out into the hall. He wondered if he should just turn around and leave, before it was too late. He had never considered himself to be a patriot, and was more inclined to sneer at others who were. He was a loner.
"Sherman?" a voice called out to him from the shadows. "You can't be seriously thinking about going in there?"
"Waldorf," he said with a slow smile. "I never thought I'd see you at one of these things."
"I'm not in there yet," Waldorf laughed.
"Then why are you here? Trying to get up the nerve?"
"I just thought I'd listen a while first," he said. "Hey, you gotta smoke?"
"I quit. No point smoking on them long hauls. I was always running out before I got to port. Never did learn how to save one for after the sleep," he added with a grin.
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Waldorf smiled.
"Have you heard anything interesting out here?"
"Lots. Sit down and I'll fill you in on what I know."

Bill Bwhitney@mail.usmo.com Tue Aug 26 13:39:55 PDT 1997

The End of a Planet

Bill Sherman didn't mind strolling into the board meeting dressed as he was. He never liked wearing suits and having those stupid lengths of cloth choking his neck. If the board members didn't like his pauper appearance, they could shove it for all he was concerned. They either took him for what he was and hired him on his terms, or he'd go about his business elsewhere. He didn't need them. Bill had established his trade route many years ago and enjoyed the comfort of self-employment. The very idea of having some stupid politicians telling him what to do, didn't interest him in the least. They needed his ship and they weren't going to get it without him at the helm. He already knew why they had summoned him, along with a hundred other star-freighter, transport pilots. If they hadn't had poisoned Earth in the first place, they wouldn't need to move off its surface.

***Who will be the first volunteer to add to this story?***

Mary mbu@earthlink.net Mon Aug 25 16:12:46 PDT 1997

Hello Everyone!

I would like to know if anyone has ever heard of a writing publication called The SunFlower Dream or The Sunflower Odyssey.

I recently entered 2 short stories (for a $5.00 fee) and received a letter stating that they would like to publish both my stories. The problem is I'm not sure if I won anything or not.

Does anyone know if it's a scam? Thanks for your help!


Goodweed of the North bflowers@northernway.net Mon Aug 25 06:35:37 PDT 1997

Hi everyone;
I am posting my query letter here so as to get some
feedback on how to improve its content. I would greatly
appreciate hearing from someone who has had sucess with
agents with there own querries. Feel free to be brutal as
I have no problems accepting constructive criticism.
I am in the fourth revision of my manuscript, helped by a
few trusted proofreading freinds and should have it
completed by the end of this week. I then want to try and
find an agent.
If any of you know an honest agent, with a proven track
record in the fantasy fiction genre, please share the info.
I thank each of you for reading and responding to this

Sincerely; Goodweed of the North

TechServices Inc., Literary Agency
Elizabeth McHugh

Subject: Submission of Fantasy manuscript for evaluation and representation.

Title: The Power of The Tallisman

Subtitle: Book One of The Northron Chronicles

From : Robert J. Flowers
Pseudonym: G.W. North

Address: 710 West Buchanan St.
Sault Ste. Marie, Mi.
Zip: 49783

E-Mail Address: bflowers@northernway.net

Length of manuscript: 108,750 words

Upon Request, the entire manuscript is available both in printed hardcopy and as a Wordperfect 6.1 for windows file on 3 ½ " floppy diskette under the name Keldron.wpd.

Dear Ms. McHugh:
I am submitting for you pleasure and review a portion of
the first book in a series of fantasy novels which will take
you into the exciting new world of Northron. It is a blend
of good and evil, talismans and primitive technology, magic
and mental powers. It pits the evils of a power crazed
sorceress against her own people and the peaceful people of
the Northron Valley from whence, it is prophesied, a mighty
king shall arise to unite and bring peace to the nomadic
valley tribes. The tale is filled with a mixture of known
and unknown creatures ranging from the bear and the wolf to
mythical rocs, and dragons.
The book is packed with adventure and action but also
teaches the lessons of teamwork, tenacity, and tolerance.
It is rich in color and characters, with an emphasis on
giving the reader the satisfaction of seeing and feeling
through the eyes and minds of heroes and villains alike.
The villain is an especially nasty sorceress who had
been severely punished as a young child for the crime of
expressing interest in her cities political system.
The hero is not one person, but an unlikely team of a
would-be king, his twin niece and nephew, his wife, a roc,
and a dragon. These are supprted by a cast which includes
a rune mage, a wolf loving outcast, and a tribe of
professional couriers.
The following paragraphs illustrate the style and
descriptive narrative of this exciting story. And, as you
have requested, the first three chapters of the story are
"Kieru was an apt forester who could take care of
himself. He knew the Kalb and its perils. Nevertheless,
he failed to spot the rake. The big cat sprang from its
hiding place with lightning speed, completely surprising the
youth. Kieru screamed as he fell under the weight of the
wildcat. It slashed at the lad's throat with razor sharp
claws. Kieru's quick reflexes saved him from death. Even
so, his forearm was laid open to the bone. The animal
moved with blinding speed while the young man used his
adrenaline charged strength to protect himself.
It was an uneven match from the start and Kieru was
badly overmatched by the superior strength and speed of the
rake. It quickly became apparent that he was about to die.
The cat, sensing the boy's vulnerability, pressed its
attack. As it raised its deadly claws for the killing blow,
it was knocked from the lad by the force of a two-hundred
pound freight train named Eflan. The cat's eighty plus
pounds were insufficient to slow the First General. Eflan's
hand held a ten inch dagger which he thrust repeatedly into
the neck of the animal. It raked his arms and torso with
its claws but could not dislodge its human attacker.
Finally, it was over.
Eflan stood with the cat's claws still imbedded in his
skin. He placed his hands against its chest and heaved.
The dead animal fell to the ground with a dull thud.
Eflan knew he had won an important battle. He was being
watched by his newly adopted tribe. After all, several
weeks earlier, he had been devising weapons with which to
kill the valley people. The First General was a
professional soldier, and a good one, and would always
remain loyal to Tibre, But these people were not a bad lot.
They were industrious and honorable. Much more so than
many in his own city.
Thank you for you time and interest. I look forward to
hearing from you.
Sincerely: Robert J. Flowers

Following this one page opening is the three chapter
attachment. So, whadaya think?

Philip mclaren@magna.com.au http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/5135/ Mon Aug 25 00:39:05 PDT 1997

This is my rough work in progress referred to in the Notebook. All comments are welcomed.


Utopia: (From Greek ou = not, and topos = place)

1. An imaginary or hypothetical place or state of things considered to be perfect.

2. No place.

3. 22°14'S. - 134°34'E.


Nugent never liked looking at or touching dead people, in spite of this he had a reasonable knowledge of what happened to human remains after death. In Utopia, in the middle of Australia, in his first general practice he picked up skills he simply never could have learned by staying in New York: Aboriginal ritual killings hardly ever happened there.

He woke to sounds of rain descending on the corrugated metal roof of his house, the first registered fall in months. Rain was a celebrated and much talked about commodity in the outback, water dominated everything. For centuries its arrival or whereabouts had been ceremoniously sung and danced about, or painted. Water meant survival.
Past midnight the glow of the fire cast a soft, reddish light across his one room home. That day it had been cold - the temperature had fallen to seven Celsius - so he lit the fire early.
In half sleep, he heard the far off footsteps of someone approaching; hard leather pounding into the pebbly road that connected his house to the cluster of buildings which made up the centre of community. The loud tramping had set the dogs barking across the wild domain, then more dogs from the other side of the village answered the summons. Trying to guess whose tread it was, Nugent eliminated most of the blacks because hardly any wore shoes. They were long strides so it was someone tall, probably male, heavy, military-like: Michael Sams!
Constable Michael Sams, the senior officer in charge of Utopia's three-man police station, strode heavily onto the wide decking that surrounded Nugent's house then banged loudly at the back door, simultaneously calling his name as police do.
'Jack! It's me... Mick,' he called with his cheek almost touching the door. 'Wake up mate... they've found a fucking body!'

Piss ran down Nugent's leg twelve weeks earlier. He'd learned the warmth would stay trapped in the pant weave for almost a minute in the middle of a New York winter. It was seven below, soon the liquid would freeze unless he moved about. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure that, he thought. Jack Nugent smiled at the irony bound by this thought and his severely wounded soul ached. For eleven years until last year he'd been a practising surgeon, performing heart-lung replacements at the rate of three per week. Swapped them over in packaged, job lots - out with the old and diseased, in with the healthy and not so old. It was an expensive procedure and, as the central player in the theatre, he'd become extremely wealthy from his virtuoso performances.
Nugent was wearing all his clothes: green pyjamas; army-issue, khaki pants with numerous pockets filled with trinkets collected from the streets; a navy coloured T-shirt; two thick, plaid cotton shirts - one blue, one red; a thin, black acrylic sweater; red, woollen gloves and an overcoat. He pulled the buttonless, army surplus overcoat across his front to trap the warmth of his urine. The foul, warm air near his body rushed up his nostrils; he cared little about the stench.
He took up his plastic carry bag filled with his things - the remains of last night's cheap port, a half-eaten submarine sandwich, numerous sealed packages of strawberry jam and a paperback from the exchange - and struggled to his feet. He was confident he could walk that particular morning, something he hadn't attempted in recent mornings, usually he took his first steps of the day around noon. He decided he'd walk to the soup kitchen, four blocks down, for the one meal per day they allowed each person then go over to the library, they opened their doors at ten.
Libraries, easily the most important of all public buildings, provided intellectual sanctuary, central heating, drinking water, toilets and were attended almost exclusively by readers of books, the single most tolerant group of our species.
Nugent had found a wide-silled window in which he slept at night. It was the only window in that building at ground height. Situated in a cobble stone delivery lane it had steel bars, a round top and grime-coated multi-paned panels. He wiped the glass so he could look down into the below-ground printing workshop. It was a warm, twenty-four hour workshop. He first spotted the window in December, two days before Christmas. There were always cardboard cartons in the nearby dumpster which he used to obscure himself from predators and as insulation from freezing winter flurries. At the onset of his first winter on the streets, he thought for certain he would die out there alone but felt powerless to do anything about it. All motivation, all reason finally deserted him last year along with his wife and two children. Then he found the window. He wept with delight that first night, the import of the find was so great. He kept his window camouflaged with boxes throughout the day so no one would find it and occupy it.

Steam rose from vents all across the city and the streets swelled with slow moving vehicles. Coming from the laneway Nugent began side stepping the fast flowing band of well-dressed pedestrians, workers scurrying to the their Madison Avenue offices. Men looked down to escape his gaze, women walked wide arcs to evade him. Unperturbed, he stumbled his way forward, food paramount in his mind.
Walking gingerly in the direction of the soup kitchen he became aware his feet were hurting. He looked at them. No socks. He was wearing no socks. Where were his socks? He remembered he had socks. And Jesus, were these his shoes? They seemed too tight; black vinyl, rubber-soled shoes they were, but they were not his, surely. Mucus drooled from both nostrils before he could get a sleeve to it. Fuck! He wiped what was left anyway, it would freeze to his skin if he hadn't done so.
The ten minute, four block walk to the soup kitchen took Nugent thirty minutes. The Good Samaritan soup kitchen was not really a soup kitchen at all, it was a catering van. Not an ordinary van, it had flaps on the side that could be raised exposing a service counter. Inside there was a kitchen right enough, where two volunteer staff worked busily preparing food, stews usually in the winter. That day they had a bowl of beef stew with onions and potatoes and a bread roll for anyone who rolled up on the line. No questions; just fast, even abrupt, service. No pledges or prayers in return for a meal here. That's what everyone liked about the Samaritans, they provided food to the needy unconditionally.
Nugent took his food and went to sit on the nearby stone balustrade which ran the length of the grassed forecourt of an X-ray clinic. He knew a few of the transients in this area by sight, they usually nodded to one another. Some tried to befriend him but he learned quickly that street people were after whatever you had until you had absolutely nothing, like them. He had moved neighbourhood four times until he found his niche in the inner city.
Nugent looked for his only friend, Henry, everyday. There were scarce few blacks in this part of town so Henry stood out.
"You're early," Henry said to his doctor friend.
"Yeah, felt like a young man today Henry, up and at 'em."
The old man scoffed and slurped at his stew.
"What you got?"
"Not much Henry, not much."
"Got a bottle?"
"Yeah, I got some drink but please, can I keep it this once?"
"Say what?... " Henry quipped, shaking his head slowly.
"Not much left, just enough for one, me."
"You used to share when you first came down here. You were kind."
"I was an idiot. I thought everyone would share with me in return."
The old man laughed gently into his bowl and they both ate in silence.

Henry was fifty but looked sixty. He'd led a tough life: a prize fighter, football player, debt collector for a small numbers outfit, jailed for two years for aggravated assault and for attempted murder he did fifteen years in Detroit. He'd been out for three years and drunk every day for all three. Unlike most, drinking mellowed Henry, he was a violent man until the alcohol kicked in. He liked that Nugent had had a privileged life, had been a wealthy doctor and was here on the streets beside him. It verified his theory that booze did not discriminate, alcoholism was not exclusive to one social group. What had happened to him could happen to anyone. He befriended Doc Nugent when he first saw him in prison.

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Aug 24 17:06:39 PDT 1997

Well, I've archived the Workbook so that it has a chance of loading somewhat more quickly initially. However, in addition, I went back and reworked the Train collaborative story, fixing some tense problems and tried to make it flow a little more smoothly. For those who I have edited, I apologize, and do feel free to complain to me if you do not like it. However, since Bill was voicing an interest in starting a collaborative story, I thought an example of what can happen was appropriate. The story began with only the first paragraph posted and grew from there. Take a look at it and hopefully use it as inspiration of how such a collaborative effort can work.

The Train


Jack Beslanwitch, Philip Mclaren, Ben Woestenburg, Bob Hanford, Trish and Lisa Nickles

A steam powered passenger train with gaslights and plush blue velvet seats is chugging it's way west. There are spittoons on the floor. Cigar smoke and the smell of stale beer and whiskey permeate. It is late. You are not quite sure why you are sitting where you are. And you don't know who you are. That thought startles at first and yet comforts. As if knowing would make this all harder. Looking around, you see an assortment of people dressed in Victorian, Tudor English as well as someone in blue jean cut offs, tank top and a green mohawk. Gas light glints off pierced goal ear and nose rings. Just then someone taps you on the shoulder and asks for the time. Only, there are no hands on your watch when you look at it. Looking up to tell this to the stranger you realize it is Elvis Presley. Or, at least, it looks like him. Your heart pounds as a wave of panic spreads through you.

"Don't worry about him, deary," the old lady sitting behind you observes. "That one, he has a personality problem. Yap, he can't quite believe he's here. That one. I've seen him before, though. You? You're a new one, aren't you?"

"What?" you whisper, her words niggling at you, trying to make you remember. "What!???" comes out louder.

"We all know each other on this train, passengers rarely change on the 10:45."

The carriage rushes into a tunnel, smoke and cinders find their way into the darkened cabin. Music comes from the next car; a man slowly sings a ballad. You know the lyrics and recognize the voice: It is Elvis!

"I say you're new here, aren't you?" she says again, a little more insistently.

"That depends where here is," you say looking at her carefully, trying to deflect the question, not wanting to… She is dressed like someone you saw in the movies a long time ago - Debbie Reynolds in Molly Brown, or Daily Miller. It makes no sense at all and until it did you don't want to say the wrong thing. And you don't want to remember. Even as you think this, you realize…movies…you remembered movies and not who you are.

"Bit confusing, t'aint it?" she says.

"Took the words right out of my mouth," you say with half a laugh, trying to sound sure of yourself; failing. "Where is this?"

"You mean you really don't know?"

"Should I?"

"You shouldn't be here if you don't where where we're going," she says with a friendly smile.

"Couldn't you just tell me? It'd save a lot of time."

"Time," she cackles. It seems to echo through the carriage and you look around to see if any of the other passengers might have noticed her, but they seem oblivious to anything the two of you are talking about.

"Honey?" she says, catching her breath, "We don't have nothing but time. This is train is hell bent to nowhere. Look at your watch," she says quickly reaching over the seat to grab your arm, draw your attention to the Rolex, "It don't say nothing. See? No hands?"

"What does this mean? Please, tell me…"

"You never heard of standing still?"

"Well, sure, but…"

"We go in one direction," she smiles. "Nowhere, sonny. This is the 10:45. It leaves at 10:45. It arrives at 10:45. It rolls at 10:45."

"But we're moving," you point out. "I can hear that guy singing - I know that guy singing. Not personally, of course. But I know who he is."

"That's nice," she says, changing the subject. "Do you know who I am?"

"Should I?"

"I was just as famous in my day, as he was in his."

"And who are you?"

"Why, honey. I'm Lilly!"


"Lilly Langtree!"

Before you can respond, she stands, a look of resignation and just a touch of fear on her face. "I can't talk right now," she says. "I must go before he finishes. It's his last song and I'm next. Did they tell you? No, of course they didn't. You don't even know who they are. Still, you must perform, you know." She pulls her shoulders back and lifts her head, an almost manic laughter now in her eyes and on her lips. "You must perform, you know. You must perform."

Startled, you gaze out the window into the blackness of the tunnel. You can make out a thick gray haze swirling against the total darkness outside. As you look around once more, the reality of your situation sinks in. Sighing, you lean your head back against the plush seat and close your eyes. Suddenly, questions begin to form in your mind. Why had the woman mentioned seeing Elvis here before? Could he come and go at will? And why was he concerned with the time in a place where time stood still? Did this explain all the seemingly random Elvis sightings at Burger King and 7-11? The thought, so out of place, seems to bring a measure of comfort, as if a tabloid headline could fashion a measure of normalcy that was beyond your grasp at the moment.

You look back in the direction Lilly had gone. Watch as she sashays down the aisle toward the lunge, waits at the door patiently as the conductor pulls it open for her. You have to figure out what is going on here. Who was going on here, for that matter. Looking around at the few passengers seated around you, you wonder who they were and where they had come from.

The landscape seems to float outside the window. The heavy gray clouds against a dark sky and your reflection stare back at you. You are lulled into a quick nap by the gentle rocking of the car and the constant clickety-clack of the tracks underneath. You want to sleep though, thinking maybe when you wake you will find this nighmare over. You wonder, even as you reach the point where dreams and reality mix together and wonder fills all those voids in between, you wonder what sort of dreams will haunt you. But none does.

You are awakened by a gentle nudge on the shoulders as the conductor looks down at you, beaming happily and winking as you nod.

"Her on, kid," he is saying.


"It's your turn. Everyone's waitin' for you," he adds as he gently lifts you by the arm and guides you to the lounge ahead. You feel your head to see if it is still there - God it felt so fuzzy. You are confused. You look down at the kid with the green mohawk and wonder if he had been up to perform yet. Then you laugh, wondering what you could possibly do to offset the image of your own self. Still, they say everyone has talent. You guess in your case that would have to be "had". Now where had that come from?

"But what am I supposed to sing?"

"Waddya feel like singing?"

"I suppose it doesn't matter much, does it?"

"You could sing 'Jingle Bells' an' it'd be all right."

"Jingle Bells?" you think with a wry smile. Now that was a thought. But he couldn't do that tonight. It seemed too out of place - even more out of place than you feel with yourself.

The lounge seems to open in front of you, like a stage that goes on for miles. You look through the door behind you, but it is gone. It was as if it had never been there. The sky is a deep blue for some reason and you think, "that's neat. How'd I get outside?" You could see your guitar leaning gently on its rest and wonder how they knew it was yours. You' lost it years ago, doing that gig down in Frisco. Someone stole it you, you think and yet, there it is. The thought is a shock, memories flowing back, threatening to overwhelm. The who with the what. As soon as you pick the guitar up everything else leaves you. It didn't feel uncomfortable or out of place. It was as if you'd never left the stage. You could feel the heat from the stage lights and shield your eyes as you try to search the crowd in front of you. You couldn't see them, of course, just like the last time you were on stage, but you know they are there.

You strum the strings and nod your head, let the gentle melody take you with it as you seem to sift through the strings themselves. You are lost in it. You play and sing and wait for the roar of the crowd below you, know they are into it, but all you meet is silence. Complete silence, too. Vacuous; vacant; vapid. It is like you are alone in your bedroom and then you realize that you are.

Your guitar is a gun and you are alone in your room. You hear someone pounding at the door, but when you turn the door isn't even there. You pull the trigger and all you hear is the crowd screaming for more. They are actually calling your name, pounding their feel, some crying - though you couldn't figure out if it is tears of joy or not - you just hear them scream your name: "Kurt! Kurt! Kurt!"

And all the time listening to it, you wonder how to get out of here and back into the train. You keep singing that same song, repeating the line…"No Apologies."

Your eyes close and you fear to open them. Still strumming the guitar, still mouthing the lyrics. A strident brash angry cascade of chords from an electric guitar sweep away every thought. You know…your eyes open. Hell, man, you think to yourself, he doesn't even have a guitar. The Star Spangled Banner with an attitude, the bombs bursting in air coming from an electric guitar. It was a cliché. A good damned Woodstock cliché. And the best damn guitar player in a generation. He's standing in front of you in the gathering shadows and fog, a black man in psychedelic sixties Edwardian and rose dark granny glasses. "It's time to go back, " he says simply.

"Jimi?….Jimi Hendrix?" you say slowly.

"You'll have the time," he says after a moment.


"Forgiveness, it's all about forgiveness. Someday, some way, you have to learn how to forgive yourself, the world, the universe. All of it. And move it on. Mostly it's about ourselves. None of us are quite there, but we got the time to get it right." You close your eyes, shake your head, try to clear the confusion and look. He's still there. "Are you ready?"

Your mouth opens, closes, opens. "Yes," you say after a while, "Yes, I think I am."




A steam powered passenger train with gas lights and plush velvet seats is chugging it's way west. There are spittoons on the floor. Cigar smoke and the smell of stale beer and whiskey pervades. It is late. You are not quite sure why you are sitting where you are. You look around and see an assortment of people dressed in everything from Tudor to modern. You look at your watch and curse thinking you forgot to get batteries for it. The display is blank on your cheap digital. Only, just then, Elvis Presley taps you on the shoulder and asks what the time is. You open your mouth but no words come out and before you can think of some he is gone.

"Don't worry about him, deary," the old lady sitting behind you observes, "He has a personality problem, that young man. Far back as I first saw him come in here. But you're new aren't you?"

"What?" you bark at the women and frown as you glance over your shoulder.

"We all know each other on this train, passengers rarely change on the 10:45."

The carriage rushes into a tunnel; smoke and cinders find a way into the cabin. Music can be heard up ahead and a man sings a slow ballad. You know the lyrics and recognize the voice: it is Elvis!

You wince. You never really did like his music; but strangely, you find yourself listening-almost feeding-on the melodies. The only semblance of familiarity around you.

"You will forgive me my forwardness, of course," comments a dark suited man. "We certainly did not appreciate the tone you used with the lady."

"Indeed," continued a matching man in light colored attire. "We must never speak harshly to one another here." His tone voice is stern and he glares at you.

You try to think how to respond to these two unlikely apparitions when a wiry long haired man who is somehow familiar intervenes. "Cut the girl some slack, guys. She just got here. Hi, maybe we can be friends. My name's Kurt."

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