Monday, December 29, 2008
This interest in Chicago will hopefully give birth to a couple of books. One will be set at Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893 (a future Time Rovers book). Others have tread this way before me and done well by the subject. I also intend to pen a story set in 1902 Chicago, something paranormal me thinks.
So it is like hitting the lottery when I found a CD on Ebay that held thirty-three vintage books about Chicago ranging from the 1876 to 1922. GOLDMINE! Wow. The books have as many as 800 pages in some of them and often include advertisements of the era. Did I mention this a GOLDMINE for a historical author? It saves buying countless old tomes and finding bookshelf for them. Perfect.
It is only a matter of time before I'll be penning a non-fiction account of some person or event. I've been lured that way by the best: Erik Larson (Devil in the White City) and Karen Abbott (Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle For America's Soul). As I see it, all this research experience is leading that way and I might as well not fight the undertow. When I finally figure out what the subject might be, I'll let you know.
In the meantime, this CD is a pleasant way to start the New Year -- old books to read and mysteries to discover. Wow, do I have a great life or what?
Friday, December 26, 2008
However, I did decide after my latest birthday to give in just a little in the matter of my hair color. My natural color was brown. I was nearly blonde as a kid, then it got darker and more medium brown. Then darker brown just about the time I started turning gray (age 40). In 2000 I went red. I was tired of brown and red sounded exciting. They got the slogan wrong: it's redheads who have more fun. Redheads can be sassy and no one is surprised. We're not considered dumb, but intelligent and "brassy". So I hung with the "reds" for over eight years, but every time I colored my hair there was more salt and pepper to be covered. Some folks are blessed with that cool silvery gray (like my hubby). You've seen them. I especially admire ladies with that thick silver hair. Mine's not thick, but it is silvery, so this last time to the hair stylist I gave him the word: we're growing out the gray (or grey if you're British). He was surprised, but agreed there were certain things we could do to mitigate the suckiness of the grow out period of approximately one year or so.
So he put in some honey gold auburn highlights to take the color out of the part of the hair that has been dyed and gave me a wonderful cut. And now we grow. It looks kinda funky with the now muted lighter sections of hair and the gray/black growout, but so far it doesn't look like I've spaced off a trip to the salon. It will eventually. My dear stylist said it wasn't usual for a woman to ask to go gray. Most are very keen to cover up the passage of time. But that's my mantra: be unique.
In about a year the gray/black combo will be completely revealed and I'll have to change makeup yet again to accommodate. I have no doubt it'll look great. So I leave the red haircoloring I'm not using to those out there who do (you know who you are!) Red on, ladies!
P.S. This whole thing must be working as the cashier at Fuddruckers gave hubby and I the Senior Discount the other day and neither of us asked. Where I'm tickled to save the two bucks, somehow it's sorta painful to know it was offered in the first place. Had to be because of hubby. Yeah, that's it.
Yet another Postscript: Today is hubby's birthday. We spent it plowing around the mall, picking up some amazing bargains and then a wonderful dinner at P.F. Chang's. Then some video time with our Netflix addiction augmented by his very own Naked Newt wine. He pronounced the day a success. My job is done.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
If not for my editor, Adrienne deNoyelles, who works these books over like bread dough I wouldn't have received this score. Ditto with my beta readers -- Ally Reineke and Nanette Littlestone. They both gave me very valuable input as to what worked and what didn't. Luckily I pay attention.
It's grand way to cap off a year.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Earlier this year I wrote about a couple of gents I met on the van heading to San Francisco airport. They'd come to California (from NY) to get married. I celebrated their joy because it was clear they were very much in love. Why shouldn't someone else enjoy the same kind of happiness I've found? Well, it seems there are those who would take that happiness away.
In November Proposition 8 passed in California defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. We have the same idiocy here in Georgia. But now the Prop 8 supporters are going one better: they want to nullify all the legal marriages conducted earlier this year before Prop 8 passed. Yup, they want to render those unions null and void.
Now that spooks me. Who has the right to tell me or any one of my fellow citizens that we are no longer legally wed? Those two gents I met jumped through all the hoops, flew all the way to CA to acknowledge before G*d and their fellow humans that they were willing to spend their lives together. And now the Prop 8 folks want to throw that commitment into the trash? It's tantamount to saying, "Yeah, you're third class citizens right behind the immigrants and the Muslims. Life with it. Or better yet, go straight."
WTH? Legally this is on shaky ground. Reversing marriages that were legal at the time sets an ugly precedent. Imagine someone announcing to you that that you're no longer married because someone decided it wasn't kosher after the fact?
In a few decades we'll look back at this mess and be embarrassed. This is much like those laws in the 1950's that wouldn't have allowed our president-elect's parents to be married because they were of different races. Gay and lesbians are our neighbors, our fellow citizens. They work, they pay taxes, they want the same things we want: love and respect. If their co-habitation is a sin, that's for G*d to sort out, not the rest of us.
I have long advocated that marriage should have absolutely nothing to do with the state. Marriage should be a religious entity. The states should provide a civil union ceremony. If the couple wish to take the commitment to the next step, then they marry in their church, synagogue or other religious institution. This "protect the sanctity of marriage" crap is just that. Homosexuals don't threaten my marriage. If anything, when I see their willingness to stay together through all life throws at them, it only reaffirms my own union.
Friday, December 12, 2008
But back to the premise: receipts are like a time machine. I pick up one from the Palamino in Calgary. No, this isn't a strip club, but an awesome restaurant that had some of the most incredible ribs I've ever eaten. Jean Marie Ward and I savored their offerings the night I arrived. Just reading the receipt brings back that moment. Ditto with my three trips to Denver's Corner Bakery for their Berry Almond Swiss Oatmeal. I remember sitting in the back of the restaurant, enjoying my breakfast (any breakfast that costs $6.79 is a blessing) and trying to hack into their website using my iPhone. Finally figured it out. All the while folks from World Fantasy came and went as I enjoyed my moments of solitude.
Receipts from The Rialto Cafe resurrect my conversations with Tony Ruggiero & his lady, Mary. Great couple to hang with. Smart, witty and fun. The receipt helps me remember those times.
Then there's the bill from The Mosser in San Francisco. After my roomie departed, I moved across the street from the Marriott ($225/noc) to The Mosser ($109). It's a boutique hotel built after the great earthquake. Very nifty and clean place. I knew there wasn't a toilet in the room, which was fine by me. I did have a sink and a bed and that's about it. Whenever I travel to Europe I always ask if there is a desk in the room so I can do my writing thing. I failed to do so with this hotel. No desk. A tiny nightstand. The room, tops, was about 10 x 12. I was in the middle of heavy duty, gotta get this stuff done sort of editing and no desk. I talked to the nice people downstairs -- no desks in any of the rooms and they didn't have a library. I was free, however, to use the lobby if I wanted. I passed on that.
I improvised (see above). Necessity is a mother so I pulled out the ironing board, set it up and did my thing.To the left is the door. The seat in front of the ironing board is a stool with a pillow on it. It is butted up against the edge of the bed. Yeah, this room was small. But it worked. On Day #2 I decamped to nearby sandwich shop that had wi-fi and great food. Spent most of the day there eating, editing and using their facilities as needed. Authors write no matter the situation. It's just what he have to do.
So you as seen, receipts help me reconstruct those moments from earlier this year and savor them once again. Who says doing the finances is boring? For me, it's a vacation.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I was a nurse for about ten years. I would never have thought of telling a patient I would not treat them because of my religious beliefs. It would be the same as informing an African-American or a Native American that I wouldn't treat them because they weren't white. I've taken care of patients who were physically combative, drunk or high on lord knows what. I've been explosed to countless diseases, including those that could have easily killed me. Part of the job. I knew that going in.
So when did it become "me first, then the patient?" You may be against contraception, abortion, etc. I have no objections about that. Still, your beliefs should not become my problem if I'm trying to have a prescription filled while trying to obtain emergency contraception after rape or to prevent another pregnancy. To be blunt, it's none of your damned business.
If this change had occured a few years back, I might have been the one facing a pharmacist who refused to serve me or, worse yet, confiscate my prescription. He or she would be making the decision that I should get pregnant or continue to suffer from my medical condition. WTH? This has gone overboard. I respect your beliefs right up to the point when they infringe on my medical care. If you don't honestly feel you can offer full service to your customers or your patients, get the hell out of the business. (I did mention this was a hot button, right?)
Mr. Obama will overturn this, but that can take months before the changes come into effect. In the meantime people will be playing G*d with other folks' lives. Making decisions as to their care that they are not qualified to make. Since I no longer have the equipment needed for this sort of medication I will not see the day when someone refuses me care. It's probably best. It would have gotten way ugly. Years ago, when I first became a nurse, I would have laughed at anyone who told me this would come to pass. How wrong I was.
Thanks. I needed that.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
And now for the other kind of virus: the computer kind. My main Dell laptop felt sorry for us sick humans and so it decided to download its own virus just to keep us company. Lovely. I run virus software. It quarantined the critter. After it did the damage. Groan. At this moment my husband is on the phone to Norton and their wizards are removing the virus and getting the machine back to functioning (hopefully!). Then they're going to install their virus software on my computer to replace the other competitor's brand.
In future my new Dell Mini 9 will handle the email, the surfing. Its bigger Dell cousin will be for writing, finances, etc. and shall be free of contact with the outside world. A recluse. I can transfer files back and forth via the network, after a proper scan. Should a virus attack the Mini, it's not going to take out a big body of my work. And I promise to do more backups. I'm nuts about backing up my writing, but lax about backing up the other important stuff. Nevermore! (quoth the raven).
So that is my New Year's Resolution. Along with the fact that one of these days I'm going to write one of these malware fools into a book and kill them in a most gruesome fashion. Then resurrect them and do it all over again!
The final post about the Chicago trip is forthcoming once I can get back on the main computer. So those of you waiting for closure will have it.
UPDATE: The nice fellow at Norton found the bits o'virus and removed them. It took about an hour and a half, but he was also working with other folks. Yes, he was most likely in India, but we didn't care. He knew exactly where to go to remove this stuff. It had tucked one of its files away in the Drivers file. Amazing. We'd already followed the directions from our previous virus software and tried to track down the bad thing ourselves. No go, even though my husband is an Uber Geek. The upshot is that the bigger Dell is now live and living a hermit-life existence free of I'net contamination.
For those of you who are amateur geeks, I'll share something we did over the weekend lest it be of interest. So that I can flip back and forth between the two machines, we installed something called a KVM switch. What this critter does is allow you to use your keyboard, mouse and monitor for both computers. With a quick tap of a keyboard (two taps actually) you can toggle back and forth between them. Cool. It cost $39.95 (Iogear - item # GCS632U) and I got it at Fry's. So I am now officially set up to work off the Mini for "Accessing the Real World" and the bigger Dell for my work computer. I plink back and forth as I need.
In some ways I owe the *#@$&@#$ who hacked my computer a thanks. He/she/it won't get one.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
By early afternoon we were tired and took ourselves to Millennium Park to watch the skaters. After a bit of holiday shopping for friends, we visited the Chicago Architectural Foundation to check on boat tours for Sunday. There are a lot of tours you can take in Chicago, some of which go out into the lake and others that go up the Chicago River. After finding out the info we needed, we crashed at the hotel and then went out for a fabulous Italian meal at the Italian Village. The wait was forty-five minutes, even at eight at night, but it was worth it. I've never had manicotti that literally melted in my mouth. Heaven. The same family has owned the place since 1927. Across from the hotel is a business that has been there for 151 years. Yeah, since 1857. Iwan Reis is a tobacconist and they have the most incredible supply of pipes and pipe tobacco. I loitered there, I admit it. What a wonderful smell.
Because we opted to rest we missed the Magic Mile festivities. Given our colds are still not quite resolved, we thought that best. A quiet evening of reading and recuperating proved to be perfect.
Tomorrow -- the boat tour! Did I mention it's barely going to hit 46 degrees? We Atlantans are in for a treat.
Friday, November 21, 2008
The Field is HUGE. Even though we trudged and trudged for a good six hours, we didn't get to see all of it. We especially enjoyed Sue, the T-Rex (see above) and the other dinosaur displays (see below). When you look at the size of Sue and the nasty toothies on the meat eaters, it's pretty obvious humans weren't on the planet at this time, despite what The Creationists might believe. We'd have just been canapes. So I take the view that the seven days mentioned in the Bible were on the Almighty's clock, not ours. Why couldn't the creation of the planet and its life forms taken millions of years? Why would He be in a hurry? If you're The Supreme Being, why not do some experimentation? The point is we're here and that we have this incredible history behind us. Ignoring scientific fact doesn't make religion seem very intelligent, if you get my drift.
Other exhibits portrayed the rise of the Incan, Mayan and Aztec cultures. It was interesting to see how native groups progressed from small settlements to big cities and what that meant in terms of safety, food supply and personal liberties. We definitely will be making a return visit next summer to try to see even more of the exhibits.
Have I mentioned how much I love this town???
Thursday, November 20, 2008
We had a brief layover in D.C. The DC train station was designed by Daniel Hudson Burnham, a name that will crop up later in my posts. Burnham was one of the key Chicago architects in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Union Station (see above) is an example of his incredible work. Right now the station is decked out for Christmas and quite festive.
We were met by my good friend and traveling buddy Jean Marie Ward. JMW took us on a mini tour so my husband could get an idea of what the town felt like. Fortunately, she took pity on us as we were still suffering from our colds so there was walking, then resting. In the Capitol picture, if your eyesight is good, you'll pick out the reviewing stands being built for the Inauguration. We dined at an incredible restaurant that served succulent crab cakes resting on top of field greens topped with mango salsa. WOW. Then we were back on the train and on the way to Chicago. I admit, I took a nap after we boarded. I hadn't quite realized how run down I was before we reached DC.
We arrived at our hotel far too early for check-in and so we checked our bags with the friendly porter. The Silversmith Hotel is housed in a building designed by, no surprise, Daniel Burnham. It was created for the silver and jewelry trade and there are still a number of jewelers on the street. Our accommodations are as huge as the train car was compact. Two rooms, massive bathroom and it overlooks the "El" the elevated train system that runs Chicago's Loop. No doubt some might object to the noise of the El as it pulls out of the station below our window, but after the other trains we hardly noticed.
Burnham, along with his partner John Root, were involved in the design and execution of the World's Columbian Exposition (1893) . This fair was a wonder and if I could go back in time I'd be there in a flash. All that is left of the 600 acre Jackson Park complex, besides the park, is the building that now houses the Museum of Science and Industry. Originally serving as the Palace of Fine Arts, it was designed by Charles B. Atwood of New York. Unlike almost all of the fair buildings, which were of a temporary, yet ornate nature, this behemoth was permanent and fireproof because of the valuable art treasures it displayed during the fair. Atwood's design is classic Greek and at the time it cost $541,795 to build. The main part of the building is 320 x 500 foot but included two 120 x 200 foot wings. Fortunately this beauty is still with us, teasing us as to what the entire 600 acres of statues, massive buildings, ponds, fountains, etc. would have looked like. Like I said earlier -- give me a time machine and I'm there. According to those in the know, it took over THREE weeks to see every exhibit at the fair. Unreal.
We immediately set off like a local: we took the bus. A tourist pass got us on and off and it was a easy trip. We thoroughly enjoyed the museum, geeks that we are. Harold's favorite was the Pioneer Zephr (see the webpage link above.)
We took our evening meal at a pub up the street. I didn't realize how packed Chicago eating places could be at seven in the evening. It was like Friday or Saturday evening in Atlanta. We waited about a half an hour for a table, polished off a fine meal and a couple beers each. Then we crashed, literally and figuratively.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
As you read this we are on an adventure. The house sitter in is place, the mail on hold, the luggage stowed and we're heading north. On. A. Train. I suspect at this point Stephen W. who posts comments to this blog just spit coffee all over his keyboard. Yes, we're on a train. Why? Well, why not?
Friends of ours have been waxing enthusiastic about the wonders of train travel for quite some time (Stephen included) so we decided to give it a try. In honor of my *mumble-mumble* birthday, we're taking Amtrak and in particular, the Crescent to Washington, DC. We have about a six hour layover so we're meeting my buddy and frequent roomie (Jean Marie Ward) who lives in a suburb of DC. I was last there in 1964 (when racial tensions were high) and the spouse has never been to the Nation's Capitol. Our brief layover is only going to allow time for a quick spin down by the Mall and some lunch, but I figure that will whet his appetite for a lengthier trip next year.
Later that afternoon we will board the Capitol Limited to Chicago. We're due to spend four full days in the Windy City and I'm looking forward to it. I hope to set a future Time Rovers book there, I adore the architecture and I want to hit the museums. And have a genuine Chicago hot dog. YUM.
It's about 13 hours to DC and then 17 to the Windy City so we reserved ourselves bedrooms on both trains because no matter how comfy a couch seat, they don't beat your own bed. We'll be on two different kinds of trains so it will be fun to compare them. I'll be sure and blog as we travel.
We finally end our trip in Iowa with the family and then back home via a plane to Atlanta. Husband has two weeks' vacation and he's so ready for this trip. I have to admit it, so am I.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Last night I witnessed another incredible American moment -- the election of Barack Obama as our next president. Now whether you are Democrat, Republican or Independent, this election has had considerable meaning to you. According to the numbers, 130 million Americans voted, the most to ever vote in a presidential election. Give yourself a High Five.
You went to the polls to tell Washington and the world what you wanted. This incredible nation is in turmoil. We have our soldiers dying on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Our financial future is murky. Over 40 million of us do not have basic health insurance. We have slid so far away from the American ideal and the basic tenets of our Constitution. Now we, as a nation, have a chance to recapture what makes us grand.
I had hopes that this election would bring us a leader who might see beyond politics, who had vision, much like FDR did in 1932 during some of our nation's darkest hours. I do believe that our next president has that spark, that intelligence, that empathy to bring us out of this black moment and set us on a new path. He may not have the track record of Mr. McCain, but he has the good sense to seek sound advice, to weigh it and then move forward. The nation didn't need a maverick. It needs a statesman with deft hand at building consensus. Mr. Biden will serve as a bridge between our new leader and his fellows in Congress. That was something Ms. Palin would never have accomplished.
Now in the past I have always held John McCain in high regard. Something happened to him during the campaign that damaged his reputation in my eyes. I began to take notice of this campaign the moment he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Her narrow minded, Us vs. Them, provincial view of America was profoundly disturbing. Rather than being inclusive, she was divisive. Her knowledge of the world scene was woefully inadequate. Unfortunately, Mr. McCain went for the lowest common denominator who proceeded to question not only their challengers' patriotism, but mine.
So here's my advice for the governor. Go home to Alaska, Sarah. Learn something about this great country before you come back to run for 2012. Learn about the world. And know one thing for certain: people who don't agree with you aren't any less patriotic than those who do.
Last night I saw a glimpse of the Mr. McCain I once admired. He delivered a profoundly moving concession speech. It was full of honor, of love for this country. You regained a lot of respect, sir, and I thank you for that.
I'll admit it -- I haven't been very proud of my country in the last eight years. Some would say that is not being patriotic, but I disagree. That's honesty. We aren't always proud of our children when they make mistakes, but we still love them. I had never believed that an African-American could rise to such high office. The American ideal holds. Anyone can become president. This morning I can see lots of mothers eying their kids over the cereal bowl. "See?" they'll say. "You can do anything!" And those moms would be right.
Our citizens have spoken. What a remarkable testimony to this great and democratic nation. Let's heal the divide, roll up our sleeves and get the work done. That's what Americans do. We need to become that beacon of hope, like we once were.
G*d Bless America! And may G*d bless our new president and vice-president. They're going to need every bit of help they can get.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
My advance scout for this trip was Jean Marie Ward who can scout with the best of them. She arrived a few days earlier and immediately began to map the environs. By the time I arrived Wed afternoon, she knew where to find the restaurants, the pubs and the shops. We grabbed a quick bite of food and then headed back to the hotel for the Hades Publications party. I'm published by Dragon Moon Press, which is a Hades imprint, so I was eager to be there. They served delightful munchies, had a cash bar and entertained us with The Plaid Tongued Devils. I've never seen a band that could mesh Roma, Klezmer, Middle Eastern and Celtic music like they did. It was a rousing time. Their fiddlers were incredible!
Now I'm usually pretty stupid after any plane trip and Wed noc was no exception. I've never met my publisher and have seen only one photo of her. So Jean Marie and I are chatting away while I enjoy some rum on the rocks and this lady walks up. I give her a smile and then turn back to Jean Marie. I look back and see this impish smile on the lady's face. Then I see her name tag. Gwen Gades. My publisher. I felt like an idiot. We hugged, repeatedly, and then starting catching on on all the stuff you don't put in an email.
Thursday morning was open for us so Jean Marie and I did some trekking around. I figured out how to get to my emails via the iPhone without roaming (Starbucks) and we bought some wine and champagne to celebrate the launch of my new book. I did make it on a panel (Adding Mystery to Your Fiction) which went very well. After some time signing at the Hades booth (lots of folks bought Sojourn) I popped off to lunch with the roomie, the publisher and Christine, a friend of Gwen's. We went to one of the highly recommended Chinese places and the food was awesome. Way too much of it.
Saturday involved a book launch party in the afternoon courtesy of Hades and that went very well. Lots of excellent chocolate. And to celebrate, Jean Marie, Maggie Bonham (her book Lachlei debuted this weekend) and new author Lizzy Shannon joined me for a trip to the James Joyce (pub) which Lizzy proclaimed to be truly Irish. She would know. She comes from Northern Ireland. So after some Irish Stew, lots of grand gabbing, a couple of pints and a quaff of Aberlour (single malt) and I headed for my room. And crashed. The rest of the evening was spent reading and relaxing.
Sunday involved more time at the booth, which was a kick. Lots of folks came over to talk to me about my panel (thank you programming coordinators for adding me to it, by the way) and to buy books. LOTS of books. I was thrilled to see so many readers coming back for the later books in the series or taking that brave first step with Sojourn.
Which leads me to Josh Langston. Mr. Langston was on both my planes from Atlanta to Calgary. I noted him because of the steel gray piping on his shirt. (What can I say?) We met again at the Hades party and then he surprised me with something so cool I still can't believe it. Josh and I had never met before, but he created a book trailer for Madman's Dance. It is awesome. What's even more awesome is that he'd never read the series! That's being remedied at the moment. So here's this gent who spent at least 14 hours of his life creating a book trailer for some author he's never met. What a lovely gesture. He's making a few changes to it as I type, especially since he read the first book over the weekend (I did warn him it was addictive). From what I gather there may be a book with Hades in his future. Wishing you all the best Josh! I'll be sure to post the trailer once it's available.
Coming home wasn't as much fun. Delta had screwed around with my reservations since I booked them last December. I think there were at last four or five schedule changes, many of which involving a number of hours later than the original booking. I checked in online Sunday night, but couldn't print a boarding pass without a printer. I called Northwest (they were code sharing the first flight out of Calgary) and verified I was confirmed. Fine and good. I arrived at the airport at 5:06 a.m. because it's Monday morning and I know that's always busy. To make this adventure as painless as possible for you, dear reader, here is the sequence of events.
1) Go to Delta counter. They can't check me in.
2) Try to find NWA counter. No can find. The counters change as needed per airline.
3) Back to Delta counter. They tell me NWA's counter doesn't open until about 6 a.m.
4) 5:45 and the NWA counter opens. Try to check in using kiosk. No good. Try again. Ditto. Reach representative who asks why I haven't checked in and then asks if I did it right (grrrr).
5) Return to Delta counter as NWA says I need a printed ticket. Delta rep says they've "closed out" the counter and they can't help me. Points to 800 number of my itinerary. "Call them."
6) 800 number is for flight status. Sigh. Call husband, get actual number.
7) Res line rep TICKETS the NWA flight. Apparently the ticket had never been issued even though I had a seat assignment. (oy!)
8) Stand in line (again). NWA takes pity on me and pulls me forward, prints the ticket and sends me into the long Customs & Immigration Line.
One hour later, after clearing US Customs (in Calgary!) I grabbed a sandwich and hotfooted it to the plane. I did snag an exit row seat with no one in the middle, so I spread out and read all the way home. Heaven.
And my final words?
GO VOTE PEOPLE!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Chapter One (Continued)
Satyr was uncharacteristically late for the breakfast appointment with his superior. That made him irritable. He grumbled at the hansom driver for the length of time it took the man to make change, and then stalked into the dining room on Rose Street, the usual meeting place. The staff immediately gave way as he entered the private room in the back. To his annoyance, the Ascendant was already well into his meal, a newspaper open at his elbow.
He noted without amusement that the leader of the Transitives still insisted upon the same “presentation,” as they called it. Satyr had repeatedly suggested that he shift form. What was the point of going en mirage if you did not alter your appearance every now and then? Changing some slight aspect kept your enemies off guard. Satyr employed that strategy, shifting hairstyle or eye color at whim. You did not become Lead Assassin by being lazy.
His superior looked up. “Ah, there you are, Mr. S.” He gestured with a fork toward the newsprint. “It appears you had an eventful evening, so I will forgive your tardiness.”
Better that you do. Satyr removed his hat and coat, placing them on the chair nearest the door. He rang the bell near his plate. A deferential waiter appeared instantly.
“More sausages, please.” The Ascendant had eaten the majority of them, and the remainder would not be hot. Sausages had to be the proper temperature or there was no reason to consume them.
His superior was studying the newsprint again. That was just as well. Satyr was not in the mood for light conversation. Where once there had been a respectful give-and-take between them, he’d noted a change in his leader’s recent behavior. More authoritative, with an inclination to meddle.
“Your sausages, sir,” the waiter announced, setting a colorful Majolica bowl in front of him.
“Thank you. That will be all.” The door closed behind the servant as the mouth watering aroma of spiced meat filled the air. Satyr repressed a sigh of appreciation.
“Well?” the Ascendant inquired, looking up from his paper.
Satyr ignored him, forking three links onto his plate and then carefully replacing the lid on the bowl.
“You are very subdued this morning,” the Ascendant probed. “Did something go wrong?”
Satyr paused in his precise dissection of a sausage. “No, matters went very well. I dispatched Effington inside one of his warehouses and then burnt it to the ground. Very satisfactory.”
“Yes, so I see,” the Ascendant replied, gesturing at the paper. “There is a particularly lengthy article about the fire and the discovery of the corpse.”
Satyr did not reply, savoring the taste of the hot pork. He knew what was coming.
“I trust there will be no repercussions of last night’s activities?”
Satyr’s hand tightened on the knife. “No.”
“What of Miss Lassiter? I do not note an article regarding her demise.”
“That situation is under control.”
“Is she alive or dead?”
“Depends on how you look at it.”
A grunt of disapproval. “Satyr, you are my Lead Assassin. I would expect such distraction from one of your juniors. I have repeatedly asked you to remove this person, and you are ignoring my orders.”
“I am not distracted, sir. Miss Lassiter is dead, at least in the mental sense.”
“I am not in the mood for cryptic games!” the Ascendant snapped.
Satyr deliberately placed his knife on the table to avoid employing it on something other than the food. Then he looked deep into the Ascendant’s eyes. To the man’s credit, he didn’t look away. His predecessor had always blinked. That one hadn’t lasted long.
“At present, Miss Lassiter’s mental capacity is that of a child,” Satyr explained, holding his irritation in check. “She has no memory to speak of. She doesn’t even know her own name.”
The Ascendant settled back with a frown. “How did you accomplish this?”
“I do not reveal my techniques, sir. You know that.”
The frown deepened. “You assure me that she is no longer a threat.”
“No threat at all.”
“Why didn’t you just kill her?” his superior demanded.
“This seemed a better solution.”
“Where is she now?”
“Under her own name?”
“I am not stupid, sir,” Satyr hissed.
“Well, of course not. What if she regains her memories?”
“Highly unlikely.” He snatched up his knife and attacked the links with considerable annoyance. “If she does, I’ll promptly cut her throat.”
“No need to be petulant. My concern lies with the safety of my plan.”
“Your plan, as much of it as I am able to fathom, is on track, sir. Effington is dead. By serendipity, Detective-Sergeant Keats is the lead suspect in Nicci Hallcox’s murder, and the explosives are secure. I’d say you’re worrying too much.”
The Ascendant tossed his napkin on the table and rose. “I sense you are going to be difficult this morning, Mr. S., so I shall take the remainder of my breakfast at my club. When you cease being so tedious, feel free to join me again.”
The moment his superior was out the door and on the street, Satyr felt his appetite fade. In the end, he couldn’t cut Miss Lassiter’s throat or pierce her heart like he had Effington. That killing had been righteous; hers would have been heinous. It would have been like crushing a rare butterfly just to know what it felt like.
His hand sank into a pocket and retrieved the silver tube, the device he’d used to render her a huddled, blank-faced bundle of humanity. He turned it, studying how the light from the gas lamps glinted off the shining surface.
Such a simple instrument to cause such destruction.
An odd sensation stirred within him. Remorse? He doubted it, yet there was a tight band around his throat just the same.
(Copyright 2008 - Jana G. Oliver)
Today I'm on my way to Calgary and World Fantasy for the launch of this book. I can't wait!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Chapter One (continued)
Dr. Alastair Montrose gingerly splashed his face with cool water from the basin, cleansing away the soot. Then he leaned closer to the mirror, studying the effects of the warehouse fire. His eyes were puffy and bloodshot; his nostrils stung with every breath and his cheeks were splotched with red where falling embers had scorched them. The suit was ruined, the shirt as well. There were even abrasions on his palms, courtesy of his dive for safety when the rum barrels exploded.
Given the magnitude of the blaze, he’d gotten off lucky.
But what of Jacynda?
Even now, he could still hear her frantic cries from inside that warehouse as he fought to tear open the locked doors. Hours later, when the fire had died down, he and Reuben Bishop had found a charred corpse amongst the ruins. It was not that of a slender female: a fact that gave Alastair cause for rejoicing, although it felt heartless.
The question remained—what of Jacynda?
Reuben observed him from a nearby chair, his feet propped on another.
“At least your eyebrows are still there,” he commented casually. “I think your moustache took the worst of it.”
Alastair studied his reflection again. “Indeed.” It was a measure of his mentor’s decency that he was trying to lighten the moment.
“Personally, I would be devastated if anything happened to mine,” Reuben joked, running a finger along his upper lip. That was a given. Reuben sported a moustache that would turn any woman’s head, along with sandy hair that made Alastair’s brown hair seem dull by comparison. He cut quite a figure for a man who spent most of his time conducting post-mortems.
“I’ll loan you one of my suits,” Reuben offered. “It won’t fit, but at least you’ll not smell like one of those fellows in the Fire Brigade.”
Alastair delivered a wan smile. “I appreciate that.”
“Put some ointment on those palms,” Reuben advised. “They look rather nasty. I’d offer you some, but I don’t have any. The dead don’t seem to require that kind of care,” he added with a wink.
“No, I suppose they don’t,” Alastair replied, betraying a hint of a smile at his boss’ characteristic black humor. He took his time patting his face dry with the cloth. He knew Reuben wanted the whole story, but he didn’t know where to start. He dropped into the chair near the kitchen stove. The room was chilly, lit by a single gas lamp on the wall. He took a sip of brandy. The liquor burned his raw throat, making his eyes water. He blinked to clear them.
“In the past,” he began slowly, “I’ve spoken to you of Jacynda Lassiter.”
Reuben nodded, his face brightening. “Ah, yes, the adventurous American who has captured your heart.” His jubilance instantly withered. “Good God, she wasn’t in that blaze, was she? Was that why you were so keen to ensure the corpse was a male?”
Alastair nodded, shifting his attention back to the brandy. “The last I saw her she was inside the warehouse, near the doors. We’d discovered a body and I had gone for a constable.” He put the glass down, struggling to keep his voice from breaking. “I should never have left her alone.”
“You did everything humanly possible to save her. Your injuries attest to your courage.”
Alastair was not so sure.
“How did the fire start?” Reuben asked.
“I have no notion,” Alastair replied with a distracted shake of his head.
“There was a lantern in there, maybe it tipped over.”
His host put down his glass, then tented his fingers in thought.
“Hmm…Tell me more about the corpse you found.”
Alastair took a deep breath. “His name was Hugo Effington, a warehouse owner who lived in Mayfair. He’d been stabbed, a single thrust between the ribs that must have nicked the heart. When I returned with the constable, the doors were locked and the building ablaze.” He added, “Jacynda has been investigating Effington for some time.”
“Why would she do that?” Reuben asked.
“It all began with an attempted assassination at a dinner party earlier this month. Effington was the host.”
“Who was the intended target?”
“It’s hard to tell. The Prime Minister was in attendance as well as the Prince of Wales, amongst other dignitaries.”
“Why in heavens were they there?”
Alastair’s eyebrow rose. “I don’t follow.”
“You say this Effington chap was a warehouse owner, no doubt a prosperous one to live in Mayfair. While I understand that the prince loves a party as much as anyone, still it’s a bit…down market.”
“I hadn’t thought about that.”
Reuben chortled. “Of course, if Effington has a wife or daughter who’s a beauty that would explain it. The prince is always looking for a new conquest.”
Reuben tended to view most matters in terms of human frailty. “Mrs. Effington is quite handsome,” Alastair allowed.
“Aha!” his mentor exclaimed. “I knew it.”
“Jacynda foiled the assassin. From what Chief Inspector Fisher told me afterward, she just leapt on him before he could shoot. Knocked him to the floor. She has been involved in the case ever since.”
“You make her sound like a professional sleuth.”
“In many ways, she is. She told me that she works for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.”
It was a passable fib, one that he knew Jacynda used with others. Far better than attempting to explain to his mentor that she was a time traveler from the future.
“How did you meet this remarkable person?” Reuben quizzed.
“She was rooming at the boarding house for a time. I treated her for an illness. I found her quite…unique.” Irrepressible, quick-witted, and prone to occasional oaths.
Reuben’s face burst into a smile. “I must meet this woman. What verve!”
Then the smile dimmed as he added, “Of course, her boldness is what put
her in the middle of that fire.”
She’s not dead. She can’t be.
“I haven’t seen any mention of this botched assassination in the newspapers. Certainly such an event would have been hounded into the dirt by the Fourth Estate.”
“It was kept very quiet.”
“It won’t be when the fellow is brought to trial.”
“That may not happen. He…vanished from his jail cell the same night he was arrested.”
Reuben snorted. “Now you’re sounding like a Penny Dreadful.”
Alastair looked away, unable to explain further. He had no idea if his friend knew about the Transitives, the shape-shifters who could mimic any form. Or the Virtuals, who seemed invisible. How easy it would be to shift into nothingness, wait for the cell door to open, and take a quick stroll to freedom…
“What sort of man was this Effington?” Reuben quizzed.
“He was an arrogant bully, one of Nicci Hallcox’s paramours. From what I gather, he was being blackmailed by her.”
“Like most of London, it seems. She had a vast number of men in her bed. If the calling cards we found in her room are any indication, she was well connected in society.”
“No doubt blackmailing every one of the men she’d seduced,” Alastair added darkly.
Reuben shook his head. “I still do not understand why Chief Inspector Fisher summoned us to the murder scene rather than one of the Home Office coroners.”
“Sheltering my friend Keats, no doubt. He’s very fond of him. Fisher hopes that he will someday take his place at the Yard.”
“Well, that’s not likely to happen now,” Reuben mused. “Even if your friend comes forward and is found innocent, his behavior has tainted his reputation.”
Unfortunately, Reuben was correct. Keats’ decision to remain on the run was at odds with what was expected of a detective-sergeant of Scotland Yard.
“I am astounded at how his life imploded,” Alastair observed. “One
moment he’s a rising star, and then the next a wanted man.”
“Fate can be very cruel to the best of us,” Reuben observed.
Alastair had been so proud of his friend that night in Green Dragon Place. Keats’ daring attempt to arrest a dangerous Fenian anarchist had resulted in his recovery of a wagonload of stolen gunpowder. The papers had lauded his triumph. Now he was known as the Mayfair Slayer.
How quickly they’ll turn on you.
“It’s pure fiction to believe that he would spend a night in sexual congress with that Hallcox woman and then strangle her in an insane rage,” Alastair protested. “Keats would never do such a thing.”
There was the creak of the kitchen door. A woman in a navy blue dressing gown entered the room, her hair lying across a shoulder in a long black braid.
“Reuben?” she said. “I didn’t hear you come in.” Then she stared at Alastair, mouth agape. From what he’d just seen in the mirror, he couldn’t fault her.
“I’m sorry we woke you. Sometimes I forget how loud I am.” Reuben gestured toward Alastair. “This is Dr. Montrose, my new assistant, the fellow I’ve been telling you about. Alastair, this is Mrs. Henrietta Forrest, my housekeeper.”
“Madam,” Alastair replied politely, rising, though it wasn’t required. The housekeeper quickly regained her composure.
“Dr. Bishop has spoken very highly of you, sir.” Before Alastair could respond, she asked her master, “Do you wish me to light a fire? Perhaps some tea?”
“No, I think we’re just fine. The brandy is sufficient to cure our ills.” He turned his attention to Alastair. “You, however, are running on sheer nerves. I prescribe rest and a good meal. I have a comfortable guest room that you are welcome to use. When you rise, we will have a hot breakfast. Henrietta is an excellent cook.”
“I don’t wish to be a burden,” Alastair began, touched by the offer.
“If you were, I’d just chuck you out the back door. Besides, my guess is your day is going to be a full one. If you return to your boarding house now, you will get no peace until the coppers have asked every question they can put to you.”
“I suspect you are correct.”
Reuben clapped his hands together. “So that’s the plan. Henrietta, please light a fire in the guest room and, ah, leave him one of my suits, will you? His appears to be a loss.”
“Certainly, sir.” Then she was gone.
Alastair opted for praise. “A very handsome woman,” he remarked.
Reuben stared into his drink, his expression melancholy. “She is.” He blurted, “We are lovers. Does that arrangement shock you?”
Alastair finished off the liquor before answering, taken aback at Reuben’s personal confession. “I had a similar arrangement when I was in medical school, though we were not in love. We saw it as being to our mutual benefit.”
“Precisely! Unfortunately, being smitten complicates the issue.” Reuben rose in a fluid motion. “Now come along. I’ll show you the way. Sleep as long as you like. I’m sure if the coppers want to find you, they’ll pound on my door.”
(Copyright 2008 - Jana G. Oliver)
Monday, October 27, 2008
Wednesday, 24 October 1888
Even emptiness has an echo.
She heard it in her mind, fighting for primacy. As time passed and the fire in her head dimmed, she became aware of movement. Creaking leather, the sharp click of horses’ hooves. Each jolt of the carriage set off new reverberations in her head, causing her stomach to churn. Someone was talking. It only made the echo worse.
An eternity. The movement stopped. More voices. She felt someone help her to the ground and then walk her forward. Each step felt as tenuous as the last. She kept her eyes jammed shut. It hurt less that way.
“Stairs here,” a deep voice warned.
She forced open her eyelids to find herself dwarfed by an immense stone building. Huge alabaster columns loomed upward into the night, so tall she couldn’t see the tops of them. The columns spoke of strength, of permanence.
She pulled free, wanting to touch one. It was cool. She laid her left temple against it, relishing the sensation. It numbed the pain.
“Leave her be for the moment,” a voice commanded. It was the one that had been with her since the emptiness began.
Eventually, she straightened. The inferno between her eyes reignited, causing her stomach to heave. She vomited near the base of the column.Couldn’t they hear the roaring? Why didn’t it hurt them like it did her?
Someone handed her a piece of cloth, a handkerchief. She wiped her face with it and then clutched it to her chest as she was led inside.
There were more voices. They rose and fell like the wind on a winter’s night.
As they talked, she tied the handkerchief into knots. Knots were real.
Brain fever. Laudanum. Papers. Committal.
She bowed over, the storm in her head raging anew.
“Name?” an older woman asked, looking down at her like she was a lost child.
“Doe…Jane Doe,” her companion replied.
(Copyright 2008 - Jana G. Oliver)
Thursday, October 23, 2008
So where I agree that Ms. Palin needed to doll up a bit from her Alaska "chic" to take on the national stage, I do feel her handlers didn't do her any favors. $150K? WTH? That's over four times the average U.S. salary ($720/week according to the Bureau of Labor). Even in good times it would be excessive. With things going south, it reeks of eating cake while folks lose their houses and their jobs. Worse yet, it goes against The Brand (hockey mom who shops at Wal-Mart.)
No I don't completely fault Ms. Palin for this, though some of the onus should fall on her. Where she might not have known exactly how much all those high end clothes cost, questions should have been asked. I know I would have asked when something from Neiman Marcus landed in my lap. When she did find out about the prices, she should have shook her head and demanded a trip to J. C. Penneys or Dillards. They sell business clothes. Nice business clothes, and the purchases would have reinforced Palin's image of the average mom.
You don't go against the brand (unless you're Madonna who can get away with it). You can't claim to be for the little guys if you're wearing shoes that cost as much as their paycheck. Just don't fly.
So what would I have recommended? Well, the suit at the top of this blog costs $59.99, not counting shipping. I picked a red one as I know that's what the Gov favors. Add a lace top underneath to counter all those folks bitching about showing a little cleavage and she's got it. $60, not $2000 and above. (Note to all those who are combat shoppers -- I know you folks woulda got better deals at Neiman Marcus and Saks.)
So to all those handlers who did the actual shopping: what were you thinking? Are you that out of touch with the message that you just fly on autopilot? Apparently so. That seems to be the case with the entire McCain/Palin campaign. How sad.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I finally snapped the other day and replied in the comments field on one of these blogs, politely but firmly pointing out that in the Middle East Hussein is as common a name as Sarah, Joe or John is here in America. Not surprisingly, my comment was never posted on the blog. Go figure. It's easier to shovel the red meat to the bigots than actually use one's brain.
So to you folks who insist on hammering home the fact Obama's family has Muslim antecedents, are you going to tell this mother her son was a terrorist just because his name is different?
Such a loss. I know I'll remember this young man's sacrifice for a very long time, if nothing more than to honor his memory. The only thing a bigot sacrifices is their heart.
Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan