Monday, November 12, 2007

NaNo Blogging: The Second Excerpt

It's been a while since I posted an excerpt. I keep meaning to but problems with the story (Indeed, by the time this gets posted, I believe I'll have abandoned it.) have left me reluctant. My first excerpt drew no small amount of praise. Which means, you know, at least one person complimented me on it in passing - I'll take what I can get at this point so that counts as a resounding success. Meaning that I want to make sure I top it. That I better it with a passage as brilliant, as moving, as intricately crafted and delicately paced. Something that's become increasingly difficult as the days have worn on. In so many words, my inner editor keeps rejecting submissions as not up to my standards. Which is really annoying because I thought I'd tied him up, shoved him in a crate, and sent him on a slow boat to Antarctica. He's apparently just taken up residence in this blog instead.

So, yes, I'm having problems running my marathon. At this point, though, any NaNoer who hasn't yet run into a hurdle that's tripped them up isn't quite doing it right. So, don't feel sorry for me, it's all part of the ride. Still, I'd like to at least get another excerpt out there if only I can feel better about myself. So, without further ado, here's another passage from my novel. This, like the first excerpt, comes from the first chapter where I'm setting up and establishing characters and themes left and right. It's serving to introduce another new character, Kerin, one of the Empire's many citizens as she takes her first steps into the greater world.

The gentle swell of the seas and the calm pitch of the deck were well matched with the feeling in her stomach. The girl had long since given up on keeping her hair safe from the ravages of the salty spray. Leaving it to twist into obstinate shapes in the mild breeze. But she refused to give up on making sure that her clothes were impecable. She smoothed out the smallest of wrinkles in her deck pants, again, straightened her tunic, pulling it taunt over her trembling stomach, and tried to steady her nerves. It was a losing battle, she knew, but one she was determined to fight. There would be pictures. Sent home to her mother. Passed down to her daughters in the fullness of time. She owed a perfectly crisp uniform to them, if not herself. Time seemed to have slowed to a crawl as the distant blot of land had receeded into the distance. Slowly slipping behind the waves that gently lapped at the hull of the Koturim as it slid along the water. She'd watched her home draw away as she waited and waited along the railing behind the wheel house, waited for what seemed like forever and a day but which was really no more than a few minutes.

She had begun to think that time really had stopped, that the seconds would never tick away again when the bosun appeared from around the great command tower, taking a place alongside of her. She watched the bosun, whose face was as steady and cryptic as a porcelain mask, studied her every move for the barest hint of what was to come. But the bosun only looked out over the waters stretching off into the distance in every direction. Marred only by the silhouette of another ship headed to some other destination. Finally, the bosun turned towards her and with a voice scrubbed raw by many years plying the seas asked, "Do you have any sticks?"

She gulped. Was it a test? Some kind of judgment she needed to pass? Why hadn't her mother told her about any of this? Fortunately, before she'd left her mother had made sure to stuff her packs with any number of supplies, so she asked, in turn, "Cigarette? Or smokies?"

"You have cigarettes?" She could feel the bosun's sharp eyes boring into her. A wrong answer?

"Yes, ma'am," she responded as she felt her stomach try to squirm its way out of her throat.

The bosun held out her hand. "Give," she commanded as she wriggled her fingers. The young girl reached inside of her tunic, to a small pocket held close to her chest, and came away with a single cigarette which she offered to the woman beside her. The bosun snatched it away, a wan smile crossing her lips.

As the bosun searched through her pockets she commented, almost lazily, "These are contraband, you know."

This had to be a test. "Yes, ma'am."

"Just can't find them anymore." The bosun had reached deep into her hip pocket, her fingers straining, "You have more?"

An image of a carton full of white sticks - a gift from her mother - which would earn her a flogging as soon as they reached port swam through the girl's mind. "I might, ma'am. But not if they're a problem."

There was a broad smile on the bosun's face as she finally drew a lighter from within the depths of her clothing. "I can see you're going to be a useful girl to have around."

The breath let out of her, the dry raspy claw let go of her throat, and her legs steadied under the girl as the bosun lit the cigarette with a bright blue flame. Held the burning scrap of papers and leaves to her lips and drew in the smoke. It steamed from her nose like the exhaust from a steam stack as she sighed, contentidly. She stood there for a long moment, staring out into the waters, as she the cigarette burned down in her mouth. When it was just a stub, she turned to the girl

"Ah, that's the real stuff, it is." She draped an arm around the girl's shoulders, "A big day for you."

Despite herself, a shiver ran down the girl's back and she fought the urge to straighten out the crinkles spreading along her carefully prepared lace. "Yes. Yes, it is."

"I remember when I stood before the mast, myself." The bosun looked mistily into the distance. "You have someone taking pictures?"

"Yes, ma'am. One of the stewards promised she would."

The bosun hugged her close. "Good, good. Then you only have to worry about the remembering. Come, girl, let's not keep the captain waiting any longer."

Released from the bosun's grip, the girl tried her best to hastily rearrange her clothes as she followed behind. The bosun strode along the deck with long, confident steps and she struggled to keep pace. Wondering why, if there was such a rush, had the woman decided to keep the captain waiting to have a smoke break? And now her uniform was hopelessly crumpled. Just like her wind-tossed hair. She was going to look so disheveled in the photographs. She'd be so embarrassed. Her mother would be so ashamed. Her younger sisters, those shrew, would never let her hear the end of it. But the bosun raced on, past the wheel house, rounding the corner to the main deck, and there was nothing she could do about it. Nothing at all except grit her teeth and try to look confident.

There's more to the scene but I never bothered to write it. Mostly because I hadn't worked out the final details. Basically, the girl here has been recruited to be the new deckhand on a large cargo ship (Which, over the course of the story will be sailing all over the place to show some regional differences). And she's being "jumped in" by the crew. It involves a bit of ritual, a bit of hazing, and all I know at the moment is that it involves the ship's captain speaking her name - which is why I'm playing coy with it in what I've written here.

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