Not super excited about the way this ended but I’ve been dragging trying to wrap it up. Better to vomit up a conclusion than to be bogged down trying to make it perfect.
A Word On Love
Oh my. It really can’t be contained in a simple phrase.
Let’s get this straight though: I’m not talking about the love you feel for your friends, or your family. I’m talking about the love you feel for someone you’re dating, or engaged to. (But not that married kind of love. That’s a horse of a different color.)
First of all, most of all, love is one force felt differently depending on who it’s directed at. Like that line from that song goes, you never stop loving somebody, you just start loving somebody new. My love is, was, and always has been my love. A unique brand, you could say.
Love is also chaos. That’s probably love’s most important characteristic. Love is a thing so unpredictable that it appears random because of its great sensitivity to small changes in conditions. To think that love is something that can be understood is utter bullshit.
Love is seeing an imperfect person perfectly. In that way, it’s also a paradox. It tells us that the person we love is, in their own way, perfect. But people are, in no way, perfect. Love is knowing this and not caring.
Love is irrational. It doesn’t care about what people think is a reasonable amount of time to cultivate the feeling. It springs up at you at the strangest times, under the craziest circumstances.
Love doesn’t care how old you are. I was in love when I was in third grade. His name was Mike, and I was pretty sure he was the greatest thing since chocolate milk at lunch time. And my grandparents, I’m pretty sure, will still be stupidly, adorably, hopelessly in love if they live to be a hundred.
Love is longsuffering. It can take a lot of grief for the sake of the greater cause. It’s the heart that gives out.
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
-Lois de Bernieres
Love simply is.
The man in black was not the kind of man to allow a new face in his town to go unnoticed. The stranger was smart, but not smart enough. Simply dismounting his horse so as to not stick out above head-level with the crowd may have worked in other desperado towns, but not in his town. By the time the man in black was watching the sandy-haired stranger enter the Mission, three reports had already come in about his arrival; one from the Marvin, the stable hand, another from Rita, the town gossip, and another from Happy Jack, one of the man in black’s enforcers.
“Get me Cherry,” he said.
Rupert, who had up until that point been whittling a piece of wood, gave a start and nearly dropped his things. In his alarm, he kicked over the bucket of wood shavings at his feet. “Right away, Master. Sorry about the mess, sir. Should I clean it up now or when I return?”
The man in black sighed and kneaded his brow. “I’ll clean it up, boy. Be quick now.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, Master. I’ll hurry.”
The man in black winced at the pain in his knees as he knelt on the floor in front of the hearth to scoop up the wood shavings and toss them into the fire. Age was catching up to him, there was no denying it. He picked up Rupert’s carving and turned it over in the light of the oil lamp. A thin smile spread across his face. Rupert had been carving a likeness of his Master, albeit a poor one, but there was no mistaking the stick man’s tall hat and long coat. He picked up Rupert’s knife and ran his thumb across the blade. Far too dull.
Rupert returned with Cherry to find his Master sharpening his whittling blade against a smooth rock. The elder man held the blade out to Rupert, who took it with a smile. “Go now,” the man in black said. “Out to the antechamber and take your stick man with you. Cherry will send you back in when we’re done here.”
Cherry smiled warmly at Rupert, who gave her a quick hug around the waist and slipped quietly out of the room.
Cherry and the Master regarded one another stiffly. “Cherry Darling, how nice to see you. I trust you’re behaving.”
“Yes, Master,” Cherry said. “Of course I have.”
“Hm. Did you notice a new arrival in town today?”
“Yes, Master. A handsome young fellow with blonde hair and fair blue eyes. Came into the Mission and bought me a drink, as a matter of fact.”
“What’s his name?”
“Where’s he from?”
“Here. He said he left Salvation twelve years ago to go on the cattle drives down south.”
“Hm. And why has he returned?”
“He wanted to see if Arthur Coby was still alive.”
The man in black turned a sharp eye on Cherry. “And what did you say?”
The girl flinched. “I – I told him I didn’t rightly know. I told him there were rumors that he was still alive but I didn’t fiddle with the affairs of men. And the only reason I said as much was because he’d come here following that rumor to begin with.”
After a long pause, the man in black seemed to relax. “Very good, Cherry, darling. I want you to get as much information as you can out of him, do you understand? Tuck it all away under those pretty scarlet tresses and I’ll call on you if I need you. Send Rupert in on your way out.”
“Yes, Master. Very good.”
Cherry returned to the Mission to search for Casey, but one of the other girls told her that he’d already gone to search for a room for the night. Feeling relieved, Cherry made her excuses and snuck out of the saloon as quietly as she could.
The moon was high and full in the clear night sky by the time Cherry made it to the oasis. She removed her nag’s bridle and set her loose to graze on the sparse grass.
Her mother had always said the oasis was full of magic. There was no natural reason for so much life to spring up around so little water. She said that the oasis would hide itself from evil people if lovers took shelter there, and that a love consummated in that garden would be a love eternal. When Cherry met Kale, he took her there and told her the same stories. He promised her that the Master would never find them there, and that their love would be eternal.
He promised her these things every time they stole away from their homes to meet under the stars and lay together beneath the lazy palm trees. The nag would graze and they would make love and the world, for a while, would cease to matter.
Casey woke to the sound of pounding on his door. With a groan, he sat up and slipped his feet into his boots. Not bothering to put on a shirt or even buckle his belt, he swung the door open. “Where’s the manners in this damn place?” he demanded.
Rupert stood in the door way, unabashed by his elder’s harsh words. “My Master sent me extend an invitation to his office. He says he wants to see you now.”
“It’s early, little man. Can’t your Master wait until after breakfast at least?”
“It won’t take long. Hurry up now, I’m going to get a thrashing if we’re late.”
Casey looked at the boy, no older than eight. His cheeks were ruddy with youth, fingernails bitten and dirty, clothes dusty from playing in the streets. He sighed, unwilling to be the cause of the boy’s punishment. “Alright, fine. Let me just put my shirt on. Wait there.”
The boy led Casey out of the hotel and up the road a few blocks, and straight up to the old jail house. “Your Mastery lives here?” Casey asked, wary.
“He does,” the boy confirmed. “And he’s not just my Master, he’s your’s now, too. Has been ever since you walked into his town, so remember that when you talk to him.”
The jail house was two stories tall, and Casey was led straight up to the second level.
“Master, Mister Till is here,” Rupert said through large double doors.
“Come in, come in.”
The office was small and intimate. A fireplace to the right adjacent to a little sitting area, a book shelf to the left, and a polished cherry wood desk at the end of the room in front of a huge window that overlooked Salvation’s main road and the Mission.
“Take a seat, Casey Till. We must talk.”
Casey obliged stiffly.
“I’ve heard a good deal about you, Mister Till. You see, I have ears all over my town. I also sent a wire out about you, and as it turns out you’re a wanted man much like myself. Banks, trains, cattle. Am I wrong?”
“You will address me as Master.”
Casey smirked. “Alright, Master. You’re absolutely correct on all counts. Now, if I may be so bold, I’d like to know what you’d like with me so I can go about my day.”
“Be as bold as you like,” the man in black said. “Boldness doesn’t offend me, only disrespect. But, getting down to business, I’d like to employ you.”
Casey damn near stuttered. “Employ me?”
“Yes. See, one of my men met his end recently of consumption so I’m short a gun. And, to be frank, I like to keep my friends close and my enemies closer. Really, Casey, you have no choice in the matter. Either work for me or I’ll have you killed. Gain my trust or my malice. It’s your choice.”
“Trust then, I suppose, since you’re being such a brute about it. I came here looking for work anyway so it’s of no consequence to me where I find it. At least this way I’ll be working in a field that’s already familiar.”
“Good,” the Master said with a smile. “You’ll start tonight by following a girl you met last night, Cherry Darling. I’ve been told she’s been having a tryst with a native and I’d like to know more. You may go now.”
Casey couldn’t leave fast enough. Rupert walked him down to the door, but Casey didn’t even bid the boy goodbye. Instead, he staggered into the nearest alley and vomited.
Prompt from L. S. Engler.
This is it, this is the end of the world.
Where the ground drops off into the vast eternity of stars.
Steps stretch out before me. They seem to have gone on for miles. Probably they did. At the end of it all, he’s waiting for me.
I continue on, a surge of adrenaline pushing me forward like a second wind. I know things will change once I reach the end of the path. For better or worse, my life will not be the same. I will reach the end, I will look out into the vast abyss containing nothing and everything, and I will take one more step.
“You’ve taken long enough.”
I smile. He shines a light down the path.
“Just a little further. It’s almost done. Just a few more steps.”
So I press on, toward my fate. Ready to meet it, to jump in feet first.
People have searched for this place their entire lives. The end of the world. The end of life as we know it. We have found it. After years of searching, we have found it.
But there is no fanfare when I take his hand. No awards are given for our tenacity in the name of discovery. We will not be in history books. Nobody will even know what we accomplished.
I kiss him, turn my body into his and get caught up in his embrace. We lean to the side, a feeling of vertigo taking over.
And, we fall.
So I’ve been working on Salvation, my little miniseries. The way it worked out, I started writing and about 600 words in I thought I’d use the firs 400 or so for a little “pilot” post. I posted it and got a little praise from fellow writers, but then I got hung up. I was trying to trudge along with what I’d already written, but I kept getting hung up on stale dialog and a slow pace. I walked away for a bit, which I should never have done, and wracked my brain over what I should do next. I realized tonight as I was putting my son asleep that there was only one thing to do: scrap what I had and start over. So that’s what I’m going to do, and hopefully episode one will be published for your reading pleasure by the end of the weekend.
A friend of mine is also a writer, albeit a new one. She texts me for advice and sends me Emails with pieces of her work to critique. I find myself realizing how far I’ve come since August of last year when I started this blog with a couple trite posts about how to write. Now that I’ve gotten a little more experience under my belt, I’m going to give the writing advice thing another go-round. But, I’ll tell you, as any person who gives writing advice should, that what I’m about to say really only amounts to a bullshitter bullshitting other bullshitters. Just because something works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you, but all the same, let’s begin.
Infodump and expect your reader to flush what you wrote. To put it another way, don’t tell me, show me. If you weigh your prose down with overwrought descriptions about your character’s hair color, what brand name she’s wearing, or how he parts his hair just-so, I’m going to get bored and skim over what you’ve spent so much time writing, or worse, dismiss what you’ve written altogether. Information is best given in little snippets to keep the reader interested. Limit your descriptions to two or three important pieces of information and move on. Leave some of the work to your reader’s imagination. That is, after all, why most people pick up books instead of turning on the boob tube.
Lean how to write a sentence, shithead. A sentence is, at its most basic level, a noun and a verb. A subject and an action. Deify plums. That’s a sentence. I could go further and talk about subjects and predicates and all that other high school English gobbledeegook, but to be completely honest I was the kind of paradox that passed English with flying colors, all except for the grammar part. That’s not to say that grammar isn’t important, not at all. Grammar and punctuation are the aesthetics of any piece of written work. if yu reed a sentance tht looks reel sloppy youre gunna feel lyk an idiot just reeding it? But when your reader’s eyes skim over something coherent and structured, they’ll continue reading because reading isn’t work. The sentences you write are your direct link to your reader. If I write a sentence like “Elaine splashed a bit of lilac perfume on her neck, and glossed her lips cherry red,” you, the reader, can imagine the smell of lilac, a burst of vapor from a perfume bottle, the sheen of red lipstick. From my finger tips, to little black letters on the computer screen, through your eyes and into your brain – through the magic of the written word we writers have the ability to create. Every writer should have enough respect for the art form to at least master the basics.
Cut unnecessary words. Adverbs are almost always unnecessary. Following a line of dialog with anything but “he/she said” is almost always unnecessary. Superfluous descriptors are almost always unnecessary.
Stop trying to edit as you write. You’ll kill your flow. First drafts are always nasty and full of plot holes, rough spots, and entire sections that need to be gutted and rewritten. Worry about that later. Much later. For now, focus on the hardest part of writing: the motherfucking writing. Trying to rectify every mistake as soon as you make it will take all the piss out of your story. It’ll lose its life, its momentum, and become more a mother in law than a lover, and your story should always feel like a lover.
Aaaannndddd, that’s all I’ve got because I’m way too distracted by writing my miniseries to give this any more attention..
Salvation is my first (yes, ladies and gentleman first) work of fiction to make it outside of the one-shot or flash fiction story realm since I was… oh… about fourteen. I’m writing a western first and foremost because I fell in love with the genre late last year watching John Wayne movies, and also because movies like The Quick and the Dead and The Shootist made me fall in love with the kind of story that comes from the American Old West. I should mention, however, that Salvation isn’t your typical western for two reasons: one, because it’s not set in the American Old West but rather a disjointed AU (alternate universe) of my creation, and two, because it’s going to include a lot of fantasy elements not typical of your average John Wayne movie.
Anyway, here’s the “pilot” post, if you will. A short snippet of 420ish words to set the scene and get you, my Constant Reader, interested in what’s to come.
The sun was barely up over Salvation and the town was already gathered around the gallows below the clock tower in the center of town. Women wept while their husbands clenched their fists and children were made to look away as the sheriff was led up the steps of the gallows by a man dressed in black. A posse of outlaws overlooked the spectacle from the rooftops, guns poised and pointed at the townsfolk, ready to quench even a whisper of protest.
“Let this be a lesson to you,” the man in black whispered into the sheriff’s ear. “This is my town, you hear? There will be no law here aside form the law I enforce.”
There was a loud creak as the trap doors opened beneath the feet of the sheriff’s family, and three sickening cracks from the necks of wife, son, and daughter that sent a chill through the heart of the populace.
They called the town Salvation because it was built around a mission. The man in black’s first act as reigning sovereign was to turn the mission into a saloon, and by the following Sunday it was dealing out dirty shot glasses of whiskey instead of forgiveness.
God seemed to abandon Salvation the day the man in black took over, and seven years later the town was barely a ghost of what it had once been.
The sheriff was still alive, held captive in his own jail house, or at least that was the rumor Casey heard. He looked down over the town from a high ridge a few miles away, feeling as if he’d swallowed a ball of lead. Dollar nickered and paced at being halted after so many hours of galloping across the desert sand.
Casey dismounted just outside of town and walked Dollar down the main street in an attempt to go unnoticed. He led the mustang to a boarding stable and paid the work hand a dollar for a week of boarding, feed, and water.
“Say, friend,” Casey said, “where’s the best place to get a room around here?”
The man chucked. “Only one place to git a room ‘round here, suh, and that’s the Mission. Ol’ Mastah likes to keep an eye on those comin’ and goin’ from his town.”
Casey frowned but didn’t ask any more questions. He’d seen the Mission on his way through town; it was hard not to. It stood like a mountainous specter over the town, and cast a long, dark shadow in the evening sun. He shook the dust from his boots and soldered on up the street.
Next: Salvation, Episode One: Jezebel
Happy Valentine’s Day! Love bravely (:
Become entwined. Become intoxicated. Don’t second guess it. No questions. Let it ensnare you. Get tangled up in a touch, a kiss. Feel another heart beat under your palm. Allow yourself to be defenseless, vulnerable. The hurt will come. Oh, it will come. But don’t think about it, don’t let it stop you. Take the risk. Own the mistakes and every bad decision. Suck every moment of pleasure out of a smile, a laugh. Live, damn you. Do not simply exist.